Thursday, April 4, 2013



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

La Sportiva TC Pro

Well the La Sportiva TC Pro’s have a lot of hype to live up to. They are a top shelf Italian made shoe designed by one of climbing’s premier golden boys, Tommy Caldwell. They are touted as being exceptional on long, varied trad lines... and they are! Even with the hefty price tag attached to these high end performers they are gathering a devout following.

I’ve been fortunate to test these out in a variety of settings- techy 180’ trad pitches in Devil’s Tower, remote Wyoming granite, dolomite pocket pulling in Sinks Canyon, slamming them into splitters at the Creek and many places around Boulder. For me, I was pulling them out as a substitute for my La Sportiva Miuras. This took some getting used to since there is more rubber underfoot than the Miuras and other similar shoes. Once I came to know the different dimensions of the TC Pros, I came to love them. I also found I was a 1/2 size smaller in these than in my Miuras.

Though they are designed for Tommy to slay his latest sketch-fest on El Cap, I found myself loving them the most on Tommy’s humble original stomping ground- Lumpy Ridge. On any giving granite multi-pitch there, you are likely to find endless granite flares, where your mid-top covered ankles are thanking you, followed by technical slab climbing, where you’re toes are giving praise to the precise cut of the rubber, and at the top out your whole foot is happy for the rigid support they’ve had received all day. On these balmy summer days I have also been loving the breathable mesh upper and the many ventilation holes on the side.

Although they’re a hefty $170 to cough up on the front end, the solid and rugged design makes their longevity part of this quality investment. You’ll still be into them when you’re just taking them to the re-soler two years from now, not to the trash can. I give these shoes a big ol’ two thumbs up. Like Tommy himself these are a stunning synthesis of old school meets new school.

Rainbow Weinstock
AMGA Certified Guide
CMS Guide
Check 'em out:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Black Diamond's Speed Pack 30L

Black Diamond’s Speed Pack 30L was the perfect pack for my AMGA Alpine Guide Course, which included one-day “fast and light” ascents of alpine rock/snow in the Rocky Mountain National Park this Spring. The Speed Pack’s integrated hydration system was key and enabled me to stay hydrated while constantly on the move. Although I’ll admit that I did not quite “on-sight” how to attach ice tools on the pack initially, the Speed Pack’s IceLink tool attachments system is quite clever. Once you “red-point” the system for attaching the tools, they come on and off easily and eliminate slippage of tools from the pack. If 2 lb 11 oz (Size S) is not light enough, you can also strip the Speed Pack’s padded hip belt, aluminum frame & frame sheet and top lid to make it an ultra-light summit pack.

The pack’s SwingArm suspension shoulder straps took a little bit to get used to – in a good way. The Speed Pack’s back support system moves with you, whether swinging a tool, scrambling, or technical rock climbing, the pack suspension adjusts to your movements. I’ve never had such a reactive and un-cumbersome pack! Although many packs claim to have an active suspension system, the Speed Pack actually does something and you notice it right away! If you do not like the suspension system on your first date with the pack, I suggest giving anther try – you will grow to like it!

I have been using the pack since June. Now in July, we still have tons of snow left in the RMNP and the Speed Pack has been with me on every alpine ascent! Thanks Black Diamond for a comfortable and light alpine pack!

Norie Kizaki
AMGA Certified
CMS Guide

Check out their gear and packs at Black Diamond's web site:

La Sportiva's TC Pros

My pair of La Sportiva TC Pros are just getting “broken in”, just beginning to mold to my feet. Initially they felt a little boxy to me, kind of big and stiff compared to the shoes I had been wearing. Soon however, I became a believer.

Even during the break-in period I have used them to onsight 5.11d thin granite face/edge climbing, guide sandstone classics up to seven pitches long and smear confidently on gneiss sport climbs. I also wore them on steep basalt during a recent road trip. Heck, I even bouldered with them in the gym!

In every situation they have performed flawlessly, fostering confidence and good footwork. No surprise that they edge like demons, what did surprise me was how well they smeared, which is extremely well. Though they are not the most sensitive shoes I have worn, I never question them; they stick.

