Royal Robbins: “This importing business is a real can of ---

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Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 27, 2009 - 11:55pm PT
Was "Mountain Letters" the publishing arm of Mountain Paraphernalia? It published the first (1976) Meyers guide to the valley.

What about La Siesta Press, which published Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft?
Dick Erb

climber
June Lake, CA
Nov 28, 2009 - 12:14pm PT
One time at the beginning of a week long Rockcraft session, one of the students in his bright blue new Robbins boots asked Royal what he thought when he saw all those people wearing his boots. Royal replied that he thought that they could probably find better shoes. He had by then enthusiastically switched to EBs, although he wore his tennis shoes whenever he could while guiding like the rest of us.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 28, 2009 - 12:24pm PT
Some more Mountain Paraphernalia ads.
From Mountain Magazine March 1975
From Mountain Magazine March 1975
Credit: Fritz

Karrimor has an ad in almost every issue of British Climbing magazine "Mountain" during the 1970's. However Mountain Paraphernalia doesn't show up as U.S. distributor in those ads. Below is the only one I found in Off Belay.

I can't recall what Robbins did import from Karrimor. Peter, any memory of what? Canvas rucksacks seem unlikely?

From Off Belay Dec. 1974
From Off Belay Dec. 1974
Credit: Fritz
Roger Breedlove

climber
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 28, 2009 - 12:54pm PT
Hey Dick, did Royal's shoes get thicker and stiffer from the first introduciton to later ones? I have a recollection of this but I cannot put anything specific to it.

Nice recollections, Peter. My first sustained contact with Royal and Liz wasn't until a bit later, probably 1973.
rgold

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Nov 28, 2009 - 01:19pm PT
If you were into back-country rock-climbing, Robbins shoes were great. We used to smear 'em with Sno-seal, cover 'em with a pair of gaiters, and use them in the Bugaboos for rock climbs with glacier approaches. Here's a shot of the North Face of Bugaboo Spire, Matt Hale and I out in front, Pete Ramins leading in his blue RR shoes, (we were all wearing them) photo by Joe Kelsey:



Here's a Robbins boot belaying at the top of the Black Face on the Lower Exum Ridge



Here's Barbara Thatcher in hers on a variation of the East Ridge of Wolf's Head in the Wind Rivers:



I also recall a marathon ascent of the South Buttress of Moran in Robbins shoes from the parking lot to the summit, (and none of that sissy canoing across Leigh Lake either).

We used them on the crags too. Here they are in action soloing High Exposure in the days before chalk bags



here's our beloved Kevin Bein making an early ascent of Matinee in them



here they are climbing in Tuolumne (Hobbit Book?)



and finally here's Matt Hale in is Robbins shoes at the top of the Arrowhead Arete.



Modern climbing shoes climb better, of course, but you can't walk a hundred yards in them and even if you could, they're a disaster on loose dirt, scree, and snow. I haven't worn every brand of approach shoe, but my sense is that RR's climbed better, in spite of the fact that their rubber was probably half as sticky.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 28, 2009 - 04:53pm PT
Rgold: Thank you for all the great shots of RR's in use on great routes. I started in outdoor retail in Moscow, Idaho in 1973 and never sold RR's very well. By 1974 EB's were what everyone wanted.

But if you loved your RR's you kept using them. I remember climbing some with Mike Yokel in the late 70's. He had moved from Colorado to teach at WSU and still climbed in his beloved RR's.

What I find interesting is: that Robbins was still advertising RR's in mid-1975. Two issues of Off Belay, June & Aug. have full page ads for RR's.
Credit: Fritz

Galibier Ad in "Mountain", May 1972,
Galibier Ad in "Mountain", May 1972,
Credit: Fritz


My outdoor shop sold a lot of hiking boots to students at U of I and WSU and darn few mountaineering boots.

From Galibier we mostly sold the Vercors, although we stocked the Super Guide (or Peuterey when we couldn't get Super-Guides). Other brands we stocked were Lowa, Vasque, Pivetta, Fabiano, and later on Asolo. We all thought Galibier was the best quality boot, but they didn't fit everyone. Worse yet: they didn't look like a "hiking boot" to the average student. The Vasque Hiker was the best selling style to those that wanted the look, and at the time: the worst in fit and quality.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 28, 2009 - 06:48pm PT
Nice shots, Rich! The RR Yosemites were definitely the most versatile single boot for alpine rock and aid climbing.

