Vintage Climbing Gear Stories

  • Since I now want to post an old axe & significant pass photo here's Harry Bowron & me on a divide in Idaho's mountains in 1971. I do still have that Stubai Nanga Parbat axe, but I haven't used it since I bought a bamboo Chouinard axe in 1974.

    Saw_02_014-Harry n Ray Barin divide 1971.jpg

    I still have both, but I beat the schist out of that Chouinard axe & even after some sanding & restoration work, it shows it.

    Ray 1969 stubai n 1974 Chouinard Piolet 2 (2).JPG

    Ray 1969 stubai n 1974 Chouinard Piolet.JPG

  • @FritzRay

    And here's one for you Ray. My first ice axe. It was given to me by the guy who introduced me to climbing, and even then (early 70s) was ancient. All I know about its provenance is that it is stamped with the words "Hope Alpinist" inside an oval.

    The first axe 02.jpg

    And on the subject of old equipment used by young climbers, I think this guy (my son) must have been born to climb. and 35 years later, he's still at it.

    Born to climb.jpg

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    A small part of my collection

  • Scole! That's a hellava collection of ironwear. Since I collect old Chouinard ironwear, I clicked on the photo & enjoyed the details. It looks like some of the Lost Arrows & Bongs might date as far back as the mid-1960's, but based on some of the knifeblades having two holes, I'm guessing the photo was taken around 1972 - 74. What do you remember?

  • @Scole

    Holy, holy, guacamole, Scott! This is gear you recovered from various routes or stuff you used? If latter, I did not realize you'd done so much aid climbing.

    Good stuff! 👍

  • I took the photo about a month ago. All of the pins are well used from my miss spent youth and there are some classics, especially the arrows, some of which are hand forged. I did many walls BITD: I was always a fan of the big jobs. I love the ring of chromoly steel! Not much call for a big pin rack these days, no one even knows what they are any more, so I can't sell them.

  • @Scole Well, I never did any aid climbing but did have an appreciation for the history of such so damn well recognize the gear. Cannot name anything other than the "bongs" , hooks and pitons though... cuz... I never got intimate w/it.

    I'll bet Fritz would be an interested buyer if you ever get tired of waxing nostalgic about the "good 'ol days" (still cannot bring myself to part w/my vintage, hand brazed Colnago). Since only a "small part of your collection", however, I wonder if you might want to start your own climbing history Museum? You've certainly got the goods. Maybe no call for such down south o' the border?

    I am damn tempted to move this to the "Gearhead Mind Hive" because I have a feeling we may be seeing more of this historical gear 'twixt you and Fritz. We've already got some historical ice axe stuff up post. Hmmm.... seems worthy/deserving of it's own, dedicated thread to better to collate/curate?

  • Send it to where you think is appropriate. I have lots of old gear. I'll take some more pics

  • @toby said in Random Photo Thread:

    Since only a "small part of your collection", however, I wonder if you might want to start your own climbing history Museum? You've certainly got the goods. Maybe no call for such down south o' the border?

    There is a Spanish language film in progress called Suenos de Altura. Its about the history of Mexican climbing, and focuses on German Wing, a Mexican climber who I know from the Valley in the 80's. I was interviewed for the film as a gringo friend of German and there is a lot of interest in the history. Several local climbers have asked for a gear showing, so maybe your idea is on track.

  • Two Left Feet... But Still Dancin'??

    As the old sayin' goes... otherwise these look like they may well still be usable.

    Recent chatter on the Bachar Celebration thread inspires me. I suspect more than a few of us have a pair or two of these lurking in our Vintage Gear "collections". Bachar set up a company to import them after a trip to Spain? Goodbye E.B.s. The consummate friction and everything else shoe of it's day. Boreal Fires (pronounced "Fee Rays") revolutionized American free climbing.




    My memory is not of Acopa's but rather John showing up at JTree w/prototypes of Boreal Ace's and chatting up the marketing idea of "Having an Ace in the Hole" prior to setting off on his free soloing "Half Dome Day" with a warm up of "Double Cross". I never owned a pair of Aces. But being a dirtbag... resoled a few pair of these puppies multiple times. RIP.

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    Fire Invernals

  • I think we might need to do a shoe thread or climbing Footwear?
    IMG_5465 (3)784x900.JPG

    "Vintage Gear" is very broad
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  • @The-Gnome

    We shall see.... Until recently there has not been much action on this subject. I can fork topics off later if need be but for now maybe let's let it percolate and see what ensues because I'd prefer to be "forking" rather than "merging" topics that did not take off.

