Im climbing Denali via the Muldrow Glacier in May 2008, and Id like to start breaking in some boots (and my feet). Unfortunately, Im a size 14 and having trouble finding double-plastic boots large enough. Any chance that my old (c. 1982), but well cared for, double-leather boots would be adequate? Glen Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Muldrow Glacier is one of the classic routes up Denalithe route the first parties to ascend the mountain used. Its also a loooong route, as you no doubt know. You cant fly in to the Muldrow Glacier, so you have to hike in the 15 miles from Wonder Lake. Fred Beckey has a great account of that approach in his book, Mount McKinley: Icy Crown of North America. If you havent read that book, then I heartily suggest you do.
Scarpa Omega Boot
As for your old boots: Well, they might work. Heaven knows plenty of people have climbed Denali in double-leather boots. And plenty of them lost toes. Youd need to reinforce their cold-weather capabilities with vapor barrier liners and full overboots such as Outdoor Researchs Brooks Ranger Overboots ($135; outdoorresearch.com). Beyond that, I actually wonder if your old boots still fit that well. Feet change, spreading a bit as you age. And you have to allow for the fact your feet will swell as you ascend. So if they arent at least a full size over your normal boot size, then Id be skeptical as to their effectiveness.
So what to do? Admittedly, size 14 is on the far edge of what boot makers are putting out. One possible option is the Koflach Vertical ($390; koflach.com). It has the same shell as the Koflach Expe, but a thinner liner so its billed as going up to size 14. And its rated for cold weather, down to minus 40. Youd still want the Brooks Rangers, though. I also like Scarpas recently redesigned Inverno ($335; scarpa.com), which goes up to size 13 in the UK range, and that translates to 14 in the U.S. Scarpas newer Omega ($360) offers a little more precision on rock or ice, yet still keeps your feet warm. They also go up to size 14.
So, get yourself to a boot store and give some of these a try. And remember, you want them to be a little too big. Good luck!
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.