Thursday, 7 October 2010

Autumn days - and a project completed

As autumn progresses, the weather has for days now been characterised by high winds and sudden, violent rainstorms. Coupled with an unfavourable run of shifts, these circumstances have kept me confined to the compound for the last couple of weeks. Temperatures on the hill are high, chance of snow zero, but possibilities await just around the corner: the forecast for next week is dominated by high pressure, clear skies, and frosts.

I'm waiting for the opportunity to do my traditional early-season ascent of Ledge Route. In 2008 it was early December, 2009 it was October. Who knows when it will be this year, but I do know that modest snowfall and a bit of a freeze is all the route needs.

I also hope to climb it using my newly constructed Tricouni-nailed boots.

This project has been a long time in the making. It started with the hobnailed boots I put together in 2009 and reviewed in my previous post. I learned a lot from that project and decided to take it a step further. The new boots were handmade by William Lennon. Months of research and sourcing of materials followed before I finally managed to lay my hands on sixteen brand new and shiny Tricouni nails, complete with staples, that had lain undisturbed in a box for about fifty years. Add a sprinking of commonly-available single and triple hobnails, and the project was born.

Initially I tried to place the nails by holding the boot between my knees, but there was far too much vibration in the leather sole and the nails simply refused to bite. I tried inserting a stone into the boot, and achieved some success, but eventually ended up getting a proper cobbler's last from Ebay. This is an iron anvil specifically designed for traditional work on boots and shoes. It drastically reduced the effort and time required to place nails.

Each Tricouni nail is made in two parts--a hardened steel serrated edge, brazed to a malleable soft steel brace. The brace is attached to the edge of the leather sole by means of three U-shaped staples. The staples have to be driven in at specific offset angles in order to resist pulling out, and although Tricounis are far less difficult to install than the earlier Clinker technology, they still require a steady hand and knowledge of what you're doing.

Due to not having any usable Clinkers, or the specialist skill required to place them, the heel unit of the boot has been equipped with hobnails (it also features a horseshoe heel protector). The main feature of the boots, however, is the serrated edge of eight Tricounis.

It is my belief that these are one of the only pairs of new boots of this type to be made for many years, and it will be very interesting climbing in them over the winter.


  1. So, Alex, how much did this project cost you, both financially and in terms of man-hours?

    I'm looking forward to seeing them.

  2. Hi John, I reckon all-round the project has cost me in the order of about £400 (including both pairs of boots, nails, the various items of clothing, and materials to build the ice axes). Man hours are hard to count, perhaps twenty or thirty all in all? I'm hoping to take the kit for a spin on the Ben on Thursday, although that will have to depend on the weather I think.

  3. Excellent stuff-good read and enjoy the boots!