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Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Light boot for steep snow on Whitney? on 02/28/2010 12:33:52 MST Print View

I'm planning to join in a winter climb of Mt. Whitney's Mountaineer's Route in April. From reviewing reports and photos I can expect anything between soft snow for postholing up to very hard snow. The steepest portions of slope are apparently around 45 degrees. The group I'm with will fix guide ropes up the steepest few hundred feet.

Choice of boots has me undecided. I am new to using crampons and have a pair of "Contact" by Black Diamond. In addition to the standard stiff center bars I bought a pair of the flex bars. The crampons work fine with a fabric upper backpacking boot- but certainly these boots wouldn't support front pointing. (I also have some fairly light leather boots but they are no stiffer than the fabric ones) The boots are stiff/heavy enough for step kicking if the snow is softer. Although they're uninsulated, I have room for sufficient socks to keep my feet warm.

One concern with a flexible boot is the fixed ropes. When following them I won't have the option of traversing but will have to head straight up the slope.

I've read reports of people climbing the MR in April wearing everything from trail runners to double boots. From those in the know, what would you choose?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Light boot for steep snow on Whitney? on 02/28/2010 14:46:13 MST Print View

I really don't think you will be 'front-pointing'. That is done on steep ice, and is way different from ordinary snow climbing (even at 45 degrees).

The fabric joggers are fine if the crampons fit and the sole is reasonably stiff. What matters far more imho is whether they are big enough. I find going up 1/2 a size in winter and wearing an extra pair of thick wool socks to be just right. This is a case where NON-mesh joggers with a Gore-Tex membrane and a stiff sole may be a good choice. (You need the stiff sole to support the crampon width as well.)

Vendors of leather boots love selling big heavy double boots - they are so expensive. Lovely profit margins.

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 02/28/2010 19:03:06 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Light boot for steep snow on Whitney? on 02/28/2010 18:20:00 MST Print View

I'm not familiar with the BD "Contact", but I assume they have Scottish bindings. If so, one concern I would have is interfering with the circulation in your feet, since the bindings will need to be reasonably snug and your feet may swell at that altitude. You will be on the route for probably a minimum of 8 hours RT and cold feet would be no joke. Mesh uppers don't leave much of a margin for error. I'd consider a sturdier boot if I were you. The MR on Whitney, even in April, is considered a winter climb with all that implies. Better safe than sorry.

Also, if you are ascending a fixed rope, presumably using an ascender of some sort, you will be able to face in and scramble up a few quick steps in front point mode if necessary. Set your ascender up as high as you can, plant your ice ax high or use a hand hold if available, and up you go. You may also be able to stem. There will no doubt be other options that I haven't mentioned. Take what the terrain gives you. Also remember that you probably won't be the first party of the season. A lot of steps are likely to have been well kicked in by the time you go up, barring a lot of fresh snow, offering not only foot placements, but potential hand holds as well. Have a great trip, Jim. One of my best friends is going to be down there in April, too. I'll tell her to be on the lookout for Jim Q. ;)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Light boots? on 02/28/2010 18:47:14 MST Print View

For the Mountaineer's Route on Whitney in April, you would not want to have fabric boots.

1. There will be a certain amount of rockfall up there. Maybe it will be little stuff, but still a substantial boot would be very protective.
2. There will be a certain amount of snow and ice up there. A sustantial boot would be much warmer.
3. The crampon straps should be on rather tight, and that may or may not interfere with circulation to your toes if the boot is soft. A substantial boot would be safer.

If you were a true MYOG person, you would get your fabric boots retrofitted with titanium safety toe pieces!

--B.G.--

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Boots on 02/28/2010 22:54:37 MST Print View

I'm no expert, but you might find the following (from a guide service about Whitney) interesting: "Boots - Due to snow levels and frequent freezing temperatures, mountaineering boots are mandatory for early season through mid-June. Plastic boots are the standard for winter conditions and heavy snowpack. Heavy duty leather mountaineering (not hiking) boots are recommended in some cases since they are comfortable on the trail, adequate on the snow and good on the rock.

While there are many manufacturers of leather mountaineering boots, we have found the following companies’ boots to be best suited to alpine mountaineering: Scarpa, Asolo, La Sportiva and Lowa. Whichever boot you choose, remember that they must be designed for heavy duty mountaineering with at least a ½ length steel shank, and be compatible with crampons. They should also be thoroughly waterproofed and broken in; this means that you should wear them enough so that your feet will remain blisterfree, and they should fit comfortably walking DOWN steep terrain."

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Boots on 03/01/2010 01:59:00 MST Print View

> you might find the following (from a guide service about Whitney) interesting:
> "Boots - Due to snow levels and frequent freezing temperatures,
> mountaineering boots are mandatory for early season through mid-June.

I am reminded of how the (paid) trip leader was very insistent that all clients have double-layer plastic boots for the crossing of Taschi Lapcha in Nepal. We refused and took light leather boots. Strong disapproval was registered. But when we got up on the pass (~5,600 m) we were a lot more comfortable than the people with plastics - one girl was in absolute agony and tears.

