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.
First, all expedition boots need to be warm, waterproof 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 and 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 that 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 please do check individual kit lists.
Terrain: Uneven, rocky but mostly well-established paths
Boot type: Hiking boots with ankle support. Waterproof with flexible, grippy soles. Often referred to as approach shoes/boots.
- Berghaus Explorer
- Berghaus Explorer Trek VII Goretex or similar
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, waterproof, 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
- Berghaus Hill Walker II GTX
- Berghaus Explorer Trek plus GTX or similar
Cost: £100 -160
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.
- Mammut Guide High Magic GTX
- La Sportiva Nepal Extreme
- Scarpa Mont Blanc or similar
Terrain: Mountains like Mera Peak, Elbrus 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.
- La Sportiva Spantiks
- Boreal G1 Lite
- Scarpa Phantom 6000 or similar
Cost: £280 – £ 500
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.
- La Sportiva Mons,
- La Sportiva G2 SM
- Scarpa Phantom 8000
- Millet Everest or similar
Cost: £650 – £800