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alpine footwear arsenal


Original Post
Jonathan Croom · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 390

Hey all,

Which is most useful: a mid height waterproof approach shoe, or a lightweight 3/4 shank mountain boot?

My intended use: fill the gap between a leather non-waterproof approach shoe and Nepal Cubes.

I'm looking for new footwear for summer alpine climbing. Last year I did not have my footwear game dialed in and suffered for it. For the most part I'm thinking about routes that would be technical rock, maybe with snow travel on the approach, but not much if any climbing in crampons. I have a pair of aluminum Petzl crampons, which are great on approach shoes for a very light combo. I'm considering buying a pair of Sportiva TX4 mid gtx; would I be better off looking for a Trango-type boot in one of it's many iterations? I really like the lightest footwear possible, especially at higher elevations. Also, I would hate wearing a stiff boot on dry trail.

Thanks for any opinions. Interested to hear which option others would pick. 

Jonathan

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 661

Gonna need some more info - where/what/when are you climbing?

Dallin Carey · · Missoula · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 157

I don't think its available in North America yet but the new Scarpa Ribelle Tech looks like it might fit your bill. Little $$$ though.

https://www.scarpa.com/ribelle-tech-od​​​

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 185

not sure exactly what you are looking for but i have used the salewa rapaces quite a bit and like them a lot. they have a heel welt for crampons and are fairly stiff. they also have a "climbing zone" or something along those lines on the toe for some footwork. my only complaint with them is that they seem to lose their waterproof capabilities pretty quick (i am on my second pair). this has never been an issue for me though.

also they have similar type boots in the crow, raven and vultur but i havent tried those.

Matt Zia · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 142

I think the mid-top waterproof approach shoe is kinda overkill for 90% of rock objectives and too little for 90% of mountaineering objectives. In my experience, they're not stiff enough and don't have good enough tread to make snow travel at all confidence inspiring without crampons, but are too big and clunky for most technical rock climbing. My advice would be to get whichever 3/4 shank mountain boot fits. Kicking steps in proper footwear takes less effort, is quicker, and ultimately safer. On climbs with a long dry trail to approach I'll do most of the approach in a pair of lightweight running shoes or approach shoes, then switch into my boots once I hit snow. I've gotten tendonitis in my Achilles before doing long trails in heavy boots and for me, the comfort of walking in running shoes more than makes up for the weight penalty.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 481

Weight in the pack matters a lot, mid GTX approach shoes are heavy. When you inevitably get some snow above the ankle in the afternoon or plunge in a moat they never dry out either.

I prefer a low top synthetic approach shoe that dries fast. I've used the canvas crux for a few years, think scarpa only offers leather now.

If you are really worried about your feet getting cold simply do a vapor barrier liner and throw a plastic bag around the outer sock while you are in manky snow. You can keep the insulating sock dry/warm and let the shoe itself dry from your body heat after you are out of the snow. 

Nick M · · Squamish · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 0

I have those Sportiva Tx4 boots, they are amazing for summer mountaineering and transitioning from snow to rock on long alpine traverses etc... used them up to 5.8 and wore crampons for some 50 degree front pointing and felt great about them. Feet stayed dry in the snow (slushy but no real post-holeing) , the smear really well and are decent for lower angle edging, and hardly noticeable in the pack compared to a mountain boot. Anything harder than 5.8 on lead and I was still happy to have rock shoes but they climbed better than expected.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 337
Dallin Carey wrote: I don't think its available in North America yet but the new Scarpa Ribelle Tech looks like it might fit your bill. Little $$$ though.

https://www.scarpa.com/ribelle-tech-od

I’ve seen these in person. They are pretty effing sweet. 


There is also this: salomon.com/us/product/s-la…
Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 236
Jonathan Croom wrote: For the most part I'm thinking about routes that would be technical rock, maybe with snow travel on the approach, but not much if any climbing in crampons
For objectives like this, is something really wrong with your current setup of regular approach shoes and aluminum crampons?  That would be my likely choice, given your description of routes.  If there is only "maybe" snow and no crampon climbing, a mountaineering boot (even a 3/4 shank) doesn't really make sense.  If you really need a high top and water proof membrane, consider a lightweight hiking boot or something like a TX4 mid ($$), but these both may be unnecessary.

