Clan Robertson Sewn Gear History

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Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 17, 2013 - 03:09pm PT
I have been poking around in early sewn gear history and would like to see what folks remember about this company. When I began visiting Colorado in the early seventies Robertson gear was there and I am trying to establish a time line for their first harness harness or gear sling release.

Forrest had a sit harness out in 1968 with Troll several years ahead of that.

Anyone have Clan Robertson gear to show?
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Mar 17, 2013 - 06:45pm PT
I had a Robertson harness in the early '70s, and met Brian shortly thereafter.

Too bad how he ended up.
steve shea

climber
Mar 17, 2013 - 07:15pm PT
Brian Robertson and clan built harnesses, leg loops, etriers, slings and about anything involving webbing for climbing in his house on the hill in Boulder. I first met Brian through Larry Bruce and Jon Krakauer ice climbing in the early 70's. 73 maybe. There were very few ice climbers around and Brian seemed to have lots of experience and showed us the ropes. He also tested designs with our help and the whole business of Clan Robertson gradually grew. I know Brian looked at Whillans and his business as some sort of a model and at the time or soon after Whillans was already branching out beyond the climbing market to seat belts and race car harnesses. I lost track of Brian in the mid 70's a lot of us had gone from Boulder by then. Sometimes he would drive up to Glenwood Canyon with a Boulder ice posse and we would come down from Aspen to meet up and climb for the day. I think he may have been injured at some point and gave up climbing for aerobatic flying. His penchant for aircraft and inverted flying was fertile ground for his harness business and I think he was somewhat successful in that market. At one point he was building a 3/4 scale, fully operational aerobatic Mustang in his basement. I owe my early attraction to ice climbing to Brian. I can hear him now telling stories of the glory days in Scotland on the Ben etc. The stories were fueled with liberal amounts of beer. Great memories. His house was constantly full of climbers coming and going. Brian was generous with his time and liked a lot of activity. I think he knew his time as an alpinist had past but wanted to stayed connected. I have photos and even an old swami with detatchable leg loops. I'll try to post up. His stuff was bullet proof as I remember. For impressionable young alpinists he was a treasure to climb with and had a following BITD. The last time I saw Brian he took me flying. I've never been so scared. It was a fully aerobatic stunt plane with a huge engine. He was a good pilot, at least on that day. I'll never forget that flight. Thanks for bringing this up Steve.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 17, 2013 - 07:29pm PT
Do you recall what year he began selling gear with the Robertson coat of arms on the label? I came to Boulder first in about 1974 and saw his gear at that point for sure in the Boulder Mountaineer used gear for sale area if not the store itself. I bet Bob can nail this down.
steve shea

climber
Mar 17, 2013 - 07:48pm PT
I could be wrong, it must have been earlier. 71 maybe. We all climbed in Galibier Hivernales and the yellow finished Chouinard ridgids. I remember because we were always breaking them and trading parts back and forth. I do not remember if the black ones were out yet. Maybe this dates it? His gear did not have a logo when I first met him. I remember when he introduced the logo, the Robertson Coat of Arms. He may have had a rep then. The product looked way more professionally finished and was ready for market. I'll do some checking and get the right timeline. BTW Tom Patey was a regular partner as was Davey Agnew who lived just over the hill here in Jackson. Davey lived in Driggs Id. He may have climbed with Callum MacKay as well. Callum still lives here with his family.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 17, 2013 - 08:11pm PT
Davey Agnew worked for Chouinard in Ventura in the late sixties and is in the classic shop shot with everyone in Robbins boots. One promethean stud muffin in that picture! LOL

Photobucket is giving me fits or I would post the goods.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Mar 18, 2013 - 12:00am PT
Steve & Steve: Thanks for more insight on the history of climbing gear manufacturers. Researching Royal Robbins's distribution company, Mountain Paraphernalia, I found this ad for Clan Robertson.

I don't remember ever stocking any of their gear in my Moscow, Idaho outdoor shop in the 1970's.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

From Climbing Magazine, 1981.
From Climbing Magazine, 1981.
Credit: Fritz
gf

climber
Mar 18, 2013 - 04:30am PT
thanks for this added piece to the puzzle -looking forward to more posts
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Mar 18, 2013 - 03:03pm PT
I remember meeting Brian Robertson in the late '60s or, more likely in the Valley during the fall of '70. Before I met him I was familiar with his reputation as one of the leading members of the Edinburg Squirrels Climbing Club with a number of hard rock and winter new routes in Scotland. I do recall spending a couple of days at his house in Boulder that November on our way back east. My recollection is of an almost stereotypical short, tough, humorous, aggressive Scots hardman. I don't believe that he'd started his business yet--otherwise I likely would have come home with a Clan Robertson harness!!!
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Mar 18, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
I think in this photo with Mal Daly, Dave Bohn is wearing a Robertson harness like the one I had, I think it had a logo and I think I got mine around 73. My memory is that you had to make sure you doubled back the belt, which had a big buckle, or that thing would open right up!

