Category Archives: Reviews

June 7th : Gear Review – Rock Shoes for 2014

The world of rock shoe manufacturing doesn’t stand still for long and this year is no exception. The June edition of Climber magazine is on the shelves and it features a review of no less than thirteen pairs of new shoes by yours truly selected from two categories – beginner, intermediate and all-rounders shoes and specialist performance shoes. If you’re in the market for some new shoes it might be worth taking a quick look through as there’s some surprises in store…

DSC_6253_lo resI, like many climbers, have had my favourite shoe manufacturer for years – 5.10 in my case. However, doing back-to-back shoe reviews for the last two years (see below) has opened my eyes to new products on the market today. More and more though I see experienced climbers trying new shoes looking for any advantage they can get – in my case to buy-back age-related declining performance!

Although most of the shoes tested are brand spanking new, typically they build on previous designs and features looking to spring-board off popular feature sets. Unusually though, some manufacturers have gone retro for 2014 and have re-introduced slightly remodelled shoes from yesteryear.

I commented last year to the effect that there was a huge number of rock shoes on the current market and there’s more coming to market all the time. That trend seems set to continue. Similarly, there’s a veritable mix of lace-ups, velcros and slippers as well as low volume/narrow fit to high volume/wide fitting shoes. Surprisingly, all five of the specialist performance shoes tested are slipper-based shoes with some throwing-in a Velcro closure as well to supplement fit/performance. Perhaps this is proof that slipper/velco fastening shoes are now more popular than traditional lace-ups.

Included in the 2014 review are the following shoes:

rock shoes review_spread#1

Beginner, Intermediate and All-rounder Shoes: Boreal Marduk, Edelrid Blizzard, Evolv Addict, Evolv Defy and Elektra, Five Ten Guide and New Pinks.

Specialist Shoes: Boreal Satori, Boreal Dharma, Edelrid Cyclone, Evolv Nexxo, Scarpa Stix and the Tenaya Ossi.

Here’s some visuals to check-out too…

Yours truly - supervised by Simba - putting the new Pinks thru their paces on the age old classic Hampers Hang (Font 7a)More Hampers Hang actionAnd the flip-side of Hampers Hang

 

 

Also posted in Climbing

April 7th: Shine a light…

Although it’s a tad retrospective now – the last month or so has just disappeared – March’s copy of Climber magazine carried my review of the latest in so-called hands-free (aka head torches) lighting. From the uber Mammut X-Sun (a 950 lumen monster) through to the delimitative Petzl e+Lite (a 25 lumen emergency unit) there really is a headtorch for every occasion…

Without a doubt, headtorches are an essential part of climbers’ kit-bags. Today, cheap headtorches are sold in main stream supermarkets from as little as a fiver a pop whilst the specialised shops sell the top-end units costing anything up to £250 quid. They’re used for all manner of activities – anything from dog-walking to emergency services through to elite athletes for climbing or other extreme sports. As power and functionality vary, so does size and cost. The review covered fifteen different units as well as giving the low-down on the plethora of batteries and LED types currently in use. If you don’t want to be left in the dark (I know – crap pun…) then check the review out.

Incidentally, as part of the review I dug-out my old Petzl Zoom headtorch from the bottom of the wardrobe and compared it with the X-Sun and the e+Lite (mentioned above). The results show quite plainly exactly what the R&D departments have achieved in the 30 odd years since Petzl first brought their legendary Zoom to market. Take a look for yourself at the pixs below and the difference is obvious. For the geeks amongst us, the e+Lite delivers the same (25 Lumen) output as the Zoom albeit at a fraction of the size/weight whilst the X-Sun knocks out over whooping 38 times more light than the Zoom.  The times sure are a changing…

And here’s a shot of the X-Sun and the e+Lite alongside the old past master, the Zoom…

 

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Also posted in General

Oct 3rd : Gear Review Central – Part III, Rope Review…

 

My final major review gear review for 2013 – ropes – appeared in the August edition of Climber. Assuming you’re not a fully paid-up member of the Pad People (a.k.a. bouldering only brigade) you’re gonna need at least one rope to keep the wheels on your climbing waggon – maybe even two or even three depending on your particular climbing addictions!

