Until very recently I believed that you couldn't climb hard without super technical rock shoes. This is a result of staring at too many pictures of Dave Macleod cranked into tiny rock shoes, pushing on a foot hold the size of a quark and thinking, “if I wore shoes like that maybe I could climb that hard, or at least look like I do.” Dave climbs in a different league to me, he needs to sacrifice comfort for that level of performance. I, and the thousands of other VS to E3 climbers who religiously cram their screaming toes into super tight stickies, don't. Enter the Red Chilli Mescalito, one of several rock shoes available that are super comfy yet still technical enough for ninety percent of British climbers.
The first rock shoes I owned were a pair of blue Scarpa Helix's. I was around twelve or thirteen and remember being pretty chuffed as I left Needle Sports with my new purchase. During the Helix's lifetime I began climbing regularly. They were a great shoe, but my shocking footwork and endless lunch hours at Penrith wall, quickly brought about their demise. By this time I was beginning to consider myself a climber, I had started to read the mags and I wanted to climb hard. However, a quick browse through On The Edge, showed that no one who climbed hard wore Scarpa Helix's. Thus began my somewhat ridiculous belief that I couldn't climb hard without super technical and often painful rock shoes.
My next pair of shoes was the brand spanking new Scarpa Vision, the full page advert on the back of Climber shouted out, “visionary performance” and apparently they were based on the legendary Scarpa Dominator, whatever they were.
After the Visions I went through a succession of Five Ten Anasazis,both the Pinks and the Velcros, excellent shoes, but maybe overkill for Lake District mild extremes. Last summer disaster struck, at the bottom of Comes the Dervish my Pinks, their edges well rounded from rough rhyolite, refused to stick on polished slate micro edges. Desperate for the Dervish, I climbed back down and ran into 'Beris in search of new shoes, which came in the form of some asymmetrical down-pointing toe crunchers. 'Neither were they overkill for my needs, and yes sir they'll see you up the Dervish', the shop assistant assured me, a bargain at £50 too. What he had failed to inform me however, as I tumbled from the overlap an hour later my calves burning and feet in spasms, was how painful the things are if worn for longer than five minutes on a slab.
To further damage my pride, as we were packing up, an old guy arrived ready to conquer the Dervish. He put on a pair of ankle boots, similar to EBs, which he said he'd had bought in 1983, three weeks before sticky Boreal Fires had been released. For those not in the know Boreal Fires were the first shoe to use sticky rubber as we know it today. The sticky rubber revelation meant these non-sticky relics had been in his cupboard ever since, near enough new, but they would have to do as his normal shoes were being resoled. From the car park I looked up to see him pulling through the overlap.
The Mescalito is slip lasted with orange suede uppers. This creates a comfy, soft, photogenic rock shoe that will stretch a little to mould to your feet. Red Chili has sewn on fabric eyelets and a plastic strip to prevent them from over stretching. The fabric works well, making the lacing fast and easy to adjust, but I'm not convinced by the plastic strip, which has already begun to snap. The shoes also have a large, padded, wicking tongue, which is excellent further increasing their comfort and absorbing sweet. The shoe's toe box is quite wide, leaving them without the defined point of a more technical shoe like the Five Ten Anasazi , but this greatly increases their comfort, meaning I can leave them on at belays without passing out. The rubber, an aspect of rock shoes which is surrounded by far too much hype in my opinion, is Vibram and, if clean, very sticky. The Mescalito has a large sticky rubber rand too, protecting the uppers and making toe/foot jams more secure.
Red Chili describe this shoe as,"a versatile, performance orientated shoe that's designed to work brilliantly across the widest spectrum of styles. A semi-asymmetric profile supports the toe and combines perfectly with a sculpted, speed –laced upper, to provide a wrap-around feel that fits more feet more easily. Laterally firm but with a responsive flex this shoe will edge with the best but is equally at home smearing on granite or grit."
My Conclusion: The Mescalito is a super comfy yet technical rock shoe, Ideal for Saxon, Vestpilliran and the Walker Spur*. Perfect for the VS to E3 climber, but only if they fit. Very good value at £60 too.
Red Chili shoes are distributed in the UK by Wild Country.
Similar Models: Sportiva Mythos, Evolv Defy, FiveTen Gambit.
*The author hasn't climbed any of these routes yet, but intends to take his Mescalito's with him when he does!
Tom in his own words.
"I'm really enthusiastic about climbing, and try to fit as many trips in as possible around my studies. I've lived in Cumbria since I was two. I reckon I'm lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world, at Watermillock on the edge of Ullswater. My love of the hills started from a young age, and I've been climbing since the age of six. There are too many amazing places to climb in the Lakes, so I couldn't say where my favourite crag is. But I've had some great days out on Esk Buttress, and walking through a cloud inversion on Swirl Edge in the winter is probably one of the most memorable.
Discovering new places with new friends is one of the things I enjoy most about climbing in the Lakes. A good beer at the end of the day is hard to beat too!"