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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Dynafit TLT 5 as a winter climbing boot? Part 2

 The TLT 5s were new to Europe and North America this last winter.  The TLT's previous iteration of the same technology, the DyNA race boot, showed up in  the winter of 08/09.  But it took some convincing to for most to take the DyNA beyond the rando race circuit into the mountains and then snap a pair of ill fitting steel crampons to them.

But a few here in North America have already done and are still doing that.
 Photos courtesy of Andy and Jared and their must read blogs.

 Jared's well worn 1st generation DyNA's.
You have to ask when does skiing become alpinism?  For me it is anytime a steel crampon and a ice axe is required.

 North Ride of Mt Baker, spring '11

The first time I saw a Dynafit with crampons snapped on them (Nanotech versions btw) was on Jared's and Andy's blogs.  I kept seeing traffic generated on my blog by:

So I stopped by a few times and looked around. It was all about skiing which to be honest hasn't interested me in some time.  BTDT and frankly was tired of the "new" gear and lack of new technology.  I had skied Fuhrer Finger and a couple of  the other routes back in the '80s and while fun no way I wanted to pack a pair of 207s and an extra pair of boots back up Rainier again.  I'd rather walk down.

First write up that really caught my eye on those "ski" blogs was a spoof of sorts about skiing the Great White Icicle in Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.  I had soloed it while at the OR show in 2010.  So I had a vague idea of what Jared, Andy and their partners were up to.  I thought they were nuts of course  but I started to take some interest.    I like "nuts" usually some fun to be had there  ;-)

Then a few weeks later I was off to Chamonix for  2 months. 
That experience was an eye opener with the the first spark of imagination coming from Jared and Andy.

"They" claim Chamonix is the death sport capital of the world. I won't argue that from my short experiences there. Either way I did see some amazing skiing and climbing. And I started to notice the new TLTs on feet. Pretty common on the Midi lift with climbers headed for the ice on the east side of the Tacul. Or on the first lift on the GM with climbers heading up the Argentière basin  for the big mixed routes there. Or just as likely on skier's feet with Rando race gear headed up Mt Blanc from the Cosmic hut for quick ascent and ski down.

A few guys in SLC, Utah were/are doing some incredible ski descents and mountaineering while doing it all very quickly.  A Teton Trifecta and the North Ridge of Baker come to mind from the blogs.  All wearing one version or the other of the TLT 5s.

In Chamonix and much of Europe there is a lot of ski mountaineering and Rando racing happening.  But skis are also used as a means of transportation and not always for a ski specific goal.  Some of the best alpine ice climbing is done in winter now. And using the Chamonix valley's many lifts  is well accepted as the "approach" and descent to many climbs.  AT boots aren't mandatory but they do make things a lot easier, quicker and safer at times.  And AT boot you can actaully climb and ski in with little down side for either activity is a new tool as some of us are now just beginning to realise.

Colin Haley Photo

 Krister Jonsson photo

Colin Haley Photo
Andy's photos

Colin Haley Photo

Krister Jonsson photos

Again many thanks to those that allowed me to use their photos to do this blog entry justice.    It allowed me to show you how well received these boots are becoming not just tell you about it.   Take the time click on their respective blogs and photo galleries to see what they have all been climbing and skiing this season.

A special thanks to Marmot Mountain Works, in Bellevue, WA.  They are the local Dynafit Speciality shop and were gracious enough to loan me boots to make the early indoor comparisons.  That first comparison convinced me to buy the boots.

Double click all the photos for full value!

Be sure to check out the web sites of Jared, Andy, Colin Haley, Nels Nielson and  Krister Jonsson. 



Colin Haley

Krister Jonsson

Nels Nielsen

Which version do you want of the TLT 5s?

That depends on how much cash you are willing to drop and secondly how much flex do you like in a ski boot?  But to be clear none of these are free ride boots.  No matter how good of a ski boot I think they are.

Originally Posted by Federico:

"First of all boot concept... The TLT5 is born to cover a missing point in the ski mountaineering boots world. The idea was to offer a new benchmark in terms of up hill agility for those skiers which aim to climb MOUNTAINS with long distance, high altitude difference, technical mountaineering parts involving the use of crampons or rock scrambling even in vertical, no falling zone areas... and being these type of skiers also challenging the most vertical and steepest descent the idea was to offer also enough downhill support and stiffness to go down from everywhere in high safety and fun!.

As you can read from these few lines the performance of the boots are yes amazing for downhill but there must be always climbing and aiming for a summit involved... if it's all about the down, powder, jumps and so on... well this is simply not the right boot."

The new 2012 DyNA's will be the lightest by far but they also won't have the toe flex.  And the liner will be over lapping instead of a traditional tongue.  Great idea on the inner boot not so excited about the lack of flex for climbing.  All the new designs are rigid so it isn't something to bother the rando guys.   Weight and performance is going to be exceptional for skiing anyway.

