Mountaineering Boot Sizing

I don’t think I have such incredibly abnormal feet, 10.5 EE US (“high volume”, “high arch”, “wide”), but as it turns out sizing mountaineering boots is a giant pain. Period.  Perhaps mostly because I don’t live in Colorado or Chamonix, but also because it’s difficult to find all the boots you want to try on in any one place, and except for out West, good custom boot fitters are hard to find.

I spent most of last year regretting not buying a pair of used Scarpa Invernos on sale from Whittaker Mountaineering. I figured size 10 UK boots with an Intuition “Thermofit” style liner would probably have fit fine.  I’ll never know.  I tried on pair of the Scarpa Omegas and they were far too narrow in the mid-foot. A local EMS had a single pair of 11 US Invernos with the non-thermo (“low altitude” cordura / open cell foam) liner, again they seemed a bit narrow but potentially with molded Intuition liners they would’ve been fine.

I borrowed a pair of older Koflach Degres (10 UK) all winter for ice climbing here in the Mid-Atlantic and for a Lee Vining trip, but the old liners were quite packed-in and they never seemed wide enough, plenty of toe room though.  I “vacationed” to a mountaineering shop in Keene Valley, NY and tried on both the La Sportiva Baruntse and Spantiks.  I think the size 45.5 EU Spantik was pretty close, but it’s hard to say, apparently thermo-molding the Spantik liner is a bit tricky, whereas the Baruntse’s Palau liner is apparently much easier to mold.  Dane Burns on his Cold Thistle blog has many more in-depth reviews (of boots, tools, apparel, climbing lore, etc) and has many more thoughts and years experience than I could hope to ever have on the subject.

The Baruntes were too narrow. I wore the Spantiks for a couple of days around the house before ultimately finding a pair of barely used Koflach Arctis Expes (11 EU) for 1/5th of the price, that felt incredibly good; wide, wooly, and wonderful on my feet.  In Alaska above 14k I paired them with the Forty Below K2 Neoprene Overboots and my feet were warm.  The boots were definitely too big though, probably almost a whole size and a half. But again, my toes were warm, so it’s probably better to err on that side of things.  It was a heavy combo, and didn’t leave a lot of feel for technical climbing.

Which brings me to the present.

What is a good 4 season’ish “all mountain” single boot here? I’ve been checking out the Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX.  It does indeed have a wide “high volume” fit.  And it doesn’t come in UK (sometimes labeled EU on double plastic boots) sizing, which is nice, as I’ve already established a pretty solid baseline of size 45.5 in most truly European sized mountaineering boots.  The tall lacing and narrow heel seems to lock down nicely, which is good.  So far I’ve been using the green Superfeet and they don’t feel like they’re reducing volume too much.

I’ve tried on the Scarpa Jorasses Pro GTX (45 EU), which ostensibly is a slightly stiffer lighter “more technical” synthetic boot similar to the Mont Blanc GTX (lineage is the ice climbing Scarpa Freney XT GTX).  All I can say is that in size 45 the Jorasses Pro GTX were quite a bit shorter (not narrower) and I could not really tell the difference in stiffness without climbing in them outside, but it is immediately apparent that the Mont Blanc GTX is a warmer boot meant for snowier climes.  And I trust in the durability of leather over synthetics in the long term usage of a mountain boot.  I realize this isn’t a pure ice climbing Winter boot here, but that wasn’t really what I was in the market for.

So that’s where I’m at right now.  Waiting for the ice & snow to come in.

Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX
Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX



Getting doored & handlebar shapes a New York rite of passage

So Zoe and I were having a lazy Saturday after having some Astoria coal fired thin crust pizza at a nice Italian place on Broadway and 29th called “Sac’s Pizza Place” (it was quite good) anyhow, we were biking back home down Broadway to Vernon Blvd. and there was a line of traffic probably heading to Cost Co. and just before making it to the light at the intersection WHAM! I was sprawled out on the ground, me and my ’72 Gitane. A nice older couple pulled over to offer assistance and add themselves as witnesses.  It was cold out and I was a bit worried about going into shock if I had broken anything.  

We weren’t riding very fast, and the guy in his BMW 528xi didn’t bother to check his mirror.  He clipped my right hand and handlebar and I managed to roll my left shoulder into the ground.  After the nice elderly couple gave me a piece of paper and pen, they gave me their name and number, I wrote down the BMW’s plate, went up to talk to him, asked him if he had insurance, he did.  Turns out he owned a Limo/Car Service place across the street.  He was just going to work.  I said, “Look it’s cold and I don’t think my hand is broken. I don’t want to file a police accident report here, I just want your name and number in case anything else is up. ”  So that was it.  Zoe and I walked halfway home, then rode a short section on 21st St.  We went to Lennox Hill Hospital to have the hand and wrist X-rayed.  Thankfully nothing appears to be broken.  I’ve iced it for the last few hours, kept it elevated and have a bandage on it.  Good times.  

Scotty, a guy who used to be messenger in the 80s and who I’ve worked on films with mentioned “getting doored” one day when he looked at my bike’s handlebars (which are chopped “preacher bars” like Soma Fab’s “Noah’s Arc Bar“) as they offer no hand protection.  He said that he always preferred drop bars on a track bike, as they offer some protection.  I thought about this, and figured that its better to have narrower bars than protection.  Well, after hitting the edge of a car door today with my right hand – I amend my position – I’d rather have handlebars that offer protection.  

Sadly, there just aren’t many that offer this.  European style Trekking bars are good, but quite wide (usually 57cm end-to-end) and they require a longer higher stem.  Also the fact is Trekking bars raise the dork quotient of your bike by about %1,000.  Scott Components used to make a mountain bike handlebar that fits the bill called the Scott AT-4 Pro, it was a continuously curved mountain bar.  Similarly, the shape I want is a curved flatbar (like my arc’ed preacher) that then curves back around the front in a U shape for each side, about 40 cm wide.  The Scott AT-3’s did this to some extent but I think it’s important for the curves to come pretty far in so that they don’t get caught objects while riding.  Anyhow, Rivendell and Velo-Orange don’t really sell bars for “aggressive urban” hand protection.  I’m taking a metal shop class at Pratt these next 8 weeks, so hopefully I’ll be able to make something to rectify this situation, otherwise I should probably throw on some drop handlebars.  


A Trekking Handle bar setup from Coweater on Flickr

Soma Fab's - Noah's Arc Bar

Arc, not so good for your hand on door

This sort of bar would protect your hands

This sort of bar would protect your hands

This one might get caught on stuff

This one might get caught on stuff