I owned a pair of full steel shank Saussois that I bought from Marty Woerner (Sadhana)and they were the cadillac of pure aid boots but horrid for free climbing! I destroyed mine t-stacking while soloing the Turning Point and foolishly gave up on restructuring them.

What ever became of Galibier?
T2

climber
Cardiff by the sea
Nov 28, 2009 - 07:04pm PT
I appologize for the thread drift, but with the mention of Turning point Steve, any idea how many times that route has been done? Has there been a 2nd (Gerbeding perhaps?) Is there a topo out there?

On Topic this is a cool thread. The first pair of shoes I bought were RR's but they were a free climbing shoe. they had a orange canvas upper with a round leather patch over the ankle. Wish I still had them. I do have an old pair of Vasque free climbing boots though.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 28, 2009 - 07:30pm PT
Unrepeated...
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 28, 2009 - 09:43pm PT
Steve: What ever became of Galibier? I am having to invent an answer from my own memories----but I think the answer has four parts.

1. Robbins went entirely to clothing in the early 1980's and dropped distributor status for Galibier.
2. Campus fashion was changing and hiking boot sales tanked. My (by then) two stores had sold a bunch of Galibier Vercors, as I suspect many of Royal's other dealers did. Those sales slowed way down with the different campus footwear fashions in the 1980's.
3. The early 1980's recession hurt outdoor retailers, just like everyone else.
4. Italian boot brand Asolo had a high-quality product, an aggressive U.S. sales force, (that was often Chouinard-Patagonia reps)and was grabbing market share.

I don't remember another company picking up the Galibier distributorship.

Anders: Your La Siesta Press/Robbins connection question. I really don't know, but I did find out that La Siesta was a one-boss proprietorship in the Mountain Paraphernalia Era. They specialized in hiking guidebooks. I'm sure they enjoyed their relationship with Royal: printing up all those copies of Basic & Advanced Rockcraft.

However, I could not find any info on Mountain Letters. The name stirs some of my remaining "high altitude destroyed memories"-----but nothing surfaces. I think------maybe-----possibly----Royal may have had a different name for his book distribution business-----and that may be it???

Some more old ads!

Super Guide ad in Off Belay, April 1975
Super Guide ad in Off Belay, April 1975
Credit: Fritz

Edelrid Rope ad in Off Belay, Oct 1976
Edelrid Rope ad in Off Belay, Oct 1976
Credit: Fritz

aguacaliente

climber
Nov 28, 2009 - 10:01pm PT
La Siesta Press also published a book called "Ropes, Knots and Slings for Climbers" by Walt Wheelock, who appears to have been the proprietor according to http://mulibraries.missouri.edu/specialcollections/privatepresss.htm
Pate

Trad climber
The Lost Highway
Nov 28, 2009 - 10:15pm PT
I have a copy of that book, my uncle gave it to me when I first started climbing, he bought it out of a box of books in a used bookstore in Berkeley. First time I've ever heard it mentioned!
Mighty Hiker

climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 28, 2009 - 10:18pm PT
I have a copy, too - my father gave it to me. He probably bought it in the early 1960s. Plus a copy of "Belaying the Leader", another great classic - published by the Sierra Club.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 28, 2009 - 11:50pm PT
Early in my climbing career---with no local mentors: my friends and I would try to memorize knots from---Ropes, Knots and Slings for Climbers.

It worked best on a cold winter day (inside a cozy log cabin in the mountains). We would smoke some weed to simulate "high altitude & full conditions" and would practice knots.

Worked like a charm. No doubt still the way to memorize one of the most popular knots: "The sheep crawls over the log, then darts under the log, then returns to the fold"------bingo! When we forgot the harness on climbs: we could still tie into the rope!

Levity aside---some more Robbins ads.

