Q:

What's the best boot for Rainier?

I just recently returned from a failed Mount Rainier attempt feeling deflated because my Koflach boots chewed up my feet before we even got to Cp Muir! I've been reading about the Asolo AFS Guide boots and they sound great. Where can I purchase these and will they work with a smaller, narrower woman's foot? (Living in North Carolina, I will have to play mail order.) I also tried some Lowas to no avail. I'm going back for another Rainier attempt next summer and would hate to fork out another $800 and not even make it to base cp. Karla Greensboro, North Carolina

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: Wait! Don't rush out and buy those Asolo AFS Guides! The Guide—or Guida, as it now is called—is indeed a fine boot, a plastic boot with Outlast insulation. And cost is not unreasonable for a high-end boot: $350. But I'd say it's more boot than you need. And if your Koflach boots chewed up your feet, I fear that the Guidas might do the same (although fit is a big issue, and perhaps your narrow feet were just swallowed by the Koflachs).

Instead, I highly recommend you try one of the newer-generation leather boots that are suitable for climbs like Rainier. A good example: Salomon's Super Mountain Expert ($250; www.salomonsports.com). These combine the light weight of a leather boot with the ice and crampon performance of a plastic. I wore a pair on Rainier in July and thought they were the perfect summer boot on all but the most technical sections of the mountain. Very comfortable and warm, but much lighter than plastics. Crampons worked great on them, too. And break-in was minimal—I basically took them out of the box, laced them up, and climbed the mountain.

Another boot to look at is Tecnica's T-Rock ($320; www.tecnicausa.com), which employs carbon-fiber and ballistic nylon materials to create a boot that is light and flexible, but also plenty rigid for crampon use. The T-Rock is designed for climbs like Rainier.

In any big-mountain boot you're going to struggle with fit. You might want to order a couple of different boots and just be prepared to ship one or all back. Try them with the right socks—light Coolmax or similar wicking socks, and a heavyweight wool sock such as the SmartWool Expedition ($17; www.rei.com). If needs be, use an aftermarket insole to soak up some extra space. The folks at Superfeet make a "high profile" model that is meant for folks like you ($28; www.superfeet.com).

Good luck! And I hope you make it all the way to the top next year.

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