Published on 05/09/2019
On the summit that has been reached with difficulty, the alpinist raises his axe: this is the gesture that tells his efforts, the overcoming of the dangers and the joy of being at the top. The ice axe is even higher! This is the picture he will show to his friends. Since the beginning, the portrayal of the alpinist is with his ice axe, it does not matter what is in the background! The presence of the axe says it all.
A pick, an axe, a piece of wood and a metal tip: this is how the tool that will go with scientists, explorers, and alpinists around the world was born.
It was born at the foot of Mont Blanc, where alpinism itself was born. It was born form the hands of blacksmiths, used to hitting the iron after having heated it up to “cherry red” colour in their black workshops. The shaft must have been a wooden stick like those that were used by the people of the mountains to go around in the snow and help themselves to carry heavy loads.
Then the adze became horizontal, like in the pick, and not vertical like in the axe. The shaft was made in ash, strong and elastic, most suitable for this use. Strong and with vertical fibres, without knots, aged at least two years in the fresh air of the mountains. The ice axe was in the hands of the guides who went with the alpinists and helped their ascent cutting steps into the ice, like the 354 steps in the “Mur de la Cote” to help Marie-Henriette d’Angeville reach the summit of Mont Blanc in 1838, or like the 3.000 steps (that is 90.000 hits of the ice axe) for the ascent of the Grosshorn! You need a long shaft for a strong hit.
The adoption of crampons in the early 1900s allowed the shaft to be shorter, and the new steels made everything lighter, but the shaft was still made of ash. In the 50s the ice axe reached the highest mountains of the world, then all 8000 meters summits, always with its aged ash shaft.
Grivel is the oldest living manufacturer and it feels the responsibility of preserving this tradition. If modern ice axes have much better technical and mechanical features, no tool can compete in beauty and elegance with the traditional wooden ice axe. Wood is comfortable to hold, it is warm and it smells like the woods. Therefore Grivel (the only one in the world) continues to make the traditional, very traditional ice axe, with its nice ash shaft. Of course the Monte Bianco ice axe conforms to the CE norms and it can be safely used.
Grivel has created a special edition ice axe presented at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn. Dedicated to the first climbers and to all those who made the history of this mountain, with this tribute to the Matterhorn Grivel wanted to remember all those who made this mountain great. One of these ice axes was brought to the top of the Matterhorn on 17th July 2015 on the occasion of the ceremony of friendship, when the Guides of Cervinia, Zermatt and Chamonix and some members of the Alpine Club of London climbed the Matterhorn to the summit, to share the anniversary of the first ascent from the Italian side.
200 years of experience allowed Grivel to make the “200 ice axe”, a masterpiece that evokes nineteenth century ice axes, both in the shape and in the production process. It has a hot drop forged head, aged ash shaft and it is available in two different sizes (48 cm and 65 cm). The 48 cm version conforms to the CE norms and it can be safely used in the mountains.
The prize called “Piolet d’Or” was created in 1991 by Guy Chaumreuil and Jean Claude Marmier with the GHM and Montagne Magazine. It rewards every year the most important alpinist achievement, decided by an international jury. It has become a fundamental point of international activity and, beyond the prize itself, it shows the evolution of alpinism and its message. Our ice axe has 18/8 gold plated head and spike, and CE norm wooden shaft. It is delivered in a wooden box and it is 65 cm long.
In the last picture: Walter Bonatti and Reinhold Messner, the first two winners of the Piolet d’Or Carriere.