Category Archives: functional gear

Tenaya Mundaka: First Look, First Ascent

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!

Gear Review: The Trango Smooth Quickdraw

The Smooth Quickdraw: ready for your clipping enjoyment

If you asked most of the folks who know me about my fashion sense, they would probably raise an eyebrow and reply, “What fashion sense?”

I’ve never been much for style or image. I wear a lot of bland, earth-toned clothes, many of which I’ve had for many years. I buzz-cut my hair  every few months. I drive a mini-van. Most of my choices for the stuff I buy are based on functionality and quality, not aesthetics. In much of my day-to-day, I’m a pragmatist, and my “style” follows accordingly.

There’s one glaring exception to this: I want my quickdraws to look cool. Wait – not just cool – sexy. And it’s not just quickdraws. There’s been a conspicuous move by many climbing companies beyond simply the most functional gear and toward equipment designed with fashion in mind. All of a sudden, harnesses have neon colors that pop against blue-streaked limestone, cams and carabiners are highlighted in the same bold anodization (sure, it’s to make them easier to rack . . . .), and ropes are so bright they reflect off the rock. It’s all so fun: Finally, rather than being the nerdy guy in an awkward helmet burdened with fat webbing loops and heavy chunks of metal that clank over conversations, I get to be clad in pleasant, complementary-colored gear that is lightweight, sleek, and – let’s face it – downright sexy.

Despite the new emergence of style over function in climbing gear, there still is no iconic fashion statement clearer than the quickdraw. If you question this, here’s my proof: What quickdraw company sponsors Chris Sharma? You know you know the answer. We notice these things, and we love it.

So, tangents aside, it should be clear that I really care about the aesthetics of the quickdraw.When I got my rack of Trango Smooth Quickdraws a bit over a month ago, they immediately proved to satisfy both my desires for aesthetics and functionality.

The Trango Smooth is as sexy as any other draw on the market. It has a beefy dog-bone runner connecting two subtly anodized carabiners. Unlike many other anodized ‘biners out there, the Smooth carabiner doesn’t seem to lose its anodization, particularly in the basket where the rope runs (and thusly blackening the rope in the process). Moreover, the carabiners are full-sized, yet their narrow profile makes a full quiver of them hang unobtrusively off a harness. The straight/bent-gate versions have the added benefit of the key-lock design, offering the “smoothness” of operation any serious bolt-clipper expects.

To be clear, I’m comparing the Smooth to other “luxury” quickdraws. These are draws designed for serious sport climbing, when ease of operation and durability (and the ability to snag the “nylon jug”) are paramount. The Smooth is comparable to established draws in the luxury category, the Petzl Spirit Express and Black Diamond’s Livewire draw, and it excels in a few aspects. First, the Smooth draws are priced about a dollar less than comparable quickdraws from other companies. Sure, you can get cheaper draws, but you’ll pay more in interest on your sex-appeal debt. The stronger selling point is weight. The Smooth draw is 5 grams lighter than other beefy sport draws, helping it crossover into the lightweight, trad/alpine draw department.

The lighter weight presents a concern about the durability of the draws, but so far they have held up to heavy abuse, being repeatedly whipped on over abrasive sandstone, coarse granite, and sharp limestone,  yet showing few signs of wear.

Overall, I love the Trango Smooth. It’s a high-functioning quickdraw with enough style for the Narcissus in all of us.

The vision for the Trango athlete team is to find climbers who embody our brand’s values and support them in their climbing endeavors. We focus on the character of the climber, their passion for the sport, and their desire to contribute to the community.

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