"Not all those who wander are lost"

Archive for August, 2014

The One

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The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.

-Thucydides

 

Have you ever found the one who completes you?  The one that makes you feel alive, like every breath you take is sweeter than anything you have ever tasted.  The one that makes the world shine with a new light, more vibrant, and more alive.  She exhilarates you with an energy you didn’t know you had, making you feel an adrenaline high that never ends.  For better or worse, everything else pales in comparison.  Like I drug, you want her all the time and you yearn for her when you’re not together.  You make your life revolve around her.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve given up careers or lost relationships because your entire perspective is changed.  You would rather be destitute with her than the richest man without and as a result you are poor.  Despite your sacrifices, it still hurts.  Sometimes after being together you have to spend weeks apart to recover from how she hurt you, but you’re not mad, just excited to see her again.  Sometimes it’s too much, but no matter what happens you can’t stand a week away from her.  For all the pain and dysfunction, you wouldn’t trade her for anything; she completes you.  I have found her.  She is climbing.


Five Ten Hiangle

The Hiangles are clearly aimed to be a lower cost competitor to high end aggressive the Solutions, but they have a few major downsides for me.  First, the opening for the shoe isn’t big enough.  I could barely get my foot into the shoes I tested, yet the size was still larger than I would want to wear.  The second problem I had was the heel size and shape.  As with many Five Ten shoes, the heel has leather on the sides which makes the heel have voids and feel like the shoe is baggy.  The general use of the shoe was very good and was the best experience I’ve had from a pair of Five Tens.  The toe rubber was good and thick enough that I wouldn’t expect it to wear as quickly as solutions.  One final downside, unrelated to shoe performance, was that the shoes turned my feet blue from the dye in the leather.  This didn’t just happen when my feet were hot or when I wore them many times in a day.  One short pitch and my feet would be so blue that I couldn’t even get it to scrub off in the shower.

Over the few months I have had the shoes; they already have significantly worn edges although the rest of the shoe shows no sign of wear.  As I mentioned, the shoes are difficult to get on for the size, but they are fairly comfortable.  If they were sized down more for a better fit I don’t know if they would be as comfortable.  It’s a relatively stiff shoe and can edge, but does not have very good sensitivity so I found it hard to tell when I was standing exactly where I wanted.  The Five Ten rubber performed well smearing even though the shoe is more downturned and not designed for it.  The added toe rubber which seems to be industry standard for aggressive shoes was good, although it was a bit thicker than it needed to be.

Five Tens usually don’t fit my foot well once I size down enough.  This pair wasn’t sized down quite enough, but for the first time it didn’t feel like my foot was falling out over the side of the shoe.  I like the closure system (single Velcro strap on a slipper style shoe, similar to the Solution), but I think this pair doesn’t execute it quite right.  As I mentioned earlier, the opening is so small I could barely get my foot in even though the shoe isn’t quite downsized enough.  If it was slightly larger it would be much better.  They were nice, easy to get on and off and quick to fasten the single Velcro strap.  I would make the strap shorter though.  Currently when the shoes are on, the strap goes past the end of the Velcro leaving the end dangling.

Overall I am quite torn by this shoe because it’s decent, but with some easy fixes of the issues I mentioned I think it could be a very good shoe.  It’s also nice for a first aggressive shoe since it’s going to be sold at ~$120.

 

Testing Notes:

I received these shoes for free, although not from the manufacturer, to test.  I climbed many pitches in them over the course of several months.  I used them for sport climbing, mostly on limestone, and a little bit of bouldering.  This pair of Hiangles was size 10.  I usually wear size EU 40.5, Five Ten 9-9.5, and street shoe 10.5.


Scarpa Booster S Review

 

The Booster S is a great shoe for sport climbing or bouldering.  The shoes were quite tight, yet remained quite comfortable thanks to the two straps Velcro closure system and lined inner which helped give the shoes a nice glove fit.  The straps are just barely short enough that they don’t dangle off the end of the Velcro and get in the way like some other straps.  The split sole allowed for increased flexibility at the arch of the foot and greater sensitivity.  The heel shape could be improved upon to reduce the voids on the side of the heel that are so common in climbing shoes, but the added rubber on top of the toe was great for forcing pressure to the tips of the toes and getting extra purchase on toe-hooks.  In the spectrum of stiffness and sensitivity the Booster S achieves a great balance: nice and sensitive to feel the rock and smear, yet just stiff enough to edge well. The stickiness of the rubber was excellent as well, helping the shoes stick to smears and sloped edges.

