1983 A real change in Crampon design/ Plastic boots / Yeti Gaiters in winter on Canada Ice.

“Many of the Worlds best waterfall ice climbs are located in the Canadian Rocky mountains” From Waterfall Ice Albi Sole

Climbing Area  Canada

It was a group of six of us that went some top guys like Tom MacDonald ,Mark ” Cheeky” Sinclair, Pete Kay a bear of a man from down South in North Wales, Mark Ritchford  a young gun and a baby pilot from New Zealand at RAF Valley, Malcolm Taylor what a crew. None of us had ever been to Canada and a winter trip was a very serious event in these days. The flight over was exciting we wore everything as we had so much gear, we took the same as we climbed in in Scotland.  We hired a car nothing like the hire car nowadays as cash was tight. It was through “Rent a Wreck” real name and could not take 6 0f us and gear in one go. It was all we could afford but did the job just. Three headed to Canmore our base near Banff in the Rockies about 2 hours away and three of us went and shopped for food and then hit the city Calagary but that is another story!

Tom Mac on Chantilly or Grotto Falls early on - sunshine and blue sky ice.

Tom Mac on Chantilly or Grotto Falls early on – sunshine and blue sky ice.

My blog yesterday was about our Canada  ice climbing trip ice  in 1983 and some of the gear we had then, compare it with today’s incredible climbing gear. The ice routes were high standard ice climbing in pure vertical ice. It was then as now an ice climbers dream to climb in such a place and so very low key and quiet. In these days there were less than 100 ice climbs in the Alberta Canmore area and some had few ascents.

Ian Kelly on Cascade Blue Sky day.

Ian Kelly on Cascade Blue Sky day.

It was a wild trip into the unknown for the 6 of us that spent 5 weeks in this ice heaven. We met many of the locals and a few ex – Brits the late Bill March, Rusty Bailley and many of the young incredible Canadian Climbers like Guy Lacelle who looked after us.   On our boots we had  the Classic Salewa Crampons, and the classic Chouinard crampons that were like a meccano kit to put together!Tom had a pair of the new Foot – fangs crampons a real break through a solid platform of sharp points that allowed you to clear the chandelier ice and get to the solid stuff underneath.

1983 - Foot-fangs what a platform for ice climbing.

1983 – Foot-fangs what a platform for ice climbing.

My mate Pete Kay wrote recently  about his much loved Salewa crampons that got him up an early one day ascent of Polar Circus. “I Remember hanging on two Zero’s 70 foot up Professor falls placing a small ice screw, not sure it would have stayed put in the event of a flyer. that and Salewa cramps with invisible front points. Happy days mate.” He has arms like my legs !

Salewa adjustable crampons - with as Pete says the invisible front points but what great gear.

Salewa adjustable crampons – with as Pete says the invisible front points but what great gear.

It was a huge learning curb but what a place to learn! We had also invested in the new plastic boots Koflacks and they saved the day on a few occasions in the extreme cold. They were in the early days a white moulded plastic boots with felt inners an incredible improvement on all previous boots. Drying the inners was a nightly ritual and what a huge difference they made.

Koflack boots plastic

Koflack boots plastic

From the Scottish Mountain Heritage website “Plastic boots came upon the mountaineering world like a rash in the late 1970’s and within a couple of years just about everybody had a pair. Scottish bog trotters said it was the first time they’d had dry feet for a hundred years, Himalayan climbers didn’t get frostbite and boot polish dried up in the tin – redundant. Unfortunately, there was a down side – condensation made your feet look like wrinkled prunes with blisters popping up on each wrinkle! Blisters appeared round the ankle where the boot top rubbed and if water did get in, it couldn’t get out. Some folk loved them, others hated them, but as if by magic, they almost totally disappeared from the scene sometime in the late 1990’s.

Plastic boots and the Chounaird crampons

Plastic boots and the Chounaird crampons added too the Yeti Gaiter they made a great combination.

Koflach were one of the main producers back in the 70’s, using technology gleaned from making ski boots and we’ve got a prime example of their ‘Ultras’ here in the collection. They were probably the most prolific boot on the market at the time.”

1983 abs carls col cheeky

1983 abseil off Carlsberg column The Late Mark “cheeky” Sinclair.

The abseils were very scary of trees and the odd screw and tubing there were not lots of belays in situ in these days. We ran out of “tat” slings in the first week and had to improvise I wish we had the knowledge that we had on future trips and the belays that are there now!

Simple now adays in these days it was an ice thread !

Simple nowadays in these days it was an ice thread !

Still what a trip that was  and what an adventure we lived the dream, had so much fun and all stayed alive. We were climbing in – 25 and above when everyone else the locals would not go out, the ice was so brittle and it was so cold yet we coped. The Scottish winters had trained us well, we were living the dream.

Polar Circus -

Polar Circus -3 years after Pete and Malcolm climbed it.




About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Equipment, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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