Ice pick

An ice pick is a tool used by mountain climbers as they ascend and descend in terrain covered by ice and snow. The pick can be held and used in many different ways, depending on the need and situation.

The ice pick originates from the alpenstock, a long wooden pole with an ironclad point, which has been used by shepherds in the Alps since the middle ages. In 1786, Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard completed the first ascent of Mont Blanc. Illustrations show Balmat carrying two separate tools – an alpenstock and a small axe that could be used to cut steps in icy slopes. According to the earliest manufacturer of ice picks, Grivel, these two tools were combined to create the first proper ice pick in around 1840.

In 1978, the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) drew up formal standards for the safety and performance of the ice pick. Amongst other changes, this led to the traditional wooden handle being replaced with a metal one.