Having only ever owned one pair of boots since the family fell walking years and with our sights set firmly on higher, more remote peaks, I decided it was time for a serious upgrade.
I purchased my first Alpine style boots for Aneto in the Pyrnees around five years ago. I’ve always been one for a lightweight set up so with the recent release of the Scarpa Rebel Lite, I got mine in right away. Heavily influenced by all-time mountaineering legend, Uli Steck, the boots were designed to be as light and fast as possible however, their lack of rigidity when traversing and on more technical ground has become an increasing issue, and they weren’t as warm as I needed in minus 30 degrees in the Russian Caucasus.
Though I’ve bagged my fair share of big peaks over the years, there is a lot to learn about mountaineering kit so I headed to an expert to get measured up, not least because my feet are a pretty unusual shape. Thankfully, Cotswold Outdoors offer a free boot fitting service up and down the country with a selection of the best kit on the market.
So for those who don’t know, mountaineering boots have a relatively simple system to identify how rigid they are. For those wanting to do some hill walking with the odd glacier crossing, they’d be looking for a flexible boot that can take a crampon so B1 rated. Someone looking to do slightly more technical climbing may look for a B2 boot, and if the activity might require the occasional steeper pitch or ice climbing then they’d need B3 which are more or less completely rigid. Once you’re in this territory, you need to consider whether you want a single or double skin boot for warmth. Crampons generally follow suit in a similar fashion rated C1, 2 or 3.
So my main man Bruce is taking me right back to the Clarks school shoes days measuring all the intricate measurements of my feet. There is a great range available although with the more serious end of mountaineering boots, there are two main brands La Sportiva & Scapra. Coming out a half size larger than I normally would expect, we’ve narrowed the options down…
La Sportiva Nepal Extreme’s are widely considered the household favourites for most Alpine and Scottish winter climbing. They’re robust, warm and fairly reasonably prices at £355.00
They fit well, although feel quite clunky compared with what I’m used to. They feel like a traditional and robust workhouse that could go on for years, but although not necessarily the most refined product in the world, definitely a very solid option.
Next onto the Sportiva Men’s G2 SM coming in at £650.00. Double skin with a pretty swanky Boa lacing system that makes light work of getting them on and off, something that can be very important with in cold conditions at basecampe! They actually feel surprisingly flexible too, making easy work of the Cotswolds testing ground.
The Scarpa Men’s Phantom 6000 are a great looking boot, the super neat gaiter system combined with the colour scheme make for a slick looking boot. But I’m determined to choose the best suited boot irrespective of which looks the best so put that to the back of my mind. I find the lace system a little faffy compared with the Sportiva equivalent but they feel so comfortable once on.
My legendary boot footer, Bruce insists I don’t rush the decision and we chat about our respective adventures both past and present. After some time with one of each on, the Scarpa just gets more and more comfortable – we have a winner!
So what’s next? Next month, I’m going to attempt every Alpine country high point in the Alps in a single trip…
Although I’ve been up Mont Blanc a couple of times, already the rest are all new so very excited, especially for Dufourspitze! We’ve also got our eyes on a couple of remote 7000ers in central Asia so watch this space!
If anyone has any questions about the boots or kit in general, feel free to drop me a message. And massive thanks to Cotswold Outdoors for the quality boot fitting service.
Our recent trip out near Switzerland high point, Monte Rosa