Malcolm Daly and Dave Bohn. Yosenite, 1976
Malcolm Daly and Dave Bohn. Yosenite, 1976
Credit: maldaly
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Mar 18, 2013 - 03:23pm PT
We rescued Robertson and his newly acqquired climbing partner, red haired Kelly Minnick (also from Colorado) on the Nose in July, 70. I think they were on Camp VI or just below and had gotten to a point where they wouldn't climb with each other, had run out of water in that summer heat, were sunburnt to hell, and just effing gave up. When they reached the top via our lines, they couldn't even talk to each other.
o-man

Social climber
Paia,Maui,HI
Mar 18, 2013 - 03:37pm PT
Brian was my very first climbing mentor (1971 or there about). He and his crew Mark Hess and Larry Bruce paved the way for a long and fulfilling relationship with the vertical world.
I owned two of his harness's and a gear sling that I used for many years.
I remember hanging out at his house in Boulder and the plane he was building in his basement. I also remember he had a little Sabb sports car that he crashed in the valley.
I remember him telling me," Mon yer gonna die,You ave too much natural talent, and very little practical experience to back it up!"
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Mar 18, 2013 - 03:48pm PT
I forgot to ask in my earlier post. Above, Ron says "Too bad how he (Brian) ended up." I lost track of him in the early '70s and had heard nothing of him since until this post. So, what did happen to him, Ron?
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Mar 18, 2013 - 03:49pm PT
Another bit to add to the Robertson story, he was down in South America with Whillans on Huandoy Sur, attempting the South Face. They were forced to back off due to unjustifiable danger part way up their intended route. This helps to explain some of Brian's later interests.

http://www.alpinejournal.org.uk/Contents/Contents_1969_files/AJ%201969%20246-272%20Notes%20Peru%20Bolivia.pdf
GLee

Social climber
Missoula MT
Mar 18, 2013 - 03:58pm PT

From www.robertsonharness.com/:

Robertson Mountaineering is a fourty one year old manufacturer of harnesses for challenge course, zip line, fire rescue, police, military, marine and medical rehab.

Since 1970 we have been manufacturing the Robertson line of harnesses, as well as making private label harnesses for others.

We also offer a full line of high angle hardware, ropes and accessories. We are your complete source for carabiners, harnesses, pulleys, trolleys, ropes challenge course products, helmets, rope, rescue gear, and other specialty rigging equipment.


Professional Affiliations include: PRCA, ACCT, AEE.


If you have any questions, you may contact us by e-mail or call 702-564-4286. Mail: PO Box 90086, Henderson, Nv., 89009-0086
Steven Amter

climber
Washington, DC
Mar 18, 2013 - 04:09pm PT
My first harness in 1974/75 was a Clan Robertson - I think I still have it somewhere up in my attic. That was to go along with my RR's and my British Knickers...

By 1976 I was climbing in Hawkins shoes (EB and my feet did not get along; but Hawkins' design was years ahead of its time), a padded swami belt, white painter's pants and striped rugby shirt (thank you Henry Barber), and a headband. Totally stereotypical!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2013 - 09:58pm PT
The House of Hawkins Masters were the best shoe I ever climbed in prior to sticky rubber.

Got mine at the Boulder Mountaineer around 1974.

Dig out that harness and post a shot of it, if you would.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 19, 2013 - 10:46am PT
GLee- Thanks for the link.

I did see that the company was still in business but missed the background material.

So 1970 then, two years after Bill Forrest introduced his two-piece sit harness.

ydpl8s- Any recollection what Malcolm is wearing with the giant leg loop buckles?!? Great photo!
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Mar 19, 2013 - 11:34am PT
Sorry Steve, that pic is actually one of Mal's from this site (hope he didn't mind me using it), so I'm not sure, kind of looks Forrest like.

Here's one of me with the aforementioned harness, even back then I liked what was considered "old school" in those days, as witnessed by my shoes. I think I was racking up for the Owl on The Dome in Boulder Canyon.

Gray shoes, Robertson harness, hexes and 150 ft rope...yeehaahh!!!
Gray shoes, Robertson harness, hexes and 150 ft rope...yeehaahh!!!
Credit: ydpl8s
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 23, 2013 - 01:45pm PT
Bump for Show and Tell...
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