The first real evidence of ice climbing comes from the sixteenth century. Alpine shepherds attached spiked horseshoe devices to their feet, and these, along with iron-tipped alpenstocks, allowed them to negotiate the slippery ice on the steep slopes they crossed while controlling their flocks in high Alpine valleys. These same shepherds certainly challenged medieval superstitions that held there were demons on summits and that glaciers were dragons that would steal down at night to drain the udders of sleeping peasants' cowsl Chamois hunters and crystal gatherers later pushed higher into the mountains in quest of their prey, furthering knowledge of Alpine terrain.
In the early !800s, tourists from England began to holiday in the Alpine villages. The tantalizingly inaccessible mountaintops piqued the Victorian sensibilities of these wealthy gentry, and they hired local peasants to guide them amongst the peaks. By mid-century, a symbiotic relationship had been established, whereby the shepherds earned a living as guides and were thus exposed to English culture, while their employers were educated to the mysteries of life in the mountains. Such mutual interest led to improvements in equipment and to the first ascents of classic snow and ice routes. The shepherd's three-pronged "crampon" was replaced by nailed boots,- the alpenstock, which had been taller than a man, was shortened; and an adze was added for chopping steps to climb steep slopes of ice.
The latter half of the nineteenth century—the so-called Colden Age of Mountaineering—saw all the summits of the Alps reached. Then climbers tackled new and harder routes. The first ice climbs were almost always led by one of the great step-chopping guides, such as Melchior Anderegg, who spearheaded the first ascent of the Brenva Spur on Mont Blanc in 1865, or Christian Klucker, who climbed the North Face of the Lyskamm—and loved to climb whether he had clients or not.
In the final decades of the century, some Alpine guides traveled with their employers as far away as Canada, New Zealand, Russia, and Argentina, helping to establish their sport in those places. In their own mountains, the Germans, Swiss, Austrians, and French continued to range over ever-steeper and icier ridges and faces. Some of these Europeans were guides, but an increasing number were amateurs who were climbing simply for their own pleasure, following the example of British climbers who were setting new standards on rock.
The Scottish Mountaineering Club was formed in 1889. Although the general trend in the Alps was toward rock climbing, by 1920, Scots had extended the art of pure ice and snow climbing in gullies and had introduced the concept of mixed climbing by attempting difficult summer rock climbs under a coating of ice and snow. The outstanding practitioner, Harold Raeburn, led Green Gully on Ben
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