The Gear Junkie Scoop: La Sportiva Gandalf
By STEPHEN REGENOLD
The big claim with La Sportiva’s latest approach/climbing shoe — the mystically-named Gandalf — is that it has the durability to log up to 3,000 days of mountain climbing. Run the approach trail. Skip up the talus. Twist a foot in that 5.9 fist crack, and climb on into the sky. . . day after day after day.
Now, not everyone is blessed with the free time and available topography to live the La Sportiva dream scenario. But the Gandalf, which was just unveiled to press and will not ship to stores until spring 2009, was not designed for just any workaday crag rat.
Guides and pro climbers the likes of Dean Potter and Peter Croft — those leathered mountain gods who inhabit high places and desert nooks — are more the intended demographic for the Italian shoemaker’s $215 magic boot.
Indeed, the shoe is named after the Tolkien wizard who guided Frodo and his entourage through the mountains of Middle Earth. In places like the Tetons or the Sierra Nevada Range, where the shoe will be worn by Exum Mountain Guide types, the tricks performed will range from trail running and trekking with a heavy pack, to smearing on slabs and jamming to climb a crack.
Hybrid promises often equal compromised performance. But La Sportiva (www.sportiva.com) took care to include characteristics valuable to mountain applications both horizontal and vertical, including sticky-rubber heel and toe rands; a climbing-shoe-like edging platform under the big toe; tread for grip on the trail; to-the-toes lacing for a precision fit; generous midsole cushioning; and a slip-lasted forefoot to offer sensitivity and climbing performance.
Add to this feature list an eco-friendly leather tanning process and a unique plastic plate between the sticky rubber and the midsole cushioning that accommodates multiple resoling jobs and you have something the company has dubbed the “ultimate rock guide shoe.”
Italian shoemakers hand stitch the $215 Gandalf in La Sportiva’s factory.
Where does the 3,000 days come from? In its press material, La Sportiva cites the Gandalf as having the craftsmanship to take all a climber can stomp on it for 300+ days a year for 10 years straight.
That’s the claim, anyway. Guess we have a decade or so to wait and see if it rings true.
Mean time, I’ll be out climbing. Though not sure if I can cough up $215 for a shoe named after a bearded white man with a wand.
—Stephen Regenold writes the weekly Gear Junkie Scoop for Outsidemag.com and TheGearJunkie.com.