Rock Climbing Equipment

Navraj Singh

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Mar 10, 2010
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Hey guys,

Just needed some advise if there are any climbers in the forum.
I have recently started rock climbing and am enjoying it. I was thinking of getting a pair of rock shoes. As i am a begginer I was wondering what sort of shoe to go for and if there are any preffered brands?

Cheers
 

Andy Harvey

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Mar 6, 2010
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Hi.

Used to be a mad keen climber but things have moved on some since I last climbed.

In rock shoes I would say the important thing is what is your favoured rock type. It will depend on what you like to climb on as to how sticky you want the bottom and how hard you want the edge. If you like sharp edge small holds you want quite a stiff edge, if you like friction stuff like we have in the Peak District (Gritstone) you want a softer compound rubber on the bottom and a softer edge which allows the shoe to deform over little ripples and stick. It's a bit like the difference between soft and hard compound tyres.

Good makes that have been around a long time and have good reputations - Scarpa, Boreal, I used to have a pair of Berghaus technical climbing boots (a bit like baseball boots) which because they were boots also gave a bit more ankle support for standing on holds for a long time - not so good when using pure friction as it limits ankle flex but good on small holds.
 

vrecha

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Apr 16, 2010
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As Andy said, I would only add that as a beginner, don't fall into a trap of using too tight shoes. They should be tight fit but you should be able to wear them for ten minutes and more without falling unconscious because of the pain in the toes. Keep in mind also that because of tight fit and different shapes of our feet there's no definite answer of what is the best. Also, there are different types of rock and different types of climbing. Shoes for all-day mountain climbs should be much more comfortable than the ones used for sport climbing. Try a lot of different models before buying. Also keep in mind that natural leather shoes tend to stretch a bit with use while those made of synthetic fibers do not. At least not nearly as much as the natural leather ones.

I prefer 5.10 Anasazi Velcro as an all-rounders, but here we climb only limestone, so I don't know what is good for your type of rocks. Ask the locals.

Also at the beginning don't put too much attention on the shoes. It's much more valuable that you develop your climbing technique, here is where most of our "reserves" lie.
 

Andy Harvey

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Just to expand on that one, yes agree that maybe now is not the time to buy specific rock climbing shoes - I never bought a pair until I had been climbing for about 5 years and was on to high 5s and low 6s technical difficulty. I used to use black bottom plimsoles on technical "sticky" climbs and normal walking boots with vibram soles on climbs which required standing on small holds. Certainly helped me to build a good technique that helped immensely later. I also use to use plimsoles on climbing walls to train on. Amazing that even plimsoles can get you a decent grip on the pointing lines between bricks.

For proper mountain climbing I liked Leather boots as long term they were far more robust than some of the synthetic fibres (although I had a pair of plastic boots for ice climbing). However as Vrecha says, they do stretch so buy them a little snug to start off with and then cover them in Mars Oil if you can get it - helps the stretching to the point where it settles down.

For Rock shoes get synthetic or canvas material ones, they are a lot lighter than anything else and light is what you want.

Do you get any Sandstone out in Kenya - I think that maybe you do. If so, the best climbing shoe in the world at the begineer and intermediate stage will make next to no difference. Sandstone is naturally not very sticky unless it is very well worn smooth as it tends to disintegrate as you tread on it and turn to sand which is like climbing on small marbles. I always found that sandstone climbing (I used to love doing andstone climbs down in kent) was very much about good placement, good technique and thinking before you moved - also because of the texture and makeup of the climbs - where trousers not shorts - you may do quite a bit of Knee jamming which can hurt quite a lot on sandstone.

Good luck - it's a great sport, I would still be doing it if I was fit enough - I'm more of the "Man Mountain" now than a Mountain climber.
 
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Navraj Singh

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Mar 10, 2010
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Andy Harvey said:
Hi.

Used to be a mad keen climber but things have moved on some since I last climbed.

In rock shoes I would say the important thing is what is your favoured rock type. It will depend on what you like to climb on as to how sticky you want the bottom and how hard you want the edge. If you like sharp edge small holds you want quite a stiff edge, if you like friction stuff like we have in the Peak District (Gritstone) you want a softer compound rubber on the bottom and a softer edge which allows the shoe to deform over little ripples and stick. It's a bit like the difference between soft and hard compound tyres.

Good makes that have been around a long time and have good reputations - Scarpa, Boreal, I used to have a pair of Berghaus technical climbing boots (a bit like baseball boots) which because they were boots also gave a bit more ankle support for standing on holds for a long time - not so good when using pure friction as it limits ankle flex but good on small holds.

Hey Andy,

I would say so fa I have not really done pure friction climbs but rather crack climbing and rocks with small side foot grips and little nooks, pigion holes and stuff like that.
We did attempt a rock face that would have been a friction climb but i got nowhere on it :lol:

Another problem that I am having is with my toes. The shoes that I was wearing belonged to a friend and my toes were very very uncomfortable to the point that it is now swollen and i can barely put any weight on it. Is this a normal thing or....
 

