Eiger Boots

Eiger Boots
I was thrilled with them, I was tearing up trails in the Sierras, I would simply take my socks off and walk through rivers. I could put my full weight on the narrowest rock ledge with no twist in the shoe. My ankles were totally protected from rocks and debris, it was like having an off-road vehicle on my feet. I was devastated when my first pair wore down. so I had them re-soled, (only one person in California was trained to resole Eiger boots), and I bought another pair. After a few years I bought another pair, I was making more money, and they were very expensive, so before they disappeared from the marketplace, I had my third pair. Great boots but they looked like Frankenstein’s shoes so I did get some stares.

The lug pattern on the sole was quite special in these boots, there was a cross lug right in the center of the heel. I had joined the Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit in my attempt to give back to the Sierras, where I had spent so much of my time. The unit was a very nice group of people who were dedicated in finding people who had lost their way in the mountains, and they were on-call for accidents or missing hikers. In the off season there was a lot of training and I joined them just as they were being trained for one month, with every weekend dedicated to learning to be a tracker, with the Border Patrol as the instructors. It was very good training, and at the end I found that I could track a person at a lope, watching for patterns in the grass or sand, from ten to fifteen feet ahead. The only way to gain on a lost person is to track faster than their walk, because otherwise you will never catch up until they stop.

We actually had a graduation test to prove that we had learned at least the fundamentals. Practicing everyday would certainly improve on our skills. One of the more practical tips was to cut the cross lug in the heels of your boots. Simply cut off the two arms of the cross so you were left with a capital ‘I’. This identified you as a tracker, so that other trackers would know that you were on this trail, and they should take another. Good system.

On the Monday after graduating from tracker training, I was in my Graphics office using my Exacto knife to cut off my lugs, thinking that I had trained enough to earn the distinction ( probably not true, but I was cutting anyway). In the middle of this, my paid intern came in to finish a project. With a tone of sarcastic indifference, she still managed a question, “What are you doing?”

Deciding not to explain the reason, I made up something. I said, “you know these Vibram soles are hard wearing because they regenerate, and if you don’t trim them back, you can get into problems like in-grown toenails.” And then I snipped off the other lugs on my left boot, and said nothing more.

Her response was something like, “Yeah right, you’re just plain nuts”

And that started me thinking. I had two more pair of ugly boots that needed lugs cut.

For the next three or four weeks I timed my lug cutting to the exact time of my intern’s entrance. At first there was derision and claims of super gluing the pieces back on my boots. With wide eyed confusion, I simply allowed her to exam the boots, and repeated that she didn’t know much about Vibram.

By the third lug cutting, there was silence and a stare that oscillated from anger to wonder. It never occurred to her that I would have two pair, let alone three pairs of the heavy black monsters. I never brought it up again, it was only years later that I shared my revenge for a sarcastic statement. It’s only now that I see that it was just a mean trick, and I’m a little embarrassed about it.

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