The opening spread from the review…

It used to be simple; ropes were either 11mm for a single/full rope or else they were half ropes in which case they were 9mm. The basic structure of the kernmantle rope hasn’t changed a deal since 1953 when Edelrid invented it; the core consists of a number of twisted strands whilst the sheath is the outer and hence protective layer. All climbing ropes today follow the same basic structure. What does vary though, from rope to rope, are the numbers of the internal strands, the weave of the sheath, how tight the various components are during the spinning and of course what the diameter of the rope is.

Super skinny single ropes for sport climbing vary between 9.1mm and 11mm whilst trad ropes vary between 8.1mm and 8.8mm. Properties, handling and wear characteristics vary considerably as manufacturers prioritise particular strength/qualities over others. Thicker ropes are generally stronger and are more resistant to wear but they’re not as good generally to handle as thinner ropes. Impact force, number of falls sustained as well as dynamic and static elongation all vary too depending upon the design of the rope and hence construction.

The review featured six sport ropes and five trad ropes. Check it out if you need the full SP – meanwhile here’s the opening spread from the published piece plus a few shots of the ropes themselves and during testing…

And then here’s a selection of ropes and action from the testing…

c1-Vanasque_DSC_7956_lo res.jpgc74-DSC_8245.jpgc21-Mammut Ropes_DSC_8474_lo res.jpgc95-AL Murray _tradstar_DSC_8432.jpgc75-Edelrid and Tendon half ropes_DSC_8455_lo res.jpg

 

April 29th : Gear Review Central – Part II: Rock Shoes…

So, Rock Shoes were Part II of the gear reviews I’ve just done for the May edition of Climber magazine. There’s a huge number of rock shoes on the current market and there’s more coming to market virtually every day. Not surprisingly, it’s a minefield; lace-ups, velcros and slippers as well as low volume/narrow fit to high volume/wide fitting

It wasn’t always thus though as anyone who has been climbing a while will tell you. PAs (named after Pierre Allain), EBs (named after Eduard Bourdineau), RDs (named after Rene Desmaison) and Kletts (short for Kletterschuhe) were the only choices back in the Seventies. The revolution came in the early Eighties when Mr Moffatt rocked-up with a pair of Boreal Fires, the first boots to have sticky rubber. Moffatt, ever the competitor, pressed home his advantage by punching out the first ascent of Master’s Wall on Cloggy. In line with the style of the day, Moffatt wore white baseball socks in his Fires. How times have changed!

Although Boreal stole the show with their Fires, other manufacturers were soon on the case and thus began the never ending stream of new shoes we have on the market today. Exactly what we might choose to wear today is usually dictated by need – be that performance (cruising or high grade), comfort (single pitch or multi pitch), foot shape (low volume/narrow fit or high volume/wide fit) or purpose (ie smearing, edging, crack climbing, pocket pulling or even competition/indoor or outdoor climbing). Many climbers have different shoes for different purposes. Others though, prefer a simpler life and opt for a one-shoe solution for all their climbing.

For those that are curious about such things, the testing team was one of the biggest teams yet involved on the programme – it had to be given the variation in the fitting of the rock shoes. On more than one occasion we found that a particular shoe didn’t suit one tester but for another it was a marriage made in heaven! Between the team we tested/reviewed the following shoes:

All-Round, All-Day, Mid-Grade to High Grade Shoes: Boreal Diabola (female) and Diabolo (male), Evolv Electra Lace, Five Ten Stonelands VCR, Scarpa Force X (female and male version), Red Chili Corona VCR, Tenata Inti and the Tenaya Ra.

Specialist Performance Shoes: Evolv Shaman, Edelrid Typhon, Five Ten Quantum, Red Chili Matador Lace, Scarpa Instinct VS and the La Sportiva Futura Blue.

Here’s the openning spread of the review in May’s edition featuring a comtempory shot of Steve Bancroft crusing a ‘white’ at Bas Curvier in 1979 in a pair of the then de-rigour EBs (plus socks)…

April 28th : Gear Review Central – Part I: Rock Pro…

For quite some time now I’ve been up to my neck in gear and gear reviews for Climber mag.. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it! Following on from my review last year of belay devices and screw krabs (sounds sexy egh?) my gear review programme for this year includes rock protection, rock shoes and finally ropes. Part I, Rock Pro appeared in the April edition and was six pages of the latest and greatest rock pro items from the plethora available on the hardware shelves down your local store…

Viewed from the perspective of someone who has been climbing for over forty year now – yes, sadly it really is that long since I first started back in the hell holes of deepest, darkest Lancashire – the development in rock pro has been little short of amazing. It had too really! Back at the start of the Seventies my rack was a MOAC, a baby MOAC, a couple of micro Clogs, a handful of hexs – and I’m talking hexagonal nuts not hexentrics either – a cylindrical rubber hex-like thingie plus of course a load of slings for threading chockstones or drapping over flakes. Although we didn’t think so at the time, the gear back then was really very basic – and that’s basic with a capital B!

