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The Warbler

the edge of America
Sep 18, 2010 - 11:51pm PT
Climb in hiking boots and you'll understand why the YDS made 5.9 the hardest freeclimbing rating.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 19, 2010 - 12:00am PT
Warbler, very true. But there is one aspect of this issue that is really important today. I began in Cortinas and then Spiders. They were board lasted lightweight boots but stiff as hell. And we wore than extremely tight as well. In offwidth such stiffness is a huge huge plus usually. It is also amazingly precise and makes you climb precisely.

Oblique heel-and-toe placements were incredibly powerful, not to mention regular 90 degree ones. And when you would stem out to an edge you got, again, giant power. And finally, your toes and feet did not get as tired as quickly because the shoes were doing so much work. Eventually when you got Spiders and similar shoes broken in, you could semi-smear even. BUT let's not forget that the rubber was NOT sticky but actually nearly hard and so this made you square yourself off all the time on edges--- not necessarily a good thing but again if it worked, it was more restful. Finally the shoes were kind of tall and had complete ankle protection. You could press with all your might on those ankles and still be semi-okay in offwidths and similar situations.

The natural transition for me was then to wear PA's. They were pretty damned stiff too but way more form-fitting and light. You could edge bigtime on them but again smearing was miserable. They were not so much a granite shoe in this respect but in offwidths they were pretty incredible especially since again they were kind of high and protected your ankles really well.

Eventually I gave up stiff shoes for things like 5.10 Newtons and Acopa JB's but still pine for the days of stiff shoes.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Sep 19, 2010 - 12:05am PT

You can still do it!
Mixed climbs, or even early season climbs in the mountains
can be done in boots. It's nice to have stiff soled ones,
but you can edge, climb cracks, etc. . .
Not good on smearing, but they work!
nick d

Trad climber
Sep 19, 2010 - 12:05am PT
I sure liked my blue RR's a lot better after I broke all the knobs under the balls of my feet!
The Warbler

the edge of America
Sep 19, 2010 - 12:06am PT
You remind me, Peter, of how good my RRs felt in cracks wider than 4".

Anybody ever stick some sticky rubber on the rands and soles of a pair for offsize?
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Sep 19, 2010 - 12:08am PT
Did my first wall in Garmisch boots although I'd worn Kronhaufers for years.


Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Sep 19, 2010 - 12:12am PT
What Peter said.

We wore only stiff boots in the Alps and Himalayas.
Easy transition from crampons to the rocks.

The added benefit there is that they kept your feet warm.

Not to mention that the weight of the things helped develop more leg muscles
on both approaches and the rock!
The user formerly known as stzzo

Social climber
Sep 19, 2010 - 12:51am PT
Try it. It's not a big deal.

Climb in tennis shoes at the gym. It'll improve your technique.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 19, 2010 - 01:18am PT
One of the shoe manufacturers should make a shoe that is board-lasted, high and a bit stiff in the upper as well but soled with our modern rubber. Don't start padding and insulating it though. I think they would sell the hell outta of them. Especially once they got "understood". Taller than a Kaukulator and a bit stiffer. Ankle fully, yes fully covered, no exception.

I had my Kaukulators soled with Stealth rubber and it was awesome. Still have them too. But the shoe was still too low and could have been stiffer. I mean, stop this smearing, bendy business. We accept special shoes for situations, why not for offwidths too!?!

The softer the shoe the worse for offwidths and cracks just below that size. I watch less experienced climbers trying to offwidth in slippers and similar and it is just a nightmare for them. And pointless.

And the softer the shoe, the stronger you have to be in your toes and feet. And maybe too, your upper body since you're smearing so much which sets up this whole unrestful arrangement.

Sep 19, 2010 - 01:20am PT
mid 60's - Tahquitz. There wasn't anything else at the time.
West Lark - Tahquitz
West Lark - Tahquitz
Credit: DonC

Big Wall climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 19, 2010 - 01:28am PT
I really like what Peter says about shoes, especially edging and wide stuff. Although I started a little later, my first shoes were Spiders, and I was climbing at Castle Rock S.P. where the sloper and friction reigns supreme. I got pretty good anyway, because you use what you have, but E.B.s were a revelation at Castle. When I finally got to Yose, there were a few climbs where I wish I had my Spiders.

