With reviews of the most popular double boots on the blog and more coming of similar models I think the use of double
boots might need some explanation again.
The majority of my alpine climbing has
been done in the Canadian Rockies in winter or in the Alaska Range in
In both places a good single boot and decent gaiter will get you
by, generally, in perfect conditions. The problems arise not in the perfect
conditions but in the exceptions both in the weather conditions and
temperatures. As important or maybe more import is the physical condition of the
Open bivy high on the North side of
Deborah May '76
Frostbite is not generally a cold issue
believe it or not but simply a physical exhaustion and dehydration issue of
climbers strung out in difficult conditions. Double boots are a reasonable
insurance policy to avoid a cold injury when you are dehydrated and exhausted
and still having to keep moving. Sounds pretty much like any worthwhile alpine
climb doesn't it?
While expensive, quality double boots are nothing
compared to the price of what even a short stint in the hospital from frostbite
and the resulting down time will cost you long term. Not to mention the
resulting cold sensitivity that will follow you well into the future. The result
of a serious case of frostbite is you'll either stop climbing in cold weather or
you'll buy double boots after the first incident. My suggestion is buy the
double boots up-front and save yourself the worry and pain.
With all the
new climbers able to get out and crag climb long before they jump on difficult
alpine climbs single boots are the norm. The single boots generally climb better
and are cheaper. The same single boots are generally over kill for most things,
including Rainier in summer. So, of course we all want to use those same single
boots...that aren't cheap either....all winter and on every climb.
percentage of the time you'll get away with it. In Canada these days most
climbers won't go out if the temps drop below -15C. That is up from the old norm
of -30C as the temps we generally called it off. One of the reasons is most
boots are not comfortable climbing below -15C unless they are double
Galiber Makalu dbl boots, late
The other important reason to
invest in double boots is the amount of time you can comfortably spend out in a
cold, harsh environment. No they aren't fun to walk in or climb difficult mixed
terrain in. But both can be done adroitly with a little practice. You might find
they climb ice better than your single boots in fact. On moderate, long, ice
routes, most will appreciate the added support and calf relief of a good double
boot. The most important reason to look at a double boot is the ability to keep
the liners unthawed and warm over night and if required dry the inner out in
your sleeping bag. If things really go to shit and you have an open bivy the
fastest way to thrash your feet is to be laced into a tight pair of single
boots. Better yet on a open bivy you can loosen a dbl boot a bit, gain some
warmth usually by doing so, and still keep your 'pons bolted on the boot and not
worry about loosing gear. It is a big advantage if actually required. Getting your steel crampons off your boots or better yet your boots off your feet is alwasy a better and warmer over all option.
The advantages of a
double boot are significant to keeping your toes and feet in good health. The
down side is first the expense, and then the ability to climb difficult ground
in them. That can be over come with time, by climbing more in your dbl boots. Lastly the bulk
and weight. The newest boots are getting better. The Scarpa 6000 and La Sportiva Spantik are both warm, light and climb well. Worth the added effort to climb in doubles unless you feel like the risk of
damaged feet is lower than I do.
On frozen feet after an open bivy at
13,800 in Nov.
Some will wonder about the Batura and Phantom
Guide style of boots (single boots with attached "supergators") as a less expensive
(if $500+ is less expensive) option to a true double boot. This style of boot
has two design features that limit their use in similar conditions. They are
both very difficult to dry out and keep unthawed on over night or longer trips.
And the ankles are generally a lot softer and more flexible than a true double
boot. So you lose the extra ankle and calf support as well. My take having used
a Batura for a few years is they are good one day boots on cold days but I would
never take them out over night intentionally. Each style of boot has a place.
Just don't trust the advertising to help you decide when and what is right for
Times haven't changed much. Good (read winter technical boot) double
boots would/do cost a lot more than a good (read winter technical boot) pair of
single boots. That changed for 20 plus years as plastic double boots dominated
the market place. No matter your skill or experience level plastic double boots
were common on almost every mountaineer's feet. And for good reason..they would
keep your feet warm and dry in just about any condition...some times too warm.
For years you could easily assume that anyone who did technical ice climbing or
went out in winter would own a pair of plastic double boots.
Not so today.
And because of it I am seeing and hearing of frost bite injuries again outside
of the greater ranges....which had been, until just very recently, a thing of
One of my litmus tests for winter climbing partners, 30 years ago
and again now is, "do they own double boots?" It doesn't mean that you use
double boots on every winter climb.
But if they do, I can generally count on
the fact they take their own survival and climbing seriously. That is usually
because of hard won experience in really cold weather conditions. So I can worry
less about them getting a cold injury and both of us staying healthy on our
adventures. And just as often the owner of a pair of double boots is likely to
value his partner more than some one with less experience would. Surprised? You
shouldn't be. It is all in the details.
If you plan to go BIG and go
LIGHT....the place not to short yourself on gear is your boots...go BIG there
By comparison a light weight double boot for their time. Something the first Kolflachs were. And the recent TLT5 hinted at prior to the full blown ski boot with the introduction of TLT6.
The climbing world still waits for the super light technical double boot to catch up with the modern technology available.
Hermann Buhl (September 21,
1924 – June 27, 1957) is considered one of the best post-World War II Austrian
climbers and one of the best climbers of all time. He was particularly
innovative in applying alpine style to Himalayan climbing. His accomplishments
1953 First ascent of Nanga Parbat, 8,126 metres (26,660 ft)
(solo and without bottled oxygen).
1957 First ascent of Broad Peak, 8,051
metres (26,414 ft).
Before his successful Nanga Parbat expedition, 31 people
had died trying to make the first ascent.
Buhl is the only mountaineer to
have made the first ascent of an eight-thousander solo. Just a few weeks after
the successful first ascent of Broad Peak (with Fritz Wintersteller and Marcus
Schmuck), Buhl and Kurt Diemberger made an attempt on nearby, unclimbed
Chogolisa peak (7654 m) in alpine style. Buhl died when he fell through a
cornice on the southeast ridge near the summit of Chogolisa. His body was never
"Buhl was very lucky on Nanga Parbat, escaping with just a
few frostbitten toes. This story reflects Buhl's style of climbing; totally
focused and by taking enormous risks he often succeeded where others