For a summer climb of those peaks, you can get away with all sorts of boots, so long as theyre sturdy and crampon-compatible. Yes, nasty storms can hit in July and August, but gaiters and good wool socks offer enough insulation and snow protection. Theres no real need to clomp around in plastics.
Mind you, Im not suggesting day-hikers. In fair weather, you could wear something such as Asolos TPS 535 ($180; asolo.com). These are sturdy backpacking boots with all-leather construction and would get up and down Rainier or Hood just fine, aside from maybe some chilled toes in the morning. True, youd have to wear strap-on crampons, but thats not a great hardship. SMCs utterly retro-classic 12 Point Crampons ($55; smcgear.net) would work fine, and other climbers would find them fascinating, like youd stepped out of a time warp from the Mallory expedition.
Otherwise, there is a slew of excellent hybrid" boots that combine leather and synthetic materials to create tough but light mountaineering footwear. These would stand up to anything Rainier can throw at you through the summer months, and into the fall. Asolos Titan ($270) bonds a synthetic polyamide to a rubber rand around the sole and adds a Gore-Tex liner. Theyre great for very heavy backpacking or glacier travel, and nearly ideal for Rainier and Hood in the summer. Match them with semi-automatic crampons such as Grivels G-12 Newmatics ($166; grivel.com).
I also like La Sportivas Glacier Evo ($250; sportive.com), an updated version of the venerable Glacier boot. The Evo has rough-out leather uppers, a half-steel shank, and a redesigned collar that allows greater flexibility when crossing steep terrain. Nice boot. Lastly, Garmonts Pinnacle ($270; garmont.com) offers another alternative in a sturdy leather boot thats expressly designed for heavy backpacking and glacier travel.
As always, fit is what counts the most. Find a store that offers several light mountaineering boots and try them on to see what works well, as every one will be a little different. And have some great climbs! I dunno what your schedule is, but Hood really is best climbed before Juneits a rubble heap after that. Rainier has a little longer prime season, with July being ideal in terms of good weather and decent snow cover.
The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.