La Sportiva K2
The K2 has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best mountaineering boots for 2020.
Reviewers Paid: $230.00-$240.00
Bought these from a place in Jackson after stumbling around the Tetons in flimsy boots for a week. Though they took a bit to break in (like wearing them daily for a month or so for a few hours at a time), they are probably the most comfortable footwear I now own -- except maybe my running shoes.
They've held up remarkably well in all conditions: rough granite, scree, snow, hard/steep snow & crampon, mud, water/ice, snowshoe use and just about everything short of extended expidition use (which I have not done).
My feet are narrow, so these fit very well. I needed a pair of Superfeet inserts/insoles to fit me better, as the arch in the liners was inadequate. They are best waterproofed with the new Nikwax brush on with water stuff (sounds wrong to wet a boot first and *then* apply the waterproofing but it's the best system I've ever used. Beats Sno-Seal all to bits.)
For a looser, more comfortable fit when on easy trail or carrying a light load, I leave the top two lace hooks vacant. For demanding terrain, I lace them tight, as I'm an ankle-blower. Never sprained one wearing these.
Sold my friends on them as well as my wife (who bought the lower version, Makalu, I believe). My friends who climb 14ers obsessively say these hold up MUCH better than any other boot they've thrashed (tried).
I highly recommend them for narrow-foot, heavy use minded person.
Materials: Nubuk leather
Use: Alpine Climbing -- heavy load backpacking
Break-in Period: 1 month
Price Paid: US $240
Upper: 3.1 mm Idro-Perwanger Leather
Lining: Cambrelle 300
Sole: Vibram Clusaz Sole w/Rubber Toe Cap
Insole: Mtnflex w/2 mm Full Steel Shank
Weight: 4 lbs. 6 oz/pair (41)
Sizes: 36-47.5, including half sizes
(specs copied from http://www.sportiva.com/)
I weigh 250lbs and carry up to 70lbs. for extended periods. For me, the boot weight is inconsequential but lighter, less stong hikers may find them overkill for all but the most demanding terrain. The higher cut provides plenty of support - reassuring when the total load on my feet and ankles is well in excess of 300lbs on rough ground.
I went for "fit first" and this was the result for my feet after comparing to Soloman, Asolo, Vasque, and even Merrel (I own several Merrel products for 'urban trekking' and cannot praise them enough). The lace-lock is positive and the fully gussetted tongue makes creek crossing a treat (read 'Aqueous Nik-Wax'). I swapped the adequate factory insole for some thick Merrell ones and modified my sock system accordingly. The cambrelle lining is an improvment over the calfskin in my retired Meindl's. The feel is the same (through socks) with the added benefit of moisture wicking. There's plenty of room for toes while my ankle is cupped securely and there is no cutting across my high arches. In other words, I have a perfect fit.
As my K2's are red, I make a bold fashion statement on the trail - I'm told that there's a brown/tan version but I never saw them in my size. Mud is the great equalizer for those momentarily dissuaded by something as trivial as colour. I, for one, think red is cool.
On a final note, the service from Sportiva USA was excellent during my research and the folks at Coast Mountain Sports in Vancouver BC were extremely helpful during the selection process.
Materials: Leather (Idro Perwanger)
Use: Everything, but purchased for rough trail w/heavy pack
Break-in Period: Good out of the box and even better after 30 miles
Weight: 4 lbs. 8 oz/pair (46)
Price Paid: $379 CDN sugg. retail
These boots are excellent for anything, well almost anything. I have had my pair of K2's for three years and counting. I have used them to climb fourteeners, grade 5 ice, and hiked well over 100 miles in them with no problems. They require sno-seal. They do get cold below -15 degrees, so if you are planning on those kinds of temperatures do not buy them.
For crampons I highly recommend the Lowe/Camp Footfangs. Not only because of their amazing rigidity but because of the options you can get with them. Remember to try the toe bails they come with because in most cases those are not the correct bails for the K2's.
Use: Heavy Pack Ice Climbing
Break-in Period: 2 1/2
Weight: 4lbs 4oz
Price Paid: $220-240