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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, April 26, 2010

Scarpa Phantom Guide vs the La Sportiva Batura

New:  2/15/2011...here is an update on the newest 2011 Batura worth looking at, as the Batura has some significant changes for the better.

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-2011-la-sportiva-batura_14.html


As always a caveat. My foot isn't your foot. Some will find the Batura a much better boot for them than the Guide. And some will find the Guide a better fit and boot for them than the Batura. I really like and believe in the potential of a "super gator" style boot for cold weather climbing. I don't think of either of these boots as being perfect. Despite both companies best effort to date either boot is too heavy for their warmth imo.

The La Sportiva Batura in my size 45 weights in at 2lb 7oz per boot. The Scarpa Phantom Guide in a size 45 weighs in at 2lb 7.5oz. Both should be closer to the 2lb they advertise.

As a comparison in size 45 both the La Sportiva Trango Exteme Evo GTX and the Nepal Evo GTX offer similar warmth while admittedly differing levels of protection. The Trango weight in at 2# 3oz, the all leather Nepal Evo at 2# 10oz.






I have intentionally updated the previous La Sportiva Batura review to put it on the same page as this review and the comparison of the Batura along side the newest Scarpa Phantom Guide.

In many ways these two boots are very old school. Basically light weight single boots with a short, Peter Carmen style "super gator" permanently attached as noted in the Batura review. It was a system that allowed us to use a lighter weight boot that climbed better technically and still have enough warmth to use the system in Alaska during the spring if you didn't go too high and winter in Canada if it didn't get too cold.

Lots of "ifs" in that statement but it worked without cold injuries, generally. Still there are places cold enough that a single boot just is not enough and enough cases of frostbite from those using Super Gators and good single boots on cold, difficult routes many quickly realised double boots were a better answer. Lucky for us Koflach came out with the Ultras about that time and then dominated the market for cold weather technical climbing for the next 20 years.

The flip side to that is both the Phantom guide and the Batura are chock full of high tech materials and technology.

But let me address a couple of things first that should be mentioned about fabric boots (both the Scarpa and La Sportive here are "fabric" boots) that are important.

"Mountain Guide and Scarpa consultant, Brian Hall emphasises that the Phantoms won't last as long as traditional leather and plastic mountaineering boots, but the sort of climber who uses them is after maximum performance regardless of cost..."

Nice of Mr. Hall and Scarpa to so easily admit that fact. La Sportiva on the other hand doesn't bother to mention it at all. No matter just how true it REALLY is. The majority of time I have spent in boots over the last 10 years has been in fabric boots. The exceptions have been the newest Nepal Evo and the older, blue Scarpa Frenzy. Both fully rigid soled, leather boots and both build stout for technical climbing and to last.

It would take me multiple years to wear either leather boot out and you would go through several resoles before you did.

Admittedly I have a hard foot to fit and am rough on boots because I have skinny feet in a size 12 US and weight in at 200# on a good day. Add a pack and gear to that and easy to be pushing 225# plus while climbing when all geared up.

There are times I prefer some extra ankle and forward support to ease the calf strain of the leverage on a big foot and my climbing weight. I've not found a technical, all fabric boot that will do that yet, short of the very best dbl boots, like the Phantom 6000, the Baruntse or Spantik.

And the kind of support and warmth a double boot offers isn't always needed let alone desired.

In Chamonix the previous versions of the Scarpa Phantom 6000 and the Phantom Light had the enviable reputation of being extremely durable compared to the Batura (which broke zippers and had wear issues on the fabric) or the Spantik (which broke laces and eyelets.




The La Sportiva all fabric Trango series of boots have lots of complaints on sole wear and fabric durability. All complaints I originally chose to ignore. While I love the original sticky soles of the Trango Evo series, the durability and support of the Trango is dismal even after just a little use. I basically wore a pair of Trango Extreme Evo GTX boots out in 3 months of ice climbing on just the weekends! That is CRAZY and expensive!

So while I am willing to put up with a reputation that matches "the sort of climber who uses them is after maximum performance regardless of cost" I am not willing to buy a new pair of boots every 6 to 9 months no matter how high the performance.

