Hobnail Boots

Cambridge District Scout Archives

Cambridge Archives

The pictures below are from C T Wood’s album of 1922 and show hobnailed boots used in walking and climbing in the Lake District.  Most do not show the features of the specialist climbing patterns (below) that emphasise the edges of the sole.  They may be a pattern that is not designed for a specific climbing task but for all walking/ climbing terrains. More likely they are a generalised hobnailing for rural or industrial work.

C T Wood’s album 1922
These boots, also from C T Wood’s album, show a edge only hob nailing and may be specialist wear.

Hobnailed boots were formerly used for mountaineering to grip on sloping rock surfaces. Mountaineering hobnailed boots tended to have large pointed hobnails on the extreme edges of the soles and heels to grip small roughness on steeply sloping rock and on snow, particularly before crampons were used.

Lord Somer’s triple hob nails

The hob nails wear down quickly and are hard to replace.  The firm soles needed are unforgiving and the nails conduct heat away very quickly in winter.  They give reduced grip on smooth or sloping rocks and hard ice.  They work well on rough rock, edgy holds and vegetation.  When walking becomes climbing (graded climbs) they are inferior to modern soles.

I have lost the name of this book. If you recognise it please let me know.

This illustration shows styles with one to three different hob nails. They are adapted to local climbing needs.

‘The vibram sole has become the best all round compound for mountain use.’ (http://glencoemountaineer.blogspot.com) And on an individual basis they are less destructive than a hob nailed boot.

2nd Cambridge 1926

Hobnail boots damage the landscape.

Vibram Soles

Invented 1938 in Italy following a number of deaths attributed to inadequacy of hob nails they were rare until some time after the war. Made of treated rubber the first successful ascent of K2 was with Virbam soled boots. This form of sole is now standard for general mountain wear.

7th Cambridge Senior Scouts Log Book 1963

JWR Archivist Jan 2019