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Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse
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Reed Koch
(reedkoch) - F

Locale: Northwest
Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse on 10/05/2011 11:59:16 MDT Print View

I'm wondering what footgear people have used for the Bailey Range traverse including going over the glaciers around Mount Olympus and what their experience was with their choices with respect to side hilling, glacier hiking, and days of rain and heavy dew. Has someone had experience with trail runners and gortex socks? Did someone use boots that stayed dry in days of rain and left your feet in good shape? I'm interested in the gear used on this specific traverse which is challenging in the length of the trip, the diversity of terrain, and how wet it can get.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse on 10/05/2011 12:15:14 MDT Print View

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse on 10/05/2011 15:22:55 MDT Print View

Hi Reed,

That is indeed a challenge. I wish I had specifics to offer, but I am rather in the same place of strategizing myself with eyes on this traverse as well. The relatively moderate temperatures and wet (understatement) approach should make for a serious footwear test.

What time of year are you planning for?

Reed Koch
(reedkoch) - F

Locale: Northwest
Re: Re: Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse on 10/05/2011 16:24:34 MDT Print View

Hi Jeff. Thanks for the pointer and that is an excellent article. As gould points out though the traverse is warm, wet, glacial, alpin cross country, and long and the article is more geared towards winter and cold. Mostly I'm looking for some real world experiences of that particular set of conditions to help temper the ideas the article contains.

With respect to time of year, it would be the summer. July through mid September. Sometimes its 10 days of sun and other times well it can be days of pouring cold rain.

Steve Cain
(hoosierdaddy) - F

Locale: Western Washington
Re: Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse on 10/05/2011 16:48:09 MDT Print View

Hi Reed,

I did the Bailey's in July of 2005. It didn't rain while I was out there, but there were several snow traverses and getting one's feet wet while descending the Snow Finger.

I wore Merrill Ventilators on that trip and frankly it was hot enough I was VERY glad that I was wearing breathable boots to allow circulation. (It was over 100 degrees on one day!) I was more glad to NOT to have been wearing low cut trail runners though. The never ending side hilling was bad enough on the ankles with the mid-height Ventilators, I can only imagine that if you didn't have some kind of extra ankle support, your ankles would surely revolt by day #2.

The Bailey Range is a very special place. When you go, take your time, take lots of pictures and beware of the Cream Lake Vortex!

Here is a link to my trip report that I posted on Washington Trails Assn:

If you want to see the pics that are attached to the TR, here is the "new" link:

PM me if you'd like specific trail information.

Edited by hoosierdaddy on 10/05/2011 16:57:10 MDT.

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Footwear for the Bailey range on 10/05/2011 19:28:46 MDT Print View

Above is an article about a trip I did in the Bailey Range in '07. It included Olympus, along with some other cool places. The high traverse between Olympus a bear pass was maybe the more technical section, with quite a bit of 45+degree hard snow.

I wore some heavy, old-school leather mountaineering boots. We had great weather and the boots were fine, although heavy.

If I were to go back today I would take a pair of light synthetieic mountaineering boots. The supportive, stiff, close-fitting platform is of great help in that sort of terrain and does make the whole trip safer than a more flexible shoe IMHO. They will not be very nice on the approach, and honestly they are lousy at handling moisture, but you can travel all of that terrain with wet feet in the summer without much serious risk. The issue of falling or injuring an ankle in more breathable but less supportive footwear is in my opinion a greater hazard.

I wish the makers of such boots would leave out the goretex, as it reduces the breathability but always stops being waterproof long before the boot is worn out. I'd rather have a breathable boot and either use some sort of waterproof sock in cold and wet or a waterproof supergaiter.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse on 10/06/2011 12:10:08 MDT Print View

Most gore-tex liners could theoretically be cut-out if you wanted to do so. I have an old pair lying around I may just try that with.

My standard mountaineering boots are an older model of Garmont Tower GTX. They are about 2lb. 14 oz. for the pair, if I remember correctly. I have done plenty of approaches in them and they have a decent balance of flexibility and sole stiffness.

Ben W

Locale: NW Center for Volcano-Aided Flight
Blue Glacier in the rain on 10/06/2011 18:26:28 MDT Print View

I have not done the Bailey Range, but did a conventional Olympus-only climb 3 weeks ago (Sept 18ish). So I can speak a little to the wetness/snow + glacier aspect, but not to the rest of the route and its sidehilling, cliffs, etc. In general, my trip was easier on the feet/ankles than yours would be.

