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Gear Guy

Do they make extra-wide mountaineering boots?

My friend and I are planning a one-week ice climbing trip north of Lake Superior to an area known as Agawa Canyon, where the mean daytime temperature is less than zero degrees Fahrenheit. I would like to get a pair of mountaineering boots for the trip that will keep my 41E feet warm, so I was considering either the Scarpa Invernos or Alphas (both plastics). Is my foot width too wide for the Alphas? Having the extra feel of the lighter boot would definitely be a plus in my book. Are there any single-boot alternatives that might suffice, or are doubles my best bet? John Toronto, Ontario

A: Oh, people with superwide feet! Why don't you stick to snorkeling, where you'd have natural advantages—not having to buy fins, for instance.

Scarpa Inverno

With boots, width does make things difficult. The short answer is that, no, neither the Invernos ($290; nor the newer, lighter Alphas ($350) are particularly wide, so you'll have a difficult time fitting into a pair. If by chance they DO fit moderately well, I'm inclined to side with the Invernos as these are a little warmer and a little more rigid for straight ice climbing. The Alphas are better on mixed terrain.

Overall, for a week in weather that cold, a double boot clearly will be the way to go. Some of the newer hybrid boots would likely work—example, Salomon's Pro Thermic ($380; or Tecnica's T-Rock Thermal ($340;—but I think you'd be happier in a full plastic double boot such as the Inverno or the Koflach Arctis Expe ($355; Given the nature of a trip like yours, you'll likely be doing a fair amount of standing around, and I should think warmer will be better.

Still, the fit issue is difficult. You may have to buy a boot that is one size bigger, length-wise, than you need in order to get the right width. Then you'll need to fiddle with socks, heel inserts, insoles, and other stuff to adjust the fit so you don't have too much fore and aft slop. It won't be easy, but a good boot fitter at a mountaineering store should be able to help you.

Good luck!

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