Super Alpinista
Super Alpinista

Is there one boot to hike and climb the Americas?

I'm looking for a do-everything mountaineering boot, a tall order I know. A friend and I have plans to travel through the Americas next year, climbing in the big mountains wherever we go, following the summer. I only want to bring a single pair of boots, so I want something that can handle bushwhacking in Patagonia, snow and ice climbs in the Canadian Rockies, and the cold and altitude of Aconcagua. Is there one boot that can handle all that? I'm leaning towards either the Scarpa Inverno or the La Sportiva Nepal Extreme. Alex Princeton, New Jersey

Super Alpinista

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No, not a tall order at all. Once upon a time we just went to REI, bought “climbing boots,” and did everything in them—hiked, climbed Rainier, climbed rock (admittedly, not very well), and never thought about the notion we needed a different pair of boots for every activity.

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My own thought is that the Inverno ($300;, an excellent plastic boot, may be too much. Great for the cold/icy bits, less ideal for things like hiking on dry (if rugged) trails. The La Sportiva Nepal Extreme ($420; has leather uppers (plus insulation) so it will have better “feel” on rock and will be more comfortable on the trail, although we’re not talking about day-hiker nimbleness. And my guess is they won’t be quite as warm as the Invernos. Full overboots or gaiters will help here, but I expect you’ve already laid in something such as the Outdoor Research Brooks Ranger Overboots ($135;

Two other boots might merit your attention. One is the Vasque Super Alpinista ($400;, which like the La Sportiva boot has leather uppers, but it’s also designed for cold-weather use. The Scarpa Freney XT ($400) is also worth a look—it’s a new, futuristic-looking boot with partial leather uppers and PrimaLoft insulation, designed for mixed-alpine use in cold conditions.

You’ve got an ambitious climbing agenda. Stay safe—remember, as Ed Viesturs says, getting to the top is optional. Getting back is not.

Read Outside‘s “Mountaineering 101” for the ten-step guide to getting up North America’s big hills, from Half Dome to Mount McKinley.

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