First off, I can’t say enough how amazing it is to be surrounded by such an incredible community of like minded people, I love reading all the amazing comments and emails coming in. It’s inspiring for me and I’m learning so much more about climbing and life in general by interacting with everyone. Sometimes throwing out ideas and opinions leaves us wide open for judgement and assault, but it’s a risk we take, if we say nothing at all, we don’t get any feedback and we don’t learn or grow, or at least not as fast. So, thanks for all the feedback, please keep it coming, both the good and the bad, because really…it’s all good.
For many of you who visit this site regularly, you’ll know that we talk a fair bit about training and training for climbing. It’s all about the fingers, the fingers, the fingers, and of course, blood flow, opposition training, back and shoulders, biceps, diet and core. Not to mention the enormous muscle of the mind, but what about the feet? We hardly ever talk about the feet or shoes and the role they play.
Last week, I was out climbing with some friends and was heading up a classic 5.11a, when along came Robyn Barley, a retired MD who spends much of his time, scrubbing, cleaning, bolting and trying to maintain a climbers paradise. He bellowed up to me, “Sonnie, is that you up there? You know – that line to the left is a project eh? A few fellows have done all the moves, but nobody could do both cruxes, and certainly never link them. You should give it the once over.”
On my way down, I did just that.
To cut to the chase, the climb is going to be brilliant, a pure slab of about (pronounced aboot) four bolts, 35 feet of praying before gaining a bomber finger crack and eventually the summit. Very little finger strength is required, (except for the mono crimp at the end) so it should weigh in around 5.12d or 13a -ish. It’s one of the hardest slabs I’ve been on and very cool. So, when deciding what footwear to choose, naturally, I pulled on my beautiful new Anasazi Lace Ups.
These beaming beauties of white, black and gold (used to be pink, but now have a better heel and fresh new look) have gotten me to the top of many a desperate climb, in fact, I owe them all of my hardest climbs to date, I am nothing without my lace-ups. Nothing I say.
Here’s a picture of me doing the second ascent of ‘THE BLEEDING’ 5.14a, Mill Creek, Utah. One of the best routes of the grade in the whole country. I always wondered why it took ten years for a repeat. Noah Bigwood was (and still) is ahead of the curve. Anyway, we all know there are more climbs and climbers out there who owe a great deal of gratitude for these ‘top of the line’ performance enhancers, certainly I’m not the only one. But on this climb, on this day, they did nothing. As tight as they were.
I push, I slip.
I edge, I pop.
I grind, I skid.
I smear, I smudge.
The same result ensued, me hanging on the rope like a wet noodle feeling as though I just wimped out from my first 5.6. I wanted down. I was defeated. I had no self confidence left and in a spat of emotion I even blamed it on the climb. “I hate this thing” I muttered and spat into the dirt for effect.
On my second “once over” I pulled on my dirty old Mocs. You know the ones, they’re stretched, rounded and chewed up a bit, you keep them at the bottom of your pack, “just in case” and sometimes they’ve got a piece of duct tape on the toe. Yah, you know. They’re PERFECT for climbing dozens of 5.9 cracks on the Apron. But 5.12+ ? Not likely.
But before I could analyze the situ, I was halfway up the wall and reaching for a stance. I eventually fell, got back on and linked it to the top. ” What the f__k”. My big toe felt tired but strong. What was it about the mocs that made me get so far? I won’t lie, I felt as though I was coming off on every single move, every insecure rock over, every crystal and bullet hole. But somehow I didn’t (not until I flubbed the seq anyway). I linked my way to the top and was ready for the sharp end, but night fell on us and I’d have to return another day. With my mocs in the TOP of my bag this time.
Now, 9 of 10 roses, I would want my Lace Ups for a hard redpoint, (especially when there is a ground fall potential, I.E. this route) but here, it’s the mocs that will carry me to the anchor. Has anyone else had this realization before? I mean ON their hardest of hard slabs?
It seems that sloppy shoes will work better because they provide that little bit of extra contact. The lace ups provide us with unrivaled support, but the mocs give us subtle sensitivity. Which do you prefer? I discovered here that while steep climbing is the study of sport physiology, fitness and endurance, slab climbing is the study of science friction, geometry and often times, blind faith.
Thanks for reading, as always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this… Is the era for tight shoes coming to an end? Or is our sport just getting so specialized we need a bigger quiver?