Objects Database

John Cunningham's Ice Dagger

Accession Number


Object Name

John Cunningham's Ice Dagger




Hermione Cooper

Accession Date


Brief Description

Ice dagger on tape with ERBO grip.


Rubber, nylon, iron


18(l) X 4(w) X 2(d) cms

Number Of Objects


Inscription Description

"ERBO" on and also "JC" carved by hand.


Black, red, brown




The ascent of Mont Blanc by Jaques Balmat in 1786 kick started mountaineering as a pastime and since then sport has gone through many different eras in its evolution. Tweed jackets, long wooden axes, nailed boots, step-cutting, artificial climbing, pitons and drooped picks all have their time and place. There are also many much smaller milestones along the way and the Ice Dagger era is one of them.
It came in the 1960's when the era of step-cutting up steep ice was slowly coming to an end and climbers were finding ever steeper ice to climb. Better security was required and ice daggers seemed to be the way forward; they would be stabbed or hammered in, pulled on and stood on to make progress.
Scottish climbers were very much to the fore in this dark art, with John Cunninham being one of the leading exponents though the era was short lived - a few years only.
A new age of ice axes with drooped and curved picks was about to begin. Names such as Terrordactyl, Curver and Zero, replaced the dagger, being more secure on steep ice.
In light of all this, we are delighted to have an ice dagger from that era, and better still, one that belonged to John Cunningham - a real gem of Scottish Mountain Heritage.
It was kindly donated by Dave Siviter, a fellow Mountain Guide and friend of John, who also dabbled in the art of daggering in the old days. Thanks Dave.

Acquisition Method

Donated by Dave Siviter

Acquisition Date


Condition Check Date



Spectrum : UK Museum documentation standard, V.3.1 2007



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