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Hybrid crampons and boots without front welts

Original Post
Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 478

I'd like to hear some opinions from folks who have used extensively boots without front welts and hybrid (newmatic/clip/leverlock) crampons for warmer season alpine climbing in places like the Canadian Rockies. Two things I'm most interested in: 

without crampons, do those boots typically climb rock any better than more common "ice boots" due to the lack of a front welt? or is there really not much difference?; 

with crampons, do you truly lose much performance or feel more or less secure on moderate ice (WI3-4) with a basket at the toe rather than a wire bail? Assuming the same semi-rigid crampon (e.g. Sabretooth, G12, Vasak)

I'm specifically looking at something like Sportiva's Trango Tower GTX or Scarpa's Rebel Lite or upcoming Ribelle Lite. I've used the Rebel Ultra for everything I can for the past few years.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 236

My 3 season boots (Charmoz) definitely climb rock better than my winter boots (Phantom Guide), but I don't think that's exclusively due to the toe welt, as the entire boot is lighter and lower profile, including the midsole and the sole.  The lack of the welt probably helps a little bit.

I wouldn't want to try to climb WI3-4 in my Charmoz, or either of the boots you mentioned.  3 season boots like these generally have a softer midsole, which gives them a significant advantage walking and rock climbing.  However, if you try to front point in these, you get a lot of flex.  This isn't really related to the crampon style or the lack of a welt, just overall boot design.  A short step of steep ice wouldn't be too big a deal, but a full pitch or multiple pitches of WI4 would be scary (unless you lead like WI6 in winter boots, in which case you'll probably hike WI4 in any boot).

I use my Charmoz exclusively for warm season alpine climbs that have a mix of a longer approach (they hike fairly well), rock climbing, snow climbing, and easy ice.  If there was extended steep ice, I'd use Phantom Guides or something lighter (but still a real ice boot) like the Rebel Pro.

Derek DeBruin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2010 · Points: 585

I've got similar feelings. 3 season boots on their own definitely climb rock better. A combination of lighter boot, flexier boot, lack of welt, occasionally rocker, and occasionally difference in rubber. When I'm thinking rock performance, it goes from climbing shoe -> aproach shoe -> 3 season boot -> 4 season boot; the 3 season boot climbs well enough to justify it's own category. 

On ice, it depends on overall boot shank/stiffness, crampon mating, and ice in question. With boots of similar stiffness, I don't find there to be any real difference between a bail toe or strap toe as long as the mating is a good fit. Once you are in a more flexible boot, grade 3/4 definitely gets more challenging but is still doable. However, you may have to toe in harder than you normally would ice climbing, which could result in greater calf fatigue depending on fitness/experience. Use of hybrid climbing techniques can be nice in those cases. As noted, I try to avoid that steep of a grade in 3 season boots for long stretches. It's more the boot than the crampon, though.

Type of "ice" makes a difference, too. Hard, late season neve? Exposed "dry" firn from last season?  Aerated alpine ice? Melt-freeze water ice? Bullet hard blue glacial ice? Boot stiffness has a greater impact the greatr the ice hardness.

Finally, worth mentioning that for some types of climbing, you can get good rock performance just dry tooling with crampons on, depending on what you're doing. May not be appropriate for your planned use, though.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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