First a little history on the Piolet. Alpinism is said to have been born in the Alps as early as 1786 with the first summit of Mont Blanc. By 1840, the Piolet or ice axe became the inseparable companion and icon of the Alpinist. In 1919, one notable piolet manufacturer in the Alps was Construzione Articoli Montagna Premana (translates to Articles for Mountaineering Made in Premana), or what we know even today as C.A.M.P., which was operated by Antonio Codega, the son of a prominent blacksmith in Premana, Italy, Nicola Codega. Hand forged in Nicola's original shop, Antonio Codega was contracted by the Italian government to produce piolets and other mountain equipment for the military. Eventually joined by Antonio's four sons, C.A.M.P. began making many other tools for climbing, such as pitons, hammers, and crampons. A frequenter of Premana, the famous Italian mountaineer, Riccardo Cassin began helping the Codegas on design innovations. Somewhere long about 1969, Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost, of Chouinard Equipment in Ventura, California, commissioned the Codega brothers to build an axe to their specifications. This axe, called the Chouinard-Frost Piolet, featured a hand forged, ground and polished chrome-nickle steel head and a hickory shaft, and has since been a mountaineering equipment classic in the both the US and in the Alps. By printing time of Chouinard Equipment's first catalog in 1972, the Chouinard Piolet shown on page 34 had a new laminated bamboo shaft design, dubbed to be lighter weight and just as strong as the hickory shafted orginal. Over the next 7 years, the Chouinard Piolet went through a few other design changes, including a revised marking on the head, omitting "Frost" from "Chouinard-Frost". This change was first seen in the 1978 catalog, even though Tom Frost had left the company years earlier, in 1975. Other designs of the Piolet included a version with two sections of teeth or notches(double-toothed) on the drooped and curved pick. In other modifications, the shaft material changed again, first to a laminated hickory, then laminated ash for a short time, and eventually a synthetic called Rexilon in 1979, after the UIAA began to raise concerns with the integrity of "wooden" axe shafts. All wooden shafted variations of the Chouinard's Piolet were made by C.A.M.P., but the axe model was phased out of production after 1979. Following this, the Codegas still offered virtually the same ice axe (same head, with bamboo or hickory shafts)in Europe, sans the Chouinard marking (although markings still included "Interalp", "CAMP" and "Made in Premana" which are all also found on the "Chouinard-Frost: and "Chouinard" stamped versions). In the early 80's, the REI Coop contracted with with C.A.M.P., having this same axe design orginated by Chouinard, stamped with the REI logo. These axes were offered in REI's original Seattle store through the mid 1980's.
From time to time we will feature these classic Chouinard Piolets on this site, and are always open to buying them from those ready to part with the most trusted companion of their early mountaineering days. These items are sold as "used", and the condition of each item will vary; however, we will not sell one of these vintage axes that is worse for wear, and/or "classic challenged". These Piolets are for collectors, and are gear you'll want to hang on the wall or over the fireplace. In each case, when we have a Piolet available, and it is sold, a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to particular climbing related charity, rescue/recovery fund, or memorial fund. If we have not listed any Piolets today, please keep checking back with us, or perhaps you would like us to buy yours. The charity beneficiary that is associated with an available axe will be indicated in the description. BE SURE TO SEE OUR ALPINIST'S PIOLET CUFF (bracelet), inspired by the double toothed pick version of the Chouinard-Frost Piolet, found in the Alpinist Jewlery section of this site. Its a must have signiture piece for both men and women.
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