Winter Mountaineering Gear Pt 3 – Choosing and Fitting Winter Mountaineering Boots

Winter is coming!

For some people that is not a welcome statement, but for those of us who love winter sports then the first dusting of snow on the high ground gets us excited about getting out on the ice and snow.

The third in our series on winter mountain gear will give you some tips on choosing and fitting winter mountaineering boots.

CHOOSING AND FITTING BOOTS

Remember – On a mountain trip you will spend a lot of time in your boots and your feet will be working hard. You will greatly regret cutting any corners with selection and fit of your boots!

If you are buying expensive boots for an expensive expedition it is strongly recommended that you visit a specialist retailer with trained staff, proper foot-measuring facilities (length & width) and a wide range of brands and models. This will allow you to try out a range of different boots before committing to one. Another important thing is to take the exact socks that you will wear on the trip with you to the shop. You need to try the boot on with the right sock as this can make a huge difference to the volume and comfort of the fit. Good shops will have also have some simulated terrain so that you can walk up and down hill in the boots. When you get home, wear the boots around the house for a few days, walk up and down the stairs etc. Most shops will allow you to exchange boots within a certain time period as long as they haven’t been used outside.

When fitting your boots, you often need to go up a half size or so from what you would buy in a normal shoe. This will allow for thick socks and some extra space as your feet often swelling a bit at altitude. Generally on high mountains you are walking very slowly and deliberately and will not experience the same amount of movement that you would with an approach boot. However, you do need to ensure that when walking you do not experience any ‘heel-lift’ inside the boot and that there is sufficient space around your toes for you to wiggle them. Any tighter than this and it is likely that they will either rub and give you blisters or be so constricting as to restrict the blood supply and lead to cold toes.

Note that certain boot brands commonly produce boots of a certain shape, ie. a narrower or wider fit. If your feet are of a certain shape it is worth identifying the most appropriate manufacturer for you. Some manufacturers such as Scarpa have ‘thermo-fit’ liners for their plastic boots; these are heated in an oven and then put on with special toe-spacers, the liner then moulds to the shape of your foot and when it has cools it stays in that shape. When the toe-spacer is removed it leaves some space for your toes with the rest fitting snugly. You will need to go to a shop with this facility to get this done properly.


Below the snowline it is possible to use B0 graded hiking boots, make sure they are worn in, but not worn out, and have good ankle support. However, a good solution for smaller peaks is to use a B1 or B2 Four-Season boot which can then be used on the peak too. This means that you don’t need to bring another set of boots.

If you are booked onto an Adventure Alternative trip then you get full access to our experienced staff before the trip so that you can be sure that you get the right gear.

Trips where you would need warm, crampon compatible winter boots include:-

Trip/Peak Reccommended Boots
Mount Everest High Altitude Triple Boots
Muztagh Ata Plastics + Overboots Reccommended
Huayna Potosi Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Pequeno Alpamayo Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Aconcagua Good Hybrids, Plastics or possibly Triple Boots
Mount Khuiten Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mount Elbrus Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mera Peak Good Hybrids or Plastics
Ojos del Salado Good Hybrids or Plastics
Island Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Yala Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Toubkal Winter 4-Season Boots

Winter Mountaineering Gear Pt 2 – Boots for Warmth

Winter is coming!

For some people that is not a welcome statement, but for those of us who love winter sports then the first dusting of snow on the high ground gets us excited about getting out on the ice and snow.

The second in our series on winter mountain gear will explain the differences between boots and how they are graded for warmth.

BOOT GRADING FOR WARMTH

Aside from allowing the fitting of crampons, another very important consideration when choosing your mountain boots is that of warmth. For anything other than technical climbing, this is likely to be the over-riding factor in your choice of boot. Different types of boot are constructed differently, with different materials and built up in layers. Usually on warmer boots, the layers are able to be seperated into an inner and outer boot. This helps as it allows you to warm/dry the inners and also to wear them inside the tent.

It sounds obvious when it is pointed out, but it is not just the ambient air temperature that is an issue. If you are walking on snow, your feet lose heat through the sole of your foot into the cold ground. This is made even worse if the snow is not hard packed, as you may be ankle or even shin deep in the stuff and your whole foot and lower leg may be conducting heat to the snow. Therefore, it is also the condition of the mountain that affect which boots are needed, aside from just the altitude or location.

Invitably, the warmer the boot the more volume and bulk it has to it and usually the more expensive it is too. Using a boot that is too warm can be as problematic as having one that is not warm enough. It will lead to excessive sweating which is uncomfortable and can ultimately lead to greater chance of blisters, cold feet or even frostbite- when you stop working hard, the sweat conducts warmth away from your feet, or can even freeze.

Above the snowline there are four main options, in descending order of warmth:

Triple-Boots‘ for 8000m or very cold peaks (eg Cho Oyu, Everest, Denali) such as Millet Everest, La Sportiva Olympus Mons, Scarpa Phantom 800. These are constructed with inner boot, shell and super-gaiter.

Plastics‘ like the Scarpa Omega or Vega, preferably with a high altitude rated inner boot for warmth (eg for Elbrus). These are a double-boot with a shell and a liner boot.

These can also be upgraded with an overboot (eg 40 Below Purple Haze) if over about 6000m (eg Muztagh Ata), which will usually it up to a limit of about 8000m.

Hybrids‘ like the La Sportiva Spantik or Scarpa Phantom Guide which are a double or even triple boot but the outer boot is not solid plastic so tat is can be more dextrous and comfortable. This may also need to have its warmth upgraded with an overboot over about 6000m which will generally take it up to a limit of about 7000m.

4-Season‘ boots like Scarpa Charmoz or Manta; these are what you would commonly use in UK winter conditions. They would be suitable for mountains like Toubkal or other Moroccan Atlas peaks in winter, Yala Peak, Island Peak and possibly Mera Peak.

If you are booked onto an Adventure Alternative trip then you get full access to our experienced staff before the trip so that you can be sure that you get the right gear.

Trips where you would need warm boots include:-

Trip/Peak Reccommended Boots
Mount Everest High Altitude Triple Boots
Muztagh Ata Plastics + Overboots Reccommended
Huayna Potosi Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Pequeno Alpamayo Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Aconcagua Good Hybrids, Plastics or possibly Triple Boots
Mount Khuiten Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mount Elbrus Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mera Peak Good Hybrids or Plastics
Ojos del Salado Good Hybrids or Plastics
Island Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Yala Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Toubkal Winter 4-Season Boots