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gwhayduke

Comprehensive boot guide?

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Hi all. I'm fairly new to the alpine climbing. I begged, borrowed, and stole enough gear last summer to climb Rainier via the Emmons route, and now I'm looking to buy some of my own stuff.

 

I'm looking for boots, but I've encountered a few problems.

 

First of all, I don't trust many of the reviews I read online because I don't know who wrote them. I've done some searching on this board, but boot reviews are generally comparing and contrasting individual boots. Right, that's what I'm looking for, but it's a painful process to look through countless pages to find threads about a few different boots. Also, I don't have my own computer and it's hard for me to find the time to look through them.

 

I've done some reading in Freedom of the Hills, but that's more about boot construction and style rather than reviews of specific brands.

 

Is there anywhere online to find a guide? I'm looking for a boot that's warm enough for winter ascents in the cascades. I'm also interested in learning to ice climb, so I would like to find a boot that is a bit more versatile.

 

Thanks for any help. bigdrink.gif

Edited by gwhayduke

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Go to www.rei.com. There is an link to a chart where you can view all the data on each boot they carry as far as material weight full shank half shank and whatever else you desire. After you get a good idea of what your looking at there and what matches up with what you want call the store make sure they have all the boots in your size that you want to test out and go for it. If you find a boot that you like but still want to double check on it then look for a specific review on that boot to see if there are problems with it.

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The actual brand that you buy is going to be more of a personal choice. Are your feet wide or narrow? Do you blister easily? Do you have problems breaking in boots? All of these questions are going to be part of your inital investigations into boots...

 

While trying to decide what to buy, something that you might consider asking about is what has worked for others. In addition to this, it's not a bad idea to find out if people have had problems with older boots they've owned as well. Unfortunately though, because everyone is different it would not be suprising if you get a number of different opinions.

 

However, pay attention to those boots that are disliked by many. And pay attention to those that seem to be loved.

 

On that note, you also indicated that you wanted to use your boots for multiple purposes. Personally I have a set-up that is not very good for a beginner as it is a little pricy, but might be educational. I have four sets of footwear which are applicable to different situations:

 

1) Plastic Boots

 

These are the cold-weather workhorses. I wear them when I'm going to be in the snow or on the ice most of the time. I wear them for long term expeditions and I wear them when it is cold. They can be worn for ice climbing or limited rock climbing, but their shape and size makes them unweildy on the rock.

 

The advantages to this set-up are that they are easy to dry and they are warm. The disadvantages are that they can be hot and they are not very precise when it comes to moving over rock. They are VERY uncomfortable on long approaches when they are not in the snow.

 

If your primary interests are mountains like Rainier and Baker and the like, then these are probably a good choice for your first boot.

 

2) Leather Boots

 

This is a step down from Plastics. They are not quite as warm, but they are more precise on both rock and ice. On colder rock climbs -- Washington Pass just after the road opens or the Stuart Range in Winter conditions -- I'm much more likely to wear these boots than a pair of plastics.

 

The advantages include more precision on technical ground and more comfort on approaches. The disadvantages are that sometimes they are not warm enough and if they get wet, it is very difficult to dry them out.

 

One more thing to consider about leathers is that some brands are easier to break-in than others. Ask around about the pairs that you are considering.

 

3) Sticky Rubber Approach Shoes

 

Once the snow has receeded to a managable level, I will do alpine rock climbs and scrambles with sticky rubber approach shoes. On easier long rock climbs these are far superior to rock shoes and help to eliminate weight.

 

The advantages to these are that they are light and eliminate the need for rock shoes. They are also quite comfortable. Realize that it is easy to get wet and cold in this set-up if the weather craps out and then they will be hard to dry. In addition to this, you probably shouldn't wear approach shoes if you plan to climb at your limit.

 

4) Rock Shoes

 

Rock shoes are for climbing hard rock climbs. Ideally these are worn in good warm weather, but unfortunately not all weather is good and warm.

 

The advantage to rock shoes is precision. The disadvantages are that you will need another pair of shoes to approach, they are uncomfortable, and they do not insulate your feet when the weather is cold.

 

In any case, that is a basic boot guide that addresses the different types of boots and shoes that you will encounter. That was the easy part. Now finding the right brands that will work for your feet...that's the hard part.

 

Jason

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Thanks for the great response, Jason.

 

I understand that you can't take someone's advice on how a boot fits, but I don't really have enough information to decide whether to shop for a leather or plastic boot.

 

I used plastics last August on Rainier and my feet wouldn't talk to me for a month.

 

They were probably not the right size or shape for my feet, but I'm still attracted to leathers more than plastics because of this.

 

Are there certain leathers that are warm enough for winter ascents and sturdy enough for ice climbing? Is there such a thing as leathers with removable liners? That sounds counter-intuitive, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

 

Thanks again.

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Sounds like you need the La Sportive Mega Max Rock Climbing Shoes!

