Every picture tells a story it’s so worth taking them.

Today saw the first over the radio of roads and a few cars stuck in the snow near the Lecht in the Cairngorms. Is winter on its way.

I saw the photo below on the RAF MRT Instagram Account. It was of the late Al MacLeod ice climbing in the Cairngorms I think. It looks Mid 80’s with the Korflack plastic boots and I think the axes are Chacals. Al is wearing the classic footfang crampons at the time an incredible piece of gear. Name the route?

Photos like these make me think of so many things, the climbs, the history and the company. I think this photo was taken when we came back from Ice climbing in Canada in 1984 full of confidence in our gear and ability. Al was so powerful on the ice it was his medium, he loved it and Scotland.He was fun to be with. I was never a great climber but was lucky to climb many of the classics of the time all over Scotland with so many pals. After a second trip to Canada in 2 years it was incredible how things had moved on.

The late Big Al MacLeod in action in his red wind suit and tracky bottoms. Plastic Boots, Chacal axes Loving the ice the situation and view.

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.
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.

I also met the late Andy Nisbet when we climbed a lot in these years he was pushing the winter grades as he always did. We were on Cascade in the Cairngorms at the time we had a great chat as you did in these days when most climbers knew each other. He loved my dog who would wait patiently at the bottom of the route. Andy knew these climbs and was always there to give advice a great man.

The tools !

Mark Hartree / Just checked my diary. It was 21st Feb 1989. Cascade, Stag Rocks, 200′, IV. After we did Left Gully, 200′, III.
AXES
The hammer is called the Chacal. The Adze version is called the Barracuda. Superb pieces of kit. Loved them. Al wore Footfangs and we both had the excellent Slioch pertex wind suits. My old axes here with my trusty old Grivel crampons I wore.

From the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection.

The Simond Chacal

Produced by Simond from 1975 until the late 1980s, this axe featured one of the first “reverse curve” commercially available. There had been steep drop picks (Peck/MacInnes Terrodactly) and modular tools (Forrest Modular System, 1974) but giving the pick a reverse curve was, up until then, only done by climbers experimenting with their own axes. There is some debate about who tried it first.

As is sometimes the case, the idea seemed to occur to several groups of climbers at about the same time. Scottish climbers needed a better tool in the steep ice of the Cairngorms so they modified there picks.

Simond Ice Hammer

Others were tinkering with and re-forging alpine axes, and several manufacturers were starting to independently develop the concept as well.

The Chacal axe has a nice weight and head design. The pick was secured by a large yet low profile double sided nut and two rolled pins. Thin washers on each side of the nut covered the rolled pins and insured they stayed in. Replacing the pins or removing the pick required knocking them out with punch and hammer.

The tool initially came in a silver/grey painted version with a red rubber grip on the bottom third of the shaft for insulation and vibration reduction. Three lengths (45cm, 50cm, 55cm) were available.

In 1977 the shaft was fully protected by a black molded rubber covering and this remained the standard shaft through the remainder of the production.

I never had a set sadly expense I used the Terrordacyl that were made in Scotkand and of course the Chouinard Zero axe and hammers.

Chacal.

Produced by Simond from 1975 until the late 1980s, this axe featured one of the first “reverse curve” commercially available. There had been steep drop picks (Peck/MacInnes Terrodactly) and modular tools (Forrest Modular System, 1974) but giving the pick a reverse curve was, up until then, only done by climbers experimenting with their own axes. There is some debate about who tried it first. As is sometimes the case, the idea seemed to occur to several groups of climbers at about the same time. Scottish climbers needed a better tool in the steep ice of the carringorms so they modified their picks, Colorado climbers, always an inventive lot, were tinkering with and re-forging alpine axes, and several manufacturers were starting to independently develop the concept as well.The Chacal axe has a nice weight and head design. The pick was secured by a large yet low profile double sided nut and two rolled pins. Thin washers on each side of the nut covered the rolled pins and insured they stayed in. Replacing the pins or removing the pick required knocking them out with punch and hammer.The tool initially came in a silver/grey painted version with a red rubber grip on the bottom third of the shaft for insulation and vibration reduction. Three lengths (45cm, 50cm, 55cm) were available.In 1977 the shaft was fully protected by a black molded rubber covering and this remained the standard shaft through the remainder of the production. I could not afforded them so I had Terrordactyls and Chounaird Zeros later on . That is another story for another day.

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Ice climbing Canada, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., SMC/SMT, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Every picture tells a story it’s so worth taking them.

  1. Al Todd says:

    The route is Cascade on the subsidiary crag to the right of Hells Lum

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A really nice read. Giving me a trip down memory lane…thank you heavy.

    Liked by 1 person

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