If you want a boot to last from today's choices, buy a leather boot. The Nepal Evo and the Scarpa Mt. Blanc are exceptional, lwt, technical leather boots. If you don't want to buy new boots every year I'd strongly suggest buying leather.

I feel the Super Gator/single boot idea is worthy of support. Most of my hard climbing has been done in one form or another of that combination up to and including the Batura the last couple of winters.

The original Scarpa Phantom Light, Scarpa's previous model to the Phantom Guide.

So let me get into the Batura / Guide comparison so you can see what I think are the real differences are.

The Batura has lots of things going for it and some faults as well to fit me correctly. And I really do wish the Batura did fit me correctly.

Batura's faults for my foot and fit:

Loose ankle cuff that doesn't tighten on my skinny ankles.
Not enough padding or width in the boot tongue for comfort or support
Hard to lace lower
Not enough lacing on the upper cuff and what is there is poorly placed and designed
Poor seal on the gaiter
Not enough support side to side and forward on the cuff
Terrible, super soft ankle flex, with almost zero support
Hard to keep dry inside and hard to dry out

An additional lower boot eyelet at the ankle and a third set of upper cuff lace hooks make the Phantom Guide different from the Batura. With the addition of a more substantial and well padded tongue all combine to offer more support in the ankle with no loss in flexibility.

The excellent sewn on gaiters of both boots are virtually the same height when snugged as they generally would be in use.

The lower lace system on the Phantom Guide also offers a lace "pull" that greatly increases the ability to tighten and just as importantly, untighten, the lower boot in use.

The Phantom Guide allows me to make my crampons one click smaller for size but mandate the use of a asymmetrical center bar for a proper fit.

The advantages of either boot?


Short integral gaiter.
More water resistance and warmth that a typical leather/fabric boot because of the full coverage gaiter
Flexible cuffs that allow for easy walking and good flexibility to rock or mix climb
Rigid soles for full clip-on crampons
Warm enough for all but the coldest temps



In my size 45 the insole is slightly longer on the Phantom Guide while the over all volume is slightly less on the outside than the Batura. The Phantom Guide is a more trim, lower volume boot and closer fitting boot than the Batura on my foot which makes rock and hard mixed easier.
The issues the Phantom guide solves for my foot.

ankle cuff will tighten on my skinny ankles.
Good padding and width in the boot tongue for comfort or support
easily lacing lower
upper and lower boot have enough eyelets for a proper fit
Good seal on the gaiter
Good support and progressive flex on the ankle
Goretex and Primaloft 1 should help keep the boot dry and help dry the boot once wet

One of the down sides to the Batura is the insulation inside the boot gets wet in use from sweat. And more importantly the Batura then becomes extremely hard to dry out in the field. The P-Guide on the other hand has a removable Primaloft 1 inner sole and the boot is also insulated with Primaloft 1. From my other experiences with Primaloft I know it dries faster with body heat than any other insulation I have used. Primaloft 1's insulation value and warmth is way out of proportion to the thickness used. Add to that a Goretex liner in the Scarpa P-Guide. Both Primaloft and Goretex should offer distinct advantages of the Scarpa over the La Sportiva in staying dry both from your body's moisture and the outside elements.













I've yet to had the opportunity to use this boot in very cold weather but I would expect the P-Guide to be a warmer boot than the Batura. Not a lot warmer mind you, but warmer and certainly easier to dry out in the field.


Easier to get in and out of the P-Guide and the laces lock my heels in much better. In general the S-Guide just fits me better over all. There isn't a lot more support in the ankle on the S-Guide than the Batura but what is there is noticeable and more comfortable for me. Certainly a lot less heel lift on the S-Guide no matter how you chose to tie the boot compared to the Batura.

I am still trying to wrap my head around how comfortable it is to walk in both these boots. Much of alpine climbing is spent on the approach. So walking is important. Although I will generally give up that comfort for the support of a heavier boot. This winter I used a La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme on a number of long approaches and water fall climbs including no approach but some good ice on a quick ascent of Polar Circus.


