Biwell for our boots. Off Belay Feb. 1978
Biwell for our boots. Off Belay Feb. 1978
Credit: Fritz

Ad from Mountain Magazine Jan 1979 for "Games Climbers Play."  Only ad...
Ad from Mountain Magazine Jan 1979 for "Games Climbers Play." Only ad I found for a book in Mountain that showed Mountain Paraphernalia as the U.S. distributor.
Credit: Fritz

Pate

Trad climber
The Lost Highway
Nov 28, 2009 - 11:53pm PT
That's a very psychedelic Sheridan drawing.
Pate

Trad climber
The Lost Highway
Nov 28, 2009 - 11:56pm PT
8 hours left on a pair of RR's on ebay!

http://cgi.ebay.com/OLD-GALIBIER-Royal-Robbins-ROCK-CLIMBING-boots-shoes_W0QQitemZ320452214711QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Men_s_Athletic_Footwear?hash=item4a9c70bfb7#ht_876wt_1167

ONLY 8 DOLLARS!
duncan

climber
London, UK
Nov 29, 2009 - 04:13am PT
Great thread. The idea of importing Peck pitons to the USA ... just wrong! Even we Brits. knew they were rubbish.

Steve asked "What ever became of Galibier". In Europe, the market for their main product, Superguides, almost disappeared overnight with the appearance of the white Koflach plastic boots. Leather hiking boots continued to be popular but I’m guessing this was a small part of their sales (certainly was in the UK) and a far more competitive field.

The Richard Pontvert company continues. The French versions of Supertopo-ists can still buy Galibier leather boots, looking much like they did in ’77, but now they mostly make shoes under the Paraboot brand. Quite favoured by French preppies.



Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 29, 2009 - 11:15am PT
Duncan: Thank you for your post. I had not thought of the "sea change" of plastic boots hitting the mountaineering market. Another sales avenue for Galibier had been Telemark boots. They had two models which sold well in the Rockies in the mid-70's. Asolo took most of that market in short order, with boots that fit better and skied better.

Re. Pate's note about the E-Bay auction for a pair of RR's. They sold for $8.00. I guess those that plan on selling their old climbing shoes to finance retirement ----may have to work longer-----a lot longer.

Royal brought in a lot of climbing gear, but to my knowledge: the only gear with his name on it was Galibier rock shoes, and Salewa Carabiners.

The Robbins Ultralight Carabiner was introduced with a Jan 1978 Ad in Mountain.

Robbins Carabiner Ad, Mountain, Jan 1978.
Robbins Carabiner Ad, Mountain, Jan 1978.
Credit: Fritz
Modesto Mutant

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Nov 29, 2009 - 01:51pm PT
I worked at Mountain Paraphernalia from around 1976-1978 as a grunt and had the time of my life. I don't remember taking home very much from my paychecks as I would tradeout for gear most of the times. Mountain Paraphernalia was in the back of Robbins Mountain Shop which was an oasis for those of us stuck in Modesto. The staff was a wonderful mix of fun loving people. Chuck Shultz, Charlie Nemec, Don Near, Ida, Keith Roush just to name a few. A highlight of any given month would be when Royal would host a slide show. John Cleare, Galen Rowell, Doug Scott and many others would come in and show their slides to an enthusiastic crowd. After the shows we would go across the street to the Stein Club for cheap beer and shuffleboard. The gear was freely flowing by then. Salewa 'biners and ice axes, Edelrid ropes, Galibier boots, the orange RR shoes, Karrimats. I would lose myself in the book room reading Terray, Rebuffet and the old classics as well as guide books from the Sierra Press. Of course Royal and Liz would host us for a big holiday dinner each year and during the summer we would all go river rafting and kayaking. It was such a wonderful time.

Kevin Givens
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 29, 2009 - 03:24pm PT
Kevin: Thank you for the "insider information." I forgot that Keith Roush came out of Mountain Paraphernalia. He worked as an outdoor rep in the Rockies for many years and also owns Pine Needle Mountaineering in Durango.

One unanswered question from this link is: did Royal have a separate name for the wholesale book division? Anders brings up the name "Mountain Letters" ----- which rings, jogs, but does not awake my memory.

Please post up any other trivia you have. All your stuff on Robbins and Mountain Paraphernalia is of interest.

More old Mountain Paraphernalia Ads. They were running multiple ads in every issue of Off Belay in 1978. Usually a large Edelrid and a large Galbier Ad, then small ones for other items. Previously it was at most one ad per issue.
Another question---what prompted the ad blitz?

Bankl Ad from Off Belay August 1978.  This item was made by Edelrid.
Bankl Ad from Off Belay August 1978. This item was made by Edelrid.
Credit: Fritz

Hope Cookware, Off Belay August 1978
Hope Cookware, Off Belay August 1978
Credit: Fritz

Edelrid full page ad, Off Belay Feb 1978
Edelrid full page ad, Off Belay Feb 1978
Credit: Fritz

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