I'll second Nick's comment, you'd probably get a lot better feedback if you gave more info about where and when you'll be climbing.  You also said last year you "suffered" but give no information about what that means.  Did you suffer because your feet got wet?  Shoes too hot and sweaty?  Too heavy in your pack?  Too light for kicking steps?  Depending on how you define "suffering" you might get opposite recommendations.
Jonathan Croom · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2015 · Points: 390

Well since at least a couple people want a story, here it is. Last summer I climbed couloir in leather approach shoes which quickly got soaked. Weather was good, but even layered up and moving my toes were going numb. I ended up switching between two wet pairs of wool socks and taking breaks to thaw out my feet. In my defense, I was planning on climbing a low fifth class route and changed plans after I got to the base. My very cold and wet feet were luckily the only problem that day. I'm definitely less experienced with snow in summer conditions rather than winter conditions and gear. When I had left the car, I decided to take comfy rock shoes just because I might go faster in them while soloing, and leather approach shoes, which I figured would stay dryish for the bit of snow I'd have to cross. If I had known I'd climb the couloir, which I had considered, I had very light synthetic approach shoes for the trail, then Nepal Cubes for the snow (a bit warm, but it's what I had). I was kinda kicking myself for having not brought the other combo, but at the end of the day I felt pretty good and moved fairly quickly which made me think about the benefits of reducing the weight on your feet.

Anyway, this summer I might look for a similar route, and there's always a chance of selecting something that would definitely require rock shoes for me, and some amount of snow, so I want to avoid the outcome of bringing three pairs of shoes: one for trail, one for snow and one for rock. I don't see myself doing a ton of alpine rock climbing in the immediate future, and I don't think I'd get much use out of a lightweight mountain boot, at least any time soon. I'm mostly doing some easy alpine climbing as a fun diversion in my training, and to train for long days and elevation gain. They are more like training routes than goal routes.

I'm on the fence about the tx4 mid. Leaning towards probably not worth it. Right now, if I was going climbing tomorrow I'd take the synthetic approach shoes and plan to have wet feet in the snow, but eventually dry feet on the trail. My leather shoes took a week to dry out last year. 

As for unconventional sock systems, as one post brings up, I had considered trying neoprene socks with synthetic shoes. I am also a fly angler, and in that sport it is common to use neoprene socks while wet wading to insulate your feet. I might try that setup, probably with a wool liner sock under the neoprene. Anyone try a set up like this? Could also see vapor barriers being useful with some other layers.

Thanks for all the input. I had considered or wondered about many of the points brought up so far.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 337

If you aren’t happy hiking around in the Nepal Cubes, you probably wouldn’t be significantly more happy in the Trangos. They are definitely easier to walk in, but between a trail shoe and a mountain boot, they are definitely on the mountain boot side. On the other hand, you may really like them! Have you managed to try on a pair at a store?

I’m not a fan of approach shoes or trail runners with crampons, but some people totally rock those combos and swear by them. It all depends if you are going to spend more time on the trail or on the snow. I’ve only done the approach shoe + crampon combo when I am not planning on bringing rock shoes and the rock is a little too tough for me to climb in boots. I generally prefer trail runners on snow to approach shoes.

I’ve actually heard pretty good things about the Solomon product I posted above. That could fit your bill. There are lots of people using that in the Alps for similar stuff to what you are talking about. If I lived out there or in a place like Mammoth maybe, I’d buy them. The Scarpa product is similar but a little more burley. Those really are the only boots in that class I believe.

I guess if you take anything from my post, it should be that you won’t really know until you try it. If you post the exact spots you are trying to climb at some folks here can give you a rundown of what they use. Lots of gear choices are very personal though and may not translate. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “arsenal”   Good luck!!

