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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Scarpa Spectro: Sticks to Steep
Posted on: July 31, 2008
I've found generally that what bouldering lacks in height, it makes up for in difficulty. Big-Nosed Millie (V9) at Hueco Tanks—a short, powerful, pocketed roof problem—is a classic example: a dirt-burgling lowball that will cramp your abdominals and snap your tendons. Although the aesthetics of this climb are far from world class, it was a perfect venue to test the aggressively downturned Scarpa Spectro climbing shoes.
This wasn't the first time I'd been frustrated with Millie. Every move always had seemed doable, but the roof was so steep—and the feet so terrible—that I'd never been able to link the crux. My friend had solved the problem by taking off his shoe and stuffing his big toe into a pocket of porphyritic syenite. I laughed until he walked through the difficulties two tries later. Taking my own shoes off, however, proved unsuccessful, likely because the Spectros were so good at edging on such steep terrain. Though coming close, I still haven't sent my project, and unfortunately I can't blame the Spectros.
Over the past eight months, I've worn down the Spectros on slick, vertical limestone at Sinks Canyon, the wild and varied features of Leavenworth granite, and Castle Rock, CA's steep sandstone (as steep as sandstone gets), and on boulders and sport routes in Hueco. You wouldn't want these on a crack climb or a long, multi-pitch route, but for sport climbing or bouldering, these are my new favorite steep-terrain shoes. Why? They don't hurt. I don't take them off between sport climbs or at belays, and I wouldn't have wanted any other shoe on-route. They edge exquisitely, and do everything else well, too.
Part of the Spectros' comfort probably comes from the ultra-soft but durable leather tongue and upper. But Heinz Mariacher's "bridge system" design—not just the shape and tensioned support, but also the excellent placement of rubber—must be the deal-sealer. Not as "banana-ed" as the old Mad Rock Locos or Five-Ten Dragons, the last is reminiscent of a blend between the La Sportiva Testarosas and Miuras. They power up thin faces and always stayed firmly on my D-wide foot, no matter how hard I was heel-hooking.
I was impressed also by the rubber. Usually I'm a Stealth snob, and I was surprised to find the Vibram XS Grip rubber performed similarly and didn't wear down too fast. Despite my best efforts the rubber would not delaminate.
My only gripe with these shoes is the length of the laces—for a performance shoe that will be cinched down, their length is excessive—but nothing a knife and lighter won't fix.
I'm a convert. I just bought a second pair of the Spectros at the local gear shop. These crag rigs get my seal of approval and the Alpinist Mountain Standards award.
Pros: Great design and high-quality materials make for a comfortable performance shoe; great for edging; Vibram XS Grip rubber is excellent; tried to help me send my project.
Cons: Shoelaces are too long.