Because of the ridiculiously easy ease of access I use ascents of Polar Circus a a testing ground for a lot of gear. Never thought I would enjoy a really light weight set of boots on a climb of that length. But there is enough walking to take advantage of a boot like the Trango, Batura or Phantom Guide. The longest stretch of front pointing is easy terrain on the approach pitches. You never climb more than 100m of steep ice in one session before getting a ledge or snow again up higher.


So for climbs like that or road side cragging on things like Curtain Call, Nemesis or even Slipstream I think any of these soft and lwt fabric boots are great. Just pray you don't have to spend a cold, unplanned night out in them. Because without some serious preventive measures most will have wet feet at the end of a long day in these boots. The full gaiter covering these boots keeps them drier and warmer for longer days walking and climbing but I'll repeat myself, they are not a replacement for a dbl boot. If they were only more durable they might well be good as summer alpine ice boots. Hopefully I'll be able to give a follow up on how the Phantom Guide holds up in those conditions.




















Thankfully both Scarpa and now La Sportiva are using the T-ZIP for better water resistance on the gaiter and better durability. Scarpa has long used the T-ZIP on their previous generations of Phantom boots and have an enviable reputation.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog. I am in the market for a rigid soled fall alpine ice climbing boot for the Sierra. Long approaches and not the ice is not that steep. I will also try to use them in the winter for waterfall ice but I already have a pair of double boots that work well for that. I am particularly interested in the Trango Extreme as I have had good luck with the fit of the Trango Evo GTX (for ealier in the season when the snow/ice is softer) and haven't had too much trouble with its durability.

You compare the Batura, P. Guide, and also mention the Trango Evo GTX and Trango Extreme. You say the Trango Evo GTX isn't durable enough and doesn't have enough support compared to the Batura an P Guide. You also go into detail about the Batura and Phantom Guide. And while you said you used the Trango Extreme, I don't remember you talking to much about its features or making a direct comparision between the Extreme and the P. Guide or the Batura. Is it also less durable and less suportive? You do say you think it is just as warm. I would appreciate a few comments on how the T Extreme compares to the two boots with intergrated gaiters. Thnx.

Dane said...

Hey Anon,

Hey, do me a favor if you are going to ask questions register for the blog :) Numbers count!

From this post:
"As a comparison in size 45 both the La Sportiva Tango Exteme Evo GTX and the Nepal Evo GTX offer similar warmth while admittedly differing levels of protection. The Trango weight in at 2# 3oz, the all leather Nepal Evo at 2# 10oz."

I mention two boots in the review that I will add reviews for at some point. Those are the silver, fabric, Trango Extreme EVO GTX and the yellow, leather, Nepal EVO GTX.

I use the silver colored, rigid, Trango Extreme EVO GTX a lot and like it. While insulated it is obviously not covered by a full gaiter. So almost as warm imo as the Batura it is not as protected from the elements and more likely to get wet. And they are darn near impossible to dry out once wet, even at home. I suspect the new Phantom Guide will be warmer and easier to dry than the Batura because of the choice of Primaloft 1 insulation ad the Gortex. But I don't know that for sure, yet.

Big advantage for me with the silver Trango Extreme EVO GTX is it fits my foot so much better than the Batura that it is much easier to climb in.

Not an apple to apple comparison on the Trango Extreme to the Batura or Phantom guide so I haven't done that and won't.

Both full gaiter boots offer more protection from the elements (and in use will be warmer unless you add a super gator to the Trango Extreme) but all three offer similar support. In a side by side comparison for ankle support the Batura offers the least, the Phantom Guide the most and the Trango Extreme right inbetween them...but that is making a very fine distinction. And it will depend on how the boots fit your ankles and feet. That observation is from me climbing in all three boots.

The basic reason there is any difference is the slight variations in the lacing systems on each boot.

As a spoiler for my La Sportive Trango Extreme EVO GTX review...the jist is: the silver bullet is one of the best all around fabric mtn boots available. Walks well, climbs mixed/rock/steep technical ice well, very light, and is warm enough for road side cragging in mild Canadian winter temps or the Cascades in winter any time. Just sad they aren't more durable.

That said I use the "silver bullet" more than any boot in my closet simply because it is so light and fits me well.

Dane said...

