Mountaineering is a sport of climbing mountains, encompassing other activities including hiking, backpacking, skiing, hiking via ferrata, and tackling the wilderness. Mountaineers take on technical trails and extremely cold temperatures on their way to the summit. Because of the demands of the sport, mountaineers need high-cut mountaineering boots that can provide them support and protection as they ascend thousands of feet above the ground.
Mountaineering boots carry a robust design because they are used for more rigorous activities while mountaineers are exposed to harsh elements. They are characteristically taller, more robust in makeup, and have stiffer soles than other footwear. These traits are necessary as mountaineers need utmost support and protection during climbs.
Since it gets colder as you reach greater heights, the boots are also taller and insulated to provide you with the much-needed warmth. High-cut mountaineering boots are investments for mountaineers. For someone who climbs ice-capped summits, the chances of experiencing frostbites and hypothermia are high. Wearing an insulated and high-cut footwear help keep the body warm.
The high-cut mountaineering boot should be crampon-compatible because mountaineers need a good grip on glaciers and snow. Crampons are claw-like or spiked iron devices that help in climbing icy and snowy surfaces.
Mountaineering boots are classified into three categories according to the stiffness of the sole: B1, B2, and B3. Here are the differences between each:
B1 boots are known as four-season boots with semi-stiffened midsole.
B2 boots are those with a stiffened midsole and an overall robust material which make them suitable for climbing in colder environments.
B3 boots are those totally rigid and are best for high-altitude mountaineering.
High-cut mountaineering boots can be further classified into three types: single, double, and super gaiter. These are the traits of each:
Single mountaineering boots come with a single-unit inner and outer lining. They are stiff and warm enough for all season hikes.
Double mountaineering boots come with a separate synthetic inner and a hard plastic outer boot which makes them heavier. They are ideal for climbs in very cold places.
Super gaiter mountaineering boots, on the other hand, are hybrids of both single and double boots as the inner boot can’t be removed from the outer boot. These often come with knee-high gaiters that provide warmth and weatherproofing.
Technologies found in men's and women's high-cut mountaineering boots
Robust is one word that best describes high-cut mountaineering boots, but there is more to its tough look. Setting the bar of outdoor sports high, shoe brands improve their offerings by using different materials and technologies. With incorporated technologies fit for the high-cut of the footwear, the boots are expected to provide you with the support and protection you need outdoors.
Grip and traction. Since high-cut mountaineering boots are heavy, meant to be worn while carrying a heavy load, and attached to tools like crampons, the soles need to be strong and stiff. Brands like La Sportiva, Scarpa, Arc’teryx, and Lowa use Vibram soles. Vibram was created by Vitale Brimani especially for climbing. The soles are developed to provide excellent traction on many surface types.
Weatherproofness. The weatherproofness of high-cut mountaineering boots also matter. Climbers move around, tackling different terrain types and the part extending to shins and calves could get wet. By adding a protective weatherproof membrane or material, climbers are better covered.
Brands like Scarpa have models built on OutDry waterproofing technology. The material is bonded directly to the external layer of the shoe. Through this partnership, Scarpa models incorporated with this waterproofing technology have a bonded external layer that seals the footwear to keep water out.
Judging from the number of high-cut mountaineering boots with a GTX in their names, many shoe manufacturers also use Gore-Tex membranes to weatherproof their footwear products. Gore-Tex is one of the most popular weatherproofing membranes used in different outdoor products like high-cut mountaineering boots. La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX, for example, is lined with Gore-Tex insulated footwear lining so wearers won’t have a problem splashing through puddles or snow.
Ankle support. Brands feature technologies that allow ankle flexibility in a high-cut mountaineering boot. Models like Lowa Weisshorn GTX use the FLEXFIT-Synchro technology which lets the ankle move easily on steep and glaciated terrain. La Sportiva’s Karakorum, on the other hand, has the Multi-directional 3D Flex which also promotes easy flex. These technologies make wearing high-cut mountaineering boots more comfortable as they help ease the restrictions on the ankles.
Insulation. Cushioning and warmth are two things that mountaineers need as they spend days and nights climbing mountains. Even if high-cut hiking boots have most of the feet and the shins covered, the insulation is still needed to keep the lower extremities warm. Added features that provide cushioning and insulate the boots for fighting off the cold are added to high-cut mountaineering boots like the SBR Aircushion sole of La Sportiva Karakorum.
The “one boot does it all” myth
There was a time when people would do their thing without a care if they are wearing the proper footwear or not. People then thought that in tackling very smooth pathways or difficult icy trails, investing on a single pair will suffice. But this notion is a thing of the past.
