Trad Climbing Performance

Happy with the Vapor V’s performance in the sport climbing arena, I moved on to what I saw as their true test: trad climbing in Eldorado and the South Platte. The sandstone at Eldorado Canyon is unique, often ranging from extremely coarse and reminiscent of granite, to very slick and smooth in the same pitch. The Vapor V was probably most surprising in this arena due to the soft sole and its ability to smear.

Eldorado climbing can be described as funky, and while the park has a very strong traditional climbing ethic, there are scant few “pure” crack climbs. Often climbs are protected by cracks while the moves themselves involve unlimited combinations of jams, locks, and face holds. Looking for a good example of this diversity, I took the shoes up Outer Space on the Bastille, and found myself climbing very confidently in them. They stuck to thin face holds well but also stood confidently on some of the smoother, more sloping holds often encountered in Eldo, where some of my other pure-edging shoes might falter. After a few more pitches around the canyon, I was ready to take them crack climbing.

Dave Alie, SCARPA Vapor V, Blister Gear Review
Dave Alie in the SCARPA Vapor V, dihedral pitch of Outer Space, 10b PG-13, Eldorado Canyon.

As the crack training ground of the Front Range, the South Platte (and Turkey Rocks, more specifically) is classic granite trad: nothing but cracks and slopers on just-under-vertical granite. I will admit that when I first took the Vapor Vs out of the box, I looked at them and thought I’d never get them off the ground on a slab. But after taking them out on the granite cracks and domes in the South Platte region of Colorado, I’m happy to concede the point: I underestimated them. They smear very well and they are extremely precise.

I took them on cracks of all sizes at the Turkey Perch as well as a few TR laps on Liquid Acrobat, a notoriously technical layback finger crack. The precision is all there, and they are a great shoe for getting the most out of your footholds on pitches where your options are limited.

Jamming is solid, but not as comfortable as looser fitting crack shoes. Most shoes designed for highly technical footwork suffer here, and the Vapor V is no different. While you can certainly jam in these shoes (provided you haven’t sized them too tight), the downturned nature of the shoe results in some discomfort for tight-hands and off-fingers sizes. This is not an enormous sacrifice to make for many people. After all, this shoe is meant for pitches with technical footwork. Straight-in, splitter hand cracks are generally not in this category.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a shoe to take up Super Crack in Indian Creek or any of the wide cracks in Vedauwoo, then you’re much better off going with an equally soft but flatter, more comfortable shoe—the Moccasym for example. And while the Vapor V is about as comfortable as a downturned shoe gets, it is still aggressively shaped. Though it could no doubt be done, taking these up the Diamond is probably more than I’d want to bite off with these shoes. If you are looking at pitches that involve lots of technical footwork, then this shoe is for you.

In similar fashion, if you’re a sport climber who lives in Rifle or the Red, then odds are you can afford to place a higher premium on edging and power generated off small holds with little concern for how this affects your shoe’s ability to smear. In those cases, going all-in on your shoe’s edging power might be preferable.

If, however, you’re going to use one shoe for damn near everything, or you climb rock that necessitates both “sport” and “trad” techniques (I’m looking at you, granite), then this shoe is top notch. If this last category describes you and the Vapor V fits your foot, your search is over.

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