 

Marry a climbing shoe with a gaiter and you'll get the winter-loving Mega Max. Inside, the board-lasted suede boot laces up and is insulated for comfort. Outside, the gaiter and boot cover protect from weather and abrasion with water-repellent Schoeller®-Keprotec® and Schoeller®-Dynamic®.

 

F_66560_1.jpg

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It sounds more like you want a double leather boot. there are a few models out there like the Salomon Pro Thermic or the Sportiva Nuptse.

nuptse.jpg

 

check out this review from Climbing too.

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I've never seen anything like those. I'm sort of having a hard time figuring out how they work. How would you wear crampons with those? Wouldn't they flex too much? I really don't get it.

 

And as for the Nuptses, I've heard good things about them. They look a little spendy, but if they're durable I'd be willing to shell it out. I have Sportiva rock shoes that fit my feet like a glove... do you think that means I'd likely have good luck with their boots?

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Just kidding around gwhayduke. Those are just cold weather rockclimbing shoes...not a general alpine boot. The Sportiva Nuptse recommendation sounds good, but equally important is the fit. Not matter if it is plastic or leathers, if you don't have good circulation, you're going to suffer.

 

I just got a pair of Scarpa Alphas. They're a more flexible plastic boot and they're comfortable and light for a plastic. I can't recommend them yet, because I haven't wore them on an outhing yet.

 

Goodluck! bigdrink.giffruit.gif

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Yeah, I get the bit about finding the right fit. That's fine, and I know that I I'm the only one who can figure that out.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from reading some reviews it seems like the Nuptse is more built for general mountaineering and the Alphas are designed more for technical ice. If that's true, which boot do you think is more of a compromise between the two?

 

I'm trying to find this balance between a comfortable and sturdy boot. I know that I'll be using my boots for glacier travel, but I'm not sure how much I'll be using them for ice. I'm really excited to learn how to ice climb, but I don't know anyone to take me out and learn.

 

Uh, I'm trying to form a question around those thoughts, but I think you get my point.

 

Thanks again for your help. I really appreciate it. rockband.gif

Edited by gwhayduke

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I'm not a "boot expert", but there are many good boots out there that would serve well for both alpine slogs and technical ice. You can find boots out there that are at the extremes for a specific climbing dicipline, but from trying on boots in the store and common sense evaluation, both the Nuptse and the Alphas are not at the extreme, and would work well for either. If you're really going to get into ice climbing, from what I have heard, you want a snugger fit (i haven't tried it myself yet). For plastics, fit may depend on what liner you go with (stock or third party) as well.

 

I ended up going with the Alphas because they are lighter, felt more precise, and yet they are more flexible than other plastics such as the Invernos, etc. I'm going to fit them with Intiution liners, and I think these will end up keeping my feet warm without the wieght and less precise feel of other plastics.

 

I'm sure that there are some nice leathers/composite material boots out there that are pretty comparable to the setup I'm going with. I've heard people say good things about the Scarpa Freneys.

 

I would go to a shop and try on a bunch of different brands to find the best fit.

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Hayduke, there are more dimensions than in JM's comprehensive note - fit, personal usage and much more. So I'd say make sure you don't look for boots for a winter Denali ascent, or Thalay Sagar, you'll laugh at you choice by the time you qualilfy. You said Cascades so unless you have unusually cold feet, http://www.rockandice.com/gear/130/gear.boots.130.html will give you an idea, there are more kinds out there. Plastics can be cold too once you stop if your foot sweats too much from being too warm!

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The final tip (may be redundant by now) that I'd add is that most places will take back boots that are in new condition. So, take them to the gym and get on the stairmill for a while and find out how they really perform over a few miles of climbing. If they don't work out, back they go and you don't have to sweat the return.

 

It doesn't get that cold in the PNW to worry so much about the warmth of the boot. Good leather boots are pretty warm. One of the guys that just got back from Ama Dablam did it in the LaSportiva K4S, same boot I've got. My toes were a bit cold around camp in Ak in this boot, but were fine while climbing even without an overboot. I have also not had any problems in Ouray down to 0°F in leather boots even when standing around most of the day.

 

Again, your physiology is your business, so if you have Raynauds or poor circulation a plastic or leather double may be a better bet and is probably a primary consideration.

 

I have only had one pair of boots that fit perfectly, and they were an old Scarpa leather. Some folks are lucky, some are not. If you don't find something either engage a professional bootfitter or keep looking.

 

The only thing the reviews are OK for: general characteristics such as flex, crampon compatability, and general shape and volume. The boot has to fit your foot or no amount of duct tape or second skin is going to fill the void.

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Im in the same boat when it comes to finding a good mountaineering boot. I have a good pair of leather Asolo's but they do not accept step-in or hybrid crampons. Right now I am looking at either getting a pair of Scarpa Invernos to go along with a pair of Black Diamond Sabretooths crampons; or I will just get a pair of strap-ons for my Asolo's and leave it at that for the year. I am taking the Mountaineers Basic Climbing course starting in a few weeks so hopefully they can help out. Its always been easy picking out rock climbing shoes, but Mountaineering boots seem so final since they are so expensive!!

