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History: the Petzl Company

Petzl's roots lie in the desire of its founders to serve one passion: exploration. Since its beginnings in caving, the company’s mission has remained constant: to offer practical solutions that allow people to progress. Today that pioneering spirit, passion for exploration and ethic have not changed. More than forty years later, Petzl continues to invent products and provide solutions that allow sports enthusiasts and professionals to access some of the most inaccessible places, both day and night.


Fernand Petzl, the story of a pioneer

©PETZL / Fernand PetzlFernand PetzlIn the early 1930s, Fernand Petzl discovered caving at the age of seventeen. A mechanic by trade, he quickly began envisioning new techniques for caving, which was still a rudimentary discipline at the time. In his workshop after work, he began hand-producing products and systems for himself and his caving friends. His goal: to conquer, on the following Sunday,underground obstacles in previously inaccessible galleries.

He invented and perfected new and innovative products in the 1940s with his friend, Pierre Chevalier. Their collaboration was a turning point. Together they explored the initial seventeen kilometers of underground galleries of the Dent de Crolles and established a new world record for exploration below 600 meters. Significantly, they perfected new techniques for progression by pioneering the use of nylon ropes instead of the fixed ladders that were in use at the time. Other revolutionary inventions by Fernand Petzl include the climbing pole, and notably,the ascender a few years later.

In the 1950s, Fernand Petzl led an international expedition to the Berger Cavern in the Vercors region of France. After three years, a new record of -1122 meters was set and Fernand Petzl became part of the history and the legend of caving. This did not prevent him from continuing to improve the ascender, then the descender in the ‘70s, eventually allowing ropes to completely replace ladders. These innovations would soon find their place in sport, rescue and later in industry and construction.

In 1968, Fernand Petzl mass production of his ascenders in his own workshop. Then in 1970, with his sons Pierre and Paul, he expanded his production to include mountaineering gear as well. After inventing lighting for caving, the team created the first headlamp designed for mountaineers. This was the beginning of the adventure for the Petzl brand.


1936: Fernand Petzl and Pierre Chevalier meet. Together, these two cavers from Grenoble will revolutionize vertical progression methods in their field.

1943: A nylon rope designed by Pierre Chevalier is first tested as a replacement for caving ladders.

1950: Fernand Petzl and others explore the Berger Cavern in France. It is the first 1000 meter cave descent in history.

1968: Our first rope ascenders and descenders (BASIC, SIMPLE) are brought to market under the name "Produits Fernand Petzl" (Fernand Petzl Products).

1973: The first Petzl mountaineering headlamp is invented.

1975: Petzl establishes its headquarters in Crolles, France. This is the beginning of Petzl manufacturing and the Petzl brand.

1977: The first Petzl harnesses are produced.

1981: Introduction of the ZOOM headlamp.

1986: Establishment of the R&D department and the test tower. Creation of Team Petzl.

1990: First products designed specifically for the professional market.

1991: Opening of a subsidiary in the USA. First self-braking belay device: the GRIGRI.

1998: The TIBLOC, an ultra-compact rope ascender, is introduced.

2000: Acquisition of ice axe and crampon manufacturer Charlet Moser. TIKKA, first LED headlamp.

2002: First leashless ice axe with angled grip: the QUARK ERGO

2004: Introduction of the ASAP mobile fall arrester.

2006: Creation of the Petzl Foundation.

2008: Creation of V.axess, Petzl's training and experimentation center.

2010: Opening of Petzl Manufacturing in Malaysia. Introduction of the PIXA, the first professional headlamp.

2011: The first Petzl RopeTrip.

2012: Introduction of the NAO headlamp with Reactive lighting technology.

2013: Petzl launches line of dynamic ropes

2014: Petzl Spain and Petzl Germany subsidiaries established