I wonder how many households sport this sort of array of ice axes? Despite not having used mine very much in recent years, I bought a new axe last week.
That triggered this post.
Here’s what you see above:
Number Date Name Length (cm) Weight (gm)
1 1944 Cornelius Whitehouse 82 1050
2 ~1970 Stubai 80 950
3 ~1990 Grivel Mont Blanc 63 650
4 2017 Camp Corsa Nanotech 50 230
1 Probably not so many households contain the first axe, which was kindly given to me by Rodney Cottrell a few years ago in return for a small favour. It may be connected with Frank and Doris Sale, whose photograph album of a 1949 holiday in Zermatt was also given to me (albeit Rodney’s notes say that Frank died in 1948).
There’s a similar axe in the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection, but I think the one I have is a more authentic example, possibly never having been used in anger.
Cornelius Whitehouse & Sons - makers of this ice axe - were one of Britain's best known manufacturers of wooden handled tools in the early 1900's.
It's no surprise therefore that the War Department asked them to produce a batch of ice axes in 1944, presumably for issue to mountain troops. Loads of gear became surplus to requirement when the war ended in 1945, and it was sold off to an eager outdoor market. Whether or not the original owner of this axe bought it ex WD or was issued with it I have no idea.
Jackie may have inspired some Lake District use of axe and crampons, or I may have first used them in Scotland in the 1970s, when we enjoyed frequent visits to snow clad Munro summits.
This Grivel Mont Blanc axe has been a brilliant axe and has accompanied me on many Scottish and Alpine trips over a period of almost 30 years.
Whilst any such short impasses may be negotiable using walking poles, I prefer the security of an ice axe, used in conjunction with microspike crampons.
The Camp Corsa Nanotech seems to offer just what is needed, for the very modest addition of 230 grammes for this short (50 cm) version. There’s also a saving of 50 grammes, as Sue has pointed out that the trowel I carry everywhere is rendered obsolete by the hole digging qualities of the axe.
So, hopefully a brilliant piece of kit – despite the flimsy pick protection!
With a group of four, just two of these axes between us should be sufficient for the trip, especially if everyone carries microspike crampons.