Chip off the old block? We pit Scarpa's new scrambling boot against the original...
We've just got a pair of Scarpa's Cristallo GTX boots in on
test - full review to follow - but as they're being trumpeted as the
distant descendent of Scarpa's seminal Mescalito scrambling
boot, we thought it would be interesting to compare them, back
to back, with the original.
Scarpa's Mescalito, also known as the El Cap, was a radical beast
when it first appeared and arguably it's still the best pure
scrambling boot every produced, especially in its original, thinner
The lasting and fit was based on Scarpa's rock boots, making for a
foot hugging, precise boot ideal for edging. The sole was thin enough
to keep weight low and close to the rock and made entirely from
sticky Vibram rubber and it was stiff enough for outrageous edging
performance, but not so stiff that it was uncomfortable to walk in.
Plus there was just enough flex for some effective smearing when
The second version had a more walking friendly sole, but for many
users, the original was the best and ideal for scrambles and easy to
medium mountain routes.
It wasn't completely perfect, the suede upper looked cool, but had
all the water reistance of a sponge, but otherwise it was focussed,
exocent missile of a scrambling boot.
The New Cristallo GTX
You can spot the visual differences straight away - there's still
suede in them there uppers, but it's an interesting 'Fruit Salad'
toned affair and it's supplemented with synthetic fabric. Underneath
is the Cristallo's trump card, a Gore-Tex liner that means it should
shurg off water and snow melt.
The all-round rand is still present, but the boot's cut higher at
the ankle and the sole unit is around 8mm or so thicker at the heel.
Weight is up, but only by around 100 grammes per pair from 1410
grammes to 1520 grammes.
Overall, it's much more of a lightweight, stripped-down
mountaineering boot than a rock boot derivative and that's born out
by the more cushioned and more aggressively lugged sole unit.
Back To Back
That's all very well, but what are the differences on the foot?
Straight off the Mescalito has a close, glove-like fit, almost like a
rock boot helped by the soft upper and lower-cut ankle cuff. It feels
very natural and precise on the foot.
The new Cristallo, on the other hand, is definitely boxier and the
higher ankle section makes for a more mountain boot-ish, more
substantial experience. The fit's still quite close and precise, just
not as glove-like as the Mescalito.
Underfoot, the thicker sole unit loses a little precision, but the
good news is that edging prowess, stickability and even that little
bit of smear-friendly flex are all still there. They're not as
single-mindedly precise as grandad, but you can detect the DNA just
We also reckon they're going to be more comfortable for all-round
use. The Mescalito's achilles heel was always that its rock
performance compromised walk-in comfort with little cushioning and a
hard ride for the back of the heel. The Cristallo is just a more
civilised beast and a more pronounced rocker on the sole definitely
makes for a more natural walking action.
What Does it All Mean?
If you were hoping for a reincarnation of the old Mescalito then
we're afraid it's bad news. The Cristallo is definitely clumpier and
less deft than the old fella. That's not to say it's clumpy in
absolute terms, it's just that it's developed from a lightweight
mountaineering boot rather than being a beefed up rock shoe.
It's still extrememly competent on rock, but it's big strength is
that it's more versatile. It walks well, it takes a crampon - B1
rated - and the Gore-Tex lining means that it actually makes sense -
no soggy uppers... You could happily wander round a glacier in these,
which is something you could never say about the Mescalito. If you
bought one of those you were buying a rock / scrambling boot with
walk-in potential, if you buy a Cristallo, you're getting a
significantly more versatile beast that still promises to do the
scrambling, rock thing tolerably well.
More information at www.scarpa.co.uk