But what really made a farce of the whole thing was that the porters made the crossing in Chinese copies of Dunlop Volleys! (Think tennis shoes.)
Volleys

I guess the clients were considered not as expendable as the porters?

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 03/01/2010 01:59:26 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
old school boots for the Mountaineer's Route on 03/01/2010 09:16:18 MST Print View

If I knew that I was going up the Mountaineer's Route in April, I know what I would wear. It would be neither the heavy double boots nor the lightweight low-cut boots. Don't laugh, but I would go with full leather, over-the-ankle, single boots. These were standard issue about thirty years ago. I know that my crampons fit my boots, and I know just how much flexibility/stiffness will be there. They are warm enough for anything short of arctic conditions.
Some of the East Face climber's routes are directly above the Mountaineer's Route, so you would want to wear a brain bucket, for sure.
--B.G.--

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Light boot for steep snow on Whitney? on 03/01/2010 10:07:54 MST Print View

Perhaps I mis-spoke. The "fabric" boots I'm talking about are gore-tex lined, leather and cordura upper. I don't recall the brand or model. My one and only outing with them and crampons I had no issues with toe or midfoot irritation from the crampon straps. The crampons did inhibit boot flex a little so I ordered the flex center bars.

I don't think that my Montrail runners with Neos overboots would do as well- The toes would probably squish a bit and the Neos might introduce too much slop for good crampon security. I may try this combo out Saturday while playing with the kids in snow at Big Bear Lake. The Montrail+Neos setup has been very good for snowshoeing this winter.

I'm planning to climb Mt. Baldy this Friday, which involves 4,000 feet of vertical and about 10 miles round trip for the 10,000 foot summit. Depending on conditions I'll probably wear crampons for around half the ascent. (Snowshoes the other half). Depending on performance there, I'll decide whether to get some stiffer boots.

My discount-bin (Sierra Trading Post) short list is (price includes another 25% off):
Vasque Alpine LT $109- 3 lb. 6 oz.
Millet Radikal Lite $101- Sounds like a stiff sole, 3 lb. 6 oz.
Alico Summit $142- 4 lb., 6 oz. of leather-lined, top grain leather, Norweigan welted, old school heftyness.

Edited by jimqpublic on 03/01/2010 10:10:34 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
boots and crampons on 03/01/2010 10:22:20 MST Print View

You use rigid crampons only with rigid boots (like plastic). You use flexible crampons with any boot that flexes (like leather single boots). Using flexible boots with rigid crampons or using rigid boots with flexible crampons is not recommended.
When you are halfway up on the Mountaineer's Route, the last thing that you want is to have to fool around with a boot problem. You'll have your hands full with other issues.
When you've camped at Iceberg Lake, you will put on your boots, lace them up, walk around, adjust the lacing, put on your gaiters, put on your crampons, and then never have to fool around with them for the rest of the day.
Once on the summit, which is the descent route?
--B.G.--

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Light boot for steep snow on Whitney? on 03/01/2010 10:39:46 MST Print View

What snowshoes will you be using?

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: boots and crampons on 03/01/2010 11:58:22 MST Print View

Crampons: There's flexible then there's flexible. My old Salewa crampons circa 1980 are "flexible" but only to a point. These new stainless steel Contacts from Black Diamond are designed for a lot more flex, which is enhanced even more when you add the flexible "Leafspring" center bars. At ten points they do give up a pair of points in the forefoot.

Descent route: I would BASE jump off the East face but my parachute is at the cleaners.... We'll backtrack the ascent route. Another reason to go with a somewhat substantial boot that will do better heel penetration when downclimbing. We will not repeat the ill-advised April 2005 intentional glissade down the MR that resulted in death. (No way do I want to make the trek from summit to Trail Crest in winter either)

Snowshoes: Atlas 10 series 25". Mid April the snow ought to be consolidated enough for these to be fine. It's what I have and I really like the way they kick into steep uphills.

Edit: Meant down climbing, not plunge stepping in the giant bounds sense.

Edited by jimqpublic on 03/01/2010 14:26:16 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
boots and crampons on 03/01/2010 12:39:47 MST Print View

"Crampons: There's flexible then there's flexible. My old Salewa crampons circa 1980 are "flexible" but only to a point. These new stainless steel Contacts from Black Diamond are designed for a lot more flex, which is enhanced even more when you add the flexible "Leafspring" center bars. At ten points they do give up a pair of points in the forefoot."

My old Salewa crampons circa 1977 are flexible from a single hinge piece between the front and rear. I feared that it might be a weak point, but it proved to be just as reliable as the rest of it. I don't know about this Leafspring stuff.

"Descent route: We'll backtrack the ascent route. Another reason to go with a somewhat substantial boot that will do better plunge stepping. We will not repeat the ill-advised April 2005 intentional glissade down the MR that resulted in death. (No way do I want to make the trek from summit to Trail Crest in winter either)."

The walk back to Trail Crest is only a couple of miles, but I agree, some of those windows would require a belay to get past. Getting the last 200 yards to Trail Crest would see hideous exposure.

