Sweet Gear Review: La Sportiva TC Pro

6 11 2009

Tommy Caldwell is an inspiration, a bad ass and one of the most talented all around climbers in the world.  When I heard Sportiva was coming out with the TC Pro I wanted in. I’ve been a Miura junkie for a while but was curious about what the TC Pro had to offer. I dream of doing many long free routes and thought these shoes might offer an all day solution.

So far I’ve worn the TC Pros for more than twenty days which has racked up over 100 pitches of climbing. This ranges from the first day wearing the shoes at the gym, a pair of multi-pitch first ascents in the Tuttle Creek / Lone Pine Peak region  to climbing El Capitan. I’ve climbed from 5.6 slab to 5.12 face and all grades and styles in between. I’ve been climbing mainly on granite but the type of granite ranges from the the alpine rock of Mount Langley and Mount Conness, to Tahquitz, Joshua Tree  and Yosemite.

P8212109

Standing on nothing in Pine Creek Canyon

These shoes are marked as all around performers and I would have to agree. The first weekend climbing the TC Pro’s went to Pine Creek near Bishop for a bunch of fun sport climbs. I had taken them on a short crack climbing trip to San Diego’s Mt. Woodson but nothing serious. On their first lead climb, I was unfamiliar with such a stiff sole and didn’t know how to use them. Over the day, I found they could stand on very small edges which resulted in an onsight of Stone Cold Fusion, seen above. This was one of my hardest onsights of the last few months and the new shoes clearly did not hold me back.

Many of the sport routes on the Mustache Wall follow flaring cracks, un-protectable by trad gear, with sections of face climbing. In these flares the TC Pro’s worked really well since they are stiff horizontally and allowed me to get secure foot jams with zero foot pain.

One of the things that I also learned this first weekend was that the TC Pros do not break-in easily and after a pitch of climbing I was ready to take them off. On the other hand, the laces allow for a ton of adjustability so I could fit them a bit loosely on easier pitches for less pain. I was able to wear them for two consecutive pitches on the excellent three pitch MegaPlex, but was happy to take them off at the top.

P1040697

Doing an FA on Mount Langley

After Pine Creek I knew that I wanted to take the TC Pro’s crack climbing and the following weekend I got in thirteen full pitches of alpine climbing. On the first day on Mt. Langley I was able to wear the wear the shoes for a five pitch FA, only having to unlaced  them at the pitch three belay.  I was really happy with the lining of the shoes on this climb since my feet stayed quite warm in the TC Pro on the shady North facing route.  Also, the cracks were a bit sharp and the TC Pro’s did a great job of protecting my ankles.

The next day turned out to be an even longer adventure on the Keystone wall where we added a new finish variation to one of the existing lines. Climbing another new five pitches, I found a downside to the high top as small twigs, loose rock  and various other pieces of nature got wedged in my shoe. To be fair, the rock quality wasn’t ideal and I did climb through a few trees so this might be expected in a high top shoe. This day my feet were really starting to break into the shoes, though I still had pain in my little toes and occasionally my right big toe fell asleep.

IMG_1345

Trusting the smears on Spook Book at the Needles

The last three months these shoes  stayed on my feet for almost all my climbing adventures. They worked great in the granite cracks of the Needles and performed on the tricky footwork in Yosemite. As a final test I wore the TC Pro on our onsight attempt of the Freeblast. The shoes worked well standing on the small feet and jamming in many cracks. Our next day we went back for the redpoint and I swapped in my Miuras that I usually wear on multipitch routes.  While the Miuras provied me with added sensitivitiy, mainly due to the thinner sole, I missed the stiffness of the TC Pro. I felt less secure on small edges due to the softer platform of the Miuras. I think this test really drove home the advantage of the stiff shoe.


TC Pro Review - 040

TC Pro’s after climbing El Capitan

I held off publishing this review for a week so I could squeeze in one more test, El Capitan.  This past weekend I made my first multi day attempt on Freerider and brought along the TC Pro’s. The shoes are nicely broken in now, and while I still took them off at some belays, I was not in a rush to do so. These were the only climbing shoes I wore for our three and half days on the route. The shoes continue to perform wonderfully and they helped me have confidence to stand on numerous tiny foot holds including a redpoint of the 5.11+ slab just above Heart ledges that had seemed impossible on a previous attempt. After many pitches of climbing the shoes are in pretty good shape except for the rands on the side of the shoe. As you can see in the photo above both rands a third of the way up the inside of the shoe  have worn through quite a bit. This duribility issue  is the only real  gripe I have with these shoes.  Everyone’s feet are different so your milage may vary.  I have been using these shoes on a multitude of cracks and the wear may be caused by the way I jam my feet or an issue specific to my pair of shoes.

