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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Double boots (climbing specific) Part One the Baruntse

I seem to write a lot about boot.  Originally the big reason for that is I have a hard time getting a good fit in any boot and secondly I really don't like cold feet.  I have few boots that fit me really well, were warm enough and were as light as I thought they should be.

Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a recent problem that is just effecting the current  generation of Alpinists.  It isn't.  I had similar thoughts back in the 70's.  And I am sure others had similar thoughts long before I and my friends did then.

No question we have the chance to climb in some really nice boots these days.  Still the trick is to get the lightest weight boot possible that still offers the required protection from the cold and you keep the ability to climb hard in the boots.

The bigger the boot (volume wise) likely the warmer it will be.  And the worse the fit and the less likely it will climb technical ground with ease.  Ease compared to a pair of "more technical" single boots.  The reason a good single boot will be "more technical" is it can fit your foot tighter and give you a more precise fit.   Generally a single boot will do so by having less insulation in the boot upper and the laces can snug the boot around your foot easier for a better fit.

Just as we have all adopted slipper style rock shoes for a better feel of the rock, most Alpinists when they are able with the temperatures will adopt a light weight (lwt) single boot for technical ice and mixed climbing.

It is no surprise that lighter weight and more sensitive footwear have allowed us all to climb harder in any climbing venue be it hard rock or hard mixed.  The one caveat is still "the cold".

Two ways to dress for the cold.  Dress to insulate you from the cold and what ever physical out put you think is required that will still keep you warm when not active.  Or dress to the physical output you aspire too and hope you can maintain a pace to keep you warm in that system.

One is the safe and conservative bet.  It also means you will carry more.  The other is Russian Roulette with your toes.   Make a miscalculation and you will spend some down time from climbing while your feet heal up.

The result of a miscalculation at 7000' in Dec. Cascades 

If everything goes perfectly on an alpine climb generally even in winter in the Alps or NA, a double boot isn't required.  There are so many really good "super gaiter" styled single boots available now almost any of them will get you through most winter climbing with no cold injuries.   Unless of course things go wrong......

Double boots are really made for the knowledgeable Alpinist, that knows eventually, things won't go as planned.

Double boots aren't the best answer to Immersion foot.  That is generally a educational effort that may  be best prevented by prior knowledge and proper foot care, pre trip, during the trip and post trip.

More on Immersion foot here:

There are three likely places you'll hurt get your feet hurt from a cold injury, dehydration, belays, storms, bivies.

Belays are a given in hard technical terrain.  Dehydration doesn't need to be.  Get on a climb that is out of shape/condition or harder than your current skill level and you may well spend longer there than first anticipated.   Storms are a given in the mountains.  The weather forecasting now is a lot better than it was a few decades ago.  Take advantage of that fact.  Bivies?  Have the right bivy gear for the conditions.  Learn first hand that you really need to unlace your boots, if not get the shells off completely is a good idea on a cold bivy (or any bivy).  The increased circulation from just unlacing your boots will help fend off Immersion Foot and/or Frostbite.

Food for thought anyway.  Lots of reasons to wear a double boot.  The ease of which you can climb technical ground in them is not one.

This series of blogs will hopefully give a better overview of the 4 double boots that currently dominate much of the world market and certainly dominates the North American market.   Weights listed are from my postal scale for one size 45 boot, not a pair.

La Sportiva Spantik 3#.05oz / 1362g
La Sportiva Spantik with a Baruntse liner  2# 12oz / 1247g

La Sportiva Baruntse 3#4oz / 1470g

Scarpa Phantom 6000 new 2010 model 2#10oz / 1190g

La Sportiva Olympus Mons 3#6oz/ 1530g

Lets start the discussion with my favorite boot of the bunch:

The La Sportiva Baruntse

Better yet let's start with what I think is wrong with La Sportiva's Baruntse.   It really irks me when a company comes up with a incredible design and then for what ever reason (cost, model line appropriate) dummies down the product.  If you are a Porsche fanatic the Cayman and 911 projects easily come to mind.   The Cayman is an incredible car but limited by Porsche so it won't compete directly with the 911.  So what you get is a dummied down Cayman.

The Baruntse is too heavy.  Simple as that it is too heavy.   Easy way to make it lighter?  Carbon mid sole used on the newest Batura and the Oly Mons, and the Spantik.   Ditch the big lug Vibram sole for the lighter, stickier and shallow lug of the Vibram Mulaz.

