2012 Gear Guide: Alpine Gear
Salewa Pro Guide
When Salewa revealed stiff-soled climbing boots that loosen up for walking with a simple adjustment, people slapped their heads and said, “Why didn’t I think of that?” But would they really work? Our main tester, a Rainier guide, used these boots on his home mountain and on steep ice in Montana, and he loved them. “The boots continue to impress with the walk/climb mode adjustment,” he reported. “I wear them on any approach in walk mode, switch over to climbing for the steep ice, and then step blissfully back into walking comfort for the hike out.” And there’s more going for these boots: Testers lauded their weatherproofing, support with a heavy pack, and aggressive tread, as well as their performance on steep ice. “I am in love with these boots for ice climbing! They are sensitive, warm, and have a good platform for front-pointing,” one tester said. Downsides? One user felt the lacing cam-locks down near the toe were unnecessary, and the slim toe made the boots hard to fit with some automatic crampons. And after his time in Montana, our guide tester said they weren’t warm enough for belaying in sub-zero temperatures. But overall, these boots delivered exactly what they promised. They’re also available in a Pro Gaiter model for about $100 more; both the Pro Guide and Pro Gaiter come in “performance” and insulated versions.
There’s a conundrum with crampons: If you climb both steep ice and traditional mountaineering routes, you’re very likely to own both full-welted ice boots and much lighter alpine boots, which must be used with automatic crampons that have a cuff to grip the toe. You could use automatic crampons for both boots, but many ice climbers prefer the security of a toe bail. Until now, you had to buy two pairs of crampons. But the Lynx comes with a simple kit to switch from automatic to step-in modes, so one crampon works on both types of boots. The switch takes pliers and about 10 minutes of fiddling, and then these crampons securely latched onto numerous boots we tested in both modes. And best of all: This is not a dumbeddown, one-size-fits-all crampon. It performed beautifully on ice, névé, and mixed ground. You can adjust the length of the front points in both dual or monopoint modes, or offset them, short and long. These crampons aren’t cheap, but given their versatility, performance, and included anti-balling plates, they’re a steal.
Recent years have seen an arms race between major footwear manufacturers for lighter and warmer technical mountain boots. With the revamped Batura 2.0, La Sportiva has jockeyed for the top spot yet again. This integrated boot-gaiter system retains the technical prowess of a light single boot, while tapping into some of the warmth you’d experience with a double boot. The Batura 2.0 maintains the trim weight of its predecessor (about 4 lbs. a pair) while adding two Gore-Tex layers (one inside the full gaiter, and an insulating layer inside the boot) to keep your feet toasty and dry. It also gains lightweight stiffness for steep terrain with a carbon insole under the foot. Extras include an upgraded zipper on the gaiter and a Velcro flap for protection. The Batura 2.0 performed exceedingly well on steep terrain, front-pointing effortlessly on steep climbs in Vail, Colorado, and Cody, Wyoming. And, our tester said, “Though it’s no fruit boot, I felt as comfortable on steep mixed terrain as you could expect in a mountain boot.” This is a warm, stiff boot with vertical ground in mind, so it’s not the ideal choice for pounding out mile after mile on the trail. However, if exacting alpine terrain in the cold is on the menu, you’d be remiss not to give the Batura 2.0 GTX a hard look.
There are plenty of companies offering dual/ mono–configurable crampons with replaceable front points, and at least one that offers a dedicated monopoint product. The Stinger is the first monopoint-only set with replaceable front points. This stainless-steel crampon has a narrow, asymmetric profile to better fit modern boots and save weight—it comes out of the box at 2 lbs., 1 oz, or about 6.5 ounces below BD’s dual-configuration Cyborg crampon. In tests in Colorado and Wyoming, the Stingers delivered on everything from frozen waterfalls like Cody’s High Over Boulder (WI4) to dry-tooling routes like Vail’s super-steep Amphibian (M8). Oh, and those lime green anti-balling plates underfoot will really stand out in your hero shots.
Motivation for outdoor bouldering sometimes takes a dip in the colder months, and trekking up steep, snow-packed approaches that feel like Olympic luge courses doesn’t help. Don’t stop climbing—get traction. “I have tried several of the slip-on traction systems, and the Kahtoola Microspikes are a clear winner in my book,” said our tester. The shoe harness is made from beefy rubber, which stays put even when slogging up steep trails, and with four sizes available, everyone from little ladies to big-footed dudes will find a good fit. And the traction system is all chain and metal spikes, which makes the Kahtoolas more durable and more aggressive than the cheaper YakTrax. “Though I worried the spikes would telegraph through my lightweight approach shoes, these fears were unfounded,” a tester said. “Even on long approaches with close to 2,000 feet of elevation gain, I found the Microspikes to be eminently comfortable, and I can’t recall slipping even once.” And even if these minicrampons only get you outside for just a few days, they’ll be cheaper than gym climbing.