Overall I highly recommend these shoes. They perform amazingly well on granite and are a dream for single and multi-pitch crack climbing.

Smearing:

As I have stated, this shoe is fairly stiff and the rubber is a bit thick in the front. However, contrary to expectations, I think this shoe smears very well. The feel of small divots in the rock may be diminished by thick sole but the TC Pro really sticks to the rock. I was very impressed on Spook Book where I was constantly trusting my feet to featureless granite.  Proving its all around status, yet again, these shoes were instrumental on my first Yosemite 5.12 which featured powerful underclings with minimal feet. The TC Pro stuck to the wall and allowed for powerful opposition as I climbed the sweeping arch of Underclingon.

P1250971

Committed to a layback on Atlantis at the Needles, CA.

Edging:

An afternoon climbing at one of the San Diego local areas made me really understand how the TC Pro’s worked with edges.  So far I had not trusted them on thinner edges since I didn’t have a good feeling of the rock through the thick and  stiff sole. Lets split edges into three categories: a large edge, a small edge and a micro edge. With a large edge you have so much rubber on the feature that you don’t expect to feel it. Here the TC’s work great and stiffness is a plus. On a small edge I am used to being able to feel the edge and how my shoe is sitting on it.  Since the TC Pro’s are so stiff I struggle when I can’t feel where my foot is on an edge. On a micro edge you don’t expect to feel the edge and the stiffness is a plus. Thus the TC Pro excels for micro-edging and I have been impressed with how well it sticks to micro footholds. The micro-edge theory was further confirmed on Stairway to Heaven at Tahquitz where I had to apply all of my weight to some very small holds which great success.  On the opposite edge of the spectrum, I struggled to stand on a small edge on The Flakes since it felt smaller than it really was, due to the lack of sensitivity. Perhaps these are just my own mental distinctions but this is the best way I can explain my experience with the TC Pro.

IMG_2710

A bit of tricky footwork on Pratt’s Crack.

Crack and Offwidth Protection

The semi high top of the TC Pro’s does a great job of protecting your ankles. Prior to climbing Mt. Conness and Pratt’s Crack I had spent a day of offwidthing using the lower-topped Tradmaster. My ankles turned out quite beat up and I was very happy to have the high top protection when climbing the offwidth on the Harding Route. I also found the lengthwise stiffness on the TC Pro works really well for offwidths and squeeze chimneys. I felt very secure doing heel toe jams in 6″ – 10″ cracks and doing tricky foot stacking on Pratt’s Crack. These shoes really work well in cracks of all sizes!

Pros:

  • Stiff sole edge well on very small holds.
  • Horizontal stiffness and toe padding make this shoe a crack climbing all-star.
  • Lining is soft and warm (good for alpine routes).
  • High top provides excellent ankle protection.

Cons:

  • Long break in time.
  • The side rand has durability issues.
  • Thick sole reduces sensitivity.
  • Expensive.

Sizing:

I wear the TC Pro in a size 39.  I wear size 38.5 Miuras and Testarossas (tight)  and size 38 Katanas (tight) & Cobras.

In 5.10 shoes I wear 7.5 Mocasysms (comfy).

Cheers,

Luke

Full Disclosure: La Sportiva provided these shoes to DreamInVertical in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed above are my own and reflect my experience with these shoes.  Feel free to leave comments regarding your opinion of the TC Pro.

For more Sweet Gear reviews from Luke and Lizzy check out our Gear Reviews page.





Sweet Gear: Approach Shoe Reviews

23 09 2008

For me, approach shoes are very important. The comfort and security I feel when I’m hiking and scrambling to the base of a climb can help set my mood for the day. If I’m uncomfortable while hiking or sliding around and nervous while scrambling, it’s no good. So I thought I’d share my approach shoe experiences for your benefit or to get some of your thoughts about shoes.

Five Ten W’s Mountain Master

I absolutely hated these shoes. They did not fit well, were not sticky, and had ridiculously stiff soles that killed my feet. Even with my superfeet insoles, they were no good. I was not at all impressed. This is probably why they don’t make these any more.

Five Ten W’s Access

These shoes aren’t really approach shoes, they’re trail running shoes. For trail running shoes, they’re quite nice. They fit well and are very comfortable. For just hiking, they are great. However, they aren’t made for scrambling and don’t really perform well there. They’ve been demoted to my “just hiking” shoes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love them. Also on the downside, the construction of the shoes seems not to be the highest quality. A lot of little decorative things on the shoes (nothing functional) took about a week to fall off.

