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|Mountaineering boots advice...
|22-Jun-2009 At 10:26:11 PM
|In choosing boots for alpine climbing there are some general principles worth keeping in mind. First is that you need boots which fit your feet as well as possible because you can’t crampon securely or quickly on sore feet. Second is that if you are going anywhere cold you should err on the side of warmth. Third is that for any serious climbing you need a full shank boot that will give you a solid platform edging and cramponning. Keeping in mind these ideas you try to match what you can get your hands on, which in Australia can be quite limited, to the sort of climbing you want to do.
Leather boots are lighter and more flexible through the ankle so they outperform plastics walking, flatfooting, rockclimbing and on technical ice&mixed ground. Insulated leathers deliver most of the same performance and are warmer to take on expanded conditions – I have worn mine up peaks just over 6000m and extensively climbing waterfalls etc in the Rockies in late February and March, but I seem to have pretty good circulation in my feet and wouldn’t push such boots any further than that. Leather boots are not good if you are going to be out on a route or camping for multiple days as they are not as warm and not as easy to dry (unless you look into vapour barrier socks or something like that).
Plastic boots are warmer and therefore better for extended trips, winter climbing and anything at altitude. If in doubt, especially if you are going high, get bigger, warmer boots and employ all the other tricks to look after your toes as well. Generally people are not taking on ground so technical at altitude that the climbing performance of the boot plays nearly as big a factor in their success or otherwise as does its insulation.
I have developed a few other thoughts on this question over time, and found out a couple of things as well.
Walking in is only as enjoyable as the company you do it with and the stories you have or hope to have to tell – all is suffering and your boots can only change that to an inadequate degree; best to put your feet in a helicopter or cable-car.
La Sportiva Makalu boots are outdated (look at the synthetics in the Sportiva Trango series which, sadly, no one imports) and generally too bendy (fine if you are not on any steep or sustained ice) but reportedly have the same length shank in all boots regardless of size, so if you have really small feet they are actually quite nice summer climbing boots.
If you are doing a trip in NZ with one of the major companies you can hire boots pretty cheaply for your trip and may be able to retain them for a while afterwards, but this will depend on availability (you would probably need to avoid the period from Christmas through the first half of January). If you are trying out the sport, gear stores in Christchurch and Wanaka also have boots for hire and this can be a good option up to 3 weeks, after which it probably costs too much relative to buying boots.
La Sportiva boots are said to be all made on the same last so, if you were not perturbed by the ethical questions involved, you could try on available models in Australia and then order the model you want (they have a huge range) from Europe.
Versions of the La Sportiva Nepal Extreme and the Scarpa Freney or similar boots (technical, light-moderately insulated leathers) are probably the sort of boot most seen in huts and climbing things in NZ with the exception of the lightish-weight blue plastic Asolo boots that must be the cheapest on the market because they fly over from Australia in huge numbers every year to try out mountaineering.
I have seen 4 different people, whose plastic boots were leant to them by friends or acquaintances, have their boot shells entirely disintegrate between the helicopter and the hut, which is hilarious and all that but not really convenient to say the least. It also reminds me to replace my helmet.
Good luck with your trip.
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