28 January 2011

REI & The Eiger













(all images borrowed from internet)

I stumbled across this book, The White Spider, shortly after to moving to Colorado Springs in the '70s. It's been a long time but images from a failed attempt on the north face of the Eiger are still with me.

I finished the book and went straight to a rock formation overlooking Constitution Blvd. Only 40 feet high or so, I didn't waste anytime in falling and luckily landing on a ledge. Flat on my back and with the air knocked out of me, I lifted my head trying to breathe while I stared and swore at my Frye Dingo boots.

One pair of Vasque boots later I headed back. They were chocolate brown with red and black laces and soled in Vibram lugs. I wore them everywhere and in school they separated you from the Goat Ropers in Stetsons with a clipped corner of a hundred dollar bill stuck in the hat band. Or, the Stoners in their herb scented flannel shirts or the John Denver look alike in denim jeans and denim pearl snap shirts. I was a Waffle Stomper.

While my Vasque boots could be categorized as Waffle Stompers I do remember feeling they were more authentic. While certainly no ice climber -- my boots had purpose. Primary being not to fall and have that problem breathing again.

I became a life time member of REI Coop for $5 and obsessed over the catalog where images from White Spider dovetailed with REI equipment creating dreams of my journey to Kleine Scheidegg where I'd eat Toblerone and hit on cute blonde girls from West Germany.

It didn't happen. And that's okay. The north face of the Eiger might be too authentic for me. But some day...before I die...I'm gonna have a drink at this hotel and remember how I was moved by a sport and by the boots it stood on.

24 comments:

Kcaj said...

Having just traveled the torturous path of buying GOOD boots at REI, I need to share with you the news that Vasque boots (now allegedly division of Red Wing) are currently made in China...

Oh how I miss my European-made Vasque Sundowners! One could scramble like a goat shod in those things. Now only the color and style remain; materials and make are greatly different (not in a good way).

That said, I committed to a pair of Asolo TPS 535s. One piece leather outer, double stiched, and formed to set your foot firmly/correctly (like a ski boot). Hope these doggies perform like our long lost Vasques! TGIF All. Jack.

Main Line Sportsman said...

I had a similar pair of "waffle stompers" in Junior High...wore them out on the naeby stretches of the Appalachian trail....
You should include "Eiger Sanction" in a co-post re: man's movies...great Clint vehicle!

Brummagem Joe said...

Tintin: how is there room in your apartment for you, your bride and all this catalogue junk? I have a bit around (favorite purveyors, architectural accents, etc) but yours seems to be on Library of Congress scale.

tintin said...

Kcaj-
Sorry to hear about Vasque. What a shame. Were they made in Italy? I can't remember.

Main Line- I think I can (along with DB who comments often) quote most of the Eiger Sanction. Dragon. Miles Mellow. George and my favorite fromn George Kennedy regarding his telescope:

"If any of you vultures touch this scope you're gonna need a surgeon to remove it from your ass."

Joe- All borrowed from the internet Joe. And I am running out of room but that's what storage lockers are for.

Makaga said...

Thanks for posting the catalogue images. My father had much of that gear - was an early REI member.

Anonymous said...

Don't most of us still dream of hitting on cute blonde German girls?

TRVS said...

Bring me back enough of that lovely blue stair runner to cover 13 and a club chair from the bar...I'll reimburse you for shipping.

Unclelooney said...

I had a pair of those too.
They went perfectly perfectly with my blue down coat and my levis flannel shirts as I stalked the flatlands of Bloomington Minnesota or the somewhat hillier terrain of North Jersey.
Colorado was sort of the Brooklyn of its day. Everyone was moving there. It's influence reached far and wide. There was even a men's store on the 494 strip in Bloomington that was housed in a very Aspenesque A Frame house. One could buy a suit while surrounded by rustic stone and wood and then go over to the Steak and Ale or the Carlton Celebrity Room for a libation and a Surf and Turf. I was a teenager so I only imagined it but I did go to Anthony's A frame shop for men with my Dad.

I like the catlog images. I wonder if REI still sells knickers. I may drive over to the REI (on the 494 strip) to find out.

Danny from Bellevue said...

My Pop, who passed away just before new years, was a huge REI fan. I think his co-op number was maybe 15 or 16. The date on that catalog corresponds with his arrival in Seattle. If the guys in the photo on the cover were carrying fishing gear, they would pretty much back up a few of the stories my uncle (who also moved to Seattle around the same time) told at the memorial. About how he and my Pop spent most of their weekends back then exploring the wilds around their new home town. Thanks for the post.

