A NEAR MISS
Sliding down hundreds of feet head first in a dark, icy gully of the Italian Dolomites changed the way Danny thought about footwear traction. It was a revelatory moment for him. While returning from a rock climb with his brother Mike, he lost footing on some ice and took a massive plunge of several hundred feet. His helmet and day pack took much of the impact, and he was lucky to survive. Over the next few years, it became apparent to him that products available on the market did not deliver reliable, trustworthy traction in a packable size. This set him on a path to explore better solutions.
In 1998, he moved back to his hometown of Flagstaff, AZ with his wife, Melissa, and began the long process of developing and testing designs with the help of many mechanically minded family members and friends.
TRACTION YOU CAN TRUST
Danny’s goal was to make a high-tech traction system that would conform to the flexibility of the foot, work with different kinds of shoes, grip changing ice and snow conditions, be lightweight, durable, comfortable, packable and easy to strap on. While studying Physics and Philosophy at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Danny made his first prototype out of steel shelving that he hand bent to create cleats, and used cordage to connect the toe with the heel. “It became apparent why there were no good solutions for flexible footwear yet. It’s very hard to design something that will stay secure while flexing” he said. He later incorporated the most advanced flexible steel available to replace the cord as an extender bar, created a unique strap system and folding design. Two years, boxes and boxes of prototypes and eight design concepts later, Danny developed the Kahtoola Traction System (KTS Crampon). He built 11 pairs to showcase at the 2001 Outdoor Retailer tradeshow. But ten days before their debut, Danny had another revelation.
THE LAST HURDLE
Despite researching the most advanced metals, formulating endless mathematical calculations of stress and strain, studying the moment of inertia and field testing prototypes, Danny was not completely satisfied with the flexibility of the extender bar in the KTS. Less than two weeks before he was scheduled to showcase the crampons, he made the discovery that two thin hardened stainless steel bars were exponentially more flexible than one thicker bar, yet the durability was not significantly compromised. This led to the patented dual layered LeafSpring® flex bar. It flexed easily, was extremely tough and could flex with a shoe.
Danny, with the help of his brother Mark, rebuilt all of the crampons just in time for the 2001 Outdoor Retailer winter tradeshow. The product featured the LeafSpring® flex bar and launched Kahtoola as a soulful and innovative company that helps you get where you want to go.