I have been calling it the Trango Extreme EVO GTX. La Sportiva and everyone else calls it the "Trango Extreme Evo Light GTX"..either way good boot.

Bruno said...

Hi Dane,

I added the Blog to follow--hope that helps with the numbers.

A few weeks ago we posted back and forth about double boots. You mentioned Palau boot liners. I am in the market for new liners for my Scarpa Invernos, and would like to solicit your thought on the Palaus, and liners in general.

First, what advatages to you see to the Palaus vs. the Intuition Denalis? Are the Palaus lighter? More flexible? That appears to be the case, but I don't know for sure. Wat about durability? Tongue design?

Second, in general, any tips for baking the liners? Should I lace the boots tight when molding them? Should I wear thick/thin socks? And what are those funny little rubber bits that come with the Intuition liners for?

OK, that's all my questions about liners.

I am waiting for the Cold Thistle web site...

All the best,

Bruno

Dane said...

Hi Bruno,
Thanks for registering. The numbers must help, just not sure how yet :)

Intuitions? Yes the Palau liners are lighter. Look to be equally durable at worse. And at best may be even better. Certainly more user friendly if the Baruntse liner is any indication. But they are better designed as a a more climbing boot spcific liner. Having an actual sew in tongue is important. My Intuitions are super warm and a awesome (professional) fit but way, way too stiff for anything but skiing in my Spantiks. That said after having used them on winter Alpine ice and long, full day approaches. The Intuition wrap around cuff, so great for ski boots sucks in a climbing boot...or at least my climbing boots.

Two layers of over lapping 9mm foam on your shin is not a good fit combo in any of my boots

But....certainly worth a try in your Scarpas if you already have the shells. You should be able to tell with the liner unmolded if they are going to work well for you.

Molding them??? Seriously if you can I would go to a speciality ski shop and have them molded for you, Just no way to really do a perfect job at home that I can see. It really takes two people to do it for you and that is with your help!

I broke down and bought a professional style heat gun a few days ago to again try to mold my Spantik liners. Worked perfect on the few small fit issues in my Baruntse liners but didn't do much for the Spantiks.

I almost wrecked a pefect factory fit on my Baruntse's Palau liners by heating them in the oven withth Spaortiva directions!!! Only the help of a pro fitter locally saved them for me. So I am a little gun shy on fitting lners.

I fit the foam lines with only a lwt sox which is what I plan on climbing in with foam liners. Easy to dry out and carry multiple pairs.

Federico said...

Really interested this blog, and especially this article regarding the phantom guide, that I think it is the best now around the market..
So far I used Nepal Extreme (leather) and it is really indestructible and enough warm in my opinion.
Ciao and good climbs!

federico

Dane said...

Federico,
Nepal is an exceptionally good boot I think. Guide is good as well. The Ultra even better.

best
Dane

Anonymous said...

Hey,

in your foot, is Batura 45 similar size in Phantom Guide?

Maybe, Phantom Guide is bigger thant Batura in the same size???

Thanks.
Jose.

Dane said...

I wear a 45 Batura and a 45 Guide.
They seem very close in size to me.

Gibson said...

Hey, Dane!

I see you recommend the La Sportiva Nepal Evo and the Scarpa Mt Blanc in the same paragraph. Would you say that they are each others' closest match? How does the Scarpa Jorasses Pro compare? (I know it is not leather, but other than that... sole stiffness, ankle stiffness, warmth, etc.)

I'm looking for a boot for -15 C ice cragging, through mountaineering (glacier walking and steeper rock/snow/ice) in -10 C through to +10 C, and also good enough for approaches up to about 15 km. From what I've gathered, the LS Nepal Evo would be a good choice, but I've had trouble with LS fit, so I'm looking at Scarpas instead.

Dane said...

Nepal and the Mt Blanc are very similar boots. The fit is different which is why I suggest try both if you are looking for a warm, more traditional leather boot.

I don't have any experience with the Scarpa Jorasses Pro, sorry.

But I suspect it is better compared to the Trango Extreme Series from La Sportiva.

njf said...

hey Dane,
I am thinking about buying the old phantom lite boots from a friend can you tell me anything about the differences between them and the phantom guide...fit, warmth, performance etc... id appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog!

