Boots explained

Rolfe Oostra

Having been out and about for a long time we know a lot about which boots are suitable for any given expedition but with so many options on the market and much muddled advice from shops and outfitters it seems there is still a lot of ambiguity about which are suitable for which expedition. So, let’s shed some light on this and talk you through what footwear is needed for which expedition.

An overview
First, all expedition boots need to be warm, water-proof and have good ankle support. The terrain, be it rock, ice or snow is most likely to be uneven with wet and cold days thrown in.  As you ascend the air gets thinner and your body’s ability to transport the much-needed warmth producing oxygen diminishes. You therefore get colder more quickly and will find it harder to warm up. Boots which work well at similar temperatures on a wintery alpine peak won’t necessarily be that warm at altitude. Gaiters are almost always a good option be it in mud, sand, rain or snow.

As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to wear two pairs of socks inside your boots, a thin pair and a thicker pair while still having wiggle room. Cramped boots restrict circulation can lead to you having cold feet and can also lead to toe damage when descending, potentially resulting in loss of toe nails. When at altitude it’s also worth remembering your feet will swell. Buying half a size to a full size bigger is recommended and when trying them on make sure you always do so with your thick mountaineering socks.

The following is a guide of our chosen footwear for various expeditions. There are some variables and DO check individual kit lists. 

Expedition: Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu or Similar treks

Terrain: Uneven, rocky but mostly well- established path.

Boot type: Hiking boots with ankle support. Waterproof with flexible, grippy soles. Often referred to as approach shoes/boots.
Recommended Brand:

  • Berghaus Explorer,
  • Trek VII Goretex,
  • or similar

Cost: £80-£120

Expedition: Kilimanjaro, Manaslu Trek, Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Toubkal, Mount Kenya Trek, Pyrenean Treks, Expedition Skills Course, Stok Kangri

Terrain: Terrain under-foot is often rocky, uneven and dusty. Snow and ice are infrequent but do check the kit list to see if crampons are required for your expedition *.
Boot Type: Strong, water-proof, comfortable, good ankle-support and light. Described as B1 boots or 4 season trekking boots. This means that their soles are quite flexible and can only be used for the strap on variety of crampons. (C1 crampons). Gaiters advisable.
*perfect approach boots for 6000 – 8,000m peaks
Recommended Brand:

  • Berghaus Hill walker II GTX,
  • Berghaus Explorer Trek plus GTX
  • or similar.

Cost: £100 -160

Expedition: Mont Blanc and Matterhorn

Terrain: For these peaks the conditions under-foot are steeper and the weather and snow conditions demand hardier boots.
Boot Type: As above but stiffer sole for technical climbing (edging) Known as B2 boots. Designed with edge on heel of the boot to fit “clip-on” type technical crampon (C2 or C3 crampons). Gaiters will be needed.
Recommended Brands:

  • Mammut Guide High Magic GTX,
  • La Sportiva Nepal Extreme
  • or similar.

Cost: £180-£300

Expedition: Mera Peak, Island Peak, Lobuche East, Aconcagua, Elbrus and the Khumbu 3 Peak challenge

Terrain: Mountains like Mera peak in Nepal and Aconcagua are extremely cold. There is a serious risk of frostbite if you do not have the right footwear.
Boot Type: Approach boots needed for lower altitudes and double boots, generically known as plastics will be required for summit phase of these mountains. They have a super insulated inner boot. Inflexible soles for climbing technical terrain and take more technical crampons (C2 and C3). Gaiters will be needed.
Recommended Brands:

  • La Sportiva Spantiks,
  • Boreal G1 Lite,
  • Scarpa Phantom 600 Guide
  • or similar

Cost: £280 – £ 400

Expedition: 

Expedition: Mount Everest, Cho Oyu and Manaslu

Terrain: By the time you are ready for these mountains you will have experienced many different types of footwear and mountaineering conditions and understand what works for you.
Boot Type: The choice at extreme altitude is limited to only a few specialised brands but they all deliver nearly the same thing: Maximum warmth and performance at maximum altitude.  Come with built in gaiters.
Recommended Brands:

  • La Sportiva Mons,
  • Scarpa Phantom 8000,
  • Millet Everest
  • or similar

Cost: £650 – £800

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