Mount Rainier - September climb boot selection help needed

4:46 p.m. on July 31, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm new to mountaineering and my first real climb will be Mount Rainier in mid September.  We will be climbing via a guide company up through Camp Muir and Disappointment Cleaver up to the summit over 3 days. I need help deciding on which specific boot I should go with.

I was planning on going with the rental boots, Scarpa Inverno, and sticking my owner Superfeet insert in but was tempted to pull the trigger on a deal I saw for a lesser known boot instead, the AKU Spider Kevler GTX (Gore-tex Insulated Comfort & Primaloft insulation). I've read these are rated to 6000m, roughly -15 degrees F and are much cheaper than something like the La Sportiva Nepals. They aren't double plastic boots like the Scarpa Inverno and I know for a multiple day climb I would have to worry about drying the AKU Spider boots out after each day since the liner is not removable. The benefits are that the boots will be about 1.5lbs lighter in total and from the reviews I've read should be more comfortable on the approach but I would just be worried over the course of the 3 days having moisture build up inside the boot causing problems on day 2 or 3. My feet are usually on the colder side when I'm out in the elements walking/skiing and usually sweat a decent amount but I'm planning on bringing multiple sock liners and Smartwool socks to change throughout the trip.

I was just curious if others had input on their boot selection for Rainier in mid September and if an insulated single "leather" boot such as the AKU Spider Kevlar GTX would be an acceptable choice over the Scarpa Inverno for a first time climber? Thanks in advance!

1:19 p.m. on August 2, 2013 (EDT)
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Matt,

Talk with experienced climbers like The Moutaineers for advice. Rental boots sound like the best solution.

Be aware that climbing "the Mountain" always involves some luck with regard to the weather. I planned to climb it twice and was turned back both times. You said you "will be climbing" and that all depends on the weather Gods.

I would focus more energy on getting in shape, learning to self-arrest with an ice axe and practice hiking in crampons. Equipment is pretty straight forward for snow and ice climbing.

 

6:09 p.m. on August 2, 2013 (EDT)
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There's definitely positives and negatives to both sides.

Personally I hate the infernos, they are like walking with bricks on, completely stiff and not flexible. They were great for ice climbing but even on short approach were a pain in the ....well, umm, feet. What they have going for them here is that they would be cheap to rent, and are plenty warm. With the removable liners any moisture accumulation is easily managed as well.

I don't own the Spiders, went with the Nepals for a number of reasons, but I was very impressed with them. Great value in a boot. Positives I can see in them would be having the break in time prior to your trip. Between the break in and the inherent increase in flexibility with this type of boot I would bet they would be more comfortable. I don't think the moisture would be as much of a problem as your fear with a little foot maintance. I'm assuming you are well aware of foot care and if you just keep a dry pair of socks you should be fine. The price is a major draw back, especially if you don't plan on using them long term.

7:35 p.m. on August 3, 2013 (EDT)
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i have used the invernos for years in the white mountains and adirondacks - mostly alone, on a few occasions with overboots on really sadistically cold days.  you have to get used to them.  a lot of people feel compelled to lace up the tops kind of loosely to avoid hammering their shins, and they aren't great for walking on dry ground.  

all that said, i have seen plenty of days where the mercury was -20f or below, and my toes have not experienced any frostnip, much less frostbite.  provided you use the high-altitude liners that now come standard on them and don't lace the tops too tight, they are secure, easily warm enough to handle Rainier in September, easy to use with most step-in crampons, and comfortable if a little clunky.   

2:35 p.m. on August 5, 2013 (EDT)
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I have used my Scarpa Invernos for most of my climbing in the Cascades (including on Rainier), except for my Scarpa tele boots for backcountry skiing. When my first pair of liners wore out, I went with Intuition liners (thermofits). However, since you say you are going with a guide company (I would guess RMI, since you mention Camp Muir), I suggest you go with what they recommend or rent. This is a fairly inexpensive way to learn about what plastic double boots are like.


Andrew mentions lacing only the lower hooks (or lacing the upper hooks loosely). If I have a long approach, I do this on "dry" ground and the less steep snow and glacier, then tighten things up on the steep stuff or when doing the actual ice-climbing part of the ascent. Be sure to wear an inner wicking sock paired with an appropriate weight wool insulating sock to give the appropriate cushioning and warmth. Again, your guide service should provide the information.

2:44 p.m. on August 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Plastics are hard to beat for warmth and durability.

I climb in Mammut Mamooks: http://www.amazon.com/Mammut-Mamook-GTX-Boot-Mens/dp/B003BUMOD2  Having said that, buying $400 boots for one climb borders on insanity. Rentals are ok, just heavy.

Whatever you chose definitely do a lot of warmup hikes to places like Camp Muir (its a walk-up), Granite Mountain or Mt. Si if you are in the Seattle area.  I'd want at least four of these prior to any summit climb.  Carry a couple gallons of water to make it harder.   You don't want to blow an $1,800 trip for lack of training.  Running at sea level or in a gym will only do so much for you, much less than you need.

7:53 p.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm climbing next June, which will likely be much colder then September. My plan is to use double plastic boots from the snow field up, since there may be the need for crampons and I would want a rigid boot that works well with crampons. Before switching to the double plastic boot I will be using high ankle winter insulated trail runners that are light and can just hang off my pack.

10:02 a.m. on August 14, 2013 (EDT)
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It is the guide company's responsibility to know what the conditions will be like at the top, and on the way up. I'd check with them.

However, if you're new to mountaineering, I'd have to suggest a rental for the first time or two, anyway. You might discover that it's not something you really enjoy after all, and you'd be out a lot of money at the end of the day. 

December 19, 2014
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