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Beginner advice - Socal mtns in winter and Whitney
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Jeffrey McConnell
Beginner advice - Socal mtns in winter and Whitney on 10/03/2010 23:54:51 MDT Print View

In June I did a Mt. Shasta trip via Avalanche Gulch. It was my first time doing any type of "mountaineering" rather than just backpacking. I liked it enough that I'm thinking it would be fun to tackle some of the SoCal mountains in winter.

I need some advice on boots and crampons. For Shasta I rented, and I don't remember what I was using. I do remember I wasn't using plastics (I refused) and the crampons were 12 point and steel. The only boots I currently own are Vasque Breeze (Gor-Tex), and I'm guessing these probably aren't rigid enough to use with crampons.

I'd also like the gear to be able to handle a spring ascent of Whitney eventually. I get cold feet easily (I think its due to poor circulation), so it would probable be good if the boots are insulated.

Can any of you more experienced people make some recommendations? I'm trying not to break the bank. I've had the BD contacts recommended.

Edited by Catalyst on 10/03/2010 23:58:20 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
boots on 10/04/2010 02:43:44 MDT Print View

i've attached some recommended equipment from some cali guides for winter summiting ... never climbed in cali ... but it cant be any worse than BC or the alberta rockies ... lol

for winter mounteneering you really only have 3 realistic choices IMO

1. a full fledged leather single boot, not the lightweight ones ... the advantage is that they are more flexible and technical ... the disadvantage is that they take longer to dry and they are not as warm ... most people find they fit better than plastics

the gold standard are the sportiva nepal evos .. i've used these down to -20 to 30 C ... people also use them on higher moutains like rainier in the summer ... more of a risk for winter mountaineering as there's less of a safety margin if you get caught, feels like a big hiking boot

note i would not use anything less than a nepal evo or its equivalent for single leather in winter ... one that is designed for winter use ... and only the with full gaiters

2. plastic double boot ... heavier, stiffer, fit is harder to get right ... but they are warmer, and most importantl for mutiday trips easy to dry ... you just sleep with the liner

the standard for these are the scarpa invernos ... IF they fit you great ... you can buy them used and cheap ... with better liners and overboot people have used them up to 5000m + ... theyll handle any mountain in the americas ... great for winter mountaineering, warm feet, but feels like clogs

3. double hybrid boot ... never used these yet so i wont comment too much other than to say you're supposed to get the warmth of plastics but the better handling of leathers

sportiva spatniks and baruntse come to mind ... id get these if you want to go a lot of high altitude and winter mounteneering, if you want warm really warm feet, and supposed better handling than plastic

MOST IMPORTANT ... whatever you get you absolutely must try them out before hand for a good fit ... personally i size all my winter boots with a liner sock and a super think mounteneering sock ... do NOT accept any boot with any significant heel lift... also bring some kind of packs with you to simulate placing foot warmers in yr boots

make sure you get yr sock system dialed in as well BEFORE trying on boots

for crampons i recommend a solid 12 point crampon ... they almost weight about the same as 10 point ... the bonus is that they work better on steeper terrain and if you ever get into ice climbing they work well for that too ... the standard are the BD sabretooth and grivel G12

i would definately buy/rent my boots/crampons from REI or somewhere that had an extremely liberal return policy ... you may find that the boots dont cut it on the mountain ... unless you find a killer deal somewhere else (just make sure you can return it or have at least tried it on alot)

in fact if you can i recommend renting them the first time out if they allow that for what you want ...

some good links ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/04/2010 03:23:02 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Beginner advice - Socal mtns in winter and Whitney on 10/04/2010 03:05:04 MDT Print View

What REALLY matters is a good fit with enough room for adequate insulation. That is paramount.

Do you need 'BOOTS'? I recollect reading a trip report from someone who summited Mont Blanc in joggers and crampons.
perhaps more important is gaining experience carefully.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
4000m in winter on 10/04/2010 04:15:03 MDT Print View

i would not use anything less than full mountain boots on a 4000m peak in winter

thats just me ...

how many saved ounces/dollars are my toes worth ... hmmmmm

Jeffrey McConnell
Nepals on 10/04/2010 08:34:00 MDT Print View

The nepals look like what I used on Shasta. They did fit well, but look expensive - argh. Roger, I assumed boots were needed if I used crampons (maybe my ignorance?) and I figure they'll do the best job of keeping my feet warm. Initially, these will just be day trips, but it would be nice to be able to do a couple longer trips in the future.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
double on 10/04/2010 12:30:51 MDT Print View

just to make it even more costly .... lol

i recommend you ask someone with experience on shasta in winter whether you need double boots ... either a guide, someone you trust or a climbing specific site like or

while i will use nepal evos in winter ive never climbed that mountain ...