Trad climber
Somewhere halfway over the rainbow
Sep 19, 2010 - 01:37am PT
Once I realized that heavy hiking boots with Vibram soles climbed better than the cowboy boots i had been using I was sold on them. Sure they were heavy as cinder blocks but boy could they edge and jam. Eventually I got a pair of the trusty RRs. Wow what a break through they were. I got them because EBs seemed so radical at the time. RRs seemed like high tech hiking boots by comparison.
Of course EBs were the bomb and it wasn't long before I was sporting a pair of the blue and whites.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
Sep 19, 2010 - 01:45am PT
And now EB's are an abomination! Funny. I had a bunch of pairs of them too after I left PA's and for some climbs I was actually set back but on others--- appropriate ones--- I leapt forward with them. Because our sport-art is so wide ranging with the types of things our feet have to do, we should add to the collection of shoes, a technical stiff Mo-Fo offwidth boot that is also totally up-to-date in rubber and fit. And it has to be high. Cutting them off at or near the ankle is just woosing out and trying to be all things to all rock. I guess I should add too that a climber's weight has a lot to do with this too. If you are like something more than 170 lbs these modern shoes and slippers are effing horrid in wide cracks.

Trad climber
So Cal urban sprawl Hell
Sep 19, 2010 - 02:10am PT
My buddy Woody had me wear my hiking boots one time climbing a route up on Tahquitz, he wanted me to experience what it was like back in the day. I found it was fine in cracks, but on any friction area I floundered pretty bad. It was fun I must say but glad we have our modern climbing shoes.
One thing though, great to not lug up shoes in my pack while climbing; hike up in them, climb in them, then hike down, that was nice!

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Sep 19, 2010 - 02:30am PT
What, ya gonna do this bare foot?

Credit: Reilly
Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
Sep 19, 2010 - 02:38am PT
Maybe the La Sportiva Mariachers should be brought back! I remember the British importers complaining because the lasted so long and could be resoled forever.

I loved the green Shoenards for edging.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Sep 19, 2010 - 02:53am PT
My first climbing shoes were fabiano trail boots. You just accepted the way they worked cause it was all you knew.

Then I got a used pair of RD's hoh man! I was amazed!

A long way from where I started
Sep 19, 2010 - 02:59am PT
Many of the first slab climbs at Squamish were done in stiff boots (including RRs). Edging on crystals.

As to what somebody said above about taking a stiffish high-top old-style boot and putting modern rubber on it...
Shoenards &#40;Vasque Ascenders&#41; with C4 on the front
Shoenards (Vasque Ascenders) with C4 on the front
Credit: Ghost

I did a fair amount of climbing in Shoenards (NE Butt of Slesse with Mighty Anders, for example), using them for approach, climb, and descent. And also used them for cleaning because they were comfy for standing in aiders. But the hard rubber lugged sole was a bit of a limiting factor.

Some time around 1997, I got Dave Page to replace the lugged front sole with 5.10 rubber. It was revelatory. I could climb very nearly as well in them as in whatever I thought my best shoe was back then.

A couple of years ago I found an unused pair at a second-hand gear store for next-to-nothing. So I bought them and sent them straight down to Locker. He resoled them with perfect workmanship, but he also put some kind of hex on them. But that's a whole other story (which you can read at if you're interested).

Of course, nothing like that is made now, but maybe the TC Pro is a kind of compromise? Half old school, half new?
Todd Eastman

Bellingham, WA
Sep 19, 2010 - 03:03am PT
I do remember climbing better and faster in boots when stuff started coming down from way up high!

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Sep 19, 2010 - 10:30am PT
On various routes in Idaho and Washington in the 1970’s: I climbed up to 5.9 in mountain boots.

Of course, we didn’t usually plan on climbing that hard in mountain boots. It just happened: through poor pre-planning or over-confidence.

One of my first “big-routes” was the Open Book on the Finger of Fate in Idaho’s Sawtooth. It was considered 5.6 in 1971 and is now rated 5.9.

I climbed it at the end of a ten-day trip that was mostly backpacking. No reason to have my REI brand imitation RR’s along.
Credit: Fritz
Here’s me, dressed all in cotton, with my Raichle boots in an unprotected chimney near the top.

Credit: Fritz

The tough pitch with the boots: was led by Chris with RR’s. I was terrified following it, since my fat-round boot toes did not fit in the hand crack.

In one of my stupider moments: I led the same crack 6 years later in mountain boots. Just as terrifying as in 1971, but much worse: since I was now on “the sharp end” of the rope. Somehow it had seemed bright to trot into the route and “knock it off” with minimal loads.
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