We spent the first few hours in the dark on Blue Glacier in wind and driving rain. According to the last forecast I'd heard, snow line was supposed to be hovering close enough to descend to our level, but it did not. Around sunrise, rain moved out and it was just windy the rest of the day. The three guys with me wore their hefty waterproof mountaineering boots.

Call me crazy (they did :), but I was wearing Salomon SpeedCross 2 shoes (no gore-tex) with crampons and old non-waterproof busted-up Threshold gaiters, and light Smartwool PhD or similar socks (ankle height). My feet obviously got wet, but never cold, although I did make a preemptive switch to a heavier pair of PhD socks (medium? weight hiking socks) + some high-tech VBL (plastic bags, but outside socks) a couple hours in because I was a little worried they might go towards cold territory, as the weather was causing a lot of standing around while trying to navigate. Moving feet are warm feet in my experience, but standing feet can cool. They stayed plenty warm and the new pair of socks/liners worked fine and later I contemplated switching back, but didn't have a long enough break at the right time. After the rain stopped and the sun came up, my shoes were mostly dry (or not noticeably wet) for most of the rest of the day. Back at camp, I had not even a hot spot. The boot-wearers had a combined litany of painful-looking blisters and abrasions. 1 or 2 of them had also suffered cold feet (the literal, not the figurative, variety) during the climb. (I suspect due to tight boots cutting down some circulation?) Take this as a report of what happened to our feet, not a sermon.

Caveats (lots):
I weighed this choice of footwear very carefully beforehand, consider expected conditions, unexpected conditions, and previous experience. It worked for me, but I would not have recommended it for my companions, for example.
Now, if I was carrying a heavier pack, I likely would have gone for boots for the support with crampons and potentially hard snow, crampons on rocks (yuck, hard on the ankles), etc., but really, my feet appreciate shoes over boots as long as they're carrying weight within a reasonable window of my own.
Also, from my experience, I suspect I have more resilient ankles than others.
And I'm a newbie to the mountaineering end of things, reluctant to let my light backpacking style slide. Don't listen to me. :) Listen to these other guys with way more experience.

But for the approach (obviously much tamer than the Bailey Traverse), shoes hands down.

On a previous trip that included 2 days straight of snow/rain/wind on tamer terrain, the wet feet in mesh trail runners were annoying, but not cold. And the SpeedCross setup also worked on Baker, but the conditions were tamer there.

Edited by bpwood on 10/06/2011 18:29:30 MDT.

Reed Koch
(reedkoch) - F

Locale: Northwest
Re: Blue Glacier in the rain on 10/07/2011 22:37:10 MDT Print View

I'm curious how many people will respond with some version of the trailshoe/gortex sock/crampon combo. I've been using climbing boots for off trail/glacier traverses in the past but I'm curious about people's experiences who have been pushing the hiking ultralight perspective into the cross country/modest glacier traverse realm.

With respect to weight our base weight will be less than 15 lbs including glacier gear (Normally I'm at under 9lbs base weight but the larger pack, bear canisters, and glacier gear bring that up to the 13 to 15 range) and under 30lbs including food for 11 days. We'll start at Aurora Creek to Boulder Lake and through Cat Basin so by the time we are on the cat to ferry traverse we will be in the mid 20's with respect to weight and by the time we're on the the glaciers we'll be down to the high teens. So I don't think pack weight will play a deciding role in shoe selection.

Reed Koch
(reedkoch) - F

Locale: Northwest
Summary on 10/13/2011 21:54:53 MDT Print View

Let me see if I can write a summary of what I’ve heard on both here and in other places on this topic in the hopes that someone else considering this decision may find this useful.

The Bailey Range is a cross country traverse that is mainly on paths if you’re on route and on steep, rocky, and often grassy slopes if you’re off route, which often happens. We’ll call it class 4 grass. The snow and glacier section going over mount Olympus are mainly snow with occasional slopes up to 45 degrees. The snow on the glaciers is moderate up to 45 degrees and is generally kick stepable although in some years ice may be present.

Let’s start with the hiking shoe/gortex sock/spikes or crampon approach. People do it. They do it because they like the light weight on their feet, the comfort, and the lack of blisters. However, the people who do it are experienced hikers and climbers and in particular they are people who are experienced with using this combination on other cross country and climbing routs. The bailey range is not the place to try out the light shoe strategy. It is only a wise choice if you’ve already used such a strategy many times on weekend trips off trail and up glaciated peaks.