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for those who don't like plastic boots, don't get them, sez me. i've never been anywhere i've needed plastics, and have been much happier on the approach and climb in leather. la sportiva makes excellent insulated leathers, as does solomon, and the montrail ice 9 qualifies also. the insulation in these boots isn't much, so if i expect it to be below 0 all day i'll use an insulated supergaiter. that worked well for me down to -20 (peru, winter). i haven't had any problem freezing my boots because i always put them in a stuff sack at the bottom of my sleeping bag.

 

my feet have never given me too much trouble, and i always approach the new boot experience with excitement--somewhere out there is a boot that will feel deliriously great right out of the box. you just have to have the patience to find it and the right fitter to make it work with your foot. expect to add supefeet or some other footbed to get a perfect fit. it's just like dating: don't settle for simply good enough if you're looking for a long term gig. bad boots are way worse than getting nagged for not doing the dishes.

 

re: crampons--get good boots and fit the crampons to them. you might not be able to make your favorite crampon work with every boot, but crampons are mostly the same anyway unless you climb ice at a very high grade.

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If you live close to Spokane just stop by Mountain Gear. I haven't lived there for 10 years, but between my wife and I we've only ever bought 1 pair of boots fomr someone else. Those guys rock, they'll set you up right and they're all pretty hard core so they know what you'll need even if you don't.

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i keep hearing that, but i've never had a problem. maybe i'm just lucky, or my feet don't sweat much. i guess if that's a problem then plastic's the better choice. they're just too heavy for my wee chicken legs.

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If you get the Scarpa Alpha with the Intuition liners, they are not significantly heavier than leathers and they are totally warm and dry.

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Gwhayduke,

 

You are right to be wary of reviews, in general. I remember one review in "Rock and Ice" that recommended the La Sportiva Trango S as a good boot for climbing Mount Rainier via Liberty Ridge. wazzup.gif

 

Anyhow, you mentioned winter climbing in the Cascades. If your feet tend to get cold, you will want to own plastics. On the other hand, if you have good circulation in your feet, there are great leather boots out there that would be good for winter use in the Cascades. Thing is, even if you buy leathers for winter use, those leathers will likely be warmer and heavier than what you would want for summer mountaineering. It is hard to identify one boot that works well year-round in the Cascades. In winter, you want lots of insulation. In summer, you (generally) want lightweight boots.

 

Personally, I use the Scarpa Alphas in winter, and on the volcanoes. In summer, I switch to the La Sportiva "Trango S" boots.

 

Just my gumby $0.02. wave.gif

 

 

OlyRob--

 

Not sure if you were soliciting opinions on your boot choice, but here is an unsolicited opinion: The Scarpa Inverno is a heck of a lot of boot (over 6 pounds worth, I think), for the types of climbs you will likely be doing (and the season you will be doing them in) in the Mountaineers Basic Course. The Invernoes are clunky rock climbers, as well, though I guess it could be more "sporting" to climb the Tooth wearing those gunboats. About the only place in the Cascades I could imagine needing that much boot, would be on a winter ascent of Rainier. But, the best thing is to wait and see what boots they specifically recommend in your class... wave.gif

Edited by Stephen_Ramsey

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Size 9.5 scarpa alphas w/intuition liner + superfeet insoles: 5 pounds per pair. Cooked at home in the oven, duct-taped the insoles to my feet w/thin liners and toe caps. Toasty !

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Just echoing what has been said earlier...

 

Your feet will tell you which boots are right - some folks will tell you that your feet just need to get used to the boot. Don't buy it... if it doesn't feel right, don't keep doing it. Try on boots in the store, take their "ramp test", walk up and down the stairs, and most importantly... kick your toes straight down into the floor HARD. HARDER. After you get over the frightened stares from other customers, do it again. Did your toes hit the front or did you experience any pains? Wrong size or wrong boot. Try on tons of boots, it will all depend on your foot type. (I've found Montrails seem to work well for narrow feet, if you have them. But then, that's just my opinionated opinion.)

 

When you decide on the right boot, wear it around the house a bunch. Take them to work (if you work in an office) and clomp around inside all day. Just don't mark up the sole so if you want to take them back you can.

 

Just my nickels worth, but I've NEVER used plastic boots and have never had issues. I've had two pair of leather Montrails and never had an issue with wet boots. Multi-day jaunts up Rainier have never caused problems with moisture buildup. If I did more multi-day trips during the Winter, I might have problems, but I don't with the limited Cascade climbing I do.

 

Just like other climbing gear, even if you try to buy "intelligently" now, looking toward the future, you'll STILL end up with a closet full of specialized gear.

 

-kurt

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Ramsey - Thanks for the post, good stuff. You just made my decision easier. I plan on using my Asolo leathers with the Black Diamond Contact strap-ons for the mountaineers this year and then make a better decision on boots next year.

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OlyRob - I did the mounties' basic class with a pair of glorified hiking boots and aluminum strap-on crampons. Your combo should be fine. Then later you can choose your boots to fit your ambitions, whatever those turn out to be.

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