Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things I Like: Evolv Bolts and Cruzers

If you're reading this blog, you can probably see the Evolv logo on the right side of the page. It's not a secret that I'm an Evolv National Team athlete, and have been since 2003. Since Evolv have been awesome enough to provide me with the best climbing and approach shoes for ten years now, I decided to finally get around to reviewing two of my personal favorites, the best approach/route setting shoes on the market, the Evolv Bolts and Cruzers.

The Evolv Bolts in orange.
The Bolt is Evolv's classic approach shoe/boot, reminiscent of the first Mountain Masters, but slightly more stlyized and with a better toebox. The nubuck leather uppers are impressively resilient, holding up to many rough granite scramble/chimney squeeze approaches at a remote area we've been developing this year at Black Mountain. They're also an awesome shoe for route setting. The rubber toe rand and leather upper are both holding up to hours upon hours of jumar abuse, something I was very happy about after blowing through my first generation Cruzers were my aid ladder rubs. (An issue that has been addressed and I'll mention again in a moment.)
I also love the stiffness of the toebox for edging, and the large surface-area toe platform for smearing. The Bolt is built on a trail running shoe last, so it's my choice for long days, serious hikes, or burly scrambling.

Hard to believe these have seen several months of hard use.

New Evolv Cruzers are more durable than ever.
The Cruzer is Evolv's minimally styled casual shoe. They're not really approach shoes, but they are comfortable to wear all day, or all night, and they climb like a dream. They're actually the perfect stealth boulder or buildering problem assassins, disguised as a casual street shoe, or "ninja slippers," as I've taken to calling them.

Cruzers that have been used to set routes almost daily for two months, still looking fresh.

I mentioned when talking about the Bolts that I was happy to find a more durable shoe because I had blown out my old Cruzers. This is true, and it's a known problem the shoe had, blowing out prematurely at the side stitch joining the two pieces of canvas. As a professional route setter, I jumar a lot, and the aid ladder would rub on that stitch and blow the shoes out in a few weeks.  Evolv seems to have made a great shoe even better with the new one-piece Cruzers they sent me at the end of September, because these things still look brand new. I also love wearing these guys for route setting because they're perfect for testing moves in without having to change shoes entirely.

My new and improved Cruzers are still looking brand new after a couple of months of daily routesetting, coaching, and general wear.
Basically, if you're looking for a new pair of sticky rubber kicks, you really ought to try one of these awesome styles of Evolvs. If you need an approach shoe that can go from the mountains to the streets, I highly recommend the Bolts, but if you don't need that heavy hiking shoe and beefy arch/ankle support, the Cruzer is where it's at!

Thanks again to Evolv for hooking me up with the best gear for what I love to do!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Birthday Challenge 2013

Well, another year has passed, and with my birthday landing on November 10th, it was time for my second annual Birthday Challenge. Last year, I climbed 27 problems in Joshua Tree that I had never climbed before, so naturally I had to continue that tradition this year. I decided a while back that I wanted to go to The Underground, a remote sector atop Queen Mountain, a far hike over rugged terrain, but rumored to have the best rock in Joshua Tree. I had never been to The Underground, so it seemed like a perfect area to attempt to send 28 new problems.
After over an hour, we reached the top of Queen Mt. and climbed a few problems on The Watchtower boulder, officially beginning the challenge.

#1, "Left VNothing" (V0)
#2, "All Along the Watchtower" (V2)

From there we hiked a further 30 to 40 minutes and made it to The Underground proper, where I really set to work. (All photos, Alexandra Fox)

#3, "Kranium R" (V3)
#4, "Kranium L" (V3)

#5, "Misfire" (v6)
#6, "Intruder" (V5)

#7, "V1 Center" (V1)

Putting on the shoes in front of the exit of "The Heart."

#8, "The Heart" (V4?)
Looking up through the hueco on "The Heart."
#9, "4:20 at The Underground" (V4)

#10, "Body and Soul" (V5)

Tell me this rock doesn't look just like Hueco.
For my eleventh problem, after a decent warm up, I decided to try "Dark Matter" (v9), one of the few 5-star boulders in Miramontes' guide. I got lucky with a third-try send, managing somehow not to punt off of the topout.

#11, "Dark Matter" (V9)
Sticking the crux with the SDK and sending by the skin of my teeth on the third go. Kevin with the spot.

We didn't get many pictures after that, but here is the rest of the list:

#12. "Sketch" (V4)
#13. "When Pigs Fly" (V0)
#14. "Fight Club" (V5)
#15. "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" (V3)
#16. "Nicole Face" (V4)
#17. ""Saucer Full of Secrets" (V1)
#18. "Warm Up Problem" (V2)
#19. "Feature Problem" (V3)

Epic View

#20. "V1 Left" (V1)
#21. "V1 Reverse" (V1)
#22. "V1 Traverse" (V2)
#23. "Kranium C" (V3)
#24. "Unnamed V0" (V0)
#25. "Another Stupid Traverse" (V1)
#26. "Brain Teaser" (V0)
#27. "Breezy" (5.7)
#28. "The Swallows Tail" (V0)
I finished the challenge with"The Swallows Tail" for number 28, a V0 jug traverse on the same arch feature as "The Heart," It made for a beautiful view as the sun dipped on the horizon, but we still had close to a two-hour hike out to make in the dark.

Finishing the challenge on top of "The Swallows Tail" (V0).
Needless to say, the hike out was a challenge! Searching for kairns by headlamp, moving slowly from one rock-pile to the next, was definitely type-2 fun, but it made for a truly full-value day.

Of course I owe a huge thanks to everyone who came out and supported. That hike/scramble approach is no cake walk, and I really appreciate your support, pads, and spots. Big thanks to Kevin, who helped us get to The Underground in the first place, as well as for providing beta and psych on "Dark Matter!" Props on your send of it too! Huge thank you as well to Jeremy Meza, who helped us get out of there in the darkness! I also particularly owe a huge thank you to Alexandra, who acted as official record keeper and made sure I finished all 28 problems before the sun went down.

We have lots of day trips and longer trips to Bishop and Red Rocks planned for the coming months, so hopefully I'll be able to share more soon.

Cheers, and climb safe!