Grivel isn’t just a brand, it’s a story... a beautiful story from the foot of Mont Blanc.
To climb mountains, people used to have two problems to overcome: the ancestral fear of these dangerous places, inhabited by terrible beasts and shaken by avalanches; and the inadequacy of the body to face those dangers. No claws, no fur, no hooves.
The first was solved by the Illuminism of the 18th century and the Romanticism of the 19th, which changed the way of seeing the mountains. Frightening and horrible became beautiful and desirable, and people started to enjoy being among them. The second problem was solved by ‘mountain-smiths’, who provided the solutions with crampons for the feet and ice axes for the hands – the iron nails for the protection from verticality.
Grivel is born
From the Courmayeur smithy at the foot of Mont Blanc, where ‘alpinism’ began, the Grivel factory was born. It was 1818, when metal tips were first attached to sticks and nails were fixed to the soles of the shoes. The blacksmiths Cassiano Grivel and his son, Dominique together forged the first ice axes, a mixture of the mountain staff and the little axe that was used to cut steps in the ice. In 1909, an engineer of the English railways, Oskar Eckenstein, arrived, and with the help of the Dominique’s son, Henri, realised the first modern crampons.
To demonstrate, in 1912 a ‘Councors de Cramponneurs’ was organised on the glacier of the Brenva between the guides of the valley – the first climbing race! In 1929 Laurent, Henri’s eldest son, added front points to the crampons, thus allowing him to tackle the steepest slopes directly. The 12-point crampon was born! His brothers Camillo and Aimé then had the intuition of lightness. They came to forge crampons with 12 tips weighing just 360 grams. The Super Leggero Grivel (superlight Grivel) helped the first ascents in the 1950s of the three highest mountains on Earth: Everest, K2, and Kangchenjunga.
Naturally they continued with the Super Leggero Grivel ice axes, made possible by the adoption of the new nickel, chrome and steel that still form the basic components all over the world! Times changed. Mountaineering was no longer just what you could see from the summit of Mont Blanc. The cycle of globalisation began very quickly and, like many stories in which the family and business meet, the events required a change of ‘engine’.
In the late 1970s Grivel was reduced to little more than a regional reality, so in 1981 a group of enthusiasts gathered around Gioachino Gobbi and began the story of the Gobbi family’s stewardship of Grivel. The Super Courmayeur system was born, making it became possible to replace the front and rear parts of a crampon. The first shaft with ergonomic curvature and the first shaft made with carbon fibre were innovations that reignited Grivel’s position on the world’s mountain stage.
Back to basics
In 2018 Grivel presents the 200-year celebratory ice axe made with a wooden handle and a forged head, faithfully reproducing those of the past. Likewise, the 200-year backpack recalls the sacks of the first mountaineers – a classic design with modern materials.
“We are Grivel”
Today Grivel sells more than 90% of its production in 51 countries over the world – places wherever people looking at the mountains see more than a bunch of stones and ice. The sun always sets later at the top of the mountain, and always rises earlier. That is the magic of the high places Grivel makes it possible for us mortals to reach.