Where to try and what to look for
Sorry to start 2 threads in as many days!
This winter I am hoping to do some scottish winter mountains. I take landscape photography pretty seriously and I would like to shoot some serious winter mountain scenes. I'm not looking to do any technical climbing but rather walk trails to the topsof mountains when it is snowy and icy.
I realise that mountain skills are important so I will be training with a friend who does ice climbing in advance.
I also realise I need winter boots, crampons and an iceaxe. So...
Where can I try on winter boots? I live in Bristol, not exactly a winter mountain area. I'd be unhappy spending £350+ on gear without seeing and trying on some different options. Will I have to go to the lakes just to try on some boots?
Secondly what am I likely to require exactly? From what I have read it looks like I need B2 boots and C2 crampons? Is this correct? What should I be looking for?
Any advice much appreciated!
If it's walking to the top of mountains in winter then B1 boots would be fine imo -- or even B0 with the right crampons. By the right crampons I mean something like Kahtoola steel crampons, which can be used with running shoes let alone light boots, or Grivel G10s, which are also very flexible.
Unless you're kicking steps in steep snow, or front pointing up snow or ice, I just don't think a set-up of rigid boots and crampons is needed.
However, I find an ice axe is necessary, if only to cut the very occasional step in bits of snow so short it's not worth putting crampons on.
Okay, well some of the routes I would expect to tackle would be steep screen slopes and to be honest, from a photographic point of view I will be very much hoping for snow! Will I then require a stiffer boot?
I currently wear Meindl Vacuums, which I love, but I have only kicked steps into soft snow with them previously
Most of my walking is in the winter, snow and ice and spent alot of time in lakes and scotland.
I have to say i agree with Guy's advice
Well I guess thats great news then. So then the question goes....Should I just buy Kahtoolas for my existing boots or do I need a B1 boot and crampons?
EDIT: Reading PTCs blog it seems that kahtoolas are too short for certain snow conditions...
I fear you've opened a can of worms here, because there's no easy answer. I've been using borderline B0/B1 boots in winter conditions over the last couple of winters and been happy with them, but before that I often used mid-cut shoes and found them just about as good. Why the change? Not exactly sure, it just sort of happened when the mids fell apart because it's what I fancied at the time.
What I am sure of is that I don't want to walk in rigid, heavy and uncomortable B2 or B3 boots again.
Perhaps you might be best getting a pair of Kahtoolas or G10s and trying them with the Meindl boots on some not too ambitious winter walks. If that works then you've saved a lot of money and got best use out of boots you like. If not, buy some B1 boots.
As ever I've been reading up on this and predicatably there is a lot of conflicting information.
A lot of websites seem to recommend B2 boots for Scottish winter mountains in all conditions. When I walked in Snowdonia in February I couldnt kick steps into hard snow and fortunately I could walk round. This does have me thinking that perhaps the meindl boots are unsuitable.
So given the choice between B1 and B2......I am slightly concerned that I might go for B1s, find them insufficient, and then buy B2s. Since B2s seem only slightly more expensive am I better going down that route? Decisions desicions.....
(sorry if I seem like I am ignoring your advice, I know its perfectly sound!)
I use Scarpa SL's (a B1 boot) with C1 crampons.
They are good enough, but, if you need to do a lot of toe work, then the boot will flex a little, loosing the ridgidity, which I personally feel would assist easier climbing.
B1 boot is a good starting point, but if you can progress to B2, then that might be the better option.
Ice axes, come in different lengths, so you might want to spend a bit of time getting one that suites you best.
My advice, take your friend with you if you can, if he's teaching you, then he should have a good idea what you will need and using any of the stores mentioned by Davey Mole, let the boot fitting specialist assist you in selecting your boots and crampons.
Not obligatory, but you might want to consider a helmet, just in case you do take a tumble.
Bear in mind that until recently you'd easily find many websites advocating stiff boots as the 'only' footwear for sundry summer conditions too.