    Which begs the question: How old does something have to be to qualify as "vintage"? In the antique world, I believe the bar is forty years. That seems a bit high, even for the climbing world. Maybe thirty? Or maybe age is not as "definitive" as the effect various stuff had, e.g. Friends, followed by the dual axle Camalots? For sure Metolius Three Cam Units would be in there because you could place them in places four cams simply would not fit. Not to mention they had significantly less propensity to "walk". Scapas may be cool but lacked the "impact" of Boreal. Yet they certainly did have impact on Boreal's previously unchallenged market share (at least US side). Hmm..... some thought food for minds that enjoy pondering such things. One thing for sure is there's a veritable treasure trove of historical content potential here. 🙂

  • @The-Gnome! I agree! Maybe a Chouinard gear thread too.

    Here's my collection of Chouinard pitons & biners. I made it harder & only kept & purchased pitons in "mint" unused condition. Just to confuse things, there is a Dolt Long Dong & a Dolt Little peg, along with a silver Lost Arrow a girlfriend made for me, in the Lost Arrow compartment.


    In the Lost Arrrow compartment, my pride & joy is my collection of hand-forged Lost Arrows made from roughly 1962 -1966. They are marked Lost Arrow, but not U.S.A.

    Lost Arrows 1962-66.JPG

    From about 1966 to 1975 Lost Arrows were marked Lost Arrow & U.S.A. Around 1972 the tips were squared off & they lost the wonderful hand-forged texture. In 1975 Chouinard moved Lost Arrow production to Interalp & after that they were stamped Italy & mass produced.

    Lost Arrows 1967-75.JPG

  • The hand forged Arrows were the best. Each one was just a little bit different. Once they were all exactly the same nailing on established routes got harder, since the placements got scarred to match the pin. Having something a little different could turn a body weight placement into A1.

    The same went for having different brand pins. Even the CMI ones worked at times because the shape and taper was different.

  • @FritzRay

    Ooo Ah ooo ! ~ almost as good as going to the fireworks


    sweet collection

    ,,, I have a small collection of late 60s&70s era pins, blades & a few angles that rounded out my alpine/mixed rack, that iron weighed as much as the whole rest of the rack... Oh, I have a 6.5" long blade that I used as a nut-pick/butter knife/letter opener; a piton with a "D" shaped eye that has a four-letter word on it, too. 🙂

    ok-ok, Don't have a "Klipsch-'in":0) 🙂 🕙
    Quality Sound & the pictures . . . loaded !
    🙂 just yankin' your chain....
    And to add so that others can appreciate Nick's comment:

    The tools that one had to pick from were gothic weapons.
    Cassin, Alltares

    To be good at ice climbing you needed to be able to stroke and caress -
    to place or "tap" as much as swing true blows into fat
    perfect 35 degrees F, plastic columns.

    Ice forms from vertical smears to overhanging chandelier curtains, and every other shape; many that defy the imagination until encountered
    at which point those shapes can become the things of dreams or nightmares.

    Charlet-Moser, Multimahne modular
    Forrest Ultimate life-time Tools; dipped into the tackiest tool-coat available a generation ago


    Well? yes - these are.
    (Fitted with notoriously thick picks)
    climbers had to find skilled machinists to thin & tapper of the points
    without reducing the strength of the blades

    Swinging& kicking; slamming & whacking, releasing "dinner plates"
    that rain down; cold missiles & sheets of ice.

    While the actual action may appear to be that simple.
    For those of us who had less than quality frozen blue plastic ice available
    it really came down to an exercise that mimicked life.

    A delicate dance, where determination led to the need to constantly try and strike a balance between leaning back & reaching up.
    Between driving with enough force needed to sink a pick; to feel, to hear, that reassuring "thunk" and to know when to just stick the tip & reach off the scetchy to find that "thunker".
    Mixed with the reluctance to shatter the ephemeral unique structure(s) we asked to give us up-ward passage, while at the same time
    we hacked into them to make upward progress.

    The activity where would-be at odds forces, were married, coping with the impossible need to slam and tickle at the same time,

    Hatchet handled Molinar
    IMG_4914 (3)580x1159.jpg
    Tap and swing all while battling gravity and other unrelenting aspects of nature. Destroying pinkies & ring finger knuckles at the same time.

  • @The-Gnome

    Have mercy! I knew I should have included "Climbing" into the thread title. Thought is sounded better short and sweet though. Can we please limit this one to climbing?

    Maybe a good time to start an "Audiophile" thread? I almost did a time or two but was not sure many were into it.

  • @The-Gnome Of course I meant "Climbing". Mea culpa! Remedied!

    Some people's children had just too much fun! Never, ever did any ice climbing. Wanted to but... then a guy I know got his nose sliced off his face and I kind of lost my courage for that one. Still reveled over the pics in Coonyard's "Climbing Ice" though. 👍

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  • Mono Pass.jpg

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