Teles for mountaineering


Original Post
Lauren Burgess · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 10

After an eight-year hiatus in which I gave up my teles for that sexy newcomer, thick-waisted twin tip alpine skis, having gotten "tired of being tired" (trying to keep up with my fixed-heel friends at the end of a long day), I want to rediscover my tele roots this season. Curious about recommendations on NTN setups, versus the standard (old school?) cable models. Would NTN boots work better with crampons than a duckbill? Full disclosure, I have never tried to put crampons on any ski boots. I used to ski in t2s. Sounds like the release + brake system on the NTN bindings could be a heck of a lot safer, too?

What I plan to use them for: backcountry day trips around Bozeman, MT, a 4-day guided ski/climb adventure with JHMG in the Tetons this February, and (hopefully) a 2019 Denali West Buttress attempt.

Was tempted to go for cheaper older skis, but figured I might as well get the right kit now and get a lot of experience with it. 

Jon H · · MD/DC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 123

Mountaineering/climbing in tele boots is pretty miserable. The duckbill protrudes very far forward, so your toes have to deal with a huge amount of leverage on the front points because your foot is so far from the ice. The boots themselves are heavy. The soles flex so your calves cramp up and flame out.  You can get rigid framed crampons, but with the boots+crampons, your footwear combos is far heavier than what people were climbing with in 1960. Talk about a technological regression.

I know this isn't what you want to hear, but your best bet is invest in some ski lessons and get a pair of modern, lightweight AT skis, pin-tech bindings (assuming you are at least very comfortable on blue trails in the resort), and ultralight tech-compatible boots like the Sportiva Sparkle or the Dynafit TLT lineup. 

Josh · · Golden, CO · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 915

Gotta say, reluctantly, that I agree with Jon's opening statement.  Climbing in tele boots is no fun, even if they are NTN.  Yes, the NTN toe design is much nicer with crampons than the old duckbill, but Jon's other points still stand:  the soles flex too much, and a good NTN boot that is worth skiing in in way too high and stiff-in-the-cuff and heavy for most climbing beyond general mountaineering/mostly-flat glacier walking.

The Scarpa TX Pro boot can be used as an NTN tele boot and a tech-compatible AT boot, and to accomplish the latter it comes with a stiffener to be added underneath the sole, but I don't know that this stiffener would work well with a crampon (if at all).  Meanwhile, the lighter weight AT boots are closer to what it feels like to walk in a plastic mountaineering boot.

All that said, NTN boots and bindings are really great for pure tele skiing.  The energy transfer from boot to ski edge is much better than even the burliest 75mm (old school) tele binding, the flex point in the boots is comfy, the binding is easy to get into and out of, and the releasability adds some extra safety (though I've never had to test that function in a real situation, fortunately).  If its tele skiing you want to revive (and I would heartily applaud that goal), then I can enthusiastically recommend NTN bindings and boots, despite the cost.  And if I were going to climb steep snow or ice in tele boots anyway, I'd certainly rather do it in NTN boots than the old kind.

Stiles · · the Mountains · Joined May 2003 · Points: 840

The Scarpa F3 (discontinued,a lil searching may be required) with Tele Tech bindings is your answer! Lightest boot, pretty light bindings. I have climbed ice exclusively in these boots for 5 years (lots of ice,l moved close to Ouray to climb) and they also ski well. Tall, stiff n light. The bindings are aggressive like TNT or Hammerhead.  

Lauren Burgess · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 10

Dangit. Appreciate the advice. My soul & brain are pulling me in different directions.

I figured AT would be superior for mountaineering, but teles are just fun. I don't think I'd try to climb anything mixed or much over WI2 with skis on my back - but would you say that with the flex of duckbills / NTNs, after three weeks on a mountain even flat ice would fill me with regret?

There seem to be a lot of forums out there where people are trying to fit the square peg of a tele boot in the round hole of a crampon - many seem to be relatively successful, although I don't want to believe everything I read online. I'm guessing that ego & wishful thinking play a role there somewhere.

Thank you for the gear recommendations, too! And as for ski lessons - I appreciate the thought, but I'm a competent skier & so will be putting that money into what's likely shaping up as an expensive season of new gear

Brandon.Phillips · · Portola, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 55

In AK we used to use a metal edged bc nordic ski with silvretta bindings, which are compatible with mountaineering boots. 