The carbon cuffed boots offer some amazing skiing potential.  The Mountain version is slightly easier on the legs while walking and side hilling.  The Mountian versions ( TF in particular) offering just a bit more flex and a tiny bit lighter than the carbon cuffed Performance.   It is a tough choice.  But none of them are a "bad" choice imo.  For price and "mountain boot" performance the Mountian TF is the winner at the moment imo.
I am a big fan of the Palau foam liner in the Performance or the Mountain TF.

The tongue?
Both the Performance version and the Mountain version offer a removable tongue.  One is made of "stiff Grilamid" and Pebax, the other just Pebax if I am reading this all correctly.  Tongues that are made of a differing stiffness of  Pebax would be a nice option.   Jury is still out on whether the Performance and the Mountain use different materials in the tongue.  But I "think" the Performance tongue might well be stiffer than the Mountain's version,   A quote from TR thread, "In production the thickness of the cuff’s internal wall will be increased and the Pebax mix will be approx 20% stiffer.....the combination of the stiff Grilamid downhill tongue with the carbon cuff is impressive…"   "I'll have that specific info in a few days and re post the correct answer here."  Still no official word on the differences in tongues.  But my take is the SX black tongues are slightly stiffer than the DX green tongues.  May be +10% or more stiffer and a slightly more progressive flex with the black tongue.  But as I said, nothing official on this.  And it may well be my imagination as both weigh 80g per tongue.    Might be one way to easily add some rigidity to the flex of the Mountain version?   Most won't be climbing or doing skin approaches with the tongues in anyway.  Skiing on the other hand will depend on the boot.  Performance offers an amazingly high performance ski boot with the tongue in as well as tongue out.   The DyNA  doesn't have a tongue to add and the Mountain version will likely be skied with the tongue in place by most.  

I find the tongue easy to carry and add to or pull out of the boot as required.   It is easy to do so, but may be not a one handed operation for me.   I like having the option of the removable "ski" tongue in a "mountain boot" where double duty is required.   Bravo for Dynafit on that one.   I haven't required the tongue in the  boot while using the Performance version even on 105cm waisted, 188cm skis, as long as the temps are close to freezing.  The boots get soft in the heat I think.

Crampons?   What about crampons?


Nels Nielsen in Colin's photos is using Black Diamond crampons.

Black Diamond crampons standard front bails fit the TLTs extremely well. Perfectly?  Very close anyway.   On the back heel pieces how ever the vertical tabs are too far apart on my TLT size 29.5s  to stop or center the heel of the boot.  I adjust them and clip them tight and they stay on.  Good enough I suspect.  Nels did several routes on the north face of les Droites with the BD set up.   Take a look at Neil's web site for some idea of where else he has use that combination. But all the current offerings from BD will work.  I am partial to the Neve heel mated to a steel front if it is something you can use because it is a little tighter in the heel.   I have yet to bend a regular set of vertical heel tabs to fit because I am worried about the stainless cracking.

Krister Jonson and Jared are both using the Grivel G20.  I use the G22.  The new Grivel front bail fits the TLT boots fairly well.  But not as good as the BD front bail.  And they can't easily be switched.  But the rear heel piece and vertical bars on the Grivel G20 and G22 crampons fit the TLTs exceptionally well.  I may yet add a pair of BD front bails to my Grivel G22s for this particular boot.

Krister is doing some pretty good mixed and water fall climbing in his set up as his photo gallery will attest.. 
If we can ever get Jared to slow down and use a rope on the technical climbing I suspect he might have some advice to offer ;)

Petzl?  For the same reasons the Petzl crampons fit most mountain boots better than the previous two brands mentioned they don't fit a ski boot very well.  The Petzl front bail is simply too small for the TLT toe.  The Telemark bail makes the fit even worse.  BD front bail, for once, wins the toe bail challenge with the TLT.

Aluminum crampons?

The Camp USA XLC versions all seem to fit very well but not perfectly.  Heel is still too big.  Lots of options there for the mountaineer including the Nano versions. Toe bails fit almost perfectly on my all aluminium XLCs, heels not so well but good enough.  

A few quick comparisons to the BD Prime @ 1770g and the TLT Mountain TF @ 1280g with the tongue and 1190g without.  (which skis about the same as the Prime but walks and climbs  infinitely better)


Comparing the volume of a La Sportiva Spantik and the TLT shell (Performance in this case)   Both at size 12 US both with warm, heat modable inner boots.  The TLT taking the lead on the better inner boot here.  But La Sportiva offers virtually the same Palau liner for the Baruntse that will work in the Spantik.
 Comparing the rocker on the Spantik and TLT which is much of what allows the boots to walk in comfort.
The BD Prime and TLT rocker comparison.  When it comes to walking the additional rocker built into the TLT 5 and its short over all sole length means a lot more comfort.