I only expect greater things now that I have entered the comfort zone with them. I can’t wait for the alpine rock season to begin in earnest in Rocky Mountain National Park, as the TC Pros are going to be awesome on the Diamond and everything else up there. I’m also psyched to have these as my go to shoes later this summer in Squamish.

The shoes are still like new, rubber and all, and as mentioned my feet are just now feeling like the TC Pros and they have a real relationship.

I think it is going to be a long and beautiful one.

Mark Hammond

Head Guide, Colorado Mountain School

Check them out at:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

La Sportiva's Katana

A well balanced combination of comfort and technical ability meets your foot with La Sportiva's Katana. There is a man's and a woman's version of this shoe. The woman's is lower volume for those with smaller feet. Mike Soucy is a fan:

"Ever since their inception, the Katana Velcros have been my go-to kicks for any and all high performance climbing. They edge and smear well, have a reasonably chiseled toe for thin cracks, and can be worn comfortably on multi-pitch routes. My Morton’s toe (second is longer than the big) makes Miuras feel like mid-evil torture on my feet. Katanas, with a flatter last and a more forgiving toe box, strike the perfect balance between comfort and performance. Over the past three or four pair that I’ve owned, my Katanas have climbed in Eldo, at Lumpy Ridge, on the Diamond, Boulder Canyon, South Platte, Rifle, the BRC, and just about anywhere else in the spectrum of climbing. They can be sized for a totally flat fit or a slightly curled performance fit. Recently, I’ve even heard of folks sizing them up to wear with socks as a high-end alpine rock shoe. If you’re looking for a new performance shoe for the summer, sport or trad, give these a try. They’re a great alternative to the aggressive fit of the Miura and will have you reaching for them for many different climbing pursuits."

Mike Soucy
AMGA Certified Rock Guide
Colorado Mountain School

Also, here is a link to La Sportiva's website:

La Sportiva's Ganda Guide

Want something that does it all? Look no further, the Ganda Guide has turned out to be packed with ability. From long approaches to technical fith class climbs; the Ganda Guide is for those who want to be efficent and keep one pair of shoes on thier feet all day long. Check out what our guide Eric Whewell has to say about them:

"I have had numerous pairs of La Sportiva approach shoes. The Ganda Guide, is by far the most technical. This shoe is similar to the Ganda, but in a high top version and comes with a roomier toe box for long approaches. So far, the shoe has great support when carrying a heavy pack on fourth and easy fifth class terrain. It features a full length lace system right down to the toes for micro adjustments in tightness. The shoes utilize Vibram Idro-Grip for ultra stickiness with a slip lasted forefoot and board lasted heel.

For how beefy the shoe is, it basically climbs like a rock shoe. I have been able to lead up to 5.9 and follow 5.10 in these shoes. They climb great and are comfortable enough for long approaches. I suspect that these will hold up to seasons of guiding abuse and see many resoles!"

Eric Whewell
AMGA Certified Rock Guide
Colorado Mountain School

Check out La Sportiva's Website for more information

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

La Sportiva Trango Evo Boots

   I love my new Trango S Evo GTX boots! I just used them for a work assignment, guiding the Keyhole on Longs Peak. The Trango Evos are the perfect boot for this type of climb in spring. The boots were comfortable from start to finish, worked well on the dry trail at the start and worked even better when I got to the snow shortly thereafter. The strong and durable lug sole assisted me with kicking perfect steps for my clients, and with the sticky sole I was confident of being surefooted when rock climbing and boulder hopping. The transition to crampons higher on the route was quick and easy with the crampon compatibility (TPU crampon reinforcement), and the boots worked almost as well as an ice climbing boot for climbing snow and ice. Oh yeah, it's as light as a tennis shoe and my feet felt great after the sixteen mile round trip - this boot does it all if it's not too cold!
Have fun and be safe out there.

Steve Johnson
Colorado Mountain School Senior Mountain Guide
AMGA Rock and Alpine Guide Certified

Friday, May 13, 2011

Revo Abyss Sunglasses

I have been wearing the Revo Abyss sunglasses throughout the last weeks’ fantastically diverse spring season -- rock climbing and trail running in the Front Range, and alpine ice climbing and backcountry skiing in the high mountains.  We Coloradans are truly lucky to get the best of both worlds right now!  When CMS asked me to test the Revo Abyss sunglasses, I was a little skeptical.  I thought, “They won’t fit on my tiny Asian nose!”  Impressively, though, the Revo Abyss have been my “go to” sunglasses everyday during the last 3 weeks, across all these varied activities.  And, maybe more importantly, I may have finally discovered active and functional sunglasses that aren’t just for boys – and that fit my Asian nose!***  Hooray!