Caz Drach · · Sugarhouse, UT · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 310

I currently do a fair amount of ski mountaineering utilizing a NTN set up. I actually do like it. ^Dont let the TELE bashers dissuade you...lol

One thing i will say, that having a little boot flex when scrambling over rocks is nice also the boot rocker makes general hiking a little more friendly. Both have pros and cons, but the technology does benefit the AT crowd as there is more money to be had by companies MFG that gear specifically. See my set up below:

Set Up:

Crispi Evo Carbon (4 buckle) with Walk Mode

Rottefella Freedom Binding

DPS 112 Wailer Carbon

Crampons: 

CAMP Nano Tech Auto with a modified front bail

BD Sabretooths with a modified front bail (if some moderate ice climbing is required)

Tools:

X All Mtns or Swap in Petzl Evo Summit.

Lauren Burgess · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 10

Caz you are my mountain unicorn. Thank you SO much! Super exciting to read that. I do have a separate & dedicated setup for ice (at my local crag) but am not at the point of skill and experience where I have any delusions about attempting skimo objectives that require serious ice climbing, which seems to open up my quiver possibilities to include tele. Thank you for the crampon recommendation, too - love reading "fit most technical mountaineering and telemark boots" in the specs.

Thanks to everyone for the incredibly valuable opinions and wisdom!

Lauren Burgess · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 10
Stiles wrote:

The Scarpa F3 (discontinued,a lil searching may be required) with Tele Tech bindings is your answer! Lightest boot, pretty light bindings. I have climbed ice exclusively in these boots for 5 years (lots of ice,l moved close to Ouray to climb) and they also ski well. Tall, stiff n light. The bindings are aggressive like TNT or Hammerhead.  

I haven't heard about those - they look pretty sick!!! That's great to hear your setup works awesome for both ice and skiing. Thank you!

mtndan · · Littleton, CO · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 5

BD Sabretooths with a modified front bail (if some moderate ice climbing is required)

I bought a large toe bail for my Sabretooth crampons (for sale on BD website for 5 bucks or so) to fit my old-school duckbill tele boots. Works fine. 

I agree with most of the comments though. My tele setup is way heavier than my friends who are on tech-bindings. All tele boots and bindings are considerably heavier and it makes a difference. You get double the workout going uphill and downhill. I keep intending to switch, but tele is just too much fun~

Keenan Waeschle · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 210

Tele for Denali is most likely a horrifically bad idea. Get a setup and rip around bozeman (jealous, moved to colorado a few years ago and miss actually having skiable terrain within an after work-able distance) but as far as using a tele setup for skimo type objectives you're only going to be making things harder for yourself.

Having said all that, I chatted with a guy who ripped the orient in tele's, and he almost certainly styled it much better than me, so it's certainly not impossible! Any big mountain descent is going to involve variable/terrible snow conditions with serious consequences in the event of a fall. Tele skiing, while certainly soulful, does not make skiing steep, fall you die neve easier...

june m · · elmore ,vt · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 43

I used to ice climb in leather tele  boots, best I ever climbed. My knees hurt  when I lock my heels down , so I do a  lot of  alpine turns on teles

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,135

In general the duck bill on tele boots is not that big of deal for general mtneering as one is not on their toes that much. I have done a number peaks with tele boots with both old leather and plastic shells. 

Where is gets to be a PITA is when you get on steep rock or ice. The duck bill gets in the way. Getting a crampon to fit a duck bill can be an issue. For instance, Petzl makes a bail that is specific for tele boots (https://www.karstsports.com/petzl-t03600-telemark-toe-bail-pair/). 

Today, there is very little difference weight difference between Rando, NTN, Tele boots. The same for for the skis. Where the real difference is in the binding. It used to be that tele binding were the lightest. That is not the case anymore. Bindings like the Dynafit are lighter. There does not seem to be much weight difference between NTN and similar Tele bindings.

My suggestion, is that if you like the rando setup figure out how to lighten it up. If you like to free heel, I might be tempted to look at the NTN systems. They were not quite there a few years back when we updated our BC kit so we went with the traditional tele gear (we so parallels turn with free heels). At the end of the day my wife asked why she did not get rando gear. I had no answer cause it would have been lighter. 

Dave Cramer · · Greenfield, MA · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0
Allen Sanderson wrote:

Today, there is very little difference weight difference between Rando, NTN, Tele boots. 

Scarpa TX Comp NTN Tele:  1708g (one boot)

Scarpa T2 Eco 75mm Tele 1685g

...

Scarpa Maestrale AT: 1400g

Scarpa F1 AT 1230g

Scarpa Alien RS AT 890g

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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