Sean Hoffecker · · Central PA · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 20

Scarpa Charmoz or the 5.10 Camp 4 Mid GTX might fit the bill.  Cgharmoz have hardly any insulation, waterproof, suprirsingly rugged for a sythetic boot, stiff but still walkable, and has a heel welt for pons.  I picked up a used pair here at a really good price and use them for anything in the mountains that won't require an insulated boot. For that I have my Phantom 6000s.

I also have a pair of 5.10 Camp Four Mid GTX  that hike really well, climb decently enough for easy alpiney stuff, and are rlatively stiff compared to train runners to take a crampon.  What's funny is that these "approach shoes" feel warmer than my Charmoz mountain boot...so these are more for normal hiking, but I bring them up when I expect to be hiking and climbing more often than being on snow.  
Admittedly I'm nowhere near as experienced as these guys above, but these seem to work for me. Given your descriptoin of more climbing and hiking than snow travel, you may want to look into these because the hiking is really THAT much better.

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

Jonathan, that scenario you laid out is quite a bit different than what you first described.  If you're going to be pounding up a snowy couloir without much (or any) technical rock climbing, a 3 season mountaineering boot (Trango, Charmoz, etc.) is probably the right choice.

Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

Ive put miles in running shoes, mid hikers and leathers...top of my list is the salomon slab  XA alpine approach shoes and the slab carbon gtx 2s. Not many retailers carry them so if you've looked past these it makes sense but before u commit to a purchase you should inquire about trying sizes and return policy. Id buy from backcountry. Get them in 2 days and if they dont fit they will send u a new size immediately as long as you proceed with the return shipping label process. This line of salomons was developed with killian jornet. He focused on fast and light tech accents so these shoes will perform.

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 478
Dallin Carey wrote: I don't think its available in North America yet but the new Scarpa Ribelle Tech looks like it might fit your bill. Little $$$ though.

https://www.scarpa.com/ribelle-tech-od

Backcountry has them in stock for 25% off plus 9% Active Junky rebate today. I've got a pair on the way.

The Salomon S-lab XA Alpine is really soft for an approach shoe, even if they are designed to take crampons. They are basically nothing more than the S-lab Ultra Trail with an integrated gaiter. They are super comfy for winter running, though
Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 661

Listen to Kyle.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 481
Brian Abram wrote:

Backcountry has them in stock for 25% off plus 9% Active Junky rebate today. I've got a pair on the way.

Please throw up a review once you get a chance to use them. One of these days I need to find a replacement for my rebel carbons (wore holes through the toes eventually). That was an amazing boot for capability on rock and steep ice, but something a hair more flexible still would be nice. 

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

I'm hoping I'm able to attach my G20s to them somehow. Someone at UK Climbing told me the C2N converter bail worked to attach their G20s to double boots

Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
Brian Abram wrote:

Backcountry has them in stock for 25% off plus 9% Active Junky rebate today. I've got a pair on the way.

The Salomon S-lab XA Alpine is really soft for an approach shoe, even if they are designed to take crampons. They are basically nothing more than the S-lab Ultra Trail with an integrated gaiter. They are super comfy for winter running, though

Soft for a mountaineering boot given a 3/4 shank yes but definitely stiffer than any other approach shoe given approach shoes dont have shanks. I got these in my arsenal and can move with ease in some techy stuff. Much more comfortable and agile in these vs my soft salomon runners or clunky bulky full shanks.

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 478
Briggs Lazalde wrote:

Soft for a mountaineering boot given a 3/4 shank yes but definitely stiffer than any other approach shoe given approach shoes dont have shanks


XA Alpine vs Guide Tennie stiffness. Bonus shot of my crotch in running shorts

Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
Brian Abram wrote:


XA Alpine vs Guide Tennie stiffness. Bonus shot of my crotch in running shorts


I respectfully recant my statement though I will say as long as I'm not front pointing having my toes bend naturally but keeping a platform under the foot of anything feels more natural and better than full shanks. Is that crotch view pre-sockstuffed or post-sockstuffed?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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