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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, April 29, 2013

A second opinion on the Scarpa Rebel Ultra

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:


Alexandre Buisse said...

I am similarly in love with my Rebel Carbon for alpine rock. However, after a mild season in Chamonix and Patagonia, probably about 10 outings in them and some long approaches, the soles are completely gone. I am very curious to see how durable the Ultras will be.

armadillo said...

Hi Dane,

do you think the Rebel Ultra can be a good -lighter- alternative to my Scarpa Jorasses ? -in conjunction with heavy super warm sox ?--

btw.... thanks a lot for your blog

Dane said...

My take it is will be warm enough for me with a decent sock. So either a Rebel Ultra or a double boot required...

John said...

I would like to know if I should order a 46 or 46.5. I wear a 46 Phantom Guide and a 46.5 Batura Evo.
Typically I can't wear a 46, as every other sports shoe I have is between 46.5 and 47, except for the Phanom Guide.

Dane said...

I went up a 1/2 size over my Phantom Ultra, Guide and 6000.

Anonymous said...

Is the Rebel Pro similar to the Ultra? I'm looking for a 4-season mountaineering boot akin to the Silver Bullet Trangos.

Dane said...

Pro? It should be a lighter and warm version of the Rebel Carbon. I've not used it yet just looked at it during the OR show.

More here:

KristjanErik said...

What is your estimation, how they would perform in soft or damp snow? Would Rebels get wet and if they do what would be the bossibility that they dry out overnight in the tent.

a said...

Long life to the new Italian Queen !

Dane said...

It is a fabric and Goretex boot. Only boot I have a lot of experience with that is similar is the La Sportiva Trango Extreme. They stay dry if your feet stay dry inside (sweat) and you protect them from water coming in from the top. The Rebel has a much better gaiter and is likely to breath better (speculation on my part) than the Trango. But once wet just like the Trango extremely difficult to get dried out in the field.

No magic new constructiuon here.....just a lwt boot that will climb ice. Spring snow slogs will get them and almost any other single boot wet. And it will take another week to get them dried out again.

PurpleJesus1994 said...

Rebel Ultra's never once got the slightest bit wet on me. Granted i wore them in temps between the low teens and mid twenties. Also my feet do not really sweat and none of my boots ever get wet from sweat. My guess is like Dane said, no magic solution to wet from the inside out or outside in problem yet. Not sure we will ever have one other than doubles.

Only other thing i can think of after reading these comments is that the sole of the Ultra was much more slippery on snow when not wearing traction of some sort. So much so it was a bit annoying. makes sense though as the lugs are much more shallow. Something i am willing to trade for lite weight and sneaker like dexterity. My guess is the sole wear quickly. Ow well at $550 just get a new pair every 2-3 years. Mountain and ice climbing is not a poor mans sport...

Dane said...

FWIW the Mulaz Vibram sole is used on all the Rebal Series, including the newest Ultra, as well as the previous Phantom Ultra and the Phantom 6000. I think the Rebel Ultra seems slick because to sole's overall surface area is so small in comparison to most boot soles. I haven't noticed any issues in the seasons I have spent in the Phantom Ultra or the 6000 with out crampons on. In fact I wish the excellent La Sportiva Batura would use the Mulaz sole. Same sole I added to a pair of Baruntse several years ago to save weight.

Ben said...

Dane you say you sized up a half size over the Rebel Carbon, any problem correcting heel slippage with the lacing system (I'm guessing not given how much you like this boot...)? I get a very precise fit in my rebel carbons and only concern with not sizing up is toe bang in an already close fitting boot and conversely a loose heel in a flexible upper/stiff sole combo. Is there any extra room in the toe bix over the carbons? Been through so many diff boots because of my weird feet I'm feeling gun shy...would hate to make another expensive mistake! Wish someone carried these close by...Thanks

Dane said...

My Rebel Carbons are a full size up from my Phantom Ultra and 6000s. I went for a 45.5 on the Rebel Ultra. I think it will be fine for length. I don't expect heel lock to be a problem as the 46s are plenty tight.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane.
Other friends asked about the correct size for Rebel Ultras, but I am not sure about. I use a 43 in Trango Extremes. Same size for the Ultras? maybe a half size up?
Thank's a lot in any case, and all the best to you.

Dane said...

