Skip to content

→ Against the grain

Alex Roddie
Alex Roddie
1 min read

There’s a great comparison of two very different kinds of ice axes over on outdoorflow.

Bhend ice axes are made in a small metal shop in the town of Grindelwald, Switzerland. The Bhend family has made ice axes the same way for over one hundred and thirty years. Bhend ice axes accompanied climbers on the first ascents of the Eiger, in 1938, and Everest, in 1953, as well as numerous other peaks, from the Himalaya to the Americas. When you hold a Bhend ice axe in your hands, you hold a piece of climbing history. Ruedi Bhend, nearly seventy years old, still makes ice axes every winter. His son, Urs, may continue the tradition in the future.
A Bhend ice axe begins as a rough steel blank. The blank is heated in a forge, beaten into shape with an anvil and hammer, and finished with grinding and polishing. The shafts are hewn from ash, and aged for a suitable period. Finally, the heads and shafts are joined with rivets, and sanded so that the seams are barely discernible. The spike is fashioned the same way.
The final product is elegant and refined, like a sculpture, with smooth curves that recall the hull of a boat or the body of a violin. The shafts are blond, and the heads are bright silver, like mercury. They are the ideal iteration of the classic ice axe, the perfect ice axe, a platonic form.

Bhend – and his legendary ice axes – feature in my novel The Only Genuine Jones. It’s remarkable that they’re still being made in the traditional way

in the shadow of the Eigerwand.

Read the full article here.

Notes

Alex Roddie

Happiest on a mountain. Writer, story-wrangler, digital and film photographer. Editor of Sidetracked magazine (I make the words come out good).

Comments


Related Posts

Members Public

'Embracing constraints taught me to love them'

Tip of the hat to The Cramped, one of my favourite blogs, which pointed me in the direction of this fascinating piece: 'A tale from “ye olden days” of graphic design that taught me to love and embrace constraints'. This post from Mike Rohde is a look back

'Embracing constraints taught me to love them'
Members Public

Highs and lows from a winter of outdoor gear testing: spooky summit camps, exploding stoves, and more

Now that a long winter here in Scotland has finally come to an end, it's time for me to look back on the highlights of my season. Regular readers will know that I have been on the team at The Great Outdoors testing and reviewing equipment for some

Highs and lows from a winter of outdoor gear testing: spooky summit camps, exploding stoves, and more
Members Public

Seek the mayglow while you can, for it is fleeting

May has long been one of my favourite months of the year, but it's not all about Scottish Alpine spring, as you might expect from a mountaineer based in Scotland. One of the things I have learnt about myself is that I need more from nature than mountains.

Seek the mayglow while you can, for it is fleeting

Mastodon