The next three pairs of rock climbing shoes I owned take me through a particularly crazy phase in my life. These shoes not only took me to interesting and fun places to climb, but also carried my feet through a particularly tough relationship, new people and new times, and ultimately to the women I am going to marry. So while this entry is about shoes, it is also about use, which is of course correlated to what is going on in my life at this time.
The first pair I am talking about is a yellow pair of Mad Rock Phoenix. Now don't get me wrong, these shoes were ugly. Yellow is a funny color to put on your feet and looked particularly weird on me...but these were really durable and tough shoes. I bought them through the gym I was climbing at A&M and they were very low in cost. They had no real toe to speak of and weren't that great for edging, but they did last and took me outside all around Texas and even overseas to visit and climb in Stockholm, Sweden...which was awesome.
I think the only reason I have anything negative to say about these Mad Rocks was because my climbing was improving. I was able to start to use small feet and wanted something more dynamic out of my shoes. Therefore I went back to trying Evolv's and tried this grey and black lace up pair. This was a time when I was climbing more outdoors than I'd ever had before in addition to getting a lot of practice in the gym.
I really liked these shoes and actually still keep them around despite having blown a hole in the toe. To their defense they managed to last almost 7 months of pretty intense climbing before giving out on some pink granite at Enchanted Rock in Texas. That rock is really hard, sharp, tiny crystals that you are balancing on as you inch up some steep climbs. It is a really great place to climb and these shoes served me very well with a nice toe and some relative stiffness that was refreshing.
It was about this time that I got the nod from my advisor to move up to Fermilab near Chicago and the women of my dreams got to come with me. Funny enough this was also my favorite pair of shoes ever came into my life. The La Sportiva Nago's have carried me through over a year of climbing and are still going. To the other shoes credit the first 4 months of my ownership they didn't see a lot of action. Between the move and the life at the lab I was climbing only about 4 times a month.
But after life got settled the climbing took off. They went with me on my first Midwest climb up to Devil's Lake in Wisconsin and managed very well on the slick graphite rock and were great for wedging into some very difficult cracks. Then a normal amount of climbing at our new indoor gym (Vertical Endeavors) went up to twice a week and the shoes were still holding out.
Finally, to La Sportiva's credit, I not only got a job as a rock wall instructor in Oak Park, Il which meant I was living in these shoes 4 hours a day / 3 days a week, in addition to normal climbing at VE...but then came the climbing trip of a lifetime.
Two friends of mine were teaching in Thailand and my fiancée and I had the opportunity to go visit them for 10 days or so...and of course go climb on the limestone bluffs overlooking the ocean. IT WAS AMAZING!!! We climbed and hiked 6-8 hours every day for 5 days in a row and my shoes held out and made the climbing so much fun.
I still keep these Nago's around as my casual shoes and they are only now starting to wear through. These are the first pair of shoes I've ever considered getting resoled and would recommend them to anyone.