I'm headed out to do some big-wall climbs in Yosemite this summer. I was wondering if you could recommend a sturdy shoe that will suffice on my trad routes out here in the Northeast, but hold its own on a big-wall climb out West? I'd rather sink my loot into protection than different shoes for all occasions. Con Boston, Massachusetts
I take it you're looking for a single all-purpose rock shoe, not a shoe that would stand up to a lot of aid climbing. If so, then several would suit you well. La Sportiva's TradMaster ($110; www.sportiva.com), for instance, is a comfortable, all-purpose rock shoe suited for faces or cracks. Its toe is shaped for a variety of surfaces but won't leave you in agony after a long day. Two particularly nice features are its nylon midsole, for more support and to ease some of the strain in the event you are doing some aid work, and its lugged heel, which helps with hooking over lips.
Another good all-rounder is Five-Ten's Hueco ($124; www.fiveten.com). Like the TradMaster, it's cut for comfort rather than super-high technical stuff, but still offers excellent versatility and performance. C4 Stealth rubber in the sole makes sure you stick, while a leather footbed and knit lining offer comfort and support. You can add a stiffening footbed, which comes with the shoe.
Lastly, Boreal's Ballet ($145; www.boreal-club.com) is a bit of a throwbacka mid-high shoe that's board-lasted (meaning built on a flatter mold than the slipper-like, slip-lasted shoes that are prevalent today). That yields a shoe that's a little roomier and more stable, while the higher cut protects the ankles. A good shoe for long days on the rock.
Any one of these would work well both in Yosemite and back home on some of the limestone in the 'Gunks. My only question would be whether these shoes even would make it home with youthey're all sturdy shoes, and re-soleable, but you might find that one hard summer on granite pretty much makes their career.
Read Outside's "Babes on Belay" (April '04) for a big-rock, girl-power perspective on summer in the Yosemite Valley.