About two years ago I realised my Scarpa Vegas were beginning to wear out. The soles were rubber slivers of slippery-ness and the liners, which once kept my feet warm at 6500, were tatty old sox. Hence the enlightenment, ‘I need new boots.’
I began hunting and came to the conclusion that short of buying another pair of Vegas, there was little available in NZ for climbing at altitude. So I slithered my way through another couple of expeditions with increasingly cold feet while I pondered what to do.
2010 arrived and plans were afoot to try something very hard. I was wary because a couple of the world’s most hard-core climbers had turned back on the mountain in question because of the cold. ‘ Minus 30 degC,’ they said- hard work when climbing in lightest weight alpine-style.
Galvanised into action I approached Beattie –Matheson Ltd, distributors of Lowa Boots in NZ. ‘We’ll get a pair of Lowa Expedition 6000m boots sent over from Germany,’ John said. “What’s your size?’ I took a punt and crossed my fingers. A few weeks later the boots arrived….
The Lowa Expedition 6000 RD plus is an insulated boot with a built-in gaiter, especially designed for climbing above 6000m.(Lowa also do a beefier model for 8000m ascents.) The outer is made from Cordura, while the inner uses Aveolite, foam and Primaloft insulation. The inner lining is made from Goretex Duratherm and is guaranteed waterproof .The outer has a rubber toe and heal for added durability, and there is a built in full length/width nylon shank for rigidity. The boot is step-in crampon compatible.
The first time I wore these was on snow covered moraine- awful walking at the best of times- but I was surprised how comfortable and light weight they felt compared to my old plastics. And even though I was up to my thighs in the deep powder, the gaiters, despite being shorter than I was used to, kept me dry. A few days later we were front pointing on iron- hard grey ice. Ive always had heel lift front pointing in plastic boots, but to my surprise this wasn’t a problem. Neither was there any lateral movement- my feet remained reassuringly snug against the sole of the boot. So sidling across a steep slope was a more comfortable and secure experience than in my plastics.
My feet don’t sweat much so condensation has never really been a problem. These inners would be slightly damp at the end of a day but would usually dry overnight in my sleeping bag. What’d more, they stayed warm through a number of sitting bivvy’s at temps as low as -30C. Sitting bivvy’s have always been a problem for me- with my feet lower than my body they invariably get cold. But not in these boots!
Im not sure how viable these boots are for New Zealand unless you are doing a lot of winter alpinism at higher elevations- then they would come into their own. But for anyone heading regularly to Asia to climb at altitude, especially in the spring or autumn months, or climbing in Akaska, they are worth the investment. I can see me wearing this pair for a good ten years, they seem that durable. And it’s a relief not to worry about the state of my toes.