double boots are warmer ... and that warmth means a bit of margin should things go wrong

do not skimp on boots ... if you have to splurge on 1 item thats the one ... look at it this way ... its an investment in coming down alive ... and youll amortize it over the next 5 years anyways

thast my rant

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/04/2010 12:32:12 MDT.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
boots on 10/04/2010 12:51:41 MDT Print View

Trango S is what I use for summer - bring lots of warm socks for summer on Shasta. I like the Saberteeth Crampons - Contacts might be limiting. Strap on Contacts or Al Crampons will fit your current boots.
Doubles are nice for winter but are cheep used and not all that nice - I'd stay away for summer. For winter boots getting soaked can be a fairly significant challenge depending on your climate/exertion.

Jeffrey McConnell
thanks for advice so far on 10/04/2010 13:40:09 MDT Print View

Great advice so far. I did Shasta this past June already. Rented gear. It was a great trip. I'm mostly concerned with winter conditions for the Socal mtns (San Jacinto, Baldy, etc.). I'd also like to make an attempt at Whitney via MR sometime in the future.

Edited by Catalyst on 10/04/2010 13:47:40 MDT.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Roger Caffin, you are wrong! on 10/04/2010 19:47:30 MDT Print View

Roger, please don’t kill all our beginners. You haven’t climbed Whitney in winter, let alone with joggers and crampons. Ultra lightweight fanatics like you are dangerous! How dare you suggest that a beginner doesn’t need boots: “Do you need 'BOOTS'? I recollect reading a trip report from someone who summited Mont Blanc in joggers and crampons.” You can safely mention that to Colin Haley, or Steve House, or Mark Twight or Reinhold Messner, because they can evaluate it with their own experience in mind.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Beginner advice - Socal mtns in winter and Whitney on 10/05/2010 14:17:43 MDT Print View

An acquaintance of mine went ice climbing in Canada with single leather boots. He is now missing part of a foot. I would recommend an insulated boot, and if the possibility of multi-day trips is there I'd recommend a double boot so you can dry out the liner. Frozen single boots in the morning is not fun, and neither is dealing with them being wet once they thaw. I wear single leathers for day-trip ice climbing (better feel), on the move, but anything more and go insulated.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Roger Caffin, you are wrong! on 10/05/2010 15:06:01 MDT Print View

Hi Robert

No, I am not trying to kill anyone off. What I AM suggesting is that we need to clearly identify the REAL needs. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the following stand out. None of them mandate big leather boots.

* Keep your feet warm
* Provide adequate connection to crampons
* Deal with overnight freezing

Now, we do know that uncomfortable boots often fail the first requirement. I remember one girl in Nepal (>5,000 m) in tears of agony because her double plastic boots were the wrong shape or size and were nearly giving her frostbite. (My light leather boots were comfortable and warm.) In addition, I have worn comfortable joggers in winter on the snow on snowshoes and been safe and happy. Yes, they were 1/2 a size larger to accommodate an extra layer of thick socks. They were warm.

Can joggers handle crampons? Experience shows they can. To be sure, step-ins don't work with crampons very well, but step-ins were designed for big boots. You need a different design of crampon - an older design. The one thing you have to watch with crampons is that the strap over the arch of the foot does not pull down too hard and restrict blood flow. That's a design issue with the crampons.

I will add here that if you want to go extreme ice climbing you will need Darth Vaders for the support, just as you need them for downhill skis these days. That is a different story.

The problem of freezing overnight was handled for 'big boots' by the invention of inner boots which can be worn inside a sleeping bag or quilt, and dried out there. But realise this: inner boots are only one solution to the real problem of warmth. If you are going to wear some sort of boot inside your SB, then there is no reason why you could not wear, or store, your joggers in your SB. Many is the time I have stored my joggers or my ski boots at the foot of my quilt to stop them freezing. Standard practice.

What I have been suggesting will not kill beginners (or anyone else) if done correctly. On the other hand, inexperience WILL kill beginners, regardless of footwear. It's a bit like the old (and hopefully obsolete) argument to the effect that 'you MUST wear full GoreTex in the wet and the snow or you will die'. Another vested interest.

