Bouldering at Hueco Tanks with the Scarpa Instinct VS

The following is a guest post by Scarpa athlete (and friend of Rock/Creek) Michael Rosato. Be sure to check out the sweet video toward the bottom of the page! -JDB

Hueco Tanks, through the good and bad, will always have a special place in my heart. I have had a roller coaster of experiences in this bouldering mecca, but always leave with a better understanding of myself and a deeper appreciation for the climbing lifestyle.

Prior to my trip, I made a very short list of problems that I wanted to do. Bringing along a group of friends who were new to Hueco, I wanted to make sure our time was appropriately shared so that everyone could get what they came for. My list consisted of classics that most everyone knows: Crown of Aragorn, Tequila Sunrise, and Diaphanous Sea. For the trip, Scarpa hooked me up with the newest addition to their already impressive lineup, the Scarpa Instinct VS. So, after throwing them at my projects, I figured I’d give a small review on how they performed.

I was quite interested in how the VS would fare, being that the Scarpa Instinct Slipper and the Scarpa Boostic are generally my go-to shoes. For the south, I have found no other shoe to perform better than the Boostic. The shoe operates on sandstone like a dream, and has a heel cup that has literally changed the way that I climb. For Hueco, I felt that the Instinct’s toe box had a slight edge, being that it has a bit more of a pronounced beak.

The Instinct VS worked beautifully. In the desert, with such a plethora of roofs and steep gym-like climbing, you need something with a talon-like toe that will grab onto the wall. The VS did not at all disappoint. It is actually a quite different shoe than its softer slipper brother. In fact, it feels a bit like the Instinct S wrapped in armor. Under the toes is 3mm of Vibram XS Edge, which I have found to have a slightly longer break-in time than the XS Grip2 used on the slipper. However, the trade off is a rubber that lasts twice as long with just as much friction.

On Crown of Aragorn, there are a number of intensive moves that require crucial foot beta. It starts with a left toe and right heel, then uses a accurately-placed left toe hook that I found very difficult to hold with any other shoe except the Instinct VS. The VS’ large patch of sticky toe rubber gripped the wall very well, and allowed me to complete the bottom sequence of moves fairly quickly.

Having already done the end of the line (“Better Eat Your Wheaties”), I only needed to nail the crux dead-point connecting it to the beginning. Unfortunately, with only an hour in total to work the problem, I didn’t walk away with the send. Such is life.

Next up: Tequila Sunrise. After watching videos of this problem a few years back, I was instantly obsessed with doing it. The problem is on a large overhanging prow that sits by itself just outside of the very famous Martini Cave.

It begins with a few tension-intensive moves on bad holds, then a huge (incredibly satisfying) move across your body to a hueco that causes you to swing completely open. The line then finishes up on a straightforward — but heady — top-out on a series of crimps.

After taking a little time to work it in pieces, the problem went down. The Instinct VS performed flawlessly on this climb, giving me just the right amount of accuracy, sensitivity, and heel power to get the job done.

The last project on my list was Diaphanous Sea. I tried the line last year and felt that it was just my style: overhung on small crimps with a huge move in the middle to a delicate end. Well, It turned out that I wasn’t quite ready for just how big and accurate that crux move was. This go-round, after spending a little time remembering my beta, I began sticking the middle move in isolation.

The next day, I gave the line several goes before sticking the giant throw… only to fall just short of the finish. Giving myself a good ten-minute rest, I shoed up, took a swig of a little something to get me psyched, and sent! It was definitely a relief to have this one under my belt. Although the VS performed really well on Diaphanous, I switched back to the Instinct Slipper for the send because I needed just a bit more sensitivity for the super small/slick foot holds.

All in all, I would say that this year’s trip was a success. I ended up with two out of three of the big projects I came to do and my friends walked away with some impressive sends as well. Also, I was very impressed with the new weapon in my arsenal of shoes. The VS performed just as well as, if not better than, I expected and once again proves that Scarpa currently makes the best climbing footwear that you can buy. Mr. Mariacher, keep doing what you’re doing! I’m psyched to see what you and Scarpa come up with next!

‘Til next time!
–Michael Rosato