Choosing the right boot

Since a lot of work I do involves Alpine objectives and summertime mountaineering, I get a lot of questions regarding what type of boots to buy.  Without exaggeration I spend at least 200+ days a year in mountain boots and ski boots and most of my clients are wearing boots as well.  Therefore, I have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t and I’ve seen a more than a few people spoil their trip due to poor boot choices.  With that said,  below are a few questions to ask yourself and a few tips when thinking about choosing the right boot for your climbing desires.

1. Fit  Forget about colors, price tags or any brand loyalties you may have.  If your boots don’t fit well it can seriously jeapordize your success on any objective.  It’s best to take the time to find a good fitting quality boot initially as it will save you in the long run.

2. Single vs. Double  These days most single boots are warm enough and stiff enough to excel during four season.  However, if your trip involves camping double boots are still a good choice as you can dry out the liners.  My personal favorite is the Scarpa Omega – super warm, affordable, lightweight and rigid making it a good choice for technical climbing

3. Size  It is always easier to take up space in a boot than make them bigger.  I rarely hear someone complain that a boot is too big, but regularly hear people complain their toes are banging.  Also, your feet swell at altitude and leather boots can shrink over time with exposure to water (at least that is my experience…?).  When in doubt get the extra size larger, your feet will thank you for it

4. Flex  What are your objectives?  For ice and a lot flat footing mountaineering terrain, go with a rigid boot.  If your goals are more scrambling related or you need a boot for an approach you’ll be happier with a more flexible boot.  For example: on the Matterhorn the Scarpa Triolet is great, but on Mt. Rainier go with the Phantom Guide.

5. Insulation When will the boot be used?  No need to get a warm boot if you’re only using them in the summer to cross glaciers in the Bugaboos.  Likewise, it is bad form to get frostbite in July on Mont Blanc because you’re using a boot with no insulation.  Think about what seasons you are will be using your boot and choose accordingly.  Remember it is always better to have a boot that is too warm than otherwise.

6 . Crampon compatability  One thing to consider when buying new boots is what type of crampons you own.  A lot of semi-rigid boots will not take a step in binding crampon which may require you to purchase another pair of crampons…  Just food for thought when making a new purchase.

My boot picks:

Ice and Winter Alpine:  Phantom Guide and Omega

Summer Alpine: Triolet (more scrambling oriented) and Jorasses (ridgid)

Lightweight for Approaches:  Charmoz, Rebel or Maverick




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