 TF thermo formable foam liner and TFX liners which can in part be thermo moldable.
An obvious issue I worried about, is the skis chopping up the inside of the TLT shells in short order.  But Dynafit tells me this is common place, with extra material built in to take the abuse.  In the USA the Dynafit demo boots have held up fine to this kind of issue with zero failures to date.

left boot
 rigfht boot...after only 3 days of lift skiing
Typically my boots don't get that cut up in a full season of skiing.  But it is expected wear overtime.  Gotta say I am now trying to keep this sort of damage to a minimum.  It is scary when you realise how thin the boot shells are, every where but this part of the lower shell.

Skinning and skiing in spring snow for two days started taking the logo off.

Inner boot and cuff wear happened pretty quick as well.  But Dynafit tells you to expect it and gives you patch material to add some durability to the lwt boot and liners.  Buckles have been an early  and continued  issue for some owners.  The front one is easy enough to bend or loosen if you aren't careful and smack a rock booting or on skins.  I noticed the new DyNA has a slightly different lower buckle.  One of the early NA testers admitted to disabling a Performance version by knocking off an upper buckle while booting early season.  Think of it as a "race boot".  Treat them gently is my thought and plan on something to fix them if broken in the mtns.  Main buckle is easy with some duct tape and a rubber ski strap.  I suspect a rubber ski strap would work just fine on the lower one as well.  But you get the idea gentle when and where you can be.  Hammer them and forget about it when you can't.  No question there are more durable traditional boots for use in the alpine.  Just none that will do as much so easily.

Skinning had wear points showing up on the inner and shell liner very quickly.  Best to keep a sharp eye on it all.
I do have a long way to go before my own boots will see the mileage and abuse of Jared's after two full seasons though.  So I am not worried...yet ;-)

And so how do they climb?  On ice as good as anything I have used if you can deal with the little or no side ways ankle flex.  Same sideways flex as a typical plastic boot just less of it because the boot cuff is higher.  That will make them hard on your knees if used enough.  In the mid '80s we found that out using Scott ski boots with Vibram soles glued on to ice climb in. 

  Not the best mixed boot obviously because of that.  But for pure ice or endurance ice...lock the cuffs up and off you go.  Easy to keep your heels down with the forward lean built in ;-)  Even climbing with the cuff undone as you would skinning or walking the boots offer plenty of support for snow and ice climbing.

Just another tool for the box.  But the next time you need ski boots a good one to look at if you ice climb as well.  This from a guy who admittedly HATES climbing in AT boots.....really hates it.  Up until the TLT 5s showed up that is!

Now if they would only put all that energy into a full on mountain boot that also just happened to ski really well ;-)
We'd then have another pair of boots that are worth a $1000!
Federico Sbrissa!?   If you are out there I'd love to have that conversation with you! 


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dane! Have been wondering about a lot of what you are finally writing. Excellent writeup!!!


Anonymous said...

Interesting reading!But there is nothing written about the fit with Dart/win crampons, or I´m missing something.


Dane said...

The front bail on the Petzl crampons are an exceptionally good fit on most mtn boots. Just for that reason they are not a very good fit on the TLT ski boots.

But you are right I should have added that info to the blog as it is confusing not to ssee the Petzl info there as well. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your answer.
So,if I change front bail for the one from my old Sabretooth crampons, fit would be ok.Is there any difference in the bails between SS and pre SS version?


Dane said...

I think the old BD bails are the same as the current SS model but not sure as I don't have any of the older ones around. That is where I would start.

I just tried that combo on a set of Dartwins and it works giving a decent fit up front. Better than the original Petzl combo anyway.

Mike Bromberg said...

Nice Post Dane. I like my TLT5 much better as a climbing/skiing boot then as a dedicated skiing boot. I've actually been thinking about modifying my TLT5ps so that the cuff allows for more lateral flex for climbing...

Dane said...

Hi Mike,
I suspect there are a few of us that will be interested in what you come up with. If you do modify your boots please do a comment on your blog or think about a guest blog here.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking your time here with me.Now I might just buy a new pair of crampons to go along with TLT5 Mountain.I´m looking at Grivel G14.What do you thik about this combo,and also how would,in your opinion,New matic binding work on this boots?

Dane said...

The only crampons I actually know that will fit the TLT are the ones I have mentioned previous. Most will intentionally use the lightest crampns they can find with this boot. The Cyborg being the current exception. Don't know of anyone that has used a newmatic on this boot. Pleae let us know what you end up with and how it works for you.

Robert Tangen said...

Is it possible to installl tech bindings on current climbing boots?

Dane said...

