Published on 28/05/2019
To climb the mountains, man had to overcome two problems: the ancestral fear of these dangerous places, inhabited by terrible monsters, shaken by landslides and avalanches; and second the inadequacy of his body to face those dangers. No claws, no fur, no beaks, no hooves.
The first problem was solved first by Enlightenment (18th Century) first and then by Romanticism (19th Century), which changed the way we see the mountains. From scary and horrendous they became beautiful and desirable.
The second problem was solved by the mountain blacksmiths who provided the necessary solutions with crampons for the feet, ice axes for the hands, iron pitons for protection from verticality.
That is how the Grivel factory began, at the foot of Mont Blanc where "mountaineering" was born. It was 1818 when the first brave men bought the first sticks with the iron tip and the nails to be fixed to the soles of the boots so as not to slip and not to wear them out on the rocks. The blacksmith was called Cassiano Grivel and it was above all his son Dominique who forged the first ice axes, daughters of the mountain pole and of the little axe who was then used to cut the steps in the ice.
In 1909, an English railroad engineer, Oskar Eckentstein, came into the workshop of Grivel, and with the help of the unconvinced Henri Grivel he built the first real modern crampons in mountaineering history. And what better than a public demonstration to promote the new idea? And so in 1912 a "concours de cramponneurs" was organized on the Brenva glacier among the guides and porters of the Valley, becoming the first climbing race in the world. In 1929 Henri's eldest son had the idea of adding two front points to the crampons, thus making it possible to tackle the steepest slopes directly: the 12-point crampons were born.
The brothers Camillo and Aimé had the intuition of lightness. They came to forge 12-point crampons of 360 grams. The "Superleggeri Grivel" which were the protagonists in the 1950s of the first ascents on the giants of the earth, Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga (the three highest mountains of the world) and then all the other Eight-thousand-meter peaks! Then the "Superleggera" Grivel ice axes followed, made possible by the adoption of the new Nickel, Chromium and Molybdenum steel, which is still today the basic component of tools all over the world!
Then times changed, and the mountaineering world was no longer just what could be seen from the summit of Mont Blanc! The cycle of globalization began very quickly and like many stories in which the family mixes with companies and work, the events required a change of gear and engine. At the end of the 1970s Grivel was reduced to little more than a local reality and in 1981 a group of enthusiasts gathered around Gioachino Gobbi and the story of the Gobbi family began.
Everything had to be reinvented: products, technologies, distribution.
Products: the Super Courmayeur interchangeable system, the 2F crampons, the first handle with ergonomic curvature and the first in carbon fiber, the “The Machine” ice axe which established the new geometry for technical tools, among others.
With the new millennium Grivel decided to devote his efforts and his investments to improving the safety of the tools to improve the safety of the mountaineers.
In 2003 Grivel started to mount on all crampons the new antibott, the only one "proactive" one that expels the snow accumulated under the plate between the points of the crampons. In 2014 Grivel patented and built the first carabiner with two opposing opening levers which make total safety for the user without the need for any intervention on his part. The safest carabiner ever produced. The Twin Gate carabiner was awarded the "Compasso d’Oro" award, the Oscar for design, for the first time in the outdoor sector.
In 2004, first in the sector, Grivel implemented an environmental management system and obtained ISO 14001 environmental certification, the one that guarantees to work by seeking sustainable development. In 2010 it created a large photovoltaic plant to become independent of other more polluting energy sources: there are 7000 square meters of solar panels for 516 kilowatts of power that save 83,000 liters (1,173 barrels) of oil per year and save the earth 806 kilograms of CO2 per day. In 2017 Grivel decides to add to the “safety” dimension the one defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) according to the formula 3R, reduce-recycle-reuse.
Espace Grivel, in Courmayeur, is the place where Grivel wants to tell its long history and exhibits a significant selection of its product collections.
Finally in 2018 Grivel presented the celebratory 200-year-old ice axe made with a wooden handle and a forged head faithfully copying those of the past. Likewise, the 200-year-old backpack that totally recalls the first backpacks of the first mountaineers.
Today Grivel sells more than 90% of its production in over 50 countries around the world, everywhere people looking up at the mountains see more than a pile of rocks and ice, because on the top of the mountain the sun always sets later and always rises earlier.
Today Grivel is a modern company whose strategy and future are based on innovation, globalisation, and communication.
Innovation because we are actors in the eternal struggle between climbing techniques and the tools that make them possible. Our main investments are always focused on new products, new technologies and new solutions.
Globalisation because we need to be global to survive in our niche market. Today we sell in 55 countries and export around 90% of our turnover.
Communication because we need to tell our story and our stories to the ever-changing world.