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boots 18/7/00 11:29 pm Page 62


Putting the
boot on
Bruce Goodlad gets
intimate with leather boots that is


1 Scarpa Freney 169.99

Lets start with something a bit radical. The Freney is constructed on

Scarpas FS last, introduced for the Mescalito (aka El Cap) last year,
which makes the boot asymmetrical, concentrating the foots power
onto the inside edge of the big toe. I used these boots a lot last
winter and thought they were brilliant to climb in, feeling
extremely light and dextrous on the feet. The only
drawback is crampon compatibility - the only model
that fits easily is the new, asymmetric DMM
Terminator - any other model requires very
careful adjustment.

2 Scarpa Cerro Torre

An incredibly light boot designed for
Alpine climbing built using the same
last as the popular Matterhorn. The
less radical design accepts crampons
more readily but feels less precise than the Freney when balancing

about on small holds. Generous padding makes the Cerro Torre
comfortable to walk in and a speed lacing system allows for an easily
adjustable fit. Slightly less technical than the Freney, but more versatile.

3 La Sportiva Lhotse 179.99

Despite looking like a Friesian cow, the Lhotse is a well-made boot. The
upper is made from treated leather with a Gore-Tex and Duratherm
lining that helps keep the foot dry and warm while a fabric
insert at the back of ankle prevents the boot from
rubbing on the Achilles tendon. The sole unit accepts a
crampon easily, but is not quite as stiff as the Nepal
Top. The Lhotse is ideal for mountaineering and
climbing to a high level but the bulk of the toe and
the weight would put me off a little on the hardest
routes. New for this winter.

can still remember the first pair of

leather mountaineering boots I ever
bought. I had just finished my Ogrades and I had been pedalling my
bike round the damp Ayrshire streets
delivering newspapers, saving hard for my
objects of desire, a pair of Scarpa Manta
leather four-season boots. I remember
being in the shop trying on lots of
different models knowing all along that I
was going to leave with a shiny new pair
of grey leather Mantas.
Complete with my new boots, I headed
for Arran for four days walking and
scrambling, a place that I still have great
affection for. It is the first place I was
allowed to go on my own, the crag where I
lead my first mountain route and, believe
it, or not the venue for my first winter
new route.
The reason all these things are still
fresh in mind is that I still have the
boots. 13 years on and a couple of resoles
later, the Mantas are still in one piece.

Neil Stevenson approaching the summit

of the Zinalrothorn (4221m).
Photo: Bruce Goodlad

62 September 2000 climber

Despite the label they were never fourseason boots, the cut away heel being a
death trap on snow and the flex in the
sole unit only allowing good crampon
control on easy angled slopes. Despite
this, they have served me well and when I
was deciding what boots to take to Nepal
for some trekking it was straight to the
old carpet slippers. They dont keep the
water out any more but at 13 years old I
wouldnt really expect them to.
After surviving a couple of disastrous
plastic boot purchases, you know the
story; having spent a hundred odd quid on
a pair of boots you tend to suffer the
trauma of using an entire roll of tape on
each foot in some vain attempt to
minimise or at least delay the amount of
pain that is to come. As the inner boots
steadily cheese-grater your feet into red
bloody masses you think There must be a
more comfortable way of going climbing.
The solution was to try something
completely different, so I went out and

bought a pair of La Sportiva Nepal Tops.

All of a sudden I wasnt spending a
fortune on tape each week. In fact, the
boots didnt even need breaking in, all I
did was put them on my feet and head out
climbing. I would love to say that they
allowed me to flow effortlessly across acres
of vertical ice just like Jeff Lowe does in
the videos but they didnt. What they did
give me was a degree of precision footwork
that I had previously only dreamed about
which, combined with the lack of pain,
ensured that my whole climbing day
became so much more enjoyable.
This may all sound a bit anti-plastic
boot and it is a bit, but there are still
plenty of days when I will head for the
hills wearing my plastics. The trick with
plastics is to try on enough pairs so that
you find a pair that suits the shape of
your feet. No matter what anyone tells
you, there is no chance of breaking in a
pair of plastic boots - your feet will either
harden to them or be trashed in the
climber September 2000

