The Petzl story began in the early 1930s, when Fernand Petzl discovered the sport of caving. Petzl was 17 and trained as a mechanic by trade; he was used to solving complex problems with simple solutions. Together, with his friend Pierre Chevalier, the two began exploring deep caves with gear designed for only for hiking and light climbing. It wasn’t long before the two began to envision new techniques for going deeper into previously inaccessible caves, and with these new techniques, they created new gear for the task. Rather than rely on fixed ladders as was the norm, Petzl began to use nylon ropes, and he invented the climbing pole, the Ascender, and Descender. With tools in hand, Petzl and Chevalier explored the first 17 kilometers of the Dent de Crolles and established a new world record for caving below 600 meters.
By 1968, Petzl was manufacturing ascenders and descenders under the name Produits Fernand Petzl (Fernand Petzl Products). In 1970 Petzl brought his sons Pierre and Paul into the business, and the Petzl brand expanded its production to include mountaineering equipment. The first Petzl mountaineering headlamp followed in 1973 and, in 1975, Petzl established its headquarters in Crolles, France. This was truly the beginning of something larger.
With the name established and its manufacturing plant in place, things took off. The Petzl name was already synonymous with high-quality climbing equipment and headlamps, so the addition of climbing harnesses was a natural addittion to the product line in 1977. Eleven years later Petzl would put in place its own research and development department, complete with a Test Tower for climbing gear, and an athlete team, Team Petzl, soon followed.
Now known as the the world’s first self-braking belay device, the invention of the Grigi made climbing much safer. It was 1991 and the world of climbing suddenly became more accessible to recreational and casual climbers. Just a year earlier Petzl had begun making firefighters, roofers, tree care professionals, rescue workers, and other professionals whose jobs involve roping in above the ground. To this day, many of Petzl’s product such as descenders, work-spec harnesses, and helmets are used for both work and play.
Countless other products and innovations have followed over the past 20 years. The Tikka, Petzl’s firs LED headlamp, The Quark Ergo ice axe, the ASAP mobile fall arrester, the Rope Trip, and many others. Over the years, Petzl has always designed products to address a specific issue—never just to add to its catalog. Innovation in lighting and verticality are at the heart of the brand’s expertise and innovation is what drives their products into the hands of future customers, again and again.