La Sportiva K3
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First, these are ice climbing boots and I haven't taken them out for that yet. It's basically a rather heavy full shank boot that works well with step-in crampons I have a sort of love/dislike relationship with these boots. Other than the recommendation not to buy them if they don't fit your feet... here are the major points.
1) Fit. It took me some time to get used to them. Before I realized that I needed to lace them up to the very top on the non-technical parts of the approaches I got some pretty inhuman blisters. Once I figured out that (and had a hundred miles or so to work them in) they have been perfect.
2) Stiffness: The model I have has a rather thick full steel shank (the current ones have backed off a bit in this regard - composite?). For edging they work surprisingly well, even with a pack on. As far as friction climbing goes, they can be problematic. When I'm climbing I have to lace them down all the way so that I have enough ankle movement. You can learn to climb rather decently with them, but because you have so little feel it really does take some getting used to. Of course on snow they kick steps wonderfully - though I've found that they tire me less on flats if I shuffle my feet some rather than lifting them every step (they're heavy, especially when wet). I've top roped to 5.8 and lead to 5.5 (probably could do better) with them so there's nothing that can't be worked around - it just takes practice and...faith. In general, though, I wouldn't buy them as a first climbing boot - we'll see how they work in ice climbing at the end of the summer.... Basically, I know many people who get the K3's and K2's and realize that it's overkill for what they want to do (mountaineering rock climbing & rock climbing approaches).
3) Water-proofness: OK. If you are out in the snow for more than a day at a time the water will eventually work it's way through the leather. I've have better luck with mine than other people I know because I apply Nik-Wax religiously (along with cleaning my boots). The best way to do it seems to be to rub the Nubuck with a brush while under water so that you can wet it. Then apply the Nik-Wax. Mine are now, after many applications, pretty water tight. Not plastic boots, but, then again, they're not plastics either (a site more comfortable in my very limited experience). The other problem is that they take a long time to dry out. The local cobler suggests taking out the liners and packing them with crumpled newspapers, then changing that twice per day. I stick a hair drier on low and set it in the ankle of the boot for 15 - 20 minutes. Do this two days in a row or once in the evening when you get back, then again in the morning. If you are trying to dry them out on the route, well, I've never succeeded. Then again I climb in the Cascades.
Overall, I think that they would be just the thing for mixed routes. They kick steps well, they take step-in crampons. They climb low class 5 with packs well, except that the sole is too stiff to mold to the rock much on steep slabs, though perhaps not as bad as plastics. I wouldn't get them for general backpacking, and you can find boots that double as better climbing boots. They are definitely a pair of boots with their strengths and weaknesses. If you like their strong points I recommend them.
Break-in Period: 50-100 miles?
Weight: pretty heavy
Price Paid: $300 ($200 on sale)
I already have the Makulus which I love but I was worried about wearing them out and I found these for only 65 dollars and they were hardly worn. They are a half size larger than my Makulus (La Sportiva) and with thinsalite lining they are probably a better winter boot. Except I notice a flaw in that the tongue of boot slides down into the toe area and cramps the toe.. which is probably why the previous owner unloaded them. My Makulu has a velcro connection between outer top leather and the inner tongue to prevent the tongue from being forced into the toe box.. but this boot didn't have that. What to do? I just used a glob of seamsealer to glue inner tongue at its most extended to the flap of leather in the outer beneith the laces and it dried overnight with bunched up sock to hold them in place and the boot is comfortable again.
Great boot except for the tongue issue above and maybe just a smidgen larger than needed but with two pairs of sock no issue. Has crampon grooves fore and aft which also fit an Alpine Touring binding (Silvrettas), and surprizingly even my Voile tele binding for very mild skiing. Actually was very comfortable as an adhoc ski boot but just don't do anything too steep or fast in them. Much more comfortable than a tele boot. And for snowshoeing. A good all around boot... which stays dry if submerged in roaring spring runnoff creek crossings esp. after a couple of nikwax treatments.
Looking for boots in an area where a lot of people hike and climb look for a resale shop where consignment sales are made and also returned goods from particularly La Sportive heavy boots dissatisfied customers... who just couldn't survive the longer breakin period that the La Sportive big boots usually require.
Materials: leather mountaineering boot.
Use: trails, off trails, snowshoe, and even with AT and Tele bindings (voile classics!!_)
Break-in Period: none as I bought these from a used consignment shop
Weight: aroung 4 and half pounds or 2000 grams about
Price Paid: got 'em cheap 65 bucks but are around 230 retail new
Have used these boots on various winter trips to New Yorks Adirondack mountains and a week long summit trip to Mount Rainier Washington. Boots are supposed to have some sort of gore-tex type lining which so far has worked superbly. Insulation is thinsulate, and I am very impressed with how warm they are, obviously when climbing or hiking with a heavy pack every boot is warm but these stay snuggly even standing around camp (as long as your body is warm).
