Gear Testing: Scarpa Vapour V W

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In the switch from winter to summer, I went from climbing indoor blocs in London at the Blokfest series to started to summer sport climbing outdoors in the Peak District and up in Yorkshire at Malham and Kilnsey. I won’t get started on the indoor vs outdoor argument, but in making the switch,  I found more than anything that I was slipping off constantly.

Either my footwork was rubbish or was it my shoes?

At the time I was climbing in my La Sportiva shoes (a variety) and getting a bit frustrated so willing to do anything to keep my feet on I decided to try  Scarpa for the first time and went for the Vapour V.

Spoiler alert: THEY WORKED.

Okay, so I have the tendency to be a little over excited, but I slipped on the Scarpa Vapour V and I found that it was much easier to edge, to heel hook and even to press my toes on far away footholds. My core hadn’t gotten stronger, my hamstrings certainly hadn’t been trained, so it had to be down to the shoes.

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Slightly Downturned Toes and Bi-Tension Randing

 

KEY FEATURES

The Scarpa Vapour V are actually a woman’s specific shoe boasting to be the best all-round shoe.  The Scarpa website describes them as a precise and versatile shoe, which they claim as their best-seller.

The Vapour V have ever so slightly downturned toes while the shoe is generally flat, so the result is they still works for overhangs and small footholds. What makes the shoes so special, however, is probably their unique randing, which is how they put the rubber on the shoe. They use a Bi-Tension Randing which pulls from the toes back towards the heel, and in turn  makes the shoe feel more part of your foot and snug, so pressing onto small footholds is a lot easier.

Their Ultra Thin Flexan Support is their unique arch support that basically means the shoes are mostly flat but supportive and flexible enough that you can wear them on longer climbs on on multi-pitch routes, which I found to be true. I wore them all day without a problem.

Equipped with the tried and tested Vibram® XS Edge rubber, their stickiness was one of their best attributes, which no doubt contributes to the ease with which you can switch from straight-up climbing to overhangs without feeling like you have to change shoes.

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Malham Cove – land of tiny and polished feet, a true test for the Vapour V

PUT TO THE TEST

These are a pretty stellar all-round shoe. Compared to some of the other shoes on the market claiming to be all-round such as the La Sportiva or Five Ten, I felt that the Scarpa were more successful in the sense that they were fine for all day wear and any type of climbing. They could be used on difficult overhangs as well as tackle small footholds on a slab.

On my trip sport climbing to Malham, I found the shoes perfect on the polished and small footholds that otherwise, would’ve sent me reeling. The shoes more than excelled my expectations and I could focus on the moves and the climbing, rather than my feet slipping off constantly.

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Testing the Vapour V on Sardine 7b+ at Raven Tor, Peak District

At Raven Tor in the Peak District, I tested them bouldering as well and found that on the overhanging and small footholds that the toes stuck extremely well. No doubt the result of the unique randing and the downturn toes. Heel-hooking, I expected them to be lacking as the heel was a little bit loose, but instead they stayed in place, well enough for me to work the moves of the Weedkiller Traverse (7a+) in the cave.

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FIT

I think the one setback was where the fit was concerned. I originally ordered the Scarpa Vapour V in a 37.5 which is one whole size down from my normal shoe size 38.5. I read up online and I was told that this would be suitable, but when my shoes arrives, I couldn’t even put them on. I went into a shop and tried on a few pairs and the only ones I could even put on were my exact street shoe size 38.5.

When my 38.5 arrived they were extremely tight at first, but I found that they stretched very quickly (within 2-3 sessions) and then they were very comfortable. But over time I found that they continued to stretch and that the heel and the arch became a bit loose.

It’s important to note though, that I was still able to use them climbing on the same type of blocks despite being a bit lose on the heel, heel hooking was still very solid. For next time though, I think I will buy a half-size down and take a few painful sessions of breaking in to gain the perfect fit.

My suggestion for Sizing: same as regular shoe size

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Photo: Ben Johnson

CONCLUSION

  • Comfortable: great all-day  shoe
  • Versatile: good for overhangs, slabs, and  technical climbs
  • Long-lasting: sturdy and well-wearing
  • Perfect for heel hooking

 

At the risk of sounding like a Scarpa convert, I’ll definitely be buying these again.

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Bleau Blues: 9 Tips to Send Your Day-Project

Looking through my log of climbing journals, I found this little throwback and I was surprised to find some good advice…I found my own Tips to Send a Project, which I hadn’t read in so long, I found pretty useful myself and will use them my upcoming trip to Magic Wood.

If you’ve ever had that feeling after a day out bouldering like you just could’ve done better or could’ve climbed harder, then you’ll relate to my account of a trip I had to Fontainbleau a few years back. It was my fifth trip to Fontainebleau – an amazing crag where most of us struggle to climb hard while expanding our bellies with croissants, pain aux petites (my favourite) or chocolat viennoise. I wanted to send my first Font 7a/v6 and it felt like the right time. I was feeling positive. I felt it was definitely going to happen this trip. But despite the sun and the pastries, I got the bleau blues.

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Falling off L’Helicoptere 7a, which I still haven’t done. Photo: Steph Choy

I’d been climbing for three years, off and on – given two separate foot surgeries and a few injuries – but it had felt like long enough to be able to climb my first 7a. My first visit to Font had been a few months before and I tackled a 6c+ with a fractured thumb. It had been my unfortunate luck to shut my thumb in the car trunk (trunk fully closed, thumb in). Okay, Okay, there was alcohol involved. Learn from my mistakes! Do not go anywhere near car doors while drinking unless very experienced with doors.

