Imagine a Course in Glencoe with these guys! Climbing belts and Whillans Harness.

I found this poster in my tidy up can you imagine doing a course with these guys in Glencoe?

The Tarbuck knot how many remember this.

This was what I got issued with a yellow climbing belt and a screw gate plus 2 slings and karabiners. The Tarbuck was the knot of the day for the RAF teams. The belt was scary as if you fell you had a good chance of getting hurt, no harness in these days.


“Rope, leather and webbing from parachute harnesses were just some of the materials used for early climbing harnesses until nylon tape was invented, sometime in the 1960’s, we think. The Americans wrapped tape around their bodies in various configurations and called it a ‘Swami belt.
In 1970, not long after his successful climb of the Troll Wall in Norway, Tony Howard set up his mountaineering equipment company, Troll. Pretty soon after they teamed up with legendary climber, Don Whillans and between them they produced one of the first sit harnesses made/sewn with tape – Whillans used one on the South face of Annapurna and climbers all over the world used them for decades to come.
The central crutch strap on the Whillan’s was said to have rendered several male climbers impotent and they were not the most comfortable for abseiling, though they did probably prevent lots of male climbers from falling off as the resultant damage to the nether regions was unthinkable!

The Troll Whillan’s Harness was however a major step forward in climbing/mountaineering equipment development and just about every climbing harness on the market some forty or fifty years later is based on this original design.!


We’ve got a few Whillan’s harnesses in the collection so we’ve added this one to help with the various colour schemes!!!

The Tarbuck knot was developed by Kenneth Tarbuck for use by climbers, and was primarily used with stranded nylon ropes before the advent of kernmantle ropes made this use both unnecessary and unsafe.[1] It is used when the rope is subject to heavy or sudden loads, as it will slide to a limited extent thus reducing shock. The knot is non-jamming.

History : This knot was devised around 1952 by climber and skier Ken Tarbuck to cope with post-war nylon climbing ropes. It was an end man’s tie-on to a karabiner, intended to absorb sudden loads by slipping until the load was reduced to a safe weight (when the knot would hold). But no sooner had it become widely known through Tarbuck’s expert writing and lecturing, than kernmantel (core-sheath) climbing ropes emerged. These absorb shock loading by their elasticity and the Tarbuck knot can ruin such ropes, gripping and stripping the outer sheath. It is therefore no longer recommended for its original specialized purpose.

Waist Belt – Yellow waist harness. Large metal buckle kept shut with a ‘Clog’ snap karabiner. Also large metal tightening buckle.

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 rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Imagine a Course in Glencoe with these guys! Climbing belts and Whillans Harness.

  1. Dr B says:

    Great post, great memories. Thank goodness the harness wasn’t designed by JIMMY Tarbuck😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

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