Cutting Edge: Fear of Falling.


Active member
Does anyone have a link to the above please? I've seen it on YouTube with just the cavern bits a fair while ago, but can't find it anymore. Ta


Love that film, a classic! My favourite bit was the efficiency by which Nigel Atkins explains the SRT set up 😁


Well-known member
"I have to say that the (Whillans' medieval torture) harness is not the most comfortable" - classic understatement. A minor fall would leave you squeaking for a week and walking like a cowboy. Not the ideal design for chaps who like to keep their bits where they belong.


Well-known member
I thought the original design by Whillans / Troll was for high altitude mountaineering (where you wore loads of insulation - a.k.a. padding. Also, in those days, the old way of thinking ("the leader mustn't fall") was still to be consigned to history. In that context the Whillans harness was quite revolutionary.

It was awful for SRT though because its design rolled the pelvis round when loaded (each sit / stand move) making it very inefficient. Cavers soon started coming up with alternatives, often involving car seat belts scrounged from scrapyards. It wasn't long though before big business started producing expensive alternatives for cavers.


Well-known member
Back in the days before the internet, mobile phones, the invention of faff and when two genders were default.
Coulda stopped after faff….


Well-known member
1993, Nigel is ropewalking using a Pantin.
Almost certainly not. I first came across the Pantin in 2003 on a China expedition with long pitches and they hadn't been out long then. There were a couple of rope walking techniques that were based on using a Basic jammer, either on the foot, or at about knee level, with bungee to keep them in position. Can't tell what is being used in the film as the old VHS tape this was likely made from loses too much detail. One version was published in the early 1990's in the Caving Supplies catalogue and I did experiment with it. I found that on a long pitch, my fitness was the limiting factor and I took the same length of time to get up using frog as walkng. When rope walking I could be faster, but then had to pause to get my breath back!
I did buy a foot jammer made by Kong and based on their knock off of the Petzl Basic in around 1998. This attached to the foot in a similar style to the subsequent Petzl Pantin, so was clearly where evolution was heading at that point. This still had the safety catch, not present on the first Pantins, which I subsequently removed on my Kong version. I still have it, as it, like the Pantin is not PPE, but an aid to SRT.


New member
Went to a talk by Don Whillans in the early 1970’s, Annapurna South Face was the subject. Anyway, during question time at the end he was asked whether after using his harness he had to become an opera singer. He claimed that he was an opera singer already when he designed it so didn't notice any ill effects. :)

Tricky Dicky

Active member
Fantastic TV program, I had it on VHS tape for years. As far as I recall the key feature of the Whillans harness was that you could put it on and off whilst wearing crampons, comfort came second.

I recall making belay belts and harnesses out of old seat belts, Bat Products used to sell buckles for that very purpose, happy days............


Active member
A mate lived on the same block as Troll. This was years before I got into caving and climbing and I always wondered what the strange padded wall was, but never thought to ask. Sometime later when I saw the contraption being used in anger in one of their adverts, I was like WTF, you guys not thought of using a dummy when you drop test your harnesses?