La Sportiva used to be about quality. These days it's not. Their Goretex-shoes leak worse than sandals (trango trek evo), just unbelievable and they are not helpful in solving these problems. It's a shame really because they still make shoes with very good fit but for me they are unusable.

William Veniez said...

Hey Dane,

Great and very descriptive review. I'm looking into getting the guides and I went to the store and got my size. I like the way they fit, but I am still on edge because I am having concerns about the crampon fit for the guide. Can you give me an opinion on it? It is a deal breaker? I am planning to buy a pair of crampons along with the boot, but obviously I want to crampons to fit well. No just "good enough" Any thoughts would be great. Thanks!

Dane said...

My suggestion is always, always buy the boot that fits first, then fine a crampon that will work with the boot.

I use Petzl crampons on my 45 Scarpas and they fit fine with minor tweaking on the fron bails.

All the brands of crampons are notoriously ill fitting imo these days given the wrong combos of crmapon and boot. But from what I have seen you can make any of them work on all but the tiniest boots.

William Veniez said...

Thanks for the feedback. I also noticed the praise you gave the Phantom Ultras. How did you get those? They only seem to be sold outside of North America. And how do they stack up against the Guide?

Dane said...

Any time. Lots of info here on the Ultra. Try the search function to get it all. I've used a lot of different boots. The Ultra is my favorite single for reasonable temps to date. Much more so than the Guide. But that is also really spliting hairs. Guide is a good boot.

Ken Galbraith said...

Dane, not sure whether this info belongs here or on the Do Your Crampins Fit? string, but I have recently found that DMM Terminator/Gladiator toe bails, retro-fitted onto Grivel crampons, fit well on the narrow toe profile of the Scarpa Phantom Guide. I found that my Terminators went onto the Phantoms perfectly, so I ordered spare bails from Lisa Gnade at DMM Excalibur in Sandy, Utah (xcalibur@mindspring.com). When fitting them to my Grivels, I had to enlarge the holes in the crampons just slightly with a chainsaw file, but then the bails fit nicely. Now there is very little gap (tiny) on either side of the toe and the bail sits in the toe groove right where it's supposed to be. Just wanted to pass on the beta regarding proper crampon fitment for this boot and probably most any other that has the same narrow toe profile. DMM Excalibur has bails in stock at a pretty low price and Lisa is great at responding quickly.
Best Regards and Haspy Climbing!
Ken

James said...

Hi Dane, I have been following the blog for a while now and love it, thanks heaps.

I live in New Zealand and am in the market for a new alpine boot, the Nepal EVO is readily availbale as is the Scarpa Mt Blanc, however both are too narrow for me.

The old Batura fits me well width wise, would the Scarpa Phantom Ultra or Guide fit as well? You say they are a similar fit to the Batura, is this true in the toe box width? Also do you have any suggestions for wider fitting boots with similar warmth to the Batura or the Nepal?

Thanks heaps.

Dane said...

Scarpa will generally fit a wider foot. Phantom Guide would be a good bet.

Unknown said...

Dane...
Curious. I am retiring my scarpa Freny's this year in favor of something warmer. Not sure if the 7 year old boots or the aging climber are the reason but its just the last couple of years I've noticed cold feet. Looking at the rebel GTX due to the excellent weight. Could use my supergaiters when its cold. or the phantom guide. Ice climbing in montana and Alberta (and places far afield).
Steve

Dane said...

Montana and Alberta? You'll want the Phantom Guide. Rebel Ultra is just barely warm enough with good circualtion/feet. As we age you loose both over time. Rebel GTX isn't warm enough for that environment.

Ryan Forbus said...

Dane, I wear a size 12 as well. Thinking about picking up a pair of the p.guides. Do the p.guides run true to size? Do you have plenty of room or would you recommend sizing up a half size? I usually wear a thin liner sock and a pair of the smart wool mountaineering socks.

Dane said...

Hi Ryan, 45.5 or a 46 should fit. I use a 45 but you really need to try them on. Fit will likely be obvious. I don't size up and use thin socks.