Recently,   two   men   showed   up unannounced    at    Dave    Page's cobblery      shop      in      Seattle's Fremont       district       with       an unusual   package   in   hand.   They carried      a      pair      of      leather climbing    boots    of    a    very    old vintage     and     in     considerable disrepair. The   boots,   it   turned   out,   belonged   to   George   Leigh   Mallory,   the English     climber     whose     75-year-old     corpse     was     recently discovered,   preserved   in   ice,   on   the   north   slope   of   Mount   Everest ---   the   same   Mallory   whose   quip   "Because   it   is   there"   is   the classic defense of reckless ambition. One   of   the   men   that   day   in   Seattle   was   a   forensic   anthropologist, the   other   an   Everest   scholar,   and   they   had   a   simple   question   for Page: Who made the boots? It's   not   the   kind   of   thing   your   ordinary   cobbler   would   ever   be faced   with,   but   then   Page   is   no   ordinary   cobbler.   A   specialist   in climbing    and    hiking    boot    repair,    Page    is    legendary    among outdoor   enthusiasts   around   the   country.   Ailing   boots   come   to   his modest   workshop   from   as   far   away   as   Hong   Kong   and   as   near as the sailmaker's shop next door. And   it's   not   just   individuals   who   seek   him   out.   REI,   the   outdoor retailer,   sends   him   boots   from   stores   nationwide;   he   handles   all stateside   warranty   work   for   famed   Italian   bootmaker   Asolo;   and Raichle,   the   Swiss   manufacturer,   sends   its   warranty   work   from Switzerland.   Outside   magazine   recently   featured   Page   alongside a   handful   of   other   unsung   heroes   under   the   title   "The   Great Ones." Page,   a   stocky,   white-haired   man   of   almost   60,   is   remarkably unassuming   about   it   all.   "We're   good   at   what   we   do"   is   about   as close   as   he   comes   to   gloating.   And   he   is   gracious   enough   to recognize    a    few    peers,    repair    shops    such    as    Cobblers    and Cordwainers in upstate New York. A   former   history   professor   at   the   University   of   Washington,   Page spent   a   summer   during   his   teaching   years   cutting   leather   uppers for   a   boot   manufacturer   in   Kitzbuhel,   Austria.   Cobbling,   he   says, "just   literally   hooked   me."   And   so,   contemplating   his   own   ragged footwear    one    day    on    the    crags,    he    decided    to    drop    out    of academia   and   hang   out   his   shingle   instead. Thirty   years   later,   the sign   above   the   shop   door   still   reads   "Dave   Page,   Cobbler,"   a   lug sole bootprint stamped beside it for emphasis. Inside   the   shop,   things   seem   to   hark   back   to   another   era.   Nine employees    in    aprons    are    stamping,    hammering,    gluing    and cutting   amid   a   chaos   of   footwear,   all   tagged   and   stacked,   or hanging     from     boot     trees.     Trekking     and     climbing     boots predominate   among   the   miscellany,   but   a   quick   survey   reveals everything    from    Birkenstock    sandals    to    Telemark    boots,    light hikers to rock shoes. But   why,   I   ask,   in   this   throwaway   culture   of   ours,   when   even expensive   electronics   get   trashed   rather   than   repaired,   do   people bother    mending    their    boots?    "It    comes    down    to    emotions    as much   as   economics,"   Page   says.   "Some   really   expensive   boots are   worth   it,   of   course,   just   in   terms   of   dollars   saved.   But   most boots   are   like   old   friends;   they   don't   give   you   blisters,   you've taken   the   time   to   break   them   in.   You   just   want   to   keep   them around."   He   adds,   "In   the   case   of   some   of   the   boots   we   see,   it's not so much a matter of repair as of restoration." Which   brought   us   back   to   Mallory's   boots.   Did   Page   know   who made   them?   "About   as   far   as   I   was   able   to   get   was   that   they were   made   in   the   U.K.,"   he   says.   "Those   old   custom-made   boots were   stamped   with   numbers   on   the   sole   and   on   the   last   so   that everything   could   be   matched   together   in   the   shop. This   particular number   had   a   seven   in   it   and   the   seven   wasn't   crossed.   So   that told    me    they    weren't    built    on    the    Continent."    The    forensic anthropologist   and   the   Everest   scholar   slapped   their   foreheads, he says. They hadn't thought of that. As I say, no ordinary cobbler. Written by Patrick Joseph United Press International
Hikers keep skillful cobbler busy Climbers from far and wide seek him out for help with favorite boots
Learn more about the Mallory/Irvine Expedition of 1924 from PBS/NOVA.