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Thumb bandage apparent on my first outdoor v5, Le Nez 6c+ at Canche Aux Merciers

I reasoned with myself, if I could tackle a 6c+ with a useless and painful thumb, what was holding me back from my 7a now?

At first learning the F system was my excuse. Fontainbleau uses the same letters and numbers at the European Sport grades but it’s graded based on the climber doing it the easiest possibly way, knowing the beta, and having practised. A little harsh, I felt. Knowing that flashing isn’t even an option, the hope is to figure this beta out in the day with enough time for your body to also perform by the time you’ve exhausted yourself.

In retrospect, this isn’t harsh at all, but completely normal. Projecting in a day is extremely hard, especially if it’s at the top of your grade. But at the time, I wasn’t sure it was down to strength and I feel it’s probably the same for most people.

I thought that perhaps the problem had more to do with strategy and the fact that I didn’t really have one.

Needless to say I didn’t send a 7a on that trip, but I did learn a few things to help send day projects. These tips are mostly my own opinions and hopefully they help you too, but consider we are all different so read with a grain of salt, but maybe can help you work out your own strategy as well, which I do feel is the key to sending those day projects.

9 Tips for Sending a Day Project:

    • CHOOSE WISELY

      Choose your project carefully, make sure it plays to your strengths (and favourite moves) if it’s at the top of your grade. If you don’t know what your strengths are (which I hear a lot) next time you go to the bouldering gym, try and be aware of what moves you find easy and do without thinking and that might be the key to what your ‘style’ is.

 

    • WARM UP

      Warming up is one of the most important parts of climbing well and preventing injury. By definition this is an actual heat rise in the body of 2-3 degrees. Read more about what warming up really is and all the physical benefits on Physio Room.

 

    • FIRST THING

      Get on your project right away after warming up. A trainer that I worked with last year, Rich Hudson of New Heights Fitness, advised that you should go to the hardest boulder problems you want to try in the day immediately after warming up thoroughly. This decreases injury as you are fresh and full of energy and, hopefully, increases chances for success.

 

    • WATCH & LEARN

      Try to watch others climbing your project rather than wasting all your energy on it. All of people moan about others ‘greasing up holds’ but I think it’s good to have a crew on your problem because it can save you energy remembering your sequence or finding new beta, particularly someone whom you know climbs similarly to yourself.

 

    • PAY ATTENTION

      Use every failure as an opportunity to try and figure out why. You’ll improve your technique and body awareness and hopefully see failure as something useful for your future climbing rather than a negative experience. Sometimes the difference between getting the move and not can be as subtle as starting a problem sitting two inches to the left to pull on.

 

    • REST LONGER

      Before you know all your beta work in sections and rest for 3-8 minutes after each attempt. Don’t wear yourself if you know that you can’t do all the moves, by trying from ground up (unless you have to, in which case rest longer). During rests, it’s best to stay moving rather than sit down as the body will be clued in that activity is coming again. This is a good time to do physiotherapy exercises. Once you know your beta and you’re going for a redpoint attempt, for each failed attempt, rest for 10 minutes minimum, up to 30 minutes between goes.

 

    • EAT MORE

      Don’t forget to eat every hour. You may even find it helpful to eat a small bite every time you have a strenuous go. I find that coffee or sugar in small doses can help give a bit of an energy spike, but only in small amounts.

 

    • TRY HARD

      Trying hard isn’t as simple as we might hope. Recently I had a discussion with a friend about the inability to ‘summon the power’ when we are trying a hard move bouldering. Often this is due to brain conditioning. We aren’t able to tell our body to pull hard and so we don’t. Seth Lytton has a hilarious blog about how to ‘try really freakin hard‘ that suggests conditioning yourself with a ritual.

 

  • LAUGH IT OFF

    One of the best pieces of advice about climbing I ever heard was to remember to have fun. The more you love and have fun climbing, the more you can achieve. For me, this is one of the most helpful aspects of projecting. I can always perform better when I’m having fun. Even in failure, you are still learning about your body’s movement and improving your technique. Bottom line – stop taking it so seriously!

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    Another project in Magic Wood, Blindfisch 7b that escaped my send.

Just remember this is my own advice and may not work for you, but I think my suggestions are pretty general and may help most climbers overall. If you have any other tips on how you send your day projects, I’d love to hear them as I’m sure I’ve missed some. We’re all different, so different things can work for different people.

After that frustrating Font trip, I went to Font two more times before getting my first 7a, but then on the third succeeding trip I got 3 in one day, using a lot of the techniques described above.

Just get stronger, right?

It’s unavoidable. Once in a while we all take a break from climbing. Life gets in the way, injuries, as in my case, or just business, long jobs, travel. And what happens when we come back? It’s been about a month and since I started climbing again and the progress is slow, and the positivity is quick to fall.

There is nothing more frustrating then knowing you have the ability, but you just cannot muster the strength to climb something.

But you have to fail to improve.

But in my esteem to get back to where I was, or to improve, something about climbing became clear. With little of the strength at my will, it became obvious that body positioning played a huge part in the climbing. Now this is something everyone knows. Climbing is about technique. But it was a discovery more along the line that climbing is more about technique than I was willing to admit before. There seemed to always be a secret to a move that at first seemed too hard.

While people say strength + technique = is the key to climbing, I think I’ve discovered that the secret to climbing well, has little to do with strength, but body position, confidence, and most importantly, body awareness. Can’t say that I would be able to do a series of crimps on a 45 degree wall, but I could easily do challenging slabs, or some of the trickier Font problems that are more about how you approach them than how much you’ve trained.

For more specific tips on technique, see future posts.