The Revo Abyss sunglasses have curved lenses that nicely wrap around your eyes and face, shielding reflection and sun from the sides. The Abyss work exceptionally well on snow and rock as their Polarcast Polarization Technology eliminates glare.  While climbing steep snow and alpine ice, I noticed that the Abyss had great downward vision and allowed me to focus on my footing as I climbed.

Most importantly, the view of the world through Abyss has been stunning.  I have seen beautiful snow filled mountains and ridges in Rocky Mountain National Park, red and yellow color rock in Eldorado Canyon, and beautiful snowflakes that land on my jacket.  I can see them all sharply and clearly!

Bottom line: The Revo Abyss are great shades for getting out and getting after it in the mountains.  And did I mention they fit an Asian nose?  Thanks Revo!!!

***Please note that you do not need an Asian nose to wear these glasses.  I am sure it fits you fine.

For more information about Revo's sunglasses please check out their website:

Norie Kizaki
CMS Guide
AMGA Certified Rock Instructor

Monday, April 4, 2011

La Sportiva Python

La Sportiva’s climbing slipper product line and subsequent product life-cycle have been interesting. The Viper and Venom, both solid offerings, are no longer available.  The Cobra after being discontinued in the States was reintroduced a couple years ago.  Just last year, the Speedster was debuted; however, the shoe remains somewhat unpopular, as it is extremely soft, has no midsole, and occupies a narrow niche. 

La Sportiva’s new high-performance slipper for 2011, the Python, is an upgrade of the venerable Cobra (an eleven-year-old classic). The feel, fit, and construction of the two shoes are radically different.  The Python, like the Cobra, is unlined and still has the PD 75 asymmetric shape.  However, the changes to the Python include a cross band construction under the sole (P3), which keeps the shoe in a permanently down-turned shape; an external heel cup; extra rubber on the forefoot area; stiffer leather in the toe box, and a single Velcro strap at the top of the shoe.  Targeted at the modern competition climber, this high performance slipper will excel at steep sport climbs and bouldering as well.  The extra toe rubber aids in technical toe hooks and bicycle moves, while the external heel cup and tension strap improve heel hooking.  The Python even keeps the unique orange color of the Cobra.  

Is the upgrade a better performer?  After several weeks of testing including hard bouldering and sport climbing on plastic, granite and sandstone, I can say the Python is different, but not better than the Cobra in terms of performance. The Python’s stiffer leather in the toe box does not adapt to the foot like the custom molded fit of the Cobra, which may be the ultimate feature of a slipper.  Having the Python’s extra toe rubber is nice for certain moves though (deep toe hooks).  The Python’s extra rubber on the heel is better for technical heel hooks, but lacks the sensitivity of the Cobra’s softer heel.  The downturn of the Python due to the P3 construction holds the shape of the shoe better; however, when sized properly, the Cobra is down-turned after the shoe is pulled onto your foot. It just won’t stay in the down-turned position when sitting on the shelf.  The Cobra is a much more sensitive and precise shoe, while the Python feels more “constructed” like the Solution, with slightly better edging capabilities due to the stiffer toe box. Both shoes have the same .8 mm midsole.

I was surprised that the two shoes although seemingly related, climb quite differently.  The Python actually climbs more like a Solution than the Cobra. Both are performers.  Are the Python’s upgraded features a performance boost over the simple, clean one-piece leather design of the Cobra?  For modern competition climbing on plastic, replete with scumming and other trickery – I would give the Python the edge. For steep outside sport climbing on rock, the power and precision of the Cobra cannot be beat.  I think it is wise that La Sportiva markets the Python as a plastic shoe and keeps the Cobra in the product line, as both are performance tools occupying different niches.  

Dan Levison
Boulder Rock Club
ACE-CPT Personal Trainer