AS TOUGH AS OLD BOOTS
AS TOUGH AS OLD BOOTS
In 1975, Ellis Brigham received an unusual letter. Stamped with a Norwegian postmark, enclosed was simply a cheque for £30 and a piece of paper with a hastily drawn outline of a foot. 40 years later, the sender of that curious piece of mail, John Burnham recounts the story behind it...
"In the summer of 1975 I was on an expedition to the Lyngen Alps in Arctic Norway. There were 6 of us from Cambridge University studying melt water streams, scree and climbing the odd mountain when we wanted a break. Not long into the expedition, my walking boots gave out completely (apparently scrambling up down scree the whole time is not great for walking boots) and I left them on a remote col and had to resort to the only other shoes I had with me: a pair of Dunlop 'Green Flash' tennis shoes. Fortunately it was largely dry and they were fine for leaping from rock to rock for a while.'
"I walked out from our camp to the nearest village on the coast which I knew had a post office. Walking out there and back again took all day. I sent a letter to Ellis Brigham (from whom various members of the expedition had purchased equipment and recommended as 'THE mountaineering shop'). I enclosed a piece of paper on which I had drawn a line round my foot, gave the size and also measured over the top of it. I asked Ellis Brigham to send some boots as quickly as possible to fit those dimensions and enclosed a cheque for £30 (which was approximately right) and said I would settle the difference on my return, and waited, hoping for the best.'
"I walked out again once and disappointingly nothing had arrived. But, a few days later and on my second walk out, the boots were there and fitted perfectly. It was a great relief to have suitable mountain footwear again!'
"By this point, the expedition was close to its end so the boots were worn but not extensively. They were, at my request, semi-rigid mountaineering boots, and although I have gone hill and mountain walking ever since, I have done no more mountaineering. Semi rigids are not ideal for walking and trekking so instead I have used them for the odd heavy task in the garden and to wear round resort every time I go skiing.
In fact, I am currently skiing in the Alps and for the journey out and around the ski resort in the evening I wear the boots, which are still in remarkably good condition. The Vibram soles are in almost perfect condition. The main leather of the boots is also still excellent. The thin, soft leather just round the ankle is the only part that has deteriorated!'
"It was an example of wonderful service by Ellis Brigham and remains a demonstration of the quality of the boots Ellis Brigham chose to send, which are now very close to their 40th anniversary."
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