Gear Guy

Are leather boots compatible with step-in crampons?

I'm looking for a pair of boots that will accept automatic crampons. I used to have a pair of leather boots with Vibr soles that accepted automatics. Does anyone still make these? Or, do I really have to consider getting plastic boots? David Austin, Texas

A: Nowadays, of course, people tend to think "plastic boots" when they thing "crampons." But lots of leather boots take automatic or step-in crampons. One I like a lot is the Scarpa Cerro Torre ($320;, an admirably light leather boot with a very stiff sole. It's a great all-around mountain boot, with enough rigidity for ice climbing and a sole and boot-feel that works well on rock. Actually, it's pretty good on trails, too. Fit is a bit of a problem—they're a pretty low-volume boot so get them a tad large.

There are other candidates. Montrail makes a classic leather mountaineering boot called the Verglas, which sells for $310 but recently was on sale at Mountain Gear ( for $189. This boot is so traditional it even has a carved birch insole, adding insulation, shaving off weight, and allowing more flexibility than steel, without sacrificing any rigidity. Tecnica's T-Rock ($320; combines fabric with leather to save weight without diminishing the traditional comfort of leather. This pair will take any crampon. La Sportiva's Makalu ($245; will take a crampon with a security strap—not a bad idea for any boot, really—something like the Grivel G14 ($165; These crampons hardly take a second longer to put on than fully automatic ones, but they'll add plenty of security.

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