Stiffness is perfect for any winter (ie:snow or ice) hiking and climbing, I do not climb verticle Ice but have been on severely steep snowfields and they work great. I use Charlet Moser blackice rapidfix bail type crampons and have had no problems with them. Fit wise they are ok, nice toe room, but slightly too much heel slip for my narrow heel, (I have never had a boot that did not give me some heel problems however) I must lace them tight on top to keep my heel in place. They have a nice ankle hinge which is important when climbing steep snow or glaciers as it allows you to vary your step technique without ankle strain. Overall I would rate these boots very highly.
Materials: Leather Mountaineering
Use: Winter Hiking/climbing/Mountaineering
Break-in Period: 50 miles or one month with pack
Weight: Light for intended use
Price Paid: $295 in 1998
The K3's were the end result of my exhaustive serch for a boot that not only climbed ice/mixed terrain well but was comfortable for the often long slogs required for backcounty climbing. I usually eshew high tech mumble jumbo but I must confess that the carbon fiber midsole lends the boot the best blend of stiffness required for crampons with enough flex to be comfortable for extended hikes of any boot I've worn.
I am now in my third season with the K3 and can testify that it wears very well. Regular waterproofing (twice a season) has kept all but the wettest spring climbs on the outside. The thinsulate lining aids in warmth but I have found that below 10 F I need full gators to keep my toes comfy. I will definately purchase another pair when these wear out. Let's hope Sportiva doesn't change the line by then.
Materials: Silicon inpregnated leather, Vibram sole
Use: Ice/mixed climbing, Mountaineering
Break-in Period: 3 weeks
Weight: 4 pounds
Price Paid: $260 - $280
It took me awhile too break these in my K3s. Mainly my left foot developed hot spots on the back (of course it's slightly smaller than my right). On my 5th backpack up Mt Blanca they did me very well. It was extremely cold at night and in the morning (-20 f) but my feet stayed toasty warm as long as I was moving. In camp I loosened them up and they were much warmer as long as I was not kneeling in the snow with the toes on ice. The roller ball eyelets and the locking eyelets have never frozen up. They are very sturdy and work well with my Black Diamond Sabretooth crampons. I've never had any disappointment in snow or on rock... Would I buy these again... absolutely! But I don't think I can wear them out...
Use: Mountaineering in extreme cold conditions with 65lb pack
Break-in Period: About 3 to 4 long hikes. On the 5th hike I was in heaven.
Weight: a little under 5 lbs.
Price Paid: $199.99 on sale
These boots kick ass when it really counts- high altitude, ice, rock and mixed. They are super light for what they can put up with, yet are solid all-round mountaineering boots. Warmer than hell too. I did get a little frosbite climbing Long's in winter, but that was because I forgot gaiters, and they filled w/ snow.
I have heard people say that the K3's aren't as stiff as they should be, but I think they are fine- they are very responsive, and give a great feel for the rock or ice when climbing. I have the old model, without the Clusaz sole and roller eyelets. Although the new model looks sweet, the performance differrence is probably very little. Break in period is a little long, but once broken in, these puppies are a pair of high-altitude bedroom slippers.
Use: Alpine, ice, mixed
Break-in Period: 1 month heavy use
Price Paid: $325
I got these boots after trying lots (dozens?) of different makes trying to fit my feet. These are great on my narrow-heeled feet. No break in period whatsoever (compared with previous similar grade boots which butchered my feet)...12+ hour days with heavy pack straight out of the box. They have a stiff shank but do have some flex in the toes. I use CM-12 crampons with heel bail and ?lanier at front. Not great for lots of steep ice but works well for general climbing.
I am not as as good as I should be with waterproofing these and have had wet feet a couple of times after a few days. The insulation seems to work well anyhow.
Use: off trail with heavy pack, general mountaineering
Break-in Period: essentially nil
Weight: about 1.2kg each?
Price Paid: approx $320 Australian
If you are looking for a leather single boot for winter use that provides adequate stiffness, warmth, and is easy to put on, the K3 is worth every penny. I would prefer a stiffer sole, but that's because I remember the Super Guide era boots. For high altitude hunting in tough conditions, I think the only boot to beat this would be the Nepal Extreme, although I prefer the newer Clusaz pattern sole on the K3 for it's design and toughness. Also, LaSportiva USA has manged to get some size 14's (Euro 48's) out of the Italians, which has made my life easier.
Materials: Leather w/Vibram Clusaz soles
Use: High altitude hunting w/ impossibly heavy loads
Break-in Period: Brief, based on my use
Price Paid: $325 US
The best boots we've found! They are light enough to wear for summer and winter hiking, and after waterproofing them, they are terrific for stream crossing/etc. Very nice of crampooning. Highly recommend them!
Use: rough trail/crampooning
Break-in Period: 1 week
Price Paid: $280
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Reviewers Paid: $65.00-$325.00