Depends on how the Trango fits you. I went a 1/2 size up on the Ultra. 1/2 in the Trango is too big. In the Ultra it is perfect for me.

Niall F said...


I am looking at trekking Elbrus next year, I have Rebel Carbon,
I presume I'll need an insulated boot for this trip , 9 days.

What's your opinion , on best boots for this.


Dane said...

Not done Elbrus @ 18,510' Europe's highest. But no question I would want the ebst double boot I could afford that fit me well. Even an Oly Mons wouldn't be too much boot IMO. Lots of dbl boot info here to help you decide.

Dane said...

Good info here:

I would likely take a Scarpa 6000 because out of the box they are easy to walk in, warm and light in weight.

Anonymous said...


That's great ,

I read your info, it's very good, definitely one of the best review sites , for someone like me,

My only experience is general Hill walking.
And snow shoe trekking hols last few years , in the Alps up to 3500 metres, Chamonix , and surrounding areas into Switzerland .
Using likes of Rebel Carbon , la sportiva trango Evo, with warm socks

I thought Scarpa rebel Ultras might be warm enough, im not going until April 2014, so plenty if time to check and get best boots .

La sportiva trangos , 45.5 is my ideal fit , very snug all over , no problem down slopes with toes. Rebels are 46 , I got them used, they fit very well also , similar to sportiva.

La sportivas seem to me to run a little lover in the heel , which I find easier , I'm 195 cm .

Thanks again,

Niall F said...


Last comment was from Niall F , not anomous

Re : Boots Elbrus .

Thanks again for info , .

Anonymous said...

Good morning,
I already have a pair of Scarpa Phantom Guide that I'm using for ice climbing and winter mountaneering.
I would like to know if the Rebel Ultra is suitable fo long summer ascent in alps, for example:
- Brenva spur
- Kuffner ridge
- Goulotte Cherè
Are they enough warm and enough waterproof to use in this kind of long ascent?
Thank you

Dane said...

Summer? Perfect weather? Sure.

Not much leeway though in such a lwt boot as the Rebel Ultra if things get slow, wet and/or cold.

I generally think people who ask this kind of question (about gear) should not be using the gear at those kinds of levels. It is just too risky IMO. Not intentionally trying to insult you. Just an observation. But if you have to ask if the boot would likely will not unless everything is perfect..conditions, your fitness and your skills can easily master the objectives.

I might take the Ultra on any of those as summer climbs but as I imp[lied earlier, conditions would need to be perfect...and warm.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane,
No problem and no insult, thank you for your suggestion instead.
I asked that because I thought that the Rebel Ultra had the "leeway" because I read (and saw this winter ) that some people use them to climbing on ice falls with a temp. of -10°C....

If in you opinion what can I use istead of them? May be Mont Blanc are redundant with the Phantom Guide? May be Jorasses fiting better for these conditions?
Thank you in advance Dane!

Dane said...

Thanks Davide for taking my comment as it was intended. The Guide is a exceptional boot. A really good combo, as you have already suspected is the Guide and the Rebel Ultra. I use a similar combo myself. If you have the Ultra I think you can easier define where it will work for you. Ice falls are usually short technical affairs. The routes you suggested are longer days for most. A place the lwt Ultra will be appreciated if it is warm enough for you.

I hate these kinds of answers, sorry. I woudl use the Ultra on the climbs you suggested in summer and good conditions. But I also know the price I'll pay if I make a wrong choice if that makes sense. So I would hate to make a blanket recommnedation and soemone not fully understand the repercussions of a wrong choice.

Our gear is getting very effective and very lwt. I am planning a week long hut tour using lwt gear. If the weather or snow conditions get bad I will suffer. Same choices on boots...I think the lwt gear will save me a lot of effort...if I can stay warm and the snow is good :-)

Unknown said...

Hi Dane I heard Scarpa is going to discontinue Rebel Ultra GTX? Can you tell me difference between Rebel Ultra GTX & Rebel Pro GTX. The gaiter top is main difference I see but I haven't looked at a pair in person. I'm looking for a light weight ice/mixed boot tried silver trango liked but would like to look into rebels. I'll have a chance to try ultra on so if fit is good ma be option. Then may be down to ultra or rebel.

Dane said...

Jason, either is a good boot and will do the job you are asking. Pro is a more traditional boot and a bit easier to use. Love my Ultras how ever. Keep hearing about them be discontinued...but don't know that for fact.