Amazingly though, given the then gear, plenty of hard stuff got done – ref Livesey’s ascents of Right Wall and Footless Crow. However, by the late Seventies Wild Country, the Peak District based gear company lead by Mark Valance, stepped up to the mark and blew the world of rock pro apart – forever! Sure, some good wired nuts were being manufactured by the likes of Clog down in Wales and Chounard over in the States but Wild Country boldly stepped out where no-one had been before. WC’s Rocks were the first ‘modern nut’ to hit the market, their banana-shaped curved faces wedged (sic…) into crack like nothing before them. Rocks, though, were an evolution though. What WC has gone down in history for though was the revolution that was The Friend. The brain-child of US crack-climbing diva, Ray Jardine, The Friend was the first active protection device ever. It’s virtually impossible to over-state the significance of The Friend. Simply, they are a unique ‘outside the box’ moment, a touch of mathematical-cum-manufacturing brilliance that literally revolutionised crack protection forever.

It would be wrong to say that everything since WC’s original Rocks and Friends is just a variation on a theme, though there’s more than a grain of truth in the statement, because nuts and active devices have continued to evolve such that there are now some quite ingenious alternatives in the market.

So, I guess you might be keen to know what’s in the review? If so, here’s the list:

Nuts: Wild Country Classic Rocks, Superlight Rocks and Rockcentrics, DMM Alloy Offsets, Metolius Ultralight Curve Nuts and CAMP Tricams

MicroNuts: Black Diamond Micro Stoppers, DMM Brass Offsets

Active (Single Pivot): Wild Country Helium Friends, Metolius Mastercams, DMM 4CUs, Demon Cams

Active (Dual Pivot): Black Diamond C4 Camalots, DMM Dragon Cams

Active (Specialist/Micro Cams): Black Diamond C3 Camalots, Winld Country Zero Friends and Totem Cams

June 2nd: Belaying is rocket science…

Belaying is rocket science, or so it seems. Improvements, no matter what they relate to, come thick and fast these days and quickly get absorbed as the norm.Moore’s Law, dating back to the start of PC developments, describes (roughly speaking) a doubling a PC power every two years. There aren’t similar laws for climbing, least not that I’m aware off, but it would be interesting to cogitate a few…

Accepted that belaying isn’t exactly top of the sexy list either, it is fundamental to the business of climbing. Today, there is such a plethora of devices available that anyone new to the sport or having had a ‘climbing holiday’ for a decade or more might well suffer total meltdown when standing in front of the hardware counter down at their local climbing store when they come to part with their hard-earned in exchange for their belay device of choice.

It wasn’t always thus however. I avidly remember starting my own climbing career using the (then) old favourite, the waist belay. A pair of leather gloves were added by some climbers but usually a twist around the belayer’s wrist was the only trick in town. It seems totally Heath Robinson looking back but hey it was clearly an effective means of belaying (for the style of climbing common at that time) as the hospitals weren’t full of broken or rope-burnt climbers! We didn’t fall off much though in those days…

 Today, as I say, the choice of belay devices is quite literally, be-wildering. Passive or active, single or double rope and sport or trad – take your pick. I’ve just co-ordinated a review of many of the current belay devices and krabs which are available for Climber. Twenty eight separate bits of kit in c. 2000 words. Don’t bother doing the math, just grab a copy and get the low-down in next month’s mag.

Meanwhile, check-out the shots below to see what’s included within the review…

 

Single Rope Belay Devices_DSC_0578.jpgDouble Rope Belay Devices_DSC_0583.jpgGuide Plates_DSC_0592.jpgBelay Lock Krabs_DSC_0593.jpgHMS and D Shaped Screwgate Krabs DSC_0603.jpgHMS Belay Krabs_DSC_0596.jpg

 

Also posted in Climbing, Published