Overall I really like this shoe and it’s among my favorites for sport climbing and bouldering.

Testing Notes:

I tested theses shoes for one day through a shoe demo.  For a more complete review I would need a longer test period.  This Booster S pair was size EU 41.  I usually wear size EU 40.5, Five Ten 9-9.5, and street shoe 10.5.


La Sportiva Solution Review

The first time I had a pair of solutions they were very tight and took a couple weeks to break in.  Since then my solutions have been a dream.  The synthetic lining and Velcro closure make them easy to get on and a nice snug fit.  They fit my foot like a glove and are amazingly comfortable even when new because they press all around my fit instead of a single point.

The rubber is quite sticky, but solutions are not the most sensitive shoe.  That said, I think the thickness contributes to their durability.  Despite being very aggressive, they can still smear like a champ when needed.  The P3 platform ensures solutions keep their aggressive downturn until their dying day.  The downturn isn’t just good for climbing steep routes or problems though.  I’ve found it exceptionally handy for pulling onto a high toe on vertical territory.

I have heard many people complain about the heel on solutions, but for me it fits so perfectly that I have yet to wear a shoe that I can heel-hook in better than the Solutions.  The only time I have had an issue with the heel was on a boulder problem that had a heel hook on such a large rail that I was above the sticky rubber onto the yellow band that has low friction.  The rubber on top of the toe is great for extra friction when you’re pulling at your limit too.

Overall, I think this is the best sport climbing or bouldering shoe I’ve seen or used.  They maintain their aggressive downturn, edge, smear, and basically just make you send your project.

One final note is that I have tried on Solutions before and had 40 be too small, 40.5 be too big, and 41 fit well.  I know they are handmade and this causes some discrepancy, but make sure you’re confident in the size you get.

Testing Notes:

I did not receive these shoes for free.  I have purchased multiple pairs of Solutions on my own.  I wear size EU 40.5 and street shoe 10.5.


Evolv Addict Review

The shoes were smaller than I would have purchased, especially for a flat shoe.  The fit of the shoe favors a narrower foot and caused some pain in the small toes, which I suspect would happen for my foot even in a larger size.  If the user had a foot shape that fit the shoe better I believe they could be a comfortable all day shoe.  Another concern for me would e the stretch in the shoe.  Despite the painfully tight fit for the first several months; they stretched to a comfortable fit.  If the user is not willing to tolerate the break in period then the shoe would likely become loose and baggy.

The rubber was very stiff and not as sticky as some shoes.  I found it difficult to trust the rubber on routes with smooth limestone.  The stiffness allowed for decent edging, but the flat slipper design made small edges feel insecure as the shoe began to roll.  The stiff rubber also drastically reduced the sensitivity for the shoe.  The smearing was not hampered by the stiffness, but was limited by the friction of the rubber.  The one significant benefit of the stiff rubber, was that I have used them for over 100 days of climbing and they are just finally needing a resole.

The slipper model is never very good for heel-hooking and the Addict’s are no exception.  Slip on means slip off and it’s usually easier off.  The stiff sole helped protect the foot for jamming, but with the slipper I found the shoe getting stuck in cracks and nearly losing it off my foot.  While it’s probably fine most of the time, it’s an issue to keep in mind so you don’t end up half way up a wall with one shoe.

Overall, I’m not a fan of these shoes.  I don’t to lots of crack climbing and I’m not a big fan of slippers.  Beyond that, these shoes don’t fit my foot well.  If you’re a fan of the Moccasym and want to try a new shoe, this might be just what you’re looking for.  If you want a performance shoe, keep looking.

 

Testing Notes:

I received these shoes for free, although not from the manufacturer, to test.  I climbed many pitches in them over the course of many months.  I used them for sport climbing, mostly on limestone, and a little bit of bouldering and trad climbing.  This pair of Addicts was size 9.  I usually wear size EU 40.5 and street shoe 10.5.


