There’s no doubt about it – La Sportiva’s TC Pros have been the premier crack climbing shoes since their inception in 2013. At Yosemite, Indian Creek or even back home at Frog Buttress, it seems like every second climber is wielding a pair. But what if your feet don’t fit well in Sportivas?
I love Scarpa rock shoes. They perform well, have good durability, and most importantly, tend to fit my foot shape better than other brands. I rock a pair of Instinct VS’s for techy face climbing or bouldering, a pair of Techno X’s for easier multipitch routes, and have now added a third pair to my arsenal – the Maestro Mid Eco. If your feet are anything like mine, TC Pros just don’t feel right, but never fear… Scarpa will make you feel like Cinderella again with their latest offering, the Maestro.
Just before leaving Canada, with a visit to Yosemite in my near future, I needed a pair of shoes to replace my weary Techno X’s. When a wise young man at MEC in Calgary suggested the Maestro to me, I was immediately intrigued and impressed. They look exactly like a good crack climbing shoe should – a high-cut leather ankle and plenty of rubber in all the right places. These are bombproof shoes, built to withstand the thrashing they will endure in cracks of all sizes. The slight downturn ensures edging ability, as well as the moderate stiffness which is not too excessive for good smearing.
If I have one concern about the construction of the Maestro, it’s regarding the location of the rubber seams that connect the sole to the upper. These appear to be located exactly where one would jam them into a crack and I wonder how long it will take for them to be torn to shreds. That said, I’m just nitpicking here and haven’t used the Maestro’s long enough to seriously test their durability, so the jury is still out on this one.
Scarpa have also catered for we alpine folk with a burlier mountain edition known as the Maestro Alpine. Essentially, it is the same shoe, but with the addition of an extra layer of insulation and thermic sock, perfect for alpine rock and big wall climbing in cold temperatures. Having this level of performance without the need to freeze my toes off is something I’m sure I will come to appreciate on future expeditions. This alpine version is a real coup for Scarpa, because to my knowledge, no such variation of the TC Pro exists.
When I first tried on a pair, my immediate thought was, “Gosh, these are incredibly comfortable!” After spending 5 minutes on the demo wall, I knew I was going to buy a them. They felt supple, yet precise. They were flexible enough to smear, yet stiff enough to take on small edges. And boy, were they comfortable!
I could climb in these shoes all day long, and have done exactly that. During my time in Yosemite, almost every route I climbed was 5 pitches or more, with several full days of more than 12 pitches. No matter the length of the route, my feet felt as good as they possibly could in a climbing shoe. Did I mention these shoes are comfortable?
Yosemite proved the ultimate testing ground for the Maestro. For 6 weeks in the Valley, I put these shoes through their paces and was not disappointed. Early in the visit, I climbed an 8-pitch slab route on Mt Watkins, with several pitches in the mid-5.10 range, and although slab still scares the bejeezus out of me, I felt very secure. The Maestro moulded perfectly to the face and smeared the greasy granite with aplomb.
Almost daily, I climbed cracks of every size known to man, from tips fingers through to full body chimneys and everything in between. The Maestro edged well on the thin sides of finger cracks and felt super secure whilst doing so. More importantly, I felt no pain when jamming in larger cracks. Despite my shenanigans, they even stood up well as I thrashed about in off-widths. Put simply, I couldn’t be happier with how they performed as a crack climbing shoe.
The Maestro Mid retails for about $230 AUD, which makes it more or less equal in price to the TC Pro. The Maestro Alpine goes for closer to $390 AUD a throw, which is certainly no small fee. If you’re not climbing Fitz Roy any time soon, you probably don’t need to think about buying a pair, but if you are, I’m sure it’s worth the extra investment.
If I could, I would go back to MEC, find that young store attendant, and kiss him. I couldn’t be happier with my Maestros and I have every confidence that you will too. If you love crack climbing and long trad routes, but find that TC Pros don’t suit your feet, you no longer have to feel like a second-class citizen. With this shoe, Scarpa has matched Sportiva for performance, comfort and price, and the Maestro truly deserves an equal place at the top of the class.