On the other hand, if you have to ask the question then you don’t have enough experience with light weight trail shoes to use them on the Bailey travers. You should be using a lightweight alpine boot or a hiking boot which will provide much more stability, security, and foot protection. Yes, they weigh 3 lbs and they are hard on your feet. You’ll want to bring hydropel and leukotape for your blisters. But they work.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Summary on 10/19/2011 20:30:40 MDT Print View


2 sets of "mountaineering boots"

3/4 or full shank boots that ride your heels where for all intensive purposes your only route is to apply tape BEFORE putting boots on. NOT after you already have a blister! Tape will last 2 days before needing to be reapplied. Honestly this type of boot really only needs to be worn when on steep snow/ice constantly. VBL should be used. The Bailey traverse is NOT this kind of country.

1/2 shank boots or "no shank" boots with a stiff sole. A proper fitting boot will not give blisters. Those who don't have a proper fitted boot or broken in boot most certainly WILL have blisters. You know which one of these categories you fall into. Apply tape if the later group before you get blisters. Tape weight = 1oz or so. This was me last weekend with a pair of boots that weren't really broken in. Without tape which I already had in my pack, I stupidly gave myself a blister.

1/2 shank boots give Excellent side-hilling. Generally "mid top" style that honestly IMO don't give ANY ankle support. What they do is keep the debris out with gaiters that trail runners with gaiters don't. What they do is allow you to step on the edge of a rock and stand up-right without TWISTING your ankle in half. Trail runners or equivalent most certainly DO NOT allow you to do this. Also note the differnce between FULL mountaineering boot and 1/2. 1/2 give ankle protection from impact but not extra "structural" support, at least most of them. Yes, a bunch of tweeners in there. Sorry generalization.

Yes, I have run along hillsides in trail runners. One quickly, at least in my case, fervently wishes that they hadn't been so stupid as to leave "real" boots at home in such cases and "saving" myself 1lb, but giving myself 10lbs of grief. Think 25 degree plus heather and other "alpine plant" life locations or cliff sections you stumble across that you must traverse lower.

IMO trail runners belong... On the Trail not off in alpine plant life terrain. If rock hopping, then trail runners are fine, actually great IMO. The bailey traverse is NOT rock hopping terrain. Well it is, but there are Huge sections of alpine slippery plants to traverse.

Sorry, not so brief...

Lightest least grief combo IMO = lightest 1/2 shank or no shank stiff sole, above ankle, "boot" with a pair of VBL thin socks followed by thicker socks outside this and waxed boots keeping everything dry. Expecting such a boot to "breathe" IMO is expecting the government to actually address the Budget problem due to Social Absurdity and Medicaid where the promises are WAY above what reality is showing.

I. Chhina
(ichhina) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound, WA
Re: Footwear for Bailey Range Traverse on 11/21/2011 12:05:05 MST Print View


I'm planning on doing the full Bailey traverse in July 2012 from the North (starting at Sol Duc, throwing in Mt. Olympus summit bid also, & exiting on Hoh River trail). Because of Olympus, I'll use my La Sportiva Trango S boots. They're pretty light for mountaineering boots, and when further waterproofed, stay reasonably dry in gloppy snow or rain.

If I was skipping Olympus and thus didn't need stiffer crampon-compatible boots, I'd still probably take the lightest full height goretex hiking boots I've got. With all the sidehilling on this trip, I think trail runners would be murder on the ankles and gaiters wouldn't keep rocks out well. Also, I'd like more support due to the extra food weight, bear can & climbing gear. Lightweight mid-height boots would probably do OK if skipping the climbing.

I still like merino wool socks for almost all conditions. The Goretex socks I've tried are not breathable and make my feet sweaty = hot spots. I pre-tape all my likely hot spots these days, have gotten religion about gaiters, and change socks at halfway point each day, and usually have zero foot problems.

For rainy conditions and/or lower angle snow/ice travel, I've been experimenting with Innov-8 trail runners, combined with some Pearl Izumi rainproof, light insulation road cycling booties over them, and then if needed using CAMP 6Pt. aluminum crampons (very light) or Kahtoola Microspikes (depending upon snow/ice conditions). This has worked pretty well so far. I'd consider using this system for the Summer Bailey traverse (w/out Olymmpus) & just upgrade it with a light mid-height hiker for more ankle support. XC ski booties work too.

Good luck on your trip!

Jake Morrison
(@BarefootJake) - F
just climbed off the Baileys on 09/13/2012 13:34:49 MDT Print View

wore Sandals most the way. Glacier and Snow crossing I changed into Vibram Five Fingers.

lots of photos:

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
In 2010 was a late rather heavy snow year, so there was more snow than usual on 09/17/2012 14:24:45 MDT Print View

I wore trail runners and added Goretex socks in snow and MicroSpikes when I needed them for better traction on snowfields. We were on snow for about 3 days of the traverse in early September.