Q:

What are the best ice-climbing boots for a beginner?

I've never ice-climbed, but I interested because my dad used to climb. Which boots are good to have and which ones should I avoid? Theodore Knife River, Minnesota

Nov 1, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Scarpa Omega ice boots

Omega ice-climbing boots

A:

What’s good to have are boots designed for ice climbing. What’s good to avoid are boots that, well, aren’t. How’s that for advice?

Of course, nothing is quite that simple. And a lot depends on what you mean by “ice climbing." For travel across icy glaciers and slopes up to 45 degrees, for instance, you often can get by just fine with mid-weight mountaineering boots. A good example of that: La Sportiva’s Glacier EVO ($250; www.sportiva.com), an updated version of that long popular climbing/heavy backpacking boot. The Glacier has beefy 2.8mm leather, a half-steel shank, and a nylon midsole—a little flex for hiking, but plenty of support for cramponing. And they’ll fit in most “automatic" (strapless) crampons.

You can even do some front-pointing of the glaciers (that is, facing the ice and kicking your toe points into it). But if that’s your idea of ice climbing—and I gather that it is—then you need a real ice-climbing boot. Scarpa’s Omega boots ($369; www.scarpa.com) are just the ticket, with a light but very stiff carbon-fiber midsole and plastic shell. They’re an extremely rigid boot. Kick in a front point, and they’ll hold as long as you choose to stay there.

But they are kind of pricey. Scarpa’s venerable Inverno ($279) offers surprising technical capabilities in a comfortable, all-around plastic boot that can take you up peaks such as Rainier, while still giving you enough boot for the occasional waterfall climb.

I hope you’ll let your dad help you out with some techniques and advice. Don’t hesitate to look for a local climbing club as well—no doubt you can find one with regular trips to locales such as the North Shore of Lake Superior, which has cold temps and some good ice routes.

Be safe!

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive hiking boot section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

Filed To: Hiking Boots

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