Perhaps this is a good place to emphasise that the snow country can be lethal, and that you should NOT charge in and hope for the best. Venture slowly and learn as you go, keeping warmth and survival always a clear priority.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Beginners doing winter mountaineering on 10/05/2010 15:26:16 MDT Print View

Roger, I don’t disagree with your points, but my point is it takes an experienced person to comprehend all the nuances you laid out. Look how long your post is. It takes effort to go back in time to remember what it is like to be a beginner. Beginner mistakes can cause death while climbing mountains, especially while climbing mountains in the winter. For them it is best to Keep It Simple, so they are less likely to do something stupid. IMHO, your arguments are best left to bars and coffee shops where only experienced climbers are present.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 10/05/2010 15:35:30 MDT Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 05/28/2012 14:34:37 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Beginners doing winter mountaineering on 10/05/2010 15:51:34 MDT Print View

Hi Robert

> Beginner mistakes can cause death while climbing mountains, especially
> while climbing mountains in the winter. For them it is best to Keep It Simple,
> so they are less likely to do something stupid.
Oh, I couldn't agree more.
But ... what does this mean?

The girl I referred to was keeping it simple: she just hired what someone else told her to hire. No thinking required. Nearly lost her toes, imho.

I think the real message has to be that the mountains in winter can be fatal, so keeping warm and learning should be the highest priorities.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
technical on 10/05/2010 19:26:27 MDT Print View

id have a hell of a time getting up anything moderately steep without boots

cant imagine front pointing effectively in runners ... lol

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: technical on 10/05/2010 19:50:40 MDT Print View

Jeff had asked about the Mountaineer's Route on Whitney, and it classifies as moderately steep. I get a headache just looking _down_ it from the top. I could not imagine trying to climb up that chute without at least a good solid leather single boot. In early season, that would take crampons. By late season, probably not.


Scott Toraason
Beginning Winter Mountaineering on 10/06/2010 12:53:01 MDT Print View

Picking isolated incidents out of the haystack because an individual did not get her plastics fitted correctly, implying plastics are inferior, or someone ascended Mont Blanc in some kind of “jogger” with some kind of “crampon, implying that this is now an acceptable alternative for winter mountaineering because that’s the context in which it was mentioned is crazy.

I like this site and I respect Mr. Caffin’s opinions, what I don’t agree with are the factual representations made from an ill fitted boot or a guide or well trained mountaineer who summits a mountain with minimal gear. Here in Washington State we have guides who do all sorts of wild and crazy things soloing Rainier and I would not bring them up as examples for the general population to follow.

Be that as it may this site and Mr. Caffin’s advice have been helpful with my four season scrambling and hiking endeavors in Washington State, having said that I’m not so blinded by a single philosophy that I can’t see there is more then one way to get something done.

Jeffrey McConnell
crampons 10 pt vs. 12 pt on 10/07/2010 15:46:46 MDT Print View

First, thanks for the responses. Second, crampons. Most, if not all my time will be spent in SoCal and the Sierras. Do I need 12 pt crampons or would 10 pt suffice? Think Baldy, San Jacinto, San Grogornio, and Whitney. I was looking at the BD contact strap crampons. If it would be safer/advisable to get the 12 pt grivels or whatever, I don't mind spending the extra money, but I don't want to unless I need to.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: crampons 10 pt vs. 12 pt on 10/07/2010 16:06:24 MDT Print View

Crampons are found in two major categories, 10 pt or 12 pt. As a general rule, 10 pt crampons are intended more for flat walking or on gentle slopes. Then 12 pt crampons are the same, except that they have two points out in front, and they are intended more for steeper walking. The extreme case of that is when you are doing vertical ice climbing. Then the front points are doing nearly all of the contact and the other ten are extra weight.

If you ever thought that you would be up on some high angle couloir, then you better get the 12 pt variety. On the other hand, the 10 pt variety is a little easier to walk in on the easy places.

Instep crampons typically have only four or six points, and they only cover the middle of the boot. Lots of serious mountaineers look at them with contempt and claim that they contribute to accidents. On the other hand, if you were simply hiking a summer trail that had just a few old snow fields, the instep crampons might be OK.


eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
12 point on 10/07/2010 16:18:26 MDT Print View

they are the do it all crampon ... you can glacier walk, ice scramber, climb steep ice, climb technical ice, and even climb mixed in them

as long as you arent into competitive drytooling climbing you wont need another set ... they should last over a decade

grivel G12 and BD sabertooths are the gold standard ... i recommend the BDs

1. get your sock system dialed in first
2. buy the boot that fits best
3. get a crampon that fits the boot

for the best prices try spadout

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/07/2010 16:29:31 MDT.