Ocun Crack Gloves by Lucy

Ocun Crack Gloves

Ocun Crack Gloves

I think the climbing store in Hathersage should give me commission. Most weekends that we visit the Peak District I will end up talking to at least one person about these awesome gloves and convincing them that they need a pair. They make climbing grit so much more pleasurable! 

The Ocun Crack Gloves are designed specifically to help climbing cracks and are perfect to use on gritstone and granite. The glove fits comfortably to your hand and has a thin layer of rubber over the top of your hand allowing you to have increased friction when putting your hand in cracks. They fasten with velcro around your wrist which is concealed by the rubber stopping the gloves from coming undone when cranking on hard hand jams!

The gloves have allowed me to climb much harder in the peak. I used to hate jamming because it hurt my hands and I was worried about loosing skin. These actually make jamming fun and allow you to take rests in horizontal breaks, simply shove your hand in and take a breather.

I have been using these gloves for 3 years now and have recently had to buy a new pair. The new version has had a few upgrades which include fit and how the strap secures. These have defiantly improved what was already a great glove.

When fitting these they will probably feel a little tight around the fingers for the first few wears but the fingers will stretch, the important thing is to have a comfortably snug fit across the top of your hand so you don’t slip around in the glove. 

My old pair broke because the finger loop between the thumb and fore finger wore through on my dominant hand. This was from rope coiling so I recommend taking them off when doing rope work. I managed to prolong the life of my old ones by wrapping a thin layer of tape around the finger loop when I noticed it wearing. I think for the cost of them (£25), three years of good use is not bad. Much cheaper than shoes and definitely adds the same advantage that a good pair of shoes has to your performance.

Crack Gloves in action on Gritstone cracks

Crack Gloves in action on Gritstone cracks

Rock shoes - TC Pros and Tenya Iati by Andy

Before I begin this article I would like to point out that I don't like writing reviews on any type of footwear as it is so personal and rock shoes even more so.

Bouldering at Dinas Rock in South Wales.

Bouldering at Dinas Rock in South Wales.

There are many companies out there making great rock shoes but all in very different fits, even the same manufacturer will change the fit from model to model depending on end use or even the designer who came up with it. When buying rock shoes it is imperative that you try them on as not only shape is an issue but also size. In La Sportiva rock shoes i can be anything from a 42.5 to 45.

However I have been so impressed with the latest two rock shoes that I have brought that I thought I would write a quick review as to why I think they are so great.

I have some problems with my feet, firstly they are vey long (UK 11) but they are also really thin for there length (B width) which means when I try most rock shoes on I get a lot of bagginess around the front. This means when I use the edges of the shoe the foot roles around and I cannot get a hold. On top of this I have broken both of my big toes several times and the knuckle joint has now fused so the big toe will not bend upwards which is supposed to happen in climbing shoesmeaning I have to find shoes where my big toe can remain perfectly straight.

My Tenya Iati at my local indoor wall.

My Tenya Iati at my local indoor wall.

Because of these issues I have experimented for years with different shoes and over the last couple of years I have really gotten over the whole crushing your feet into the smallest shoe possible, I fully understand that if you are climbing at the top end of the sport then you need the tightest shoes you can get into but for the average person the pain and hassle is not worth it. I currently climb in the mid 7’s and low E grades and other than bouldering I have not found anything I cannot do with a moderately comfortable shoes.

I also feel that it is important to have two pairs of shoes. I have my slightly more technical shoe, still comfy but with a slight down turn which I use for bouldering and hard sport then my all day trad shoe.

For my technical shoe I currently have the Tenya Iati. As mentioned above I have got problems with my big toes not bending from various breaks and this has meant that I have never been able to have down turned shoes and my feet will not bend to fit them. However the Lati have a very softheel tension (the big bit of rubber across the heel that pushes your foot forward) and a very soft mid sole which means despite them looking down turned when you get them out the box they will actually hold to my broken feet.

The other thing that makes these a great shoe for me is the fact that they are narrow, the only other shoe brand I find that goes narrow enough is La Sportiva but there down turns are too powerful for me. 

Bouldering with the Tenya Iati at Dinas Rock

Bouldering with the Tenya Iati at Dinas Rock

The one downside of having such a soft midsole is that the shoe does not retain its down turned structure for long and it also make the shoe very soft on small sharp edges (not great for slate climbing :)). However on overhanging terrain the slight down turn still gives the shoe a good level of hooking performance.

Overall if you are a hardcore boulder or sports climber the Tenya Iati is probably a bit soft in the mid sole and would not give you the performance of some of Tenya, La Sportiva or Scarpa’s high end models. However if you are looking for a comfy shoe out of the box where you are happy to sacrifice a little performance for big gains in comfort I would highly recommend them.

