Objects Database

Rock piton

Accession Number


Object Name

Rock piton




Hermione Cooper

Accession Date


Brief Description

Rock piton. P shaped with round hanger. Solid flat body.


anodised steel


11.5(l) x 3.5(w) x 4(d) cms

Number Of Objects





Like much of British mountaineering terminology we've borrowed the word Piton from the continent; in this case it is French and means 'little pig' but to the mountaineering world in general it's a metal spike which can be driven into a crack in the rock. They come in all shapes and sizes and have been around for a long, long time; the earliest one being basically a metal spike driven into the rock for various industrial purposes. Local blacksmiths would have made the first mountaineering versions in the late 1800's, giving them fabulous names such as picture hook pitons and Mitzi Langer haken, though because karabiners were yet to be invented the climbing rope was simply hooked over them, or threaded through an attached rope loop or, later, a metal ring.
A blacksmith called Hans Fiechtl from the Tyrol area of Austria ( he might have also been a mountain guide) was one of the first to produce a piton with an integral eye around 1930, and this fits nicely with the arrival of karabiners which were being developed around the same time. Britain was 20 odd years behind the continent in this department, there being very few pitons or karabiners around until the ex-WD ones appeared in the army surplus stores after WWII.
Early pitons tended to be made from mild steel and some still are, though chrome - molybdenum steel is the favoured material in the modern era.
Mick Tighe bought this piton in an ex-army store in Calgary, Canada for a few cents, and we are pretty sure it came from the US Army dating back to the 1950's. It's not been used and was probably sold off with thousands of others as surplus.

Acquisition Method

Donated by Mick Tighe

Acquisition Date


Condition Check Date



Spectrum : UK Museum documentation standard, V.3.1 2007



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