63 18/7/00 11:29 pm Page 64


6 Montrail Verglas

4 La Sportiva Trango
Extreme 179.50


If you are after lightweight

precision, this is the boot for you.
The Trango Extreme is the beefiest
of the three Trango models
featuring a toe welt, Thinsulate
insulation and a stiffer sole unit
than the other models. The
Extreme has become the boot
of choice for those on the ice
climbing competition circuit,
but is it of any use to us
mortals? The answer is yes - the
boot readily accepts a crampon;
the toe box gives great precision on
rock or ice without crushing the toes. Combined with the
solid sole under the big toe the Extreme was the best model for
rock climbing in the review, they are even comfortable to wear (Ive just
used a pair for three weeks guiding in the Cuillin and they were superb).
Where the boot isnt so good is hacking your way across a Scottish bog
to get to your route. If you are expecting a moisture problem Id take
something a bit beefier.


Montrails serious
mountaineering boot
uses their Integrafit
technology to hold the
foot extremely well, with
negligible heel lift while front
pointing. The boot features an interesting beech wood board
for rigidity which still allows a small amount of spring for
walking comfort. Thinsulate keeps things warm and
a high moulded rubber rand protects the
leather. The only drawback with the Verglas
is that the radius of the toe is quite big so
certain step-in crampons wont fit.

7 Berghaus M9 Extrem
The M9 is an updated version of the
Berghaus Baltoro, fully stiffened with Carbon fibre
and offering a good blend of support and flexibility. The effort required
to break them in was repaid with excellent performance on all types of
terrain, including a number of the hardest routes last winter. Its just a
shame that they are so difficult to get hold of!

5 La Sportiva Nepal
Extreme 199.99

The Nepal Extreme, an insulated version

of the legendary Nepal Top, features a
Thinsulate lining and an insulated foot bed
to provide the warmth. This year the boot
has a new adjustable tongue that
can be removed and adjusted to
gain the best fit. The sole
unit is completely rigid
and will take any
crampon and is
an excellent
boot for any
type of

attempt. After going through Koflach and

Asolo I found that Scarpa Vegas suit my
feet, though it would be nice if they went
back to the original design (the pink
ones) as none of the subsequent models
hold your heel as well when front
Plastic boots are warmer and more
waterproof than leathers, but are heavier
and more cumbersome to climb in. If I am
climbing in the Alps in winter Ill always
use plastics, (I like my toes the colour
they are) and I still enjoy the extra
warmth when cascade climbing on really
cold days. Back home Ill use my plastics
quite a lot while on the West Coast, it
being that bit wetter, so my feet will stay
drier and anyway, plastic inners dry much
faster for the next day than leathers do.
The rest of the time I will use leather
boots, as they are more comfortable to
walk in being lighter and more breathable
and hence more enjoyable to climb in.

64 September 2000 climber

Leather boot design and construction

has moved on, allowing todays boots to be
smaller, lighter and stiffer than ever
before. Boots are made using a foot
shaped model called a last which gives a
boot its fit. Different shaped lasts give
different fits and they wont all suit
everyones feet, so a manufacturer will use
a range of lasts depending on the fit and
performance characteristic they are trying
to create with any particular model.
The mid sole of the boot will control
the flex of the boot both longitudinally
and laterally, this flex translates to how
comfortable a boot is to walk in, how well
it will edge and whether it will be able to
take a crampon or not. Traditionally
stiffness was provided by a metal plate
(half shank, full shank etc), but modern
materials allow plastics to be used in
combination with metal inserts to create a
lighter sole unit.
The sole of the boot is what gives the

grip while walking on rough terrain,

patterns vary from manufacturer to
manufacturer but a good rule of thumb
would be that the closer together the
cleats are round the edge of a boot the
easier it will be to climb in. The wider
spaced the cleats the less they will clog
with mud, but they will feel less precise
on rocky ground. The harder the rubber
compound, the less grip you will get on
rock but the sole will be more durable
Modern leather boots look much
flashier than their predecessors due to
bright colour schemes and the suede like
appearance of the leather. There a huge
variety of different leathers (Scarpa use
more than 5 different types throughout
their range) so just because they may all
look similar they are not. Most of the
boots featured use older, thicker hides
(about 3mm) reversed, so the denser more
waterproof part of the hide is on the
inside of the boot with the suede-like


8 Boreal Super Latok 162.95

to mountaineering and routes up to grade 5, above this I would prefer a

boot with a flatter sole unit.

