Monthly Archives: April 2013

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)…

Posted in Reviews

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

Posted in Reviews