La Sportiva Baruntse
Materials: Hybrid plastic materials
Break-in Period: Didn't seem to be one
Weight: 5 pounds
Price Paid: $480 on sale at EMS
I love these boots !! I've had a pair of La Sportiva Evo's for a while and really liked the way they fit. So I retired my Koflachs and sprung for the Baruntses.
Now, the first thing everyone asks is why I didn't just get the top of the line Spantiks form La Sportiva. The well dressed mountaineer is wearing the Spantik for 2010 from what I can see. I tried on the Spantiks and they fit great - - BUT - - I wasn't sold on the high tech lacing system, and had read some reviews about broken eyelets.
Turns out the Baruntse from what I can see is technically about the same insulation construction as the Spantik, but with a traditional lacing system.
My feet are on the wide side (EE) plus my left foot is one size larger than my right, so the game for me is to find a boot that I can dial in the fit with lacing, liner molding and some shims. The Baruntse worked out great for that.
The liners are very good and use the Spantik style lacing system - - a zig-zag laceup that finishes with a Velcro tie down tab that sticks to the top of the boot. Here the new high tech laceup is really useful - - it's very fast to lace them up and they snug down very well. You can lace them quickly with a gloved hand, then step into the boot. The heat molding works very well - - I did it myself using my oven at home according to the enclosed directions.
I've had them out in the field since September when I wore them for a summit of Mt. Rainier. Since then I've been out on a number of winter hikes and used them so far for one ice climbing session.
For hiking and general mountaineering they are very good - - easy to walk with on non-snow surfaces because the sole is a little narrower than my old Koflach Arctis Expes and because it has a nice rocker built into it (that doesn't go so far as to bend my crampons). I've been very warm in them to the extent I had to modify my sock layering and go to a lighter sock weight to avoid getting sweated, even for very cold weather. I've used them down to minus 10 and they were fine!!
For ice climbing I'd rate them as good. I'm comparing this to my Evos which I've been used to for some time and are of course outstanding for ice, which is principally what the Evo's are designed for. On climbs and expeditions, the Baruntse will do very well for steep ice and mixed sections and are really a perfect choice for multi-day trips that the Evo's don't travel well on.
As usual, when I was shopping for these I had to do the familiar epoch around trying on multiple sizes. I'd 'recommend not relying on your current boots to predict sizing on the Baruntses. Instead, I suggest trying on two sizes higher and two sizes lower than your current plastic or hybrid boot size, and try to predict any additional fit advantage you would get from heat molding the liner. This is especially difficult these days with all but the most mountaineering specific retailers selling mail order only.
If you are in that situation, I'd recommend ordering three sizes at once - - one size up and one size down from your current boot size. Throw it on the credit card and try them on as soon as you get them and pick the best fit. My recommendation for this approach is order from REI or EMS for store pick up, so there's no shipping charge, go to the store and try on the boots there, and immediately return the two that don't fit. With the standard shipping speed for these types of orders, it should basically cost nothing to order these multiple sets.
So to summarize:
1. Great boots
2. Watch for the pre-season or end of season sales if you can afford to wait
3. Get the sizing ABSOLUTELY right - - you'll have these boots for 20 years or more !