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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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 Review: La Sportiva Miura VS

25 08 2009

I have been a follower of the La Sportiva Miuras (I have a pair of the unisex and women’s versions) for a long time. I got my original pair about 6 years ago and have resoled them 4 or 5 times now and they were still amazing (they now have an unfixable hole, so they are on the fast track to retirement, sadly). When I heard that Sportiva was coming out with a velcro version and the new P3 platform to help prolong the downturned shape, I knew I had to get a pair. With my small feet, it took a while before I could get my hands on a pair, but it was well worth the wait.

The Miura VS fits fairly similarly to my other two pairs of Miuras – it conforms perfectly to my foot. In my men’s Miuras, there is a little extra space in the toebox that my women’s Miuras and the Miura VS don’t have, but this doesn’t seem to have affected the performance. The 3 velcro straps are very good at tightening the shoe around my narrow feet (just as good as the lace versions), but much easier to remove quickly (i.e. well suited for bouldering).

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Trying out the Miura VS on Sad Parrot (V3), Sad Boulders, Bishop.

I’d heard that the sizing of the Miura VS was about a quarter size (European) different than the original ones, so I sized down half a size – getting a 35, when my normal Miuras are both 35.5. The result is that the shoes are a bit tighter than my other Miuras, but not painfully so. I feel you would be wasting some of the power to not size down half a size like I did, but you should probably still try on a pair before buying (or get a pair with a good exchange policy) if you’re not already familiar with your normal Miura size.

What has really impressed me is the HUGE improvement in performance that comes from the shape and the P3 plaform. Although my old Miuras had always been great for technical edging and smearing, the VS bring it to a whole new level. On several problems in Bishop and Joe’s Valley, the Miura VS have allowed me to put an incredible amount of power on a tiny foothold that even my well-performing women’s Katanas couldn’t handle.

The shoes also come with the relatively new Vibram XS Grip rubber, which I’ve been very pleased with, although I’ve always been happy with the rubber that La Sportiva uses. I feel like I can usually compensate for less “stickiness” with better footwork and the extended lifetime of Vibram rubber (relative to softer rubbers) is really cost-effective in the long run.

Although I haven’t done much  heel-hooking in the new shoes, they have the same awesome heelcup as the original Miuras, so I’d guess they’d be just as good for heel-hooking.

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Enjoying the great edging of the Miura VS on the technical, small crimps of Window Shopper, 5.11c, Pine Creek Canyon.

Recently, I took the shoes on their first route (Window Shopper, 5.11c, Pine Creek). They were, again, fantastic, if a bit painful still, for standing on small edges. I didn’t really feel like I could smear in them at all, but they compensated for that by allowing me to stand on micro-crystals. Now I’m even more excited to wear these on other routes, since I love the kind with technical footwork on very small holds.

Perhaps the only decrease in performance is the fact that, since the shoes are so good at retaining their down-turned shape, they will not cross quite as well into hard crack climbing and multi-pitch climbing as my older Miuras (whose shape has mellowed out a lot) have. However, I expect many more great performances on boulder problems and single-pitch climbs requiring a lot of technical footwork.

Overall, I’d say the Miura VS is a must-have addition to the climbing shoe quiver of any Miura and/or Katana lover.

– Lizzy





Sweet Gear: New Reviews Coming Soon!

20 08 2009

2009 has been full of new gear at Dream in Vertical and we will be publishing  some of the reviews that Lizzy mentioned earlier in the year.  As well we just got two of the latest and greatest shoes from La Sportiva thanks to Backbone Media and Sara over at RockClimberGirl.

I am excited to try out TC Pro which seems perfectly suited for some of the harder multipitches I plan on climbing  later in the year.

The new Sportiva TC Pro designed by Tommy Caldwell featuring Vibram XS Edge rubber.

Lizzy will be testing out the Speedster and as a stiff shoe lover will provided a chance to try out the more sensitive end of the climbing shoe range.

The super sensative Speedster with the new 3mm Vibram XS Grip 2

Also after wearing the Arc’teryx R320 for many pitches from Zion, to Smith Rock and the Sierra I feel ready for a review.

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Wearing the R320 on a sub 20 hour C2C ascent of DarkStar

Also I will be doing a 1 year review of the Black Diamond Oz, C3 and the Petzl Reverso3.

This should add a bit more info to my previous post:

Sweet Gear Generation3: The Reverso, The OZ, and C3’s

Also be sure to check out some of our other Sweet Gear reviews:

Approach Shoe Reviews by Lizzy.

A General Rope Review by Luke

La Sportiva Miura VS by Lizzy

Patagonia DAS Parka by Lizzy

Patagonia R1 Flash Pullover by Lizzy

Patagonia Plush Pants by Lizzy

Enjoy!

– Luke