Navraj Singh

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Andrew Prince said:
I believe Navraj is in the UK now, not Kenya any longer.

Well actually at the moment I am in kenya, but thats only for another 3 days n then its back to the UK for at least a yr.
I have been clinbing here in kenya with a group of friends but I am a big guy with fairly big feet, a UK 10.5 but the largest size shoe that was available was a 9 or 8.5.
I would definately like to climb in the UK.
The guys I climb with advised me to get a pair of shoes as all other equipment is available.
 

Navraj Singh

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the rock we are climbing and fould in most climbing sites is volcanic gneiss rock
 

Andy Harvey

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Mar 6, 2010
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Ah, nice and sticky rock then.

I would say on the comfort side definately shouldn't be like that, you need to get shoes that are Tight (ish) but not so tight as they are uncomfortable. Not all rock shoes come in nice wide fittings to allow space for your toes - I have the same problem, one of the reasons that when I was climbing I went for the Berghaus rather than the more common Troll boots at the time (we are talking mid 80s here - back in the days of Ron Fawcett and really loud climbing trousers). I think you will be best served going to one of the Rock climbing shops if you can find one near you when you are back in the UK and trying some on if you want to get them. Last thing you want is to be so cramped up in them that it affects your climbing - cramp while climbing ain't fun. You will also find that performance climbing shoes tend to be downturned at teh toe which makes them better at standing on small holds but also a damn site more uncomfortable. Depending on the climbis you go for in the UK - short technicalor strength climbs like in Yorkshire on Limestone or the Peaks on Gritstone or on Sandstone (or maybe the south coast cliffs - Limestone) you can compe maybe with more technical but less comfortable shoes. If you are going for some of the multi pitch 300-500ft plus climbs you obviously need more comfort.

Personally I would join a club - there are loads in the UK, gets some advice from fellow climbers here, visit a shop and try some on, however there are two things I would buy before specialist shoes.

1. a good harness - personally I would never borrow one as you don't know what has happened to it.
2. A decent helmet - I never used to use one but the trend now seems to be more for use than not - again if you are giong to wear one you need to make sure that you know what it's history is - if you are going to rely on it to save your head from stonefall, you better know that it is reliable.

Last thing - buy yourself at least one screwgate snaplink, again use that for connecting the rope to your harness - again you want to know it's history.

It's a shame, I finally gave away a whole load of climbing gear last year as I finally realised I wasn't going to do it again. Loads of belay devices, about 50 chocks for cracks in various sizes, some of the expandabler ratchet protection devices, loads of brand new slings and two brand new 300ft 9mm ropes - OK they were new in 1986 but they have always been stored correctly and never come out of the bags.

So bottom line, don't buy the shoes unless they are comfortable, you can use normal walking boots on Welsh Granite and Slate to start off with - especially on the easier climbs. Use tennis shoes on Sandstone until you feel they have outlived their usefullness and then finally when you are really gong to benefit, get some climbing shoes suitable for teh sort of climbing you like most.

Remember, back in the 50s, Joe Brown, Don Whillans and the like put up some increadibly hard routes which are still rated even today and they did it in hobnailed boots and plimsoles. Technique and guts was everything, equipment was to be honest pretty poor.

If you like crack climbing, go up to Burbage Edge South in the Peaks and have a go at Goliath - put up by Don Whillans in the 50s and still an amazing climb - if short. Really tests your strength and gets you into the Gritstone way of things - and takes the skin off you arms, knees and thighs as well :lol:
 

Andy Harvey

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Just in case you are in any doubt that The Peak District and hard gritstone were my favourite form of climbing (or torture) one day also head to Higgar Tor and climb the File VS 4c (Will test you out on finger and hand jamming) and the Rasp E2 (irrelevant if top roped) 5b which will test just about every part of you and your strength and endurance on every turn - second half is an absolute torture chamber of unrelenting pain but worth it to have climbed probably one of the greatest routes of any grade on Gritstone. Also badly bruised my heel jumping off the top block on Higgar Tor and had to walk back to the car in agony.

Sorry gone far too far now especially as you only asked about climbing shoes but it was nice to remember some great times.

Oh and head down to Froggat and to Stanage and to Millstone, and to be honest any of the crags in the peaks. On a nice sunny day, it can't be beat. Could even take the cruiser for a drive along the greenlane at Stanage.
 

Navraj Singh

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Cheers Andy,

Regarding the helmet, my group already has a couple of Petzl ones. Saved my head a couple of times already :roll:

The harness is the other piece of equipment that I was gona buy.
I will go to the indoor climbing wall in Milton Keynes and see the shoes that are available there as well as the harnesses. Although before I buy I will post my choices online and hopefully get an opinion from you.
 
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