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Mountaineering Boots

You will need mountainering boots for Basic Mountaineering. They will be expensive. Hiking boots will not be sufficient. Do not think that you can get by with hiking boots and pick up mountainering boots later. If you are not ready to purchase mountaineering boots you are not ready to take mountaineering classes. That being said, you don't need the boots for the Navigation and Rock classes. But you will need them for the snow classes.

A pettern I have seen is that students will opt for a realtively inexpensive light-weight synthetic boot as a first purchase. Then, after they get into winter mountaineering and ice climbing, will buy an all-leather or heavier synthetic boot for the cold temperatures.

This will perhaps be your most expensive single purchase. Be careful with your selection; you depend on your feet to get from point A to point B. If your feet are not happy, you are not happy. Worst case: you travel slowly or not at all and get caught in bad weather; high danger. Hiking boots are ok for WTS or BKPS but will not cut it for BMS; you must have an alpine boot. For one-day Colorado peaks, simple, insulated single boots will be sufficient. For higher altitudes and colder temperatures, you will need more sophisticated (and expensive) boots. So closely examine the specifications to determine if the boot fits your needs. Also see FOTH pp. 26-29.

Fit: your number one concern. Because of this, you might consider buying at REI if you have any doubt at all about how the boot fits in the store; REI will allow returns after you wear the boot in the field. Bent Gate and Neptune will allow returns after you have worn the boot around the house. However, it is bad form to get help at one store and then buy at another store. When fitting, wear the socks you plan to wear in the field. Many folks prefer a thin liner under a thicker sock; I prefer a single sock. You do not want the fit to be so snug that the sock is compressed and loses its insulative properties. You do not want your toes to be bumping the front of the shoe and you do not want your heel to be slipping as you flex your ankle.

Material: most popular these days is light-weight synthetic. Lighter, more comfortable (less break-in), quick drying. Downside is less durable, not as warm, not as stiff. All-leather is more durable and warmer (I estimate 10°-15° difference). I run hot and find that my leather boots keep my feet comfortably warm down to 0°-10° above zero as long as I am moving. I have been in colder temps & over-nighters and still been fine. If I am not moving, my feet start to get cold at about 20°. I find that many students with synthetic boots get uncomfortably cold at about 20° even while moving. But leather can be unforgiving and has a long break-in. My all leather boots are warm enough and stiff enough for vertical ice in the winter. Heavy-weight synthetics are more expensive but are warmer.
Stiffness: soles should flex no more than about 10 degrees. This insures dependable crampon attachment, helps support calves on vertical terrain, and allows effective kicking of steps in snow. If you can bend that toe back more than 10 degrees, it's too flexible for a mountaineering boot.

Crampon fit: boots with both toe and heel welts can take a step-in crampon for more serious vertical ice. Boots with only a heel welt can take hybrid strap-on crampons. Boots with no welts can take only strap-on crampons, better suited to glacier travel than vertical ice (we have mostly the strap-ons for students). If you already have some crampons, take them to the store to be sure they are compatible with the boots you are looking at.

When browsing the web, you can get an excellent idea of what is available by specifying Mountaineering Boots in the category selection.
When shopping, ask the clerk for a crampon compatible mountaineering boot.

The LaSportiva Trango S EVO GTX is a very popular boot and reasonably priced at about $320. This is in the category of light-weight synthetic. It will take a strap-on or hybrid crampon. It is not meant for super cold temperatures. I find that students who are sensitive to cold will get cold feet in this boot at temperatures in the 20s and 30s. In general, boots in the price range will perform similarly.

The LaSportiva Nepal EVO GTX, priced at about $510, is an example of the heavier, all-leather boot that is more durable and warmer than the lighter synthetic boot. This boot takes step-in crampons. This boot is better suited to 4-season mountaineering and ice climbing in Colorado. It is not quite warm enough for extended overnight stays in sharp winter or on a cold trip to Rainier.

The LaSportiva G2 SM, priced at about $825, is an example of a synthetic double boot that is better suited for more technical trips. It will be warmer than the Nepal and will keep your feet warm on cold ice-climbing days and on Rainier.