Gear Guy

Are hiking boots with snap-on crampons enough for mountaineering?

If I want to go mountaineering up here in the Northwest, is it enough to slap some crampons onto a pair of Scarpa Rios? I know Rios are great for just about everything else and that they stopped making the Edwardo climbing boot (why, I don't know). Or, should I try some other boot? Jim Trueworthy Coeur d'Alene, North Idaho

A: Although sounding like a stuck record, let me repeat an observation I've been known to make: Outdoor footwear is getting too specialized. Once upon a time people had "climbing boots," and they used them for damn nearly everything—hiking, climbing, taking out the garbage, you name it. Today, you've got rock shoes and bouldering shoes and day hikers and backpacking boots and off-trail boots and 101 varieties of mountain boots.

However, the Scarpa Rios ($240) are boots that harken back to the days when boots were expected to handle the trail, tough out the ice, find purchase on rock, piggyback a pair of crampons, and fix breakfast. They're a beefy pair of all-leather boots, with a steel shank and Norwegian welt construction. I'd say they're close to ideal for Northwest mountaineering; perhaps short of winter climbs on Rainier, although with a pair of good overboots they'd probably work well for that, too. They truly are go-anywhere, do-anything boots.

The only disadvantage I can think of is that the Rios are an all-leather boot. Therefore, they will require a little more care and maintenance when on glacier-intensive climbs, when your feet will be stuck in the snow for several days. Good boot treatments will ensure the leather doesn't leak, while a change of socks in the pack and assiduous use of gaiters to keep snow out of the top will ensure greater comfort. Sure, on a freezing morning the boots might be a little stiff at first, but they'll quickly warm up. These boots will do fine with any strap-on crampon; they can't take "automatics," but so what?

Check out the Scarpa website for the Rios.

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