What were your first boots for the hill ?

The famous gear Curly boots were the standard issues of RAF MR. Mine were two sizes bigger from a 7 – 9 and I wore in winter 3 pairs of socks.Curlies were incredible and what I wore for several years. Above is the Curlies boot a really light and comfortable boot in summer but very cold in winter. I wore an extra 2 sizes in winter with 3 pairs of socks. I still have cold feet thinking about them. They were wonderful for big long walking days, like the Mamores, Fannichs ridges, so comfortable and light. Crampons were heated and bent to the boots for winter in workshops and we climbed in them, things like Tower Ridge, Red Gully and various other climbs. We used them to rock climb as well and you were not allowed rock boots until you climbed at least very difficult climbs in Curlies! After two winters I bought my own boots well worth the cost and also a lot of my own gear, from jackets, crampons and clothing, I spent a lot of my wages on this great sport. Yet I kept my Curlies and did my first traverse of Scotland in May 1976 wearing them, they were soaked most days like us and the cold feet in the morning still gives me the shivers. No decent insoles and the odd nail came through but on a good summers day they were a grand pair of boots and I wore many pairs out.

My brother and sister in the footwear of the late 50’s

I could never afford boots when I started walking I used my shoes or sandals for many years. What a change it was to be given a pair of boots when I joined the the RAF Mountain Rescue. The stores was a Alladins cave of equipment all of it made for the MOD. Sadly they were not waterproof, froze up in winter and then I wore 2 pairs of Socks to keep my feet warm. There was no chance of drying them out after being on the hill on a wet day. Many Call outs were done with soaking feet. As soon as could afford a better pair of boots I did.


Later pairs of Curly’s where made of compressed cardboard and were useless. In the end the MOD bought some other boots like Dolomites that crippled my feet.

Nowadays we are spoiled for footwear I use running trainers nowadays on the hill in summer and good winter boots so lightweight and robust now.

Tips : Look after your feet visit a Chropodist regularly, keep your nails short and invest in good socks and looking after your feet.

John Hindes boots

This fabulous pair of boots belonged to John Hinde who, amongst many other things, spent many years in RAF Mountain Rescue Teams, several of which were as a team leader.
Made by John White’s, the Northampton boot and shoe makers, these boots were standard issue to RAF Mountain Rescue teams in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the nails in the soles fashioned to a specific RAF pattern.
Interestingly, we have another pair of RAF boots in the collection that have a different nailing pattern!
Vibram/Commando soled boots made from rubber became the norm in the world of mountaineering boots from the 1960’s, rendering this type of boots to history books and heritage collections- we are delighted to have them.

We are so lucky what was your first boots?

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 Articles, Equipment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Views Mountaineering. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What were your first boots for the hill ?

  1. dogweejohn says:

    My mothers fur lined winter boots with hankies stuffed down the back to make them fit! Took me up Lochnagar via the black spout in 1962. I still remember the blisters. Quickly replaced with a pair of “commando soles” from Millets.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim Higgins says:

    Well, how modern boots really spoil the hill goer. My first hillwalk was done in a pair of sandals like your own. The ones with caramac soles ha ha. It was on a school nature trip in 1971, primary 6 to be exact and my mother sent me to Arran like little lord pontelroy. The sandals never made it home, the sole fell off. I soon graduated to a pair of TUF boots which I wore as part of my uniform with the Air Cadets (327 Squadron Kilmarnock) I wore them all over the north Ayrshire moors and on the Arran Mountains and Galloway hills. I had to clean them and re-bull them after every trip to get ready for my cadet nights. My next real boots were bought from peters stores in Kilmarnock for £2 in a sale. They had vibram cleats and I felt like Doug Scott. I have had numerous boots over the years all being in use at some point. From Karrimor KSB for lightweight summer use to Zamberlain for 3 season. My Asolo full shank boots are less used as I am reluctant to go out in winter after major heart surgery. I am now browsing the catalogues for new knees ha ha. The heart tells me I am 20 the knees 120. My advice for boots is the best you can afford from a qualified fitter in a reputable mountaineering store. Until you know exactly what you need with experience. Many days well be spared in absolute agony if you look after your feet. You cant walk on your hands, although I came down from SC gully on my belly after breaking an ankle and splitting my coxixx (tail bone) that was not fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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