Royal and I used Spiders for a long time for the very reasons
Peter described, good edging, good in off-widths...
In about '65, I was bouldering at Split Rocks. A fellow came along,
trying to think of his name (I want to say Lee Herrell?). He
had some type of lightweight mountaineering boots. I was amazed
at how well he bouldered and how good he was with his feet.
He said he had done a lot of climbing in the Alps and that
the good climbers there could climb as well in boots as most
more pure rock climbers could in tight rock shoes. I tended
to believe him, when I saw him climb. He noted, however, that
it was absolutely vital to get the right boot, that most didn't
work too well, but one or two kinds were amazing. Seeing photos
of people such as Rebuffat and Bonatti with their boots, I began
to believe they weren't at too much of a disadvantage, and what
with their supreme techniue. The "good" mountain rock boot were
"flush" where the rubber meets the leather tops. I.E., the sole
didn't stick out at all....
About this time, Cub Shaefer gave me a pair of lightweight mountain
boots. I can't recall the brand, but I agreed to try them out on
rock. I went up and did the first free ascent of Vertigo. I climbed
right past the 5.11 section, solidly, but higher up on the 5.8
stem dihedral I realized I couldn't stem very well, couldn't smear
out on those sloping walls in those boots. Grabbed a carabiner to
rest and try to figure it out... Whatever... I used those boots
again on a host of climbs, but I really preferred my RD's. Gill and
I bouldered for a long time in RD's. They were vastly better at
edging than EB's. At certain bouldering areas, such as Split Rocks,
you couldn't even stand up on some tiny footholds in EB's, but in
RD's it was an easy step. RD's were a good measure better than Spiders,
for sure, in most respects. But then, and note, they came out with
a new RD that was supposed to be the same boot but actually had a
different, not nearly as good, rubber. Then climbers, rightfully,
started saying RD's weren't very good.... They hadn't used the original
My friends Luisa Iovane and Heinz Mariacher have kept me in rich supply
of La Sportiva climbing shoes, for many years, and they friction so
amazingly well, but they still are quite soft compared to my years
with stiffer shoes.... and not very comfortable to the feet. The
feet get tired easily. One thing I've seen, with some of the top
Yosemite stars, is that they climb off-widths with these softer
modern rubber, but they don't heel-and-toe so much. They do more friction
technique along the sides of the walls....
Did lots of 4th and easy 5th class in big stiff leathers less than a decade ago. This was the Ptarmigan Traverse in the North Cascades ... a multi-day trip with quite a bit of glacier travel. Bringing extra shoes for climbing wasn't an option and wasn't needed.
On a peak along the way. Helmet Peak?
A little smearing and edging in boots a day or so after Helmet Peak. We did six peaks in six days from 2nd class to 5.7.
The boots in no way soured the climbing, to say the least. The technical climbing on this trip inspired me to take a technical climbing course the next spring and start traditional leading about a year after that (~7 years ago).
Fun, we did not know any better. The five and dime edge route on Blacktail Butte in the Tetons, 5.12, done by Breashears in Haderers or some such in 1978. Also what Peter Haan said amout heavier climbers and the modern soft rubber is so true. It's like driving hard on an old school, non steel belted, low aspect ratio tire. It sucks.