Patrick in his new Ultras.
Photo courtesy of P.J. Cooke
a guest blog by Patrick Walsh
As one would imagine, I was very very excited when I found out I was going to own these boots. I had my reservations purchasing them sight-unseen, not knowing if they would be the right size and/or fit my feet properly. I figured worst case the boots should be pretty easy to re-sell if nothing else.
My first reaction, and that of most to the Rebel Ultra, has been “what are those, can I see them?” This is followed by “holy crap those are freakish light.” They are more akin to a sneaker than an ice boot, and often the next questions are “what size are they? Can I try them on!?” This initial excitement is soon followed by “but are they warm enough?”
At this point i have spent twelve days climbing in these boots. I was fortunate enough to receive them just before an end of season trip to the Canadian Rockies. I have now spent eleven back-to-back days and one single day on the east coast in these boots. Although this is not a long time to have spent with a boot, I feel it has been enough time to offer some real feedback having spent the better part of two weeks in them day in and day out.
I guess first we should talk about fit. I have what had been described as a fairly low volume foot with a high arch. My feet measure US 11.5 left and 12 right. The first thing I did was toss the factory insoles and throw the gamut of off the shelf offerings at the boots in an attempt to get the perfect fit. In doing so I soon came to understand that these boots are not your average ice boot, and that bit of toe wiggling room one usually looks for in a attempt to stay warm and ward off black toe nails is not what this boot wants to do. This boot wants to fit more like a rock shoe (think "all day trad shoe") resulting in a boot that feels like a warm blanket but performs like tightly fitted sport climbing shoe. I went back and forth with insole/sock combos searching mostly for the ideal fit regarding volume. I kept coming back to a fit that allowed me to just barely stuff my feet into the boots without my toes bashing off the ends or cutting off my circulation, thus leaving little need to crank down on the laces to keep my foot in place. Fit this way, the boots offered an amazing combination of support and dexterity, all the while feeling much more like a overbuilt running sneaker than an uber-light ice boot of any sort. With so little to the upper of this boot, it really needs to be fit this way in order to offer the support ones desires in an ice boot. Had I fit the boots with room to wiggle my toes and cold weather circulation in mind, the boots would begin to feel a bit sloppy and lack the support I would want in a boot I planned on climbing ice in. Fit as I had them, the boots offer the perfect combo of support and all day comfort and performance.
My first impression of this boot was that it was a niche item. I figured it would be one more tool in my quiver of gear probably reserved only for warm and or fast and light days on moderate ice in moderate conditions. Having now done everything from long alpine days on both hard and easy terrain to a few short days spent ice cragging and even some mixed climbing in both warm and cold weather, I have to say these are a do everything boot and a does everything well boot. I would go as far as saying these are a do everything and does everything better boot. Yes on a couple cold days high on a route with wind whipping my feet got cold. But so did both of my partners’ feet in Nepals and Baturas. Add to that the fact that I fit them with a lightweight Smartwool PHD ski sock more akin to a cycling sock than a wool winter sock of yesteryear and I think, although far from a warm boot, the boots are pretty darn warm. On a coupe of high-teens to mid-twenties Fahrenheit days, my feet felt downright warm. These boots both approach and climb so well that even days i expect to be cold I still choose to wear them because they just climb that much better than any other boot I have worn, and I have worn them all. I simply no longer want to wear any other boot as my feet just love climbing in this boot.
In summary, this boot is crazy crazy light and built incredibly well regarding craftsmanship and materials! The boot makes me feel more like a spider monkey climbing ice simply on his way home rather than a giant ape clumsily making his way up the Empire State building only to be shot down by fighter planes in a attempt at freedom. For me at least this boot is a game changer and one I might go as far as saying you will have to "pry from my cold dead hands."
more feedback via previous emails:
On New England Ice?
"Boots are great! I can climb anything in them. Meaning they climb hard ice just fine if not better than my other boots. Not sure if it is in my head but I suspect a little of both. They might be a 1/2 size small but only cuz I have had to run my high volume custom orthotics in them. In all reality I am pretty sure these boots made me a better climber for real. I pretty much have stopped kicking as I can just place my feet on the smallest of features. What once felt like a tiny ledge now feels like a giant shelf. I am in love!! They will be cold on cold cold days but it is clear this is not a cold weather boot. Still though it will be very very hard to ever want to climb in anything else ever!"
Two weeks later:
"So we had a great first trip to the Canadian Rockies. We ended up getting out 11 days straight. The boots rocked. I brought my Phantom Guides and never once wore them. I have only great things to say about the Rebels."
The original Cold Thistle review is here: