Friday, April 29, 2011

Shoe Reviews

Over the past few months I've had the privilege of purchasing new approach shoes and rock climbing shoes. After several miles of hiking and many vertical feet here are my 'professional' review of the shoe performance.

La Sportiva Solution
These are a very specialized high performance rock climbing shoe. They have an aggressively down-turned toe that is very precise. These shoes feature a permanent plastic piece under the toebox to ensure that the shoe remains down-turned through out its life and any resoles. The slingshot rand is aggressive and pushes the foot forward to leverage the powerful toe. These shoes are fantastic with pockets and edging on the steep surfaces. They performed very well in the Red River Gorge and Red Rock. I was able to stick the pointy toe into tiny pockets on Prometheus Unbound and stand on it with confidence. They have been great for bouldering on the steeper rocks. The trend here is that the Solutions are brilliant on steep rock, but are less than desirable for slabs and smearing. I did not like them for Mt. Lemmon in Arizona. I have had a love/hate relationship with these. After a conversation with a fellow Solution wearer, I think part of my issue is that I did not size them small enough. Currently, I have a 36.5 and I need to downsize to 35.5 or 36 for optimal performance. Below is a photo of my Solutions in action at the Druid Stones.

La Sportiva Muira (women's):
My unhappiness with the Solution led me to purchase a more versatile shoe when we arrived in Bishop. I wanted a more versatile shoe that was good on the vertical edges and smears of the Owen's River Gorge. I settled on the women's Muira. The Muira has been a long-standing all around performance shoe for many years. I was immediately happy with the shoes and felt comfortable and confident my first outing. They remind me a lot of my formerly favorite rock climbing shoe, the Boreal Stingers (these are no longer made). The Muira's edge well and I have confidence when smearing on the polish in Owen's. The break in period didn't last long and I was able to cinch them down tight after only a few days climbing. I purchased a size 35.5 and believe it is a perfect downsizing.

La Sportiva Boulder (women's):
Alright, the above link is to the men's version because La Sportiva doesn't have the women's listed on their website. After many years my Keen approach shoes had lost most of their cushion and support. I think I tried on every shoe that REI in Las Vegas had on their shelf in my size. I finally landed with the La Sportiva Boulder approach shoe. This shoe is fairly stiff, yet it offers nice cushion and support for long approaches with a heavy pack. They provide an excellent walking platform when trudging along a sand wash or loose through loose gravel. My feet don't hurt after a long approach or return. I've been happy with the sticky rubber when scrambling down across boulders into the Owen's River Gorge. They have taken some time to break in, but they are starting to get there. I do wish that they had a wider toe box for my funny feet. Other than that, I've been pleased with these shoes. Below is a photo of the shoes in action.

Blustery Day Soup

It is a typical high wind spring day in the Eastern Sierra. I'm inspired by comfort food and soup today. Below is a recipe that I made earlier this week. It is a bit from a real recipe as well as a bit of 'whats in the pantry' soup. It is easy to make, easy on the budget and fairly quick. It is also vegan and gluten free! Serve this stew-like concoction in a big bowl with bread or homemade gluten free biscuits.

Garbanzo bean, potato and spinach soup (more of a stew really)
Serves 2

1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/4 onion diced
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans (or great northern, navy or cannelini) drained and rinsed with skins removed
2 small potatoes (fit in the palm of your hand small) or 1 mediumish
3 Tbs of quinoa or brown rice
large handful of baby spinach (kale or mustard greens will also work)
Bragg's amino acids
large pinch of mustard powder
olive oil

1) dice the onion
2) heat soup pot over medium heat. add a splash or so of olive oil. add onion and a pinch of salt. saute until the edges of the onion start to turn brown.
3) while the onion is cooking, scrub the potatoes and dice into 1/2 inch cubes
3) when the onions are ready add the potato cubes and stir to coat
4) add the veg broth and water. if you have some tomato juice floating around in the refrigerator, substitute some of the water for this.
5) add a good 2 second squirt of Bragg's and the large pinch of mustard powder. add black pepper and salt to taste. vegetarian worchestershire sauce also makes a good addition.
6) bring to a boil and add the rice or quinoa; cover and reduce heat to cook until the potatoes are mostly done.
7) while the soup is cooking drain the garbanzo beans and rinse. remove the skins by lightly pinching each bean. this is a bit tedious, but worth it since the skins are not digestible. you all know what happens then. :)
8) add the garbanzo beans
9) when the potato is done, add the spinach. let cook for a few minutes. if you choose to use kale or other hearty green, add earlier so that it cooks enough to rid it of the toughness. be sure to chop the kale into small bits.
10) adjust the seasonings and serve


Monday, April 18, 2011

Friends Places and Boulders

Joe "My shoulder hurts when I Crank"

Knee-bar practice for Amy's trip to Greece!

James has a one track mind

Not so dead, Death Valley NP

Even steeper in real life...9% down and narrow


My pad people

CRANK!  V7 will it go in the Happy's?

He just free soloed 5.82b X and is taunting me to repeat

My most common bouldering position, but check the SWEET chalk bag!

V1 with confidence.  BAM!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

Ah Vegas. Land of flashy lights, over indulgence and awesome mountain biking. Yep, the Las Vegas area offers some excellent mountain biking. Twice we rode the trails that start in Blue Diamond (previous post). As with prior visits, we started at the Blue Diamond Bike Outpost. These trails are fun and excellent riding with good climbs, swooping descents and zig-zags through rocky washes. Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park in Boulder City has a little for everyone. From bomber black diamond downhill runs to zippy, technical cross country trails. I only rode one day here, but Tony rode the trails three times. By riding without me he can push his limits and not worry about me taking the correct trail.

Of course, we can't forget why we went to Vegas. Rock climbing! We sampled only a portion of the thousands of rock climbing routes in the area. Of course we visited some old favorites; Sweet Pain, Sunny and Steep, The Gallery and The Trophy. A highlight of our time was visiting four new to us walls in Red Rock. The first was Cannabis Crag . It is located in Calico Basin downstream from Sunny and Steep. The climbing here is a cross between Sunny and Steep and The Gallery. The second new wall was Sonic Youth. It is a shady wall that kept us away during our prior cold December visits. This wall is located at Sandstone Quarry. The third new wall at Red Rock we visited was Cannibal Boulder. This is also located in Calico basin and offers a mix of slightly slabby to steep and powerful routes. The last new wall we visited isn't even in our 15 year old guide book! The Pier is shady and accessed from Sandstone Quarry. There is a good selection of powerful 5.11 and 5.12 routes.

We also spent a day at Mt. Potosi. The approach hike is not to be trifled with and neither is the powerful limestone climbing. The routes in the main cave are short and powerful, definitely not a style at which either of us excel. The views are spectacular and the solitude very enjoyable. We would like to return when feeling a bit stronger.

The mountain biking and climbing was excellent. The time spent climbing with new and old friends was very enjoyable. Thanks Amy, Joe, Chris, Brian, Alex, Jeremy, Dave, Mike, James, Aaron, Lewis, Heather, Tristan, Alan, Julie, Will and many more for the excellent company. We saw a good progression in our fitness over our stay and feel pretty good about our climbing given the time off during December. We are now looking forward to changing up the program with some bouldering.