Patsy said...

Still lots of old hippies wearing knickers on the cross country tracks of New England.

That hotel reminds me of the Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods. I'm sure they are of a similar era. Gorgeous!

Wayne Silverman said...

To tell ya the truth I kinda ran outta patience when it comes to cute german girls....I dated one for a few years and she turned out to be a major pain in the *%#%#!
But come to think of it...I think I was wearing an old pair of Vasque boots when I met her....
I think they were still made in Italy i the early 70's...

Wait a minute ...no wonder I didn't like her... that was your dream not mine!
'Splains alot!

Trailer Trad said...

The high quality of all of the items displayed in that old REI catalogue just jumps out at you.

LPC said...

I am just going to add this. I went on Outward Bound, as a required course for my alternative high school. My backpack weighed 30% of my body weight. I wore Vibram soles. Oh I cried a lot. And I couldn't even WALK when I took the boots off at night. So. Some of us really shouldn't have ever gotten near a Waffle Stomper, obviously.

tintin said...

Makaga- Google REI and you'll find a decent amount. Not a lot but enough to give you a sense of what it was.

Anon- I haven't given up.

TRVS- How about a nice German girl?

unclelooney- Thanks for the comment. Never thought of CO being hip much less influential. I thought most of the folk who lived there were pretty boring.

Danny - I'm sorry to hear about your Dad. Thank you for your story about a part of his life that connected with me.

Patsy- I see those folks everyday in NYC.

Wayne Silverman- Your living my nightmare--an accountant living in KOP.

Trailer Trad- Amazing stuff long gone but, between you and me, take a peek around eBay. Not much but some cool stuff is out there. And you're the only one who knows.

NCJack said...

Started with REI in about 1969, got my first "real" boots (for weekend backpacking) which weighed in at about 32 lbs. the pair. Later got some tweed knickers, and wasn't I the alpinist?

Had a lot of good gear from them over the decades, but, alas, no young frauleins

Anonymous said...

Okay, now you're after my heart! I love your refusal-to-follow-the-pack identity.

We wanted to climb ANYTHING, which usually meant the Castillo de San Marcos after dark. Or ascending and rappelling fixed ropes hung from pine branches.

But what? No mention of the Eiger Sanction? Kidding. I recently saw "The North Face", the movie about the failed attempt leading up to Harrer's successful summit goal that you mention. You'll appreciate it, not the least for which you can see where Clint heavily borrowed to make his own film. Plus, lots of Kleine Scheidegg shots:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0844457/

Thanks!

-DB

Brummagem Joe said...

"that's what storage lockers are for."

Most people I know never open them, just pay the rent.

LPC said...
"I am just going to add this. I went on Outward Bound,"

So did I. Canoing for miles at sea, rowing the whaler at 5.00am in the morning, trampting over large hills in downpours...happy days.

Anonymous said...

I am going on leave and will be in Saas Fee, Switzerland this Friday. Might be able to divert and drink one at the base of Eiger for you at some youth hostel. Also I wore waffle stompers when I was a youngster. I almost had a heart attack when I priced them here in Germany. Good work on your blog-Bob

Mr. Sidetable said...

Unclelooney--as a Bloomington native myself, your comment brought back fond memories of going to Anthonie's with my dad as well. He usually shopped at Sims', Hubert White's, or Al Johnson's--Anthonie's was a bit too European for his liking. But I loved going there, mostly because of that crazy building. I remember meeting Anthony Carter there, back in his Vikings playing days.

My Affair with Michael Bastian said...

That's hot!

Foster Huntington said...

i have one of those back packs!

Linus412 said...

Thirty-one years ago I packed my gear into grandpa's old footlocker, stenciled with his last duty station in Yokohama, and headed east to Montana. Raichle boots, a stack of 501s, Lacostes, and flannel shirts. A '67 Dodge pickup was my chariot. An REI membership card in the wallet.

Anonymous said...

Joined REI when that '67 catalog was new. Had a membership number less than 20,000 but in those days your membership was canceled if you didn't buy anything for a year and somehow I didn't need snow climbing gear during my 69-71 tour of duty in the Western Pacific. When I was discharged in August '71 I rejoined REI and got membership number 96,xxx. Still, numbers under 100k are rare in a day when they have umpteen million members.

Anonymous said...

I've been to the Eiger, Trad. Drank a Rugenbrau while sitting on a patio in Pfingstegg overlooking the Grindelwald vale, in the shadow of the White Spider. May you get there soon.