Next up is my all day trad shoe. Trying to find this is my holy grail. I want a shoe which I can still climb hard in (up to E4) but still be able to have on all day. I really enjoy big alpine style rock routes and having to kick your shoes of at ever belay stance slows you down but if trying something hard you still need the performance.

TC Pro's doing what TC Pro's do best, climbing cracks.

TC Pro's doing what TC Pro's do best, climbing cracks.

The closest I ever got to this up until now was the pink Anasazi by Five Ten (couldn’t use the velcro as my foot rolled around in it to much) however once they where broken in I found them too soft so were great for smearing but rubbish on small edges.

Then I got my hands on a pair of La Sportiva TC pro’s. These things are designed by Tommy Caldwell (Yosemite Big Walling God) and designed for exactly what I enjoy doing, big, all day granite rock routes.

They are pretty stiff under foot giving them great purchase on small edges, they don't have any down turn meaning they smear really well and don't have a really aggressive heal meaning that they can be kept on all day.

On top of all this because they are designed to be kept on all day they have a good soft lining. Due to the fact that they are also designed to be wedged in cracks they have a high cuff which covers the ankle bone. This does make them look pretty old school but does keep your ankle well protected. 

For some reason the La Sportiva distributor Lyon equipment is not bringing these into the UK at the moment which is stupid as they are such amazing shoes especially on gritstone.

Anyone looking for a multi pitch/alpine trad shoe should definitely seek these out.

TC Pro's being used on Cornish granite.

TC Pro's being used on Cornish granite.

As mentioned at the start of this article climbing shoes are a very personal thing and the fact that these two shoes fit me well does not mean they will fit you really well. Go to a shop and try on as many as you possibly can and find someone who knows how to fit them properly. Good rock shoe fitters are few and far between so seek them out. Also except that you probably won't get it right first time and it will take you a while to find that perfect pair. 

 

Arcteryx Procline Ski Boots, Initial Thoughts by Andy

So a few weeks ago I received my new Arcteryx Procline boots, a pair of boots I have wanted since I first saw them at a trade show last year and although I haven’t managed to give them a proper thrashing yet I thought I would write up my initial thoughts on them.

Arcteryx Procline Ski Boots

Arcteryx Procline Ski Boots

So firstly what makes these things so special apart from the fact that they have a bird skeleton on the side. Well the idea here is that they fuse two boots into one. If you head over to Chamonix in the spring, you see a lot of people heading up the cable cars with their ski boots on and their mountaineering boots strapped to the side of their bag. Ski approach to mountaineering objectives is becoming increasingly popular. It is quicker and require less energy so you can spend more time climbing, I also think that global warming has something to do with it as many mixed or ice lines that would stay formed in the summer no longer do meaning people have to do them in winter and spring when there is still a lot of snow on the ground.

Know as you can imagine carrying a second pair of boots with you is a pain and changing your boots at the bottom of a route is even more hassle. Know I have climbed routes in Ski boots like the Dynafit TLT6 and the Scott Cosmos however it was always low grade routes and even on these they felt cumbersome and hard work, the thought of climbing anything technical in ski boots did not appeal or even safe. Know this is not to say people don’t climb hard routes in ski touring boots but they tend to be mountain gods, not me.

So Arcteryx has picked up on a very real need here. A boot which you can ski approach in, climb to a very high technical level and then ski out again. So how have they achieved this. Well it has all about reducing volume in the boot and creating an unparalleled freedom of movement in the ankle which can then be locked tight for skiing. It is this climbing ability that really interested me as that is why I got into ski touring initially.

So quickly on general fit. Arcteryx are owned by Amer sports the same group that own Salomon and Arcteryx have openly said that Salomon did help in the production of this boot which makes sense as Salomon have years of experience making ski boots. What it has also meant is they have the same foot shape which is very narrow and low volume across the top of the foot, for me perfect, I have very narrow feet but very long size EU46 feet. But if you have got wide feet or high volume feet you are going to struggle.

Most ski touring boots only flex forwards and backwards and even then it can be minimal, on some touring boots you also have to release some of the buckles which mean your foot can become sloppy in the boot. Arcteryx have managed to create a system where the boot can be realised in to flex mode without undoing any of the buckles and gives you crazy forward and back flex and on top of that they are the first boot with side to side articulation. The side to side articulation allows you articulate your foot more naturally and thus allow you to climb more naturally. To test this I took the boots o my local climbing wall to test them out. May sound a bit weird but before big alpine trips I do train in the wall with mountaineering boots to get use to moving over moderate technical terrain without having to squeeze in to my rock shoes. In this test they performed as well as any mountaineering boot I have ever had. They allowed me to climb up to 6b with a bit of effort which is not to be unexpected. Sadly, all the ice has melted know so haven’t had a chance to test them on that medium yet but going on how they are rock climbing I would imagine it is going to be pretty good.

