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Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

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Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby Milz » Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:50 am

How important is it to have a true "Mountaineering" boot for the Mt. Whitney Mountaineer's Route in winter? I realize there have been some related discussions on this board, and I don't mean to be redundant, but it's still not clear to me.

I have Asolo Fugitive GTX boots that I'm considering using, but would shell-out for proper boots if these are completely inappropriate or unsafe. At this time though, I don't intend to do any mountaineering outside the California Sierras, or any technical winter climbing.

Three main-issues (as I understand them):

A)Crampon Compatibility
The crampons I have are strap-on Petzl Vasak's which can be set to be either rigid or hinged modes. I imagine I'd use the hinged mode for low-grade snow fields, and the rigid mode for front-pointing on steeper slopes. So, I don't see compatibility as a problem.

B)Warmth
The Fugitives have a Goretex membrane, are fairly high around the ankle, and the tongue is connected to the ankle-cuff. So, with a pair of gaiters, I'm confident that snow will stay out and my feet would stay dry. The concern WRT warmth is that they aren't insulated very much - but can this be compensated with warm socks? Thoughts on winter footbeds? such as these recommended in this thread

Does this advice apply to Whitney as well? (and Sierras in general?):
If you take uninsulated leather backpacking boots into the Whites or on to Mount Washington, I give it 2-3 trips maximum before you get caught in bad weather and lose some toes.

Get a pair of winter boots. If you spend $200 - that's only $20 per toe that you want to keep.


C)Stiffness
almost all modern boots (not looked at the newest Scarpas) are actually way too stiff and technical for what many climbers are doing, which is mostly hiking. Nepals are good boots for technical ice and mixed climbing where you want stiffness for frontpointing.

Backpacking boots like my Fugitives have very flexible sole, but I'm not planning on doing technical climbing. Posts like the quote above have led me to believe that that stiffness isn't that important for non-technical routes. BUT, what about a 'semi-technical' route like the Mountaineer's route in winter? How much front-pointing (and how steep) is involved in the climb, and can I get by with 'locking' the Vasak crampons into the stiff mode for this? I don't expect to be leading the group, so I'll mostly be following in the kick-steps of others. That said, I'm a bit concerned about unpredictable snow conditions and don't want to get into trouble if we end up on hard ice/crust.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby mrchad9 » Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:51 pm

I think you shouldn't overanalyze it.

You've obviously found either can work.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby Milz » Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:27 pm

mrchad9 wrote:I think you shouldn't overanalyze it.

You've obviously found either can work.


Thanks, that's what I've been thinking. I'm just looking for reassurance since there are so many posts telling noobs like me that "Mountaineering" boots are needed, and talk of losing toes scares me.

I'm not worried about what the climb will probably be like, more concerned with being adequately prepared for unexpected circumstances, and I don't have the experience to judge this yet. Some people say Whitney isn't that dangerous, even in winter, others point out that it can be if the weather gets bad without warning.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby Nitrox » Mon Nov 26, 2012 7:36 pm

I think it just comes down to when you plan on climbing. I have those boots and they will offer you no margin of safety if it gets cold.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby robertjoy » Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:26 pm

I have a pair of Fugitives which I wear for summer climbing and backpacking. They excel on rocky peaks and can be used with crampons on short snowfields or glacier crossings. But I feel they are definitely not warm enough for any extended use on snow, or steep snow, and particularly inappropriate for winter use. Over-stuffing them with thick socks is not a good idea. Don't ruin your trip (or lose some toes) by using these boots on a long winter climb at high altitude. WINTER means chance of temps down to zero. I suggest you rent some plastic boots for this trip. I have a pair of lightly insulated "mid-weight" leather mountaineering boots LOWA Mountain Expert. They are moderately stiff and good for steep snow, but still not warm enough for a winter climb of Mt Hood or Mt Shasta.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby Woodie Hopper » Mon Nov 26, 2012 11:00 pm

I agree with Robert. I had a pair of Fugitives which lasted a long time. I tried crampons with them once, and they were much too floppy to be appropriate for anything other than a short snow crossing (not steep).

If I were doing this trip in winter I'd take stiffer and warmer boots.

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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby Nitrox » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:05 am

I didn't see that the OP said winter. I've done that route in the winter and it was 0 degrees at dawn. Fugitives in the winter on Whitney is just foolish. If you showed up in those boots under those conditions I'd refuse to climb with you.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby JHH60 » Tue Nov 27, 2012 3:47 am

Have you spent all day in the snow with your Fugitives? Or tried snow camping with them, where they got nice and wet after a full day in the snow and then spent the night in subfreezing temps, and you then had to put them on in the morning and spend another full day in them? Have you tried using them with crampons for any length of time on a slope, and determined if you can be confident they will stay securely fastened on the boot? It would be a good idea to try this with whatever boot you use before committing to Whitney in winter. I'm pretty sure you'll find the Fugitives (which are my favorites for three season hiking) aren't adequately stiff or warm enough.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby luzak00 » Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:49 am

Fugitives are a no-go for cold, snowy, multi-day trips. You could add an overboot for warmth, but the GoreTex and gaiters you mentioned will not keep your feet warm and dry.
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Re: Backpacking vs Mountaineering Boots for Whitney

Postby Milz » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:42 am

Sounds like the "nays" have it. I'll buy or rent real mountaineering boots. Thanks for the advice!
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