Specialization is now the catchword in all outdoor pursuits. As technology advances, even outdoor products have followed through. As a result, hikers can get specialized hiking boots just as mountaineers need mid-cut mountaineering boots or high-cut mountaineering boots in more technical trails. And this only makes sense as no trail is the same and wearing just any footwear could lead to accidents and injuries.
Considerations in buying high-cut mountaineering boots for men and women
High-cut mountaineering boots are no cheap products. Spending a huge sum for a pair means careful deliberation should be done before paying. In your search, aside from the necessary steps of fitting and shopping around, the materials, stiffness, crampon compatibility, and height should also be carefully assessed.
There are three types of materials that are used for high-cut mountaineering boots: plastic, synthetic, and leather. Most boots have a combination of these materials in them. Gaining an understanding of how they work will guide you in choosing the right pair.
Plastic boots have a durable plastic outer shell and a removable synthetic inner boot. Since these are made of plastic materials, the boots are warm and waterproof. They are ideally worn when tackling cold, snowy mountains.
Synthetic boots are lighter, more comfortable, and dry faster than the all-leather variety. The downside to investing in them is that they may not last long enough as each climb wears them out.
Leather mountaineering boots are tough, stiff, and solid. These boots have cemented their reputation for being the go-to material for most climbers. In choosing a mountaineering boot with a leather upper, a pair with a high cuff is important. High-cut mountaineering boots can provide the ankle support needed for technical rock climbing.
The stiffness of the boot depends on the kind of technical difficulty you want to explore. The rigidity or flexibility of the footwear plays a huge role in climbing over snow-capped mountains. Here are three types of sole stiffness and which one works best for the type of terrain to tackle:
Rigid boots are best for technical ice routes. Although they are really great for hiking rugged trails, they need a little getting used to. You will need to learn the skill of heel-toe during the technical parts of the trip.
Medium flex boots are for tackling the less demanding part of the climb. These can give enough support for climbing cracks and low-angle ice while increasing the degree of comfort.
Flexible boots are for trekking through the cold and snowy parts of the trail. These are paired with flexible crampons in tackling easy approaches.
This is a fundamental consideration when buying high-cut mountaineering boots. Always remember to test your crampons first before buying any type of mountaineering footwear. Crampons vary in model, size, height, and thickness and there are chances that these could pop off under stress. This is a scenario you would want to avoid when you are in a cold region and thousands of feet above the ground.
Generally, mountaineering boots are taller and when it says high-cut mountaineering boots, it does mean really high-cut footwear extending up to the knee on some models. The height of the boot plays an important role in keeping you warm during an extreme high-altitude climb where temperatures could drop to negative degrees.
If high-cut mountaineering boots are too heavy for you, you can consider a model with integrated gaiters. These provide the weather-tight seal that can protect you from snow and water while also keeping you warm.
High-cut mountaineering boots price
The market has an abundance of high-cut mountaineering boots that will cater to the needs of mountaineers. They may have to allocate a substantial amount for the purchase though. The price of mountaineering boots ranges from $150 to $250. High-end models could even cost as high as a thousand dollars. High-cut mountaineering boots generally are expensive, so mountaineers have to save up a substantial amount.
Availability of high-cut mountaineering boots
Mountaineers will have no problem anymore when it comes to looking for high-cut mountaineering boots because the market abounds with different models from different brands. Popular brands like Scarpa, Salewa, La Sportiva, Lowa, and many others have an extensive line of mountaineering boots.
High-cut mountaineering boots FAQs
Are high-cut mountaineering boots heavy?
Compared with other types of outdoor footwear, high-cut mountaineering boots are a little on the heavy side. This is the case because they are made with more materials. The soles are also stiffer which contribute to its weight.
Can high-cut mountaineering boots be resoled?
High-cut mountaineering boots are known for their stiff and dependable soles. As they are made of high-quality materials, they can be resoled. Resoling is the process of replacing worn out soles with new ones. The process can only be carried out by experts as this entails using the same last and using a material similar to the original sole.
Can mountaineers buy high-cut mountaineering boots online?
Online shops can greatly help mountaineers save time in shopping for a reliable pair of mountaineering boots. Aside from brands putting up their own websites with shopping options, there are also retailers that can be reached online.
The convenience of shopping online greatly appeals to mountaineers, but there are also cons. A huge problem is sizing errors. To counter this, mountaineers can choose to shop brands they previously wore. It also helps to be familiar with return policies in case buyers have concerns with the pair delivered to them.