The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Asolo Distance: A Hiking-specific Approach Shoe
Posted on: September 29, 2008
Weight: 2 pounds, 1 ounce
Under a flawless sky, I gyrated and thrashed my way up a well-featured 5.9 while my client patiently belayed from below. I had intended to demonstrate some basic climbing techniques when I jumped on the familiar route in my new Asolo Distance Approach Shoes.
I started the climb smoothly and was able to smear up the first few moves, but my footing quickly deteriorated as I hit the face and finger-crack finish. I had just reached a key lock and hauled myself to the anchor when I suddenly fell. Luckily, my newbie belayer caught me, and I vowed to use my old approach shoes for the rest of that day's climbs. My five-month test of the Asolo Distance Approach Shoes was off to a slow start.
The Distance is attractive and sturdy, and it worked well during my spring ski-touring season in Europe as a water-resistant street shoe. In the early months of summer, I used them for rock guiding in Leavenworth, and I tested them on a few multi-pitch climbs as well as on routes in Washington's Stuart Range, including Dragontail Peak and the upper North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.
The Distance is a board-lasted shoe and, as such, it provides more support than a traditional approach shoe. The Vibram Sebolt New Sole smears incredibly well, while the dual-density micro pore midsole provides good padding for knee-pounding approaches on rocky trails and talus. On crampon-required routes, these outperformed my other approach shoes due to their rigid nature and beefy construction. They excelled as a solid, low-cut hiking boot on trail, scree, and slab approaches.
The Distance is part of Asolo's alpine climbing line and is marketed as an approach shoe. But, in my mind, approach shoes allow me to walk on trails, scramble to the base, and climb comfortably up to 5.8 or so.
True approach shoes are hybrid in nature and should work just as well for hiking as for climbing. They need to be lightweight, compact and flexible, so they can be carried in my pack or clipped to my harness. The Distances, at 2 pounds, 1 ounce (per pair) are heavy approach shoes. And the same rigidity and padding that makes them nearly perfect hiking shoes transformed them into a heavy burden once stowed—and I stowed them often, as they were unsuitable for even modestly rated routes. The Distances felt dicey on any sort of face or crack climbing.
I would recommend the Distance as a great lightweight, durable hiking boot—not as a true approach shoe. Its performance as a hiking boot earned them a spot inside my duffle for my fall climb of Cho Oyu, where I plan to use them on the slippery monsoon-soaked trails of Nepal and then, later, on Tibet's glacial moraines. I'll keep them tucked into my pack though if I decide to do any climbing.
Pros: Good support; attractive; nice padding for knee-pounding approaches.
Cons: Heavy; too rigid; feel dicey on some technical climbs.