This fall, a friend and I made the drive from Burlington, Vermont to New Hampshire’s Cannon Cliff with the Whitney-Gilman Ridge as our objective. The WG is likely the most classic multi-pitch climb in the Northeast — big belay ledges, spectacular views, extremely exposed, everything you can ask for in a multi-pitch climb.
The hour long approach starts out moderate, following a recreation trail, but before too long, you’re sent into the woods and up a steep path abruptly reaching a boulder field. Once you break out of the woods, almost immediately you begin negotiating and hopping from one refrigerator sized boulder to the next. Getting closer to the WG, its size becomes more revealing and a little intimidating for someone who hasn’t been up there before — my first time was in the middle of winter during a very cold and snowy day. Luckily for us, our weather was prefect — warm, sunny, and not too many people were up there.
We climbed the first couple pitches in our approach shoes as the climbing is fairly moderate. I was test driving the Salewa Firetails, a good shoe for someone with narrow feet, which I have. The Firetails are more of a lightweight approach shoe and not really designed to climb routes like the WG — a demanding approach is where they shine. Think Salewa MTN Trainer meets trail runner. The Firetails feature an extended Y-lacing, 3F Power System, which basically means you’re getting a tight, evenly distributed lace over the foot for a more precise fit when traveling through aggressive terrain. The Vibram rubber sole is sticky, even on wet terrain I have found them to adhere well.
Carrying an approach shoe to the top of the WG is a must because of the steep and demanding descent. One of the features Salewa is best known for is its Multi- Fit Footbed technology. It allows individual adjustments to the volume of the footbed in the shoe so you can get an even more precise fit depending on the terrain. They are made with Gore-Tex liner, so it’s going to keep your foot dry and warm in most cooler/wet environments but sweat like a pig in a hotter climate. Salewa has another version of the Firetails without the Gore-Tex liner for desert roamers.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a versatile lightweight hiker/approach shoe that was designed with a precision fit in mind, the Firetail GTX is worth the look. More information on the Firetails can be found at salewa.us
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