I have just come across and old letter dated 8 April 1957
From the Air Ministry – Whitehall Gardens London
To RAF Mountain Rescue Teams Kinloss, Valley, Leuchars, St. Athan, Topcliffe, Nicosia. Harpur Hill.
Subject – Ice Axes.
An ice axe broken through normal use at RAF Valley has recently been the subject of an investigation. This has shown that the moisture content of the broken shaft was appreciably below the normal( 7% as compared with the normal 12 – 16 % )
It is possible that this is due to incorrect storage at the Maintenance Unit and this will be investigated. All ice axes held by Mountain Rescue Teams however are to be inspected and tested before further use. They should not, in future be kept in a heated store but should be kept out of doors , under cover, or indoors with adequate ventilation and no heating.
The shafts in future are to be dressed with raw linseed oil and not boiled linseed oil as at present. AP3172 will be amended in due course.
This tragic call -out on Ben Nevis in 1958 a year later was to highlight the wooden axes failures if used as a belay on Zero Gully on the 10 Th April 1958 where 3 top climbers were killed on Ben Nevis.
|Call out 86-5/58||10/04/58||Ben Nevis
|RAF Kinloss Mrt – 3 missing climbers found at the foot of Zero Gully. Fatal. (Tech). Belay failed, broken wooden ice axe, recovery party included Hamish Mc Inness and Tom Patey and locals from Lochaber.|
So when you run up these gullys with all the modern gear spare a though for the old and bold, try a grade 3 with a straight pick and cutting steps, you will be amazed how bold they were. How would you do?
Great tales of a different era but how incredible were these climbers?
So when your out and about this winter with all the magic gear spare a thought ” that was a soft touch climb” think what they the pioneers were using cunning, craft and great skill?