Gear Guy

Is there one mountaineering boot that can do it all?

I just recently got into mountaineering and assing all the gear needed to pursue my different interests. I have a lot of the basics and now its time to get some boots. I need a four-season boot for both general mountain travel and technical ice. In the grand scheme of accruing mountain gear, boots account for a pretty hefty chunk of change—especially if you buy three pair of boots: one for three-season mountain travel, another for winter mountain travel, and the third for technical ice. Much more appealing would be a single pair of boots that could do all three. Does such a boot exist? If not, can I get away with two pairs of boots? I'm just looking for a way to escape throwing down $1000 on boots. Josh Hattan Lincoln, Nebraska

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One pair of boots, no —- not when you start talking about technical ice. But I think you can get by with two pairs of boots.

For starters, though, my advice is to get into this gradually and figure out what you really need, rather than laying out a pile of dough right off the bat. First, get some good, all-purpose leather boots that are crampon-compatible. My first choice likely would be Montrail’s always reliable Moraine AT ($230). Other excellent choices include Scarpa’s Super Manta M4 ($239), La Sportiva’s Makalu ($245), and Boreal’s Asan ($255). These will likely take you anywhere you want to go for the next year or so, whether it’s extended backpacking, cramponed glacier travel, or low class-5 rock. With good technique, they’ll even manage on pretty steep ice.

Meanwhile, find a mountaineering store in….Lincoln (sound of barely suppressed laughter), or wherever your travels lead you, and rent some plastic boots. Get a sense of how much boot you need. Then you’ll be better prepared to buy a decent all-around plastic such as the Koflach Degre ($239). Or, you might find that a mid-weight plastic boot such as Scarpa’s excellent Inverno ($300), which can handle pretty technical ice with the right crampons, suits you fine. You can step up to a full-on technical ice boot like the Asolo Ottomilla ($399), but I think it will be some time before you could take full advantage of it, and I don’t mean that as an insult. Bottom line, you can spend less than $600 and have two pairs of boots that will suit 90 percent of the terrain you’re apt to encounter any time soon.

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