Neat Old Junk

Climbing a route, any route, allows the modern-day alpinist to compare his or her ascent to the prior ascents of a given peak. And for a history nerd such as myself, it's compelling to think about the same climb being done with the different technologies and techniques of past years or past generations.

Through an inability to stay on route, and the intentional desire to wander off the beaten path, I've come across an interesting array of climbing relics. Some of these I picked up in the North Cascades (old pitons in the Gunsight Range, probably from Fred Beckey's 1940 or 1967 trip) and others from Patagonia, New Zealand, or the desert Southwest.

Here are a few of the random little trinkets I've held on to:

Carabiner with no strength rating, UIAA certification, or any of that modern mumbo-jumbo. This was probably the precursor to the European brand Simond.

"Claudius Simond Chamonix"

Pitons from one of three trips to the Gunsight Range in the North Cascades. Dan Hilden and I thought our packs were heavy when we had to contend with hundreds of blown-down fir trees on the trail portion of the approach. I can't imagine doing the same trip with canvas rucksacks full of iron pitons.

Fred's AAJ entry from this second expedition to the range is so good, I have to include part of it here:

Four of us lost almost a day in just getting across the south fork of Agnes Creek, finally climbing a slippery log in a thundering canyon with the aid of about six
pitons. We then set up a tyrolean traverse from trees at a different location
for hauling packs and for the return trip out. In between these
exasperating episodes I was chased by a black bear. TO make matters
even more hectic,...

A Chouinard Hex. Moss has grown over the knot, but the part of the cord that was not exposed to sun still seems pretty strong. This came from an ascent of "The Passenger" last summer, on South Early Winter Spire.

Original flat-sided Chouinard #4 "Stopper"

And the most recent addition, a #6 "Titon" which was something invented by Kris Walker and Bill Forest. Perhaps the little tree with a "W" stands for "Forrest/Walker"? This was found on the route Jupiter II in Red Rock, along with a straight-sided stopper, stamped with the initials VB (likely for prolific Red Rock climber Paul VanBetten).

This Titon says PH on it, but I've got no clue who that is. I'm glad we're not all pounding our initials into our gear these days...


  1. I've got an old Chouinard hex with "Carl Skoog" scratched into it in perfect penmanship, adorned with sun-baked green cord. Picked it up on a solo trip across Torment-Forbidden a few falls back.

    Congrats on the AAC grant!


    (wassoulou.blogspot.com for Malian tapes!)

  2. Hey Tim,

    I've done a few climbs with a brother of the (late) Carl Skoog. Those guys were doing amazing stuff in the mountain since before I was born! You should take a photo of the hex and post it online or email it to me. Carl's brothers Lowell and Gordy might enjoy seeing it.

  3. I just got hold of a red version of the Claudius Simond carabiner. I absolutely love it's design and feel. Contact me if you want a picture