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Ian1216

Leather or Plastic Boots?

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I'm a rock climber new to the world of alpine and I'm debating on whether to get plastic or leather boots. From now until June I plan on doing alpine involving steep snow, glacier, and alpine ice. El Dorado and Colchuck I have possible plans for, and I'd love to get up Rainier before I have to leave Seattle for the summer. That being said, what kind of boots would you recommend? I'm leaning towards plastic since they are warmer and I would be able to use them throughout the winter, but leather might be better for some of the lower altitude Cascade peaks. I only want to buy one pair of boots if possible. What do you guys think?

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Plastic boots, IMO, are uncomfortable and antiquated. I avoid them at all costs.

 

Boots I've been able to get down to two pairs, and cutting down to one requires a lot of compromise. Depending on how warm you need your boots to be, the silver Trangos might be an answer…

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Plastics are fine for snow, ice, glacier, but they get more annoying with rock. They aren't just for neophytes who are climbing in rented boots for the 1st time either. Some guides and other experienced folks on Rainier wear them year round. In fact if you climb Rainier in the winter, I think many folks would advise against anything other than plastic.

 

I would say getting it down to 2 pairs of boots is more realistic if you climb in the winter.

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Some insulated leather boots will be your best "all around" boot if you really only can have one pair. You'd be pushing it for warmth in winter on higher peaks although some supergaiters or overboots can work if you gt your system dialed and aren't planning on cold high stuff outside of the state. You'll also have a bit less sensitivity for rock but it will probably be better than most plastics provided you have a good fit.

 

If you shop around you'll notice that the number of leather/composite boots on the market has increased exponentially while the number of plastic boot models is shrinking. If I were guiding on Rainier I'd use plastics because they are well suited to that terrain, but it's not what I would choose if you want to do route involving rock/mixed in the Stuart range.

 

My old La Sportiva Nepal Extremes are still going strong as my main boot and my synthetic double boots haven't seen action since Peru (even for one January Rainier trip).

 

You might lose your toes though.

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What do people define double boots such as the phantom 6000, spantik and baruntse as?

 

If you plan on doing lots of overnights a double boot could be more useful. On the other hand, if you do the majority of your trips in one push then a boot that fits well and you can move fast in is more important.

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Another point to add: if you're all your climbing in the cascades it should be noted that it doesn't get that cold around here. On rainier it can, however are you going to be doing a winter ascent or wait till spring?

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I'm a proud owner of the La Sportiva Baruntse boots. They are COMPOSITES. As are the Phantom & Spantik.

 

I've loved the Baruntse simply because I could get them fitted by a boot fitter.

 

However, the trick for me was getting a boot that could go to Denali but climb Ice. The Baruntse's do this - however, I have to really cinch them to make this work. And after two seasons, the upper part of the boot has lost enough stiffness that at times my ankle rolls trying to plant my crampons.

 

I'm gonna end up at Ouray in something more sensitive, lighter and less warm (probably the Batura's).

 

Good luck!

 

And look at http://coldthistle.blogspot.com - Dane has great advice regarding boots.

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First pair I'd go with a Scarpa Charmoz or equivalent (whatever brand fits your feet). Over the long run, you'll probably use those the most.

 

Second pair for me would be an insulated full shank boot. I've got Scarpa Mont Blancs. Got em cheap, but my first choice would have been the lighter, warmer, and better fitting (for me, anyway) Mammut Mamooks. If you want to hit it hard this winter, this heavier boot could be your first choice.

 

Other than that, it's trail tennies and a pair of Sorel style boots for that occasional build-igloos-and-bonfires winter outing.

 

If you're an BC skier (or planning on becoming one), modern ski boots (I've got Dynafit TLT5 Mountains) serve very well as double boots for many trips. They offer very light weight and great walking flexibility these days.

 

I finally got rid of my double boots after not using them for a decade. I've seen many Rainier summit attempts dashed by the cruelty of rented double boots. In general, they can be bulky, awkward, and ill fitting.

 

Alaska and Rainier in winter (pick a warmish day and its not much different than Rainier in summer save shorter daylight, however) are in a different category that begs for much more specific, expensive footwear.

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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Good advise up thread.

 

I was on a rescue years back. Rode up with the sheriff and we woke up my buddy Mike at o dark thirty cause he was the only other known climber on the Mt. Mike had done a solo lap up Steele cliffs (Mount Hood) same day as dude but he knew the storm was a coming so he was boogying and got back in time. Mike had seen dude coming up as he was going down and described what he knew of location and equipment to us.

 

When we got there the weather was so bad that us rescuers could barely stand up. In the parking lot. I was wondering if we might lose a rescuer or 2 it was that bad. Kept tied in together to keep from blowing away. We hung out for 5 days looking for the guy. It was butt-assed cold too, I think it was February. They called it off as the weather started clearing figuring he was a gonner buried under 3 feet of fresh snow and all the rescuers and sheriffs went home. Cept for me an another guy. I use to like it up there and took to hanging out in my free time at odd places on the Mt. So I figured I'd just stay and eventually find a ride home.

 

I'm scratching my ass waking up slow and figuring I'll grab my axe and do a late start lap in the good weather but keep my eyes open for the body when right then the dude, alive, pops into the hut. Dude was a rich Californian skiier who didn't know shit about the mountains. He was smart enough to have a shovel and had dug a snow cave and he survived the horrible conditions somewhat protected, inside of it. He had top shelf expensive gear and in fact, a pair of plastic boots. When I saw him I just figured that he was gonna get some toes chopped. I've seen that happen before, frostbite comes easy in those conditions. The medics peeled off his new plastic boots and his feet looked like blanched white wrinkled prunes... NO frostbite. I asked him what he did for his feet (I was thinking along the lines of "Oh I put on the down booties I have stuffed in the bottom of my pack:-)" Nope, dude said he'd been wearing the plastic boots all week, didn't take them off once. :shock: I had him repeat that part LOL.

 

I became a plastic boot believer for big mountains. So what that means to you is that you'll probably have to do what everyone else is doing, just buy multiple shoes/boots for different types of climbing.

 

As noted above, fit is everything no matter what you get.

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BillCoe:

You are correct - it all gets down to boot specific, and unfortunately - one needs both if really doing all-season climbing.

And the next challenge is finding a plastic that fits - and do not use them on the approach trail (snow and ice only).

If one wanted an all-around boot then pick one that fits 90% of your adventures - and then if the temps drop, add the oldschool plastic bag for that one attempt.

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Cool this really helps. So I found a pair of Scarp Mont Blancs and La Sportiva Nepal Evos on sale. Sounds like these will fit most of my needs.

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Plastic, what are Your toes worth?? why 2nd guess. I too have seen Hood go from t-shirt to plastic boots and down parkas in what seemed like just a few minutes.Err on the safe side...even at 6000 feet in the cascades (Nelson Ridge in December ) it can be bitterly cold, too cold for most leather.

But thats me.

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I love my Nepal Evo's. Mostly summer climbing on Rainier and Hood. Never have done anything in the winter with them. But love the feel and fit. I have narrow feet and they seem to be the only boots that fit well.

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