Remember what the old Scotsman said about the three forms of glissade. They are: The standing, the sedentary, and the involuntary, normally done in that order.

--B.G.--

Nicholas Miller
(nmiller08) - F

Locale: Montana
Vasque Alpine LT on 03/01/2010 15:19:34 MST Print View

My little bit of advice is to avoid the Vasque Alpine LT. I am a fan of vasque and I've had quite a few of their trail runners and boots over the years, but I tried the Alpine LT (despite durability issues on internet reviews) and when lacing them up one of the leather lace loops (the crucial ankle loop no less) simply ripped out. I took them back to the store and went back to La Sportiva for my mountaineering boot.

Maybe I just got a bad pair, but I should have listened to my inner doubts after reading the reviews and resisted the $85 price tag. However, there's one more pair of 9.5s left at that price at the local store here if you're the gamblin' sort ;)

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: boots and crampons on 03/01/2010 15:20:54 MST Print View

>> Remember what the old Scotsman said about the three forms of glissade. They are: The standing, the sedentary, and the involuntary, normally done in that order

:-) very good

Flexible boots = flexible crampons = strap-on = cold feet

(Semi-)rigid boots = (semi-)rigid crampons = (semi-)step-in = warm feet.

UL is great when the conditions (and user experience) allow, but traditional stuff still has it's place and can make all the difference to comfort and safety when conditions demand

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
reply to Stuart on 03/01/2010 15:33:14 MST Print View

The difference there is that I have boots that have just a bit of flexibility in the sole, but the leather uppers are fairly stiff. Therefore, I can strap on the crampons very firmly, and it does not bother my toes.
--B.G.--

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
whitney in winter. on 03/01/2010 16:06:00 MST Print View

Jim,

Whatever footwear you decide on, please take lots of pictures and post a trip report. I'd love to check it out!

And be safe.

Dave.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Mount Whitney on 03/01/2010 16:18:22 MST Print View

For those readers who may not be familiar with Mount Whitney, do a search for any photo image of the mountain as viewed from the east. The prominent point is the summit, and the vertical face directly below it is the East Face. Then look to the right, typically in the shade (which is just north of the summit). There is a steep rock gully that is the Mountaineer's Route, first climbed by John Muir over a hundred years ago.

Since the route tops out around 14,000 feet and the air is thin, you don't want to have many mental lapses. Even one could be your last.

--B.G.--

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
I think you'll be fine on 03/01/2010 19:10:30 MST Print View

I think you'll be fine. Been useing my Trango S boots for a fair while in the mountains and they (fabric+not so waterproof Gore liner) have been very good for everything so far. I may wear thick 'mountineering' socks for a snow and ice route vs. my normal Smartwool hikers - but really you will be fine.
Just make sure that the crampons are a good fit and that the boots do have enought stiffness that the crampons do not flex off.
Other then that -- have fun!

I should add that if you are getting a boot with a heal-welt I REALLY would suggest a pair of Saberteeth crampons - a much better setup IMO then the Trangos and CAMP 12pt strap on crampons that saw me up a bunch of ice and mixed routes.

Edited by nanookofthenorth on 03/01/2010 19:14:48 MST.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Asolo Titan Re: Light boot for steep snow on Whitney? on 03/13/2010 08:37:54 MST Print View

I went to REI and really liked the La Sportiva Trango fit and aggressive sole rocker. Unfortunately the price was steeper than I'm currently willing to pay for boots that I probably won't wear that much.

I decided to go with mail order discount boots from Sierra Trading Post (STP) with an extra 25% coupon and free shipping. While I was tempted to order 3 sizes of 4 different boots... I narrowed it down to 2 of 2. 9-1/2 and 10 of Millet Radikal Lite and Asolo Titan GV.

I like the Millets in concept. My price was $103. It feels light, very nice outsole, stiff midsole(pretty rigid), flexible ankle for flat foot cramponing. The waterproof outer and "honeycomb" insulation is probably best suited for single-day climbs and/or use with a vapor barrier sock. They held my feet in the heel cup very well. Unfortunately the toe box is way too low volume. I know my toenails would be in misery on the flats, let alone downhill. Weight for the pair of size 10 is 3 lb, 10 oz.

The Asolo Titan GV were another story. Price was $150. They seem heavy and beefy. Big toe box, split forefoot/ankle lacing. Big rubber rand, cordura fabric, plus leather tongue seem well sorted out. Weight for the pair of 9-1/2's is 4 lb, 1 oz including 1.5 oz for two insoles. The 10's are about 2 oz more for the pair.

Note I compared weight of different sizes. Although the insoles are the same length for both brands, I would probably need a size 11 of the Millets to get enough volume in the forefoot.

My dilemma now is to decide on size. Around the house with three socks (one more than I would normally wear) the 9-1/2 seems perfect.


Potential drawbacks to the Titan: Dodgy quality reports from online. They look great- but I've read of the rand being fragile, lacing eyes tearing out, and fabric failure at seams. Also I don't really expect to need such a stiff sole or heavy boot. The Trango is about 10 oz less- but $100 more even at 20% off.

Edited by jimqpublic on 03/13/2010 08:44:54 MST.