Montrail W’s CTC

These shoes are absolutely fantastic. They fit great, are comfortable for hiking, work great for scrambling (I lead Tenaya Peak wearing these instead of my rock shoes), and last forever (except for the laces, but these are fairly easily replaced). They are vented so that your feet don’t get too hot, although it also means your feet get wet if it’s raining/snowing/etc. But if you are dealing with a lot of those conditions, I’m pretty sure you need a different kind of shoe anyways. My sensitive feet love the CTCs and I can wear them for hours and hike long distances with no blisters. My first pair of CTCs have been going strong for three years (although they recently got “retired” to the brutal job of being my geology shoes). I now have a newer version of the shoes, which Montrail thankfully let remain essentially the same except for the color and the laces. Highly recommended!

Montrail D7

I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to use these because I got mine used and they are sized a little too small to be comfortable for hiking a lot. I know plenty of guides who swore by these a while ago, though, so they can’t be that bad.

La Sportiva Cirque Pro

I just got a pair of these last weekend at the REI used gear sale (wooo $8!!!) and I’m very excited. From just trying them on, they fit my feet perfectly (although I do seem to have La Sportiva feet) and feel very comfortable. I’m excited to try them out after I get them resoled.

What approach shoes work for you?

Lizzy





Climbing Shoes

10 12 2007

So the recent news is that the V10’s are going to be discontinued by Five Ten. This super aggressive slipper is going to be replaced by the brand New Jet7. As far as I know RockCreek has exclusive distribution of the Jet7 until 2008 and they have a limited stock. I heard that Paul Robinson climbed in the Jet7 during the Triple Crown. Despite crushing at this comp he has created a petition to bring back the V10.

I think that people should not be worried about the V10 yet. It was almost 3 years from the first initial news of the cobra being replaced until La Sportiva stopped selling it. The same was true of the old Five Ten dragons. The new dragons are being worn by lots of super strong climbers proving that change can be a good thing. While a replacement slipper may not be in the works for this year perhaps Five Ten is going to bring a new slipper to market in late 2008. Hopefully I can do some research and find out. Edit: See the comments for more discussion on the V10.

The Climbing Narc had a post a while ago about shoes and how many shoes people have. I know most people only have a few pairs of shoes but I own or have worn out about 25 pairs of shoes or so. This has been a product of many years of climbing and a desire to experiment with different models of shoes. A large reason for the number of pairs of shoes is that I can usually get a new pair cheaper than I could get an old pair resoled. I think there is something amazing about a shoe right after it breaks in.

Over the last 5 years I have climbed between two and five days a week for the majority of the year. I would climb more in the summer and at least half of those days were in the gym. I like to savor my climbing shoes and I don’t usually mix between outdoor shoes and indoors shoes. Once a shoe became worn down it would get delegated to indoor duty. Thus I end up doing most of my climbing on plastic in blown out pairs of shoes

For the majority of my climbing I like a sensitive flat shoe that is tight to put on but becomes useable with a bit of warmth and sweat. I am currently on my 6th pair of cobras which were my favorite shoe for the longest time. They jam well, are easy to take off and are very sensitive. As well they smear really well; the biggest problem is they don’t make them any more and they don’t resole well. Because of this I rarely use my remaining pair of cobras. After these shoes stopped being produced I “discovered” the Muira after much prodding by my girlfriend. I now have 4 pairs of these shoes and use them for almost everything. They have an amazing heel cup and are a great all around shoe.

The one thing that both the Muria’s and the Cobra’s lack is a down-turned toe. This can be essential to small edging and steep boulder problems. I have one pair of Testarossa’s that I use exclusively for this type of climb. They are really tight and I only wear them when I am trying to send a project or I need to pull extra hard with my toes. The aggressive curve of the rand on the Testarossa’s is amazing and it gives a lot of power that the Muria’s lack. I really think that different shoes make a significant difference on certain climbs. It may just be the mindset that my feet can stick to anything, but I usually send harder wearing the Testarossa’s.

Each person will have a different preference for climbing shoes and the fit of your foot should be the biggest consideration. It is also important to make sure that the shoe is designed for what you plan on using it for. If you plan on steep heelhooking it might not be the best thing to buy a slipper. You don’t want your toes curled too much for crack climbing and velcro shoes can be problematic with jamming in hand cracks and larger. If you get a shoe that is too tight or down-turned it can be very difficult to smear.

This year I hope to get a pair of the Es Pontas and the new Anasazi 2.0. I wish that more US climbing shops would stock the Scarpa climbing shoes since they look very cool. I don’t know how they size their shoes and with the addition of Mad Rock and Evolv it is almost impossible to know what size climbing shoes you should buy.

That’s all for now,

Luke