Skiing is the second test. Know when I brought these I except that they are not going to allow me to ski as well as in a more dedicated ski boot or drive a more aggressive ski. If I was just ski touring or plain old skiing I would still use my Dynafit Vulcans. Know I went for the stiffer carbon model and with the stiffer support lining. The boots come with two lining options, support and light, the only difference I could feel between the light lining and support was that the support had more padding around the ankle which I guess adds to the support but for me gave a little more comfort, didn’t really seem to effect the articulation of the boot. Despite the most supportive model even when you lock these things in to ski mode they still have a slight bit of flex about them in the cuff which in fairness I was suspecting due to the super lightweight and freedom of movement you get when in climbing mode. When skiing they still allowed me to put a good amount of power through the ski and make some powerful manoeuvres although it did require a bit more effort than in other similar weight boots like the TLT6 or Cosmos. They also do not force you forward as much as other boots giving you a slightly more up right stance, Again I can see why they have done this from a climbing side of things but it does mean you have to lean forward a little more as you go into your turns. Another point is that these boots can only be used with Pin binding (tech binding) and while they do have a front and back lip this will only hold a crampon, not clip in to a ski binding, whilst this doesn’t bother me as I use pin bindings on all my skis it is not that obvious from internet pictures and Arcteryx don’t mention it on their website. Proof that you really should go to specialist retailers in person if you can.

Overall I think this boots should be seen not as a ski boot that allows you to climb rather a mountaineering boots which allows you to ski. If I was purely skiing or touring, then I would still go for a more traditional boot but for ski approach climbing nothing comes close.

I will do another review next year when I have given them a good thrashing and can go into more detail on durability and long term usability.

Patagonia Nano Air Light Collection by Lucy

The Nano Air Light Pants and Hoody form part of the hotly anticipated and sought after Patagonia High Alpine kit. This is a specialist collection designed to be used in the high mountains. It has been designed by Patagonia’s top designers with advice from their sponsored alpine climbers who include the alpine stars Matt Heliker, Zoe Hart and Jon Bracey.

I got the Nano Air Light set in June soon after their release. I love my Nano Air Jacker which has been worn continuously since I got it, so I had high hopes for it’s super technical little brothers.

So nice and breathable that you don't get hot a sweaty on long approaches. 

So nice and breathable that you don't get hot a sweaty on long approaches. 

Nano Air Light Pants

To be honest when I first got my hands on these I thought, these are going to be great for camping pyjamas, but surely too hot for actually climbing or skiing in. 

I was right, they are fantastic pyjamas. But also amazing base layers. I tested these properly for the first time on a recent ski trip to Courmayeur and Chamonix. They are made of a lovely lightweight material which is super stretchy and really soft against your skin. I wore these bare against my legs with my Patagonia Super Alpine salopettes over the top. They have a stretchy waistband with a pull cord to tighten them if you need. The ankle cuffs are made of a strip of thin stretchy material. Although these are full length and not boot top I found they fitted really nicely inside my boots with no discomfort but if required, because of the stretch cuff could be pulled up your calf to accommodate ski boots. 

For winter skiing these were the perfect warmth. We had temperatures of between -15 degrees celsius (windchill) and 10 degrees celsius. These were warm enough when they needed to be but super breathable when I got warm, especially if I unzipped my salopettes to let some air in.

The only odd thing I find about them is the Bombay fly which runs front to back. I can never imagine I would use this as with knickers underneath and salopettes on top you would have to have a super skill to be able to use it! However, it is a really thin zip and well concealed within the trousers so you actually would not realise it was there if you chose not to use it. 

Although not tested my self I’ve been told that these trousers are great for alpine routes with a big walk. On the walk in when you get hot and sweaty wear them on their own and carry your waterproof/soft shell trousers and then put the waterproof/ soft shells over the top for climbing. 

Nano Air Light Hoody

Made of the same lovely material as the Nano Air Light pants this hoody is a winner! It is lighter and not as warm as the Nano Air jacket but much warmer than a fleece. My temperature fluctuates a lot through the day depending on the intensity of skiing, wind and sunshine. I therefore like to wear lots of layers which I can take off or put on during the day. When testing this hoody I wore either a wicking t-shirt(for touring) or a thermal base layer (for lift served skiing) underneath and then my Super Alpine Jacket on top. I also had a Nano Puff vest which I took on or off depending on the conditions. 

The Nano Air Light Hoody is super breathable. When touring I took off my water proof and just wore the hoody with a t-shirt below. The wind resistance and breathability helped keep me cool enough on the up hill slogs but it was warm enough that I didn’t need to put on a wind proof for the decent. Maybe in colder conditions it would be good to have a lightweight windproof over the top but for spring touring just the hoody was perfect. 

