Michael O’Rourke on Free Range (v13) for Mad Rock

Last spring I shot with Michael O’Rourke at the Cage Free boulder at Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon. He had previously sent the sit start that ends in a dyno to a less than amazing finishing hold. I was shooting with him for Mad Rock.

In the late spring we had a lot of snow and the runoff caused Boulder Creek to run quite high. We had to build a platform of fallen trees to put the crash pads on over the rushing creek.

This week, it looks like I’m heading up into Cody, Wyoming for an ice climbing adventure with a bunch of great guys. After I’m immediately heading to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City for my biannual networking fest. I’m missing some really amazing snow right now, but I’m excited to climb in Wyoming! 

Mad Rock at Primo Wall

Being a climbing photographer is hard, but it’s even harder when you break your back. In March I received a compression fracture from a climbing fall, and for a month and half I wore a back brace. But I still continued to get out with climbers.

Mad Rock asked me to get out with two of their athletes in, Zach Lerner and Megan Mascarenas, to the Primo Wall in April. To do so I had to cross a tyrolean traverse, a means of getting across the river using ropes attached to both sides. You pull yourself onto the ropes, connect a long quickdraw that connects your harness to the ropes, and pull yourself across the river. Without a broken back it can be tiring.

We start out shooting in Nomad’s Cave. Easy enough. The cave opens up inside allowing me to position a reflector and shoot a flash into the reflector, lighting the scene. Meghan, Tiffany Hensley, and Zach work on the one of the boulder problem that exits the cave.

Then we move over to Shine, a 5.14a sport route that Zach and Meghan work on. Zach puts up a fixed line for me to jug up. Hanging from a rope, even sitting on my bosun’s chair, with my back brace is very difficult. Leaning out to get the shots really engages your core, which causes your back muscles to tighten. Unhappy broken back… A well, to get the shot, right?

But in the end, I survived. Now, well over six months after my fall I am 100%. I’m climbing full strength and rarely feel any impact from my fall, other than an increased attention to detail. 

Gear Review: Mad Rock’s New Performance Shoe, the M5

For years I’ve jammed, pushed, squeezed, and strained to get my rock climbing shoes on my feet. I lived by the mantra, “Tighter is better.” But then last year I ripped through the leather on the inside of my Muiras before I wore out the rubber! I was tired of my feet always hurting, so I bought a pair of general use Scarpas that were comfortable enough I could wear them most of the day without my feet rejecting them like a foreign pathogen. For a year I climbed, and climbed well, in them. I thought, maybe, all this hoopla about super tight climbing shoes was bologna. If I can climb 5.12 in comfortable shoes with no real noticeable difference in performance, then why put ourselves through all this suffering? 
This summer I’ve been shooting photography with incredibly strong boulderers that make climbing v15 look easier than me climbing v6 (I don’t really enjoy bouldering), so I’d usually throw my climbing shoes in my backpack and put in a few tries on nearby V-easies while the real climbers rested. I found, with increasing certainty, my shoes were holding me back from pushing harder on boulders’ precise and powerful movement. I didn’t want to believe it at first. I just generally threw it under the excuse, “I suck at bouldering,” which isn’t far from the truth.
Madrock M5
Madrock M5
Like many people, my first pair of climbing shoes were Mad Rocks, and I beat them up in a hurry. I’ve had a few pairs here and there since then, including the Demons, which I loved.
When I first pried the M5 onto my feet they were beyond tight, extremely hard to cram my foot into, but my feet found their customary position with the toes curled against the rand and my heal slid into place. I often joke about “The Shoe Crux”, struggling and putting more effort into getting your shoes on than you actually exert on the climb. The M5 definitely gave me a shoe crux to start, but now, 3 weeks later they slide right on. 
Precision. Above all, that is what I think when I’m wearing the M5. My footwork is way more precise. I know I can toe down on the tiniest nub and the Mad Rock rubber is going to stick. I have way more confidence in my feet. After a year of guessing, I feel like I can really work on my feet again. And I can boulder (whether or not I want to is another story). 
The fit is not as natural as the Demon’s, but it heal hooks with confidence and your curled toes give you the power to push off of the tiniest chip. Basically, it climbs hard.
Move the Pull-On straps!
Move the Pull-On straps!
I really only have two complaints on the shoe. The pull on straps are awkwardly placed so when you’re pulling hard the shoe flexes and makes it harder to get the shoe the rest of the way on. If the both straps were moved over just a bit it would ease the shoe on so much easier. 
Velcro needs a tab
Velcro needs a tab
Because the velcro extends beyond the rubber backing it makes it unnecessarily frustrating to undo the velcro straps. If the rubber backing went past the velcro or if the velcro strap were looped and sewn at the end it would solve this problem. 
Overall, I really like these shoes and I’m excited they  have stretched just enough to make it standable to have them on my feet longer than 2 seconds after my climb.