Gear Guy

Will leather boots hold up on Denali and Everest?

Are there any leather boots that will hold up on the "big peaks" like Denali or Everest? I planning a trip to Denali and would really like to go with leather boots as I've never liked plastics. Any thoughts? Jeff Norfolk, Virginia

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Of course, once upon a time, EVERYONE climbed those big peaks with leather boots. But a lot of them lost some toes, or worse, in the process. So these days you pretty much only see plastics on these mountains. On Everest, in particular, I say you’d be foolish to even consider a non-plastic boot.

Denali is a slightly different kettle of fish. Certainly, it’s typically colder there than on Everest, but you’re not in such an oxygen-deprived environment near the summit. And during the warmer months such as June and July you might get away with a very warm, new-generation, mostly leather boot such as the T-Rock Thermal from Tecnica ($340; Which actually isn’t leather at all—it uses carbon fiber and nylon. It’s pretty warm (with Primaloft insulation) and is designed as a winter climbing boot. You might also try the La Sportiva Nepal Extreme ($420;, which has three-millimeter waterproof leather, Thinsulate insulation, and an insulated insole. It’s a classic big-mountain leather boot, with the latest leather technology. To hedge your bets, take along a pair of vapor-barrier socks, plus of course full overboots.

Alternatively, just take a pair of Scarpa Invernos ($290; An excellent, comfortable all-purpose plastic boot that is nearly ideal for Denali. Your toes might thank you.