The Nano Air Light Hoody has a comfortably snug fitting hood which can be worn beneath a climbing helmet. The hood zips up high allowing you to cover up your neck and chin when its cold and windy but it also zips down to the belly button allowing you to dump heat when you need to and get a bit of air movement. This is really useful when transitioning between working hard (touring uphill or climbing) and easier work (skiing downhill or belaying).

The sleeves of the Nano Air hoody are long with a soft stretchy wrist cuff. This can be tucked into gloves creating a comfortable seal. 

The hoody has just one pocket on the chest for storing lift pass, lip balm or phone. This simple design keeps it light weight which is its purpose. The hoody will pack down pretty small so can be shoved into your bag if you ever decide to take it off (unlikely!). 

Overall I give the Nano Air Light set a 5/5 as both a technical climbing piece and an expensive pair of pyjamas!! The Patagonia High Alpine collection is available from selected retailers in the UK (including Up and Under, Cardiff) and online at patagonia.com.

Because it has a good level of wind resistance on the nice days the Nano Air Light can be used on its own

Because it has a good level of wind resistance on the nice days the Nano Air Light can be used on its own

Current Thoughts On B3 Boots by Andy

So this is more gear advice than a gear review but I got an email the other day from a friend about what B3 boots he should get. I am always very nervous about reviewing or giving and opinion boots as fit is so critical but though I would put my response up,

         Old School but looks Cool

         Old School but looks Cool

Email from my mate Dave:

Hey Andy,

Thought I'd pick your brains about boots. Been to Up and Under to try some on. Tried Salewa Vultur Vertical but they weren't quite right (slight pressure on the heal). Based on the fact that I might not get a perfect fit they may be ok, but I want to try some more boots on first. So they have ordered in a couple a couple of pairs of Scarpas for me (I think the ones you suggested when we were in Cham, one has the built in gator anyway).

I was just wondering if you had any other suggestions for (slightly) wide fitting boots that Up and Under may not stock?

Cheers

Dave  

Response from me:

Hi Dave

So Boots. I assume that you are looking at B3’s. All the boots I have include are once that Up and Under can get hold of as well.

So my personal opinion is that the best three mountaineering boots on the market at the moment are the La Sportiva Batura 2.0,  Scarpa Phantom Tech and the Arctyerx Acrux AR.

http://www.lasportiva.com/en/batura-20-gtx

http://www.scarpa.co.uk/mountain/phantom-tech/

http://www.arcteryx.com/product.aspx?country=ca&language=en&gender=Mens&category=Footwear&subcat=Boots&model=Acrux-AR-Mountaineering-Boot

So all these boots are equally as good as one other, only difference is fit. Generally, Acrteryx are the narrowest, La Sportiva in the middle (although these do seem to fit a lot of foot shapes and they did seem to occasionally fit people with wide feet) and Scarpa the widest.

There are other super gaiter boots by Zamberlan, Boreal and Millet but there are a generation behind the top 3 aka they are a bit heavier and not as warm.

http://www.millet-mountain.com/community/news/view/key/millet-davai-mountain-boots-received-the-desnivel-gear-award-mountain-and-outdoor.html

http://zamberlanusa.com/catalog/index.php?lang=en&pg=prod&idprod=247&idcat=1

http://borealoutdoor.com/en/products/details/stetind

Know the only problem with these super gaiter boots is that they are super warm which for Scotland and alpine winter is not a major problem but for summer alpine it is. Both me a Lucys feet cooked in ours in the summer. So the other option is a traditional Leather boots such as the Salewa Vulcan, La Sportiva Nepal Cubes (These are awesome, super light yet tough and pretty warm), Scarpa Mont Blancs, Boreal Kangri and Zamberlan Pamir. These are great all-round boots but are heavy compared to the super gater boots for the warmth you get. However, they will last you for ever and they have gotten lighter in the last few years especially the La Sportiva Nepal Cubes with a carbon footplate.

http://www.salewa.co.uk/en/vultur-vertical-gtx-men.html

http://www.lasportiva.com/en/nepal-cube-gtx

http://www.scarpa.co.uk/mountain/mont-blanc-pro-gtx/

http://borealoutdoor.com/en/products/details/kangri

http://zamberlanusa.com/catalog/index.php?lang=en&pg=prod&idprod=246&idcat=1

The Final option is the latest generation of synthetic B3 boots. These are super light, brilliant for climbing in and are super comfy for walking in. Will be the comfiest in this list. These things are designed for pushing the limits of mixed climbing and be as close to a rock shoe as you can get. Only downside is in order to get the flexibility they have the least amount of insulation however they are still more insulated than B2 boots I see people walking around Scotland in. The only real two in this category are the Scarpa Rebel Ice and the La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube.

http://www.scarpa.co.uk/mountain/rebel-ultra-gtx/

http://www.lasportiva.com/en/trango-ice-cube-gtx

I hope this helps and give me a ring if you need any more help.

Andy