So certainly don't ignore - winter really is much more serious - but also be aware that there is a fair bit of dogma about regarding footwear.
And that some of the things that people do - like front pointing up sheer ice! - really do require very stiff boots to work well.
Many conflicting opinions on this as you've seen, but I'd say that if you're going out with the intention of doing Munros in winter then you need B2s, particularly if you've not walked much on snow before.
Advantages of B2s over B1s over 'B0's (as I see it): Need to wear crampons less often (can use side of boot like a blade); a lot easier to go up steeper stuff as your calves won't implode; less likely to bust an ankle with crampons on; last longer; less likely for the crampon to pop off (this is a very real threat if the boot bends laterally); better ankle protection from snow; and here's a big one... they are much, much warmer.
Disadvantages: Heavier; more cumbersome; can take longer to dry out (debatable); less comfortable when walking on hard flat ground; more expensive.
I don't think it's coincidence that every instructed group you see out wears boots designed for winter, that the BMC recommend it, and that most MR team members will stress it also. Lightweight boots are fine if you know what the snow conditions are like and if you plan on doing easy stuff, but the moment you get on anything steep or icy (and I'm not talking very steep) then they feel decidedly insecure. The warmth one is frequently ignored, but if it's minus 5, you're standing in snow, and you stop for ten minutes your feet will be like ice in some thin fabric boots. Last November I had to thaw out someone's feet that were beginning to show the signs of frostnip because his boots were naff. And that was only Snowdonia.
...and sorry, to answer your other questions... Grivel G10s or equivalents from other companies will be fine if you're planning on walking. However, make sure they fit your boots properly. Get Newmatic bails if you go for B2s as they are easier to fit and far more secure than the strappy things. G12s, Airtechs or their competitor's equivalents are only really required if you plan to get into mountaineering or climbing (G10s are fine up to Grade II).
As for the ice axe, any straight-shafted thing will do. Don't get an Alpenstock though, and ignore the rubbish about 'down to your ankle'. If you're between 5'6 and 6'2 then anything from 55-60 cm would be fine. I'd get a DMM Cirque because they're excellent for walking with but you won't 'outgrow' it if you choose to do some mountaineering where you require an axe that can be belayed from.
Comfort is a relative thing, of course. I rate my stiff winter boots as pretty comfy and depending on the exact conditions I might well be wearing them. They fit me very well and I'm canny enough to leave the laces loose for easy walking which makes a bit of difference. They take Yeti gaiters well so I'll have warm dry, feet which is a major aspect of comfort, I'd imagine even more so if you're spending some time setting up a perfect shot and waiting for the light to be just so...
For standing around a lot on deep wet snow I would thoroughly recommend Yetis or similar over-gaiters.
Peter Clinch wrote (see)
...For standing around a lot on deep wet snow I would thoroughly recommend Yetis or similar over-gaiters. Pete.
I'd agree with that, snow has a really irritating habit of finding it's way up between gaiters and boot!
I use Meindle Burma pro's year round they are not supposed to take a crampon but if you are carefull and don't over flex, they are fine for non-technical stuff, I also have kahtoolas for slipping on if required.
For me the main drawback is that the toe on my boot flexes back in snow which means that it is uncomfortable over any distance and very tiring as your foot slips back slightly as you push off. Putting my crampons on stiffens the boot and stops the foot sliding back, walking is instantly easier.
I suspect that in softer conditions the effect of crampons is more marked on a softer B1 boot (B0 in my case!) than a B3, for example.
if you're anywhere near inverness you can hire this geat from Tiso, scarpa mantas and g-12s i think, not sure which axe. then you can hike about in recommended gear and inform yourself as to its suitability.
one thing i would bear in mind is thatb if you're carrying photographic gear you're heavier and this might incline you towards more robust footware combis than B0 and kahtoolas that the UL speed merchants might advocate.
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