Some Old rock climbing gear – basic ropes,simple harnesses, no helmets, and limited protection

Home made chocks

Sadly I had done no climbing when I joined the RAF mountain Rescue and my pride and joy was when I got issued with 2 Scott karabiners, a screw gate and my Yellow belt. What was that yellow belt called? These were the days when few wore helmets and I was told the tales of a flat caps was at times stuffed with a piece of carpet to soften a blow to the head!!

Joe Brwon Belt similar to the one I was issued with in 1972 . Scottish Mountaineering Heritage Collection.

All abseiling was the classic way but this was 1972. Many team member’s had their own homemade chocks made from various nuts from the engineers and wooden blocks cut to size for a big crack and a piece of rope threaded round as a runner. One of the old and bold Geordie Armstrong told me they made load of these and I once found one on Beinn Eighe on the Triple buttress.  We also had a couple of slings they were numbered according to breaking strain 1, 2, 3, and 4 and 1 = 1000 lbs I think 2 = 2000 lbs and so it went on. Correct me if wrong?

The leader must not fall era. Basic gear in the early days before my time.

I remember  getting taught the classic abseil and a few epics with rope burn and if you let go that was it!  Abseiling of the In Pin in Skye and on the Pinnacle ridge on Sgurr Na  Gillean scared me and others to death and I quickly learned. I tried to teach my young niece and nephew how to do this when I was home one weekend at Ayr Academy walls at the weekend, they managed!

1950 basic abseil – scary days when they were so hard. How hard was that?

The Willians Harness made by Troll. How did we tie on then, the knots I was taught the Tarbuck knot, Figure of 6, the Alpine Butterfly, the Clove hitch and the Prussic, what a nightmare to a young lad. You had to tie them with gloves on in the dark and tie someone on to a rope.

Tarbuck knot!

I had a bit of rope I practiced whenever I had time even in the toilet. There were no belaying devices then and few abseil devices apart form some made by the engineers in the team. I was so glad to see the figure of 8 abseil device in the early 70’s and the big gloves we had made of leather ideal to stop rope burn and for belaying.

The Whillians Harness what an influence on climbing at the time

The rope was a brutal hawser laid rope and we carried it every hill day till we learned sense, they were heavy already and when wet worse. Ropes were getting better and huge improvements were on the way in the next few years.

The Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection Objects Items  Scott KRAB

The ‘Scott’ karabiner was designed by a member of the (then) Ministry of Supply to meet a requirement for the RAF Mountain Rescue teams. Some advice and assistance was given by the BMC at the time, but subsequent events showed that the karabiner was considerably over-designed, being much stronger than necessary. One consequence was that the section of the body was too thick to pass through many pitons and the internal space available for ropes is rather on the small side. It was made of high tensile aluminium alloy by one of the leading firms making high grade aluminium forgings for aircraft. It was prohibitively expensive, thus not marketed due to cost. There were plenty in the RAF Mountain Rescue in my early days.

Scott Karabiner

The climbing rope of the 1960’s and 1970’s which bridged the gap between the hemp version of the early 1900’s and the modern kernmantel ones we see today.

George Bruce and the rope we used and carried.

Falling leader – we all had to do falling leader annually usually with a big tyre getting dropped from above. It was terrifying and we had many injuries with this and being small and the tyre so big was scary. It was the big thing on all the courses and I dreaded it. Winter was similar with falls to be held as the instructor improvised with a fall down the route?

Falling leader RAF MRT picture.

Thanks goodness for the Willians Harness – Made by Troll of England, designed for the first ascent of Annapurna South in 1970. It changed the world of climbing and we did not  get issues with them till the mid 70,s but we all that climbed bought them.

Mid 70,s Willians Harness

How things changed so quickly, rock boots came easy to get and protection evolved from the days of the piton and the Dangle and wack brigade.

Aid climbing late 60’s

It was an amazing time to be climbing with all the new gear, ropes and protection that became available. Abseil devices, harnesses, Joe Brown helmets, lightweight karabiners, rock boots and good ropes all helped.

1980 climbing gear.

How bold were they in the early days? Yet so many great climbs were done. The leader must not fall was the watch word.

The late Johnie Lees and John Hinde doing it their way.

A wee insight into how it was just as we hear of another great passing away Royal Robbins now there was a man of vision. This is a great insight into the minds of these great characters of this era the DVD Valley Uprising.

Valley Uprising.

For the past fifty years, Yosemite’s massive cliffs have drawn explorers and madmen to leave materialism behind and venture onto the high, lonesome granite. The larger-than-life characters of Yosemite carved out an extreme bohemian lifestyle in the valley: living in the dirt, clashing with the National Park authorities, and pioneering the boldest climbs on earth. The torch has been passed across three generations of climbers; through rivalries, tragedies and triumphs, the art of Yosemite climbing has advanced beyond anyone’s imagination. Narrated by acclaimed actor Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State, Jarhead, An Education) and produced by Emmy® Award-Winning Sender Films with Big UP Productions, Valley Uprising deftly recounts the history of Yosemite’s bold tradition: half a century of struggle against the laws of gravity, and the laws of the land. Starring Yosemite climbing legends Dean Potter, Alex Honnold, Lynn Hill, Jim Bridwell, Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, Yvon Chouinard, John Bachar, “Chongo” Chuck and so many more… Special Features include Bonus footage, extras, and behind the scenes. A Film by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen Edited by Josh Lowell Produced by Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen, and Zachary Barr.


RIP Royal Robbins.












About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Family, Gear, History, Mountain rescue, Rock Climbing, SAR, SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

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