My latest climbing project—a 5.14 wall of thin edges that gently steepens into a cresting wave of granite at Devil’s Head, CO—presented me with a significant dilemma. The climbing is 80% Smith Rock, precise edging on micro-chips with your hips plastered to the face and most of your weight on your feet, followed by 20% Rifle, gymnastic moves on steep rock with feet toeing in and hooking on glassy features.
I began the campaign in my trusty Tenaya Intis. These are the ideal edging implement, with a stiff and precise forefoot that excels on credit card chips. I was crushing the lower sections, routinely climbing up to the lip of the steep wall, but struggling to make progress on the wildly dynamic exit. I decided to switch to Tenaya Oasi’s, my go-to shoe for gym-style climbing, where sensitivity and flexibility facilitate monkey-style pulling with your feet.
My progress in the steeps improved instantly, but it came at a price. Though I could still climb through the technical start in Oasi’s, I had to pull a bit hard with my hands, compounding the wear on my already heavily-worn finger skin. I needed a shoe that could excel on both types of terrain—technical thin walls and gymnastic overhangs.
At that pivotal moment I had the opportunity to test-drive Tenaya’s ground-breaking Mundaka. It was just the shoe I was looking for. The Mundaka is perhaps best described as a sock with rubber on it, although that’s not doing it justice. The toe box is tight and stiff—ideal for thin edging. Yet the rubber sole ends at the forefoot, creating a nearly-bare arch that is completely flexible (you can easily bend the shoe in half at the arch). This enables tremendous toeing power on steep incuts, allowing the climber to wrap the fore foot around features and pull with your feet. It’s almost like getting an extra pair of arms delivered in a 12” cardboard box! Throw in a perfectly sculpted heel cup and it’s got everything a serious climber could ask for.
When I slipped the Mundakas on for the first time at the base of my project, I joked about how tightly the shoes formed to my feet, promising my toes would only tolerate a brief burn. Yet amazingly I climbed happily for well over an hour. The Mundakas are so well-shaped, pain was never an issue, and if anything, the shoes became more comfortable and sensitive the longer I climbed. Also worth noting is the vastly improved Velcro tabs at the end of the adjustable closure system (similar to that of the roundly lauded Tenaya Iati closure system). The new tabs offer so much sticking power I had trouble removing them as I lowered off the route. There is zero chance of these coming un-stuck mid climb!
My new footwear gave me the confidence and peace of mind to focus on my climbing. In a few more tries I finally stuck the burly dyno to the lip, mantled onto the lime green lichen-covered slab and waltzed up to the summit, finally completing the first ascent of Walk Tall Or Not At All, the hardest route at Devil’s Head at 5.14c.
It’s hard compare Mundakas to anything else I’ve climbed in. Most shoes excel in one aspect and fall flat in another. Not the Mundaka. These shoes easily matched the performance of my best edging shoes and far exceeded the toeing/hooking power of my best gym shoe. They will definitely be my new go to shoe!