Robert, Currently no one adding a Dynafit /tech binding insert to a climbing boot. But it would seem possible during intitial construction.

Anonymous said...

Question about climbing ice with the tlt5: I have heard of people closing the upper buckle but inserting their pants cuff or something else between the boot cuff and back of the shell to keep the tab on the buckle from inserting into the slot in the lower shell. This serves to tighten the cuff but not lock it to the lower shell.

Is ice climbing better with this method or should you fully lock it out?

Dane said...

Super easy to just snap the upper buckle on the back of your pant leg and keep the hinge unlocked but the buckle tight on this boot.

I've seen four ideas on the upper buckle used to climb. Buckle open and under a climbing pant pant cuff to keep it in check. Buckle closed on a pant leg to keep the buckle peg from locking the cuff. Duct tape and/or a plug to keep the peg from locking the upper cuff. And climbing with the cuff locked up.

I think it really depends on the terrain and the comfort and support you want. Best thing to do is try them all I think. Easy decison when required what will work best for you.

Mike Bromberg said...

Dane, I've been playing around with the TLT 5p a little more. I'm debating whether or not to take them with me to Chamonix for the summer season. My feeling is that if I remove the cuff completely, it would probably be what I am looking for.

Pulling the cuff way back and walking around is helping me get a feel for how the boot would feel cuff-less, so this seems like a nice way to get extreme results with minimal modification (just screw rivet the cuff back on).

Dane said...

That seems pretty radical! Love to hear what you think once you have done it. I asked Brian (get-stronger-go-longer blog) what he was doing with his Pref's. He is skiing everything without the tongue or power strap. That seems an extreme mod for my pair of Mtns as a climbing/ski boot. I'm doing easy skiing and no "fallyoudie" stuff. But no cuff? I was thinking (if I had the stones) of cutting down the cuff and front of the Mtns...just not there yet.
Take them down to where you could just get the buckle back on and then replace the lock up. That would be almost 4" off the top of the boot.

But you could cut them down a long ways and still have a decent ski boot by most standards.

Now that I look at it, pulling the cuff and adding one made of skirting leather or soft plastic would be pretty simple as well and cover your ankle well enough to climb in.

Wild idea on climbing in them with no cuff. Send me a picture ;)

Dane said...

Another quick thought on TLT conversions....just pull the cuff off an old pair of Kolfachs and bolt them on....should easily do the trip for a climbing specific version of the TLT :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks once again!
For start I´ll wait and see how the new PETZL LYNX will look like, once they hit the stores.Regarding compatibility with TLT5, I´m quite sure you´ll be the first to share your thoughts about it.As always :).
Keep up the good work :)


Dane said...

What the heck is a Petzl Lynx? New crampon? New boot?

Anonymous said...

I should be more specific, sorry.Yes it is a new crampon,sort of an updated M 10.Lighter, just as adjustable as the current one, with antiboot already installed.Hope I don´t spread false information around,but this is what I have been told.


Dane said...

Thanks Matej,
I had heard (but no one at Petzl would acknowledge) late last fall that the M10 was no longer in production and there would be a new, lighter and better crampon to replace it. (also heard rumors of an improved Nomic as well)

So always fun when you here it again but with a name attached this time. May be we'll see the real thing this August at the OR show in SLC.


Anonymous said...

Just found out this blog, very nice test, images and comments. Thanks!
:-) a mountain boot which also can ski would not be a good business...


Erik said...

A bit late to the comment party, but for what it's worth I've been using the aluminum heel of a Grivel Haute Route (HR) crampon paired on a flex bar to the front of a Newmatic BD Sabertooth on my TLT5 to great effect. It's not quite as rigid as a wire bail, but it fits really well. The HR heel fits like it was designed for the boot.

The other solution I've seen was bolted and epoxied in shims into the existing hole on the vertical tabs of a Sabertooth heel.

Sam Bedell said...

I just got new TLT5 Mtns and tried putting Cyborg (pro version) on them. Toe bail doesn't seem to fit. Any suggestions?

Gingerlicious said...

I'm also having problems with the fit of my Cyborg Pro and my newly acquainted Dynafit TLT6. I cant get the toe bail to sit on the welt of the shoes. Any ideas? Does it help to replace to toe bail to another mounting hole on the crampon?

Dane said...

Grivel.....G20, G22.

Sam Bedell said...

I called up BD and was told that all their new toe bails are sized for small welts on new boots but you can order a pair of the regular toe bails that fit ski boots and switch them out. I did that and now my cyborg pros fit the TLTs fine.

Dane said...

I found that my BD crampons with the bigger front bail fit poorly in front and terrible in back. They may work but I wouldn't call it any where close to a decent fit.
Too big of heel for my size 29 boot the biggest issue. Grivel has neither problem.