Wailing Wall

Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

-Alan Watts

 

I cruised up the last mile of dirt road before the Wailing Wall in my new 85 Toyota Van with Lu dog riding shotgun.  Things had changed a bit since I left the ‘Stead.  I bought a new van, ripped my hair out trying to sell my Accord, and picked up a dog in Las Vegas on my way to Wailing Wall.  The dog wasn’t actually mine; a friend of Sam’s called as I was headed through to see if I could take care of him.  I drove into Las Vegas after dark, met Tera, helped her move the last load to her new place, shared some wine, and within an hour was crashing in her apartment with plans to take care of her dog for a week while she was on a flight to Austin.

We hiked up the wash toward the crag, eventually turning a bend to see the cliff.  I felt like a monk first gazing upon a sacred monastery high on a mountain.  I was filled with wonder and amazement, but I knew it would be a difficult journey up the winding hill.

For the next three weeks, the rough, mostly uneven dirt parking area for the Wailing Wall dubbed “the corral” (for the broken down corral on one side) was my home.  The crag has a great variety of routes from vertical to steep, each one with technical and interesting moves.  The routes range from 5.10 to 14+, but only a couple climbs are below 12a.  From 12a to 13c, the place is a playground.  Bouldery, power endurance, techy slab are all represented and most grades from 12a up have at least two or three routes to choose from.  I immediately loved the place.

I spent my first week sampling a lot of different routes and ticking off a few 12’s, but I soon found myself returning to Holbytla.  It has some decent climbing at the bottom to ~15 brilliant moves of power endurance on stellar rock.  It is also, a route that can fool you into thinking you’re going to send soon long before you do.  My progress was slow, each time improving just a tiny bit, but almost always moving in the right direction: I almost got to the hold, I touched it, I held the pinch, I got my foot up.  The progress was so miniscule that it was frustrating at times, but it always kept me coming back because maybe that one last tweak was going to be the key to my success.

Before I could finish it, I headed to Vegas and Arrow Canyon for a couple days.  I thought that a change venue and a couple nights crashing on a couch would help me come back fresh, plus I had already told Jonathan I’d give him a catch on his project.  After a great rest day hanging out in the sun and poaching a hotel pool in Vegas we headed up to Arrow.

I heard great things about Arrow, but was surprised at how little was there.  The main cave holds several hard routes (12d and up) with a few lower 5.12’s just to the right.  The routes to the right were good, but everything in the cave seemed to be covered by a thick layer of dust on slick holds.  A few other walls have some development, most notably one cave which has La Reve and La Lune (still Jonathans project at the time).  I was uninspired by the area, but we had plans to stay for two days so I put in some tries on Brown Sugar (5.12d).  I got close, but the powerful moves stymied my chance of sending.  I was less disappointed by the lack of a send than I was by spending two days in Arrow instead of on Holbytla.  It wasn’t a loss though; I met some great Vegas people, Phil and Samantha, who came up for the day.

We got back to Vegas after climbing and I was dropped off at my car parked in front of a friend’s house.  The other two somehow were a ways behind so I headed inside.  I was hanging out waiting and chatting with one of the roommates.  To be polite I made a comment about appreciating letting me crash and making sure I wasn’t in the way.  Her reply stunned me: “Well, we don’t actually know you that well and would like it if you leave.”  It’s been a while, so I’m paraphrasing, but it was pretty similar.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was my third, nonconsecutive night there after being invited to start with.  I had always thought of the climbing community as welcoming and courteous, but this was straight rude and mean.  To top it off, when I told my friend, he did nothing about it.  To this day, being kicked out of the house by the roommate of someone I thought was a friend is one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced.

So I found myself in Las Vegas, sitting in the back of my van feeling utterly alone.  It seemed like I had nowhere to go and nobody I could turn to.  Re-enter Phil and Samantha who offered that I could crash at their place for the night when I needed it most, which I will never forget.

The next day I headed back to Wailing Wall to finish up Holbytla.  I managed to find a couple that I knew at Wailing Wall to climb with for two days.  I finished Holbytla and had a good day of flashing several 12’s, but I was ready to move on.