Not just my thoughts but those of a number of the Cold Thistle readers:

"Do you have any insight into whether La Sportiva will produce an "Evo" model of
the Baruntse?  I would think that could be an ideal double boot:

Start with the Baruntse but use a Carbon Fiber insole (instead of Ibi-thermo) 
and make the TPU midsole thinner/lighter (same as the Batura 2.0).  Use Vibram 
Mulaz soles instead of the thick and heavy Montagna sole.  Make the inside 
height about 5mm higher at the toes.  Make the rear boot strap loop larger, and 
sew it at a 3rd place to the top of the cuff.  (Alternately, attach one end of 
rear boot strap to top of the stretch cuff.)  Use single rivet lace hooks on the 
shaft to reduce weight.  Inner boot: no changes!
If you have any contacts within La Sportiva, please pass these suggestions 
along.  I expect these changes could easily save half a pound in the weight of a 
pair of these double boots."

So it is not just me thinking the Baruntse is too heavy and that the Bareuntse could easily be the basis for the best traditional double boot ever built.  It is hard to see the technology available at La Sportiva to build a better Baruntse and also seeing that technology left on the drawing room table. 

OK, enough bitching.  What is right about the Baruntse?  All of these boots has advantages and disadvantages over the other 3 double boots I've listed.

I don't think anyone will argue that the Baruntse (manufactured by Palua, France) liner is the best of the bunch.  It has a super easy lace system and more importantly is "easily" heat formable for a perfect fit.  The outer shell's lacing system on the Baruntse is time proven and very simple.   A simple, traditional double boot lace system.  I have not heard of a lace failure on this boot.  between the exceptional inner boot and the easy to lace outer shell you will generally end up with an exceptional fitting boot.  And one that will climb exceptionally well despite the extra bulk and volume needed to keep you feet warm on even Denali without an overboot. 

The result is a highly technical and super warm boot that climbs exceptionally well on ice mixed and rock.

I think it is best to look at the La Sportiva Nepal Evo when making fit and performance comparisons to the Baruntse.

So yes if you like the Nepal Evo or the previous Nepal Top, you will likely be thrilled with the fit and performance of the Baruntse.   The Baruntse is simply, in my opinion, a super cold weather version of the Nepal Evo.  And I make that comparison with all due respect.  The Nepal Evo is one of the most technical alpine climbing boots in the world today.  Could the Baruntse be better?  Sure it could.  If it were better (read lighter in weight) it would be the only double boot I own.  The Baruntse offers the best fit and most support of all the double boots I have listed.   It is also priced at the low end of all the double boots I have listed.  Performance and cost advantages.  Makes one wonder about the weight doesn't it?

There are other posts here @ Cold Thistle on the Baruntse.  "Baruntse" in the search function should get you that info.  Including earlier pair of boots I did add the Mulaz sole to and drop a few oz.

But I'll leave you with a great video where the Baruntse (and the Scarpa 6000) were used on a quick ascent of Denali with no over boots.  More to come on the Spantik, 6000, and Oly Mons.

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Bruno Schull said...

Hi Dane,

Thanks for the post. I don't climb in double booths much these days, but I certainly appreciate the place/role they occupy. To tell you the truth, despite the great popularity of the new integrated gaiter singles, I have had some trouble envisioning exactly how/where they fit in, relative to a good single boot, like the Nepal Evo, and good double boot, like the Baruntse. For any kind of multi-day expedition, where you will be camping, I think the ability to take off and dry out the liners, which true double boots afford, is invaluable. Then again, I guess that for one-day or long single-push climbs, the integrated gaitor boots have the best combination of warmth, weight and climbing performance. I'm suspicious of the breathability of these boots wet do they get dry do they warm are they, actually, compared to a Nepal Evo, or a Baruntse?

Dane said...

Hi Bruno, as I mention dbls are for when things don't go as planned. Or just too cold for anything else. The most recent case of serious bite among my friends was this spring. Victim in the Batura. His partner was in the Spantik. Nasty conditions and caught in a storm during the retreat. In this case just too cold and miserable to keep warm enough I suspect. But hydration is always an issue. A over night? You have made that point. You really need a dry boot to start the day in and dbls are often the only answer.

Unknown said...

I just got off a 2 day winter ascent of Mt. Whitney, the windchill was -25F on summit day, despite I was wearing 2 thick wool socks and the Lowa Cievetta Extreme double boots, all my toes are frostbitten (second degree). I was searching for warm boots when I came across your blog, very informative. I was wondering if you can only choose one double boots , and if the warmth is the main concern (instead of technicality ), which boots would you choose ?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane,

First, thanks for this blog. It's truly a public service. Second, I know you figured out that the Baruntses only come in full sizes, though they are still sold as half sizes. How did you determine that? Just by measuring the shell or contacting LS? Thanks again.