Boreals top of the range leather boot

designed for high-level mountaineering,
mixed and ice climbing. The Latok is
insulated with Thinsulate and incorporates a
Dri-line lining that helps keep moisture under
control. On first acquaintance the upper feels
quite soft which makes them comfortable
to walk in, but when tightened they offered
the best ankle support than any of the
other boots featured. An excellent boot
for any use.

Salomon Super Mountain 9 Guide Thermic


9 Boreal Pamir 149.95

The Pamir is basically an uninsulated version of the Latok, so if you
dont need the warmth and want to save a bit of weight, this might be a
better option. One thing worth mentioning is that although the two
models are meant to have the same sole unit, the Pamir seemed
noticeably more flexible than the Latok.

10 Lowa Cristallo 180

Lowa are probably better known for their plastic
boots but their leather models are a worthy
alternative. The Cristallo has the most
rocker of any of the boots featured
making them extremely easy to walk in,
but not so good for rock climbing. A
pronounced lip at the toe and the heel
allows secure crampon attachment
and the stiff rand provides an
extremely stable platform for
cramponning. The rocker on
the sole makes the
Cristallo more suited

outer providing protection from nicks and

abrasion that may cause the boot to leak.
As part of the tanning process, some
manufacturers impregnate the leather
with silicon to add further waterproofing.
As with all mountaineering products,
you have to think carefully about what
type of mountaineering or climbing you
want to do before you even head out to
the shop.
We will assume that no matter which
boot you choose you will want to attach a
crampon to it, this may be to walk in the
hills in winter, approach an alpine rock
route or to climb a difficult mixed route.
If you are interested in general
mountaineering in the UK, a bit of
Alpinism and maybe some easier winter
routes you will want a boot that will be
warm enough for a bit of standing about
but you will generally be on the move
most of the time. The boot should take a
crampon easily and probably most

Super Mountain 9s are one of those boots that you either love or
hate with nothing in between, the reason for this being the
pronounced plastic heel cup. If your foot fits the
shape of the cup, it will be held in a wonderfully
secure position that eliminates heel lift while
climbing. If it doesnt, your Achilles tendon
will feel as if someone has attacked it with a
blunt hacksaw. Unfortunately I am in the later
category so the plus points on the boot are not mine. The
Thermo is an insulated version of the Super Mountain 9 Guide which
has been around for a few years now, insulation is provided by a
Thinsulate lining. The clever double lacing system enables a precise fit
and plastic around the toe area allows for an excellent crampon fit. An
excellent boot but just be aware when trying them on that the heel cup
is more pronounced than it may appear upon first acquaintance.

AKU Extrem 150.00


Aku are a brand that is not seen that often which is a shame. The first
thing I noticed about the Extrem was the weight as they feel incredibly
light. The boots are lined with Gore-Tex, to help control moisture. The
sole unit on the boot is more flexible than the others tested so the boot
is probably more suited to
general mountaineering
and easy routes rather
than top end use. c

important of all be comfortable to walk in.

The more curve there is in a boots sole
(rocker) the more comfortable the boot
will be to walk in, the pay off is that the
boot will not feel anywhere near as
precise to climb in, this is particularly the
case on rocky terrain. If you arent
planning to spend all your time on your
front points having a completely rigid
boot isnt really necessary and a slight
flex will make walking more comfortable.
A flatter sole and smaller toe box will
provide a more precise feel when rock
climbing, this translates to mixed and ice
climbing where greater precision is
invaluable particularly on harder routes.
Here climbing performance is more
important than walking comfort.
Leather boots are never going to be as
warm as plastics, but some do come with a
Thinsulate lining that will greatly increase
warmth, but take longer to dry if it gets

Crampon Compatibility
As the design of boots become more radical,
crampon compatibility is becoming more of
an issue. Most of the boots reviewed here
have a welt at the toe for a full step-in
crampon, but I will generally use a hybrid
crampon (strap at the toe and clip at the
heel) to give me the speed of a step-in
without the worry of a toe bail popping off
if there is any flex in the boot. With wear
this welt will become steadily smaller, so
eventually you will need a crampon with a
toe strap anyway.

La Sportiva:

01250 873863
0191 516 5600
01433 639433
01286 872222
01228 591007
015396 25493
0191 296 0212
01256 479555
climber September 2000