When building a shoe that doesn't sit behind a desk, we had to get out from behind ours. All our shoes are tested from the mountain tops to the canyon bottoms. We spend many days hiking the trails of Southeast Idaho and Northeast Wyoming to test the durability of our shoes in the toughest of circumstances.
We have trodden through rivers, climbed peaks, and looked incredibly goofy hauling into the mountains with a pair of dress shoes. So when we say our boots are waterproof up to 6" of running mountain water, we're not kidding.
See below some of our recent escapades:
200 Miles, 6 Weeks, 3 Styles, 13,700ft | July-August 2012
Summer 2012 we put our shoes through several "ultimate" tests. Over the course of 6 weeks, we tested three models across a span of 200+ miles, with the highest peak achieved being 13,700ft. One shoe tester, Derek Howard, put on a new pair of our High Grounds and proceeded to hike 40 miles in 3 days into the Wind Rivers area, west Wyoming, leaving his 5 year old tried and true hiking boots in the car. Trucking a 40lb pack on his back, marching to the top of Fremont Peak (the third highest peak in Wyoming) and back, Derek had one thing to say, "These shoes are more comfortable than my hiking boots ever were. Very impressive."
A second hike took a pair of the MissionShoe Boots to the top of Table Mountain, WY at 11,100ft in elevation. Trudging through streams and over rocky trails, the Tracting Boot performed flawlessly, and made for a comfortable trip the 14 miles there and back.
A third hike took a pair of Acenders up over the Hurricane Pass (10,338ft) and into Teton National Park. Packing a total of 30 miles in two days with 30lb packs, our testers ascended up the South Teton, scaling the loose gravel and shale to maximum height of 11,300ft (not quite to the top due to weather). This trip was a real trial on our shoes, but in the end they performed well, and made for a solid performance.
Teton Canyon - August 2011
In the summer of 2011, we took both the Tracting Boot II and Vertico HighGround out into the wild to see how they held up. The weather was perfect in every way, and we hiked about 9 miles straight up Teton Canyon in Teton National Park, WY. The HighGrounds had been broken in, but the Tracting Boot IIs were brand new, never been worn, and completely unbroken. They were a bit stiff to begin with, but after about 3 miles, I nested into them quite nicely. I will note, however, that those who are not used to a boot that is as high as this (12") will take a while to adjust to the extra calf support.
There were several different tests and facets to this hike. Our first test was up a stretch of the trail called "Devil's Staircase," a mad 1,000 foot climb up switchbacks covering the side of the canyon walls to the canyon edge. This was a strenuous climb with some patchy slick spots. The soles held up beautifully, providing the traction needed to ascend to the top. We were winded a lot more than the shoes were at the top to say the least.
A second test we performed was a small bouldering project (see image to the left). As you can see, Ben was able to ascend the boulder quite easily using the Vertico HighGrounds he had on. Needless to say, the beagle we brought along with us sat sadly in the shadows watching.
Our third and final test before the day was out was crossing the Teton River near the mouth of the canyon. We found a relatively calm bend in the river and began testing the boot at different depths. The boot, being 12" high, made for a great barrier against the current. In complete inundation, the boot sprung a small leak at about 6" under the water pressure. (In other similar tests with just trekking through snow or puddles, we don't tend to see any leaks.) At 12" the boots became flooded over the top, then I hiked the rest of the way in wet boots and socks.
After the hike, I didn't suffer any blisters or shin splints, which can be side-effects of new shoes. There was minimal scuffing from the rocks, and the boots shined up perfectly afterward. All in all, it was a great success.
Big Hole Mountains - Crest Trail - June 2011
This was one of the most strenuous tests we put our Vertico Ascenders through. To give you a bit of background, the Vertico Ascender is nothing more that the Tracting Deluxe with a new skin. The interior and framework is identical, just looks goofy in a suit.
Starting where our truck got stuck in the snow on the dirt road, we backpacked about 14 miles to the top of Ryan's Peak (through snow) and beyond onto the mountain crest trail for about 24 hours (packs weighing about 30lbs). We began hiking the dirt road as the trail, then moved on to bushwhacking a bit to get out of the deepest parts of the snow. With a beautiful view of the Tetons, we trekked up to the peak.
A few lessons I learned about the Verticos...the soft suede leather does terrible when sopping wet. I didn't take the time to waterproof the outside of the leather (I also didn't expect several feet of snow in June either, but oh well). This made for very wet and heavy shoes the entire trip. The (Tracting Deluxes don't have this same problem, because they are waterproofed.) Despite the extra weight both in the shoes and on my back, they help up remarkably well, keeping my feet supported over the various rocky terrain we bushwhacked. Not to mention how comfortable the soft leather was on my feet, giving me maximum flexibility. Traction on snow and ice? Perfect.
When we set up camp, I set the shoes out to dry next to the fire (no they didn't melt) and where mostly dry in the morning for the hike out (not that it mattered since we went trekking in the snow not 5 minutes after breaking camp.) Moral of the story, the Vertico Ascender is PERFECT for dry, warm hikes where the leather can loosen up and snuggle your feet. It is also terrible to trek in the snow or for long wet hikes. I should have been in a pair of Tracting Deluxes, or better, our Tracting Boots. That would have made the world of difference.