It was an “interesting” winter in southcentral Alaska ice-climbing land (global climate change, hello people!), and about the only reason I had any fun is by testing out new boots in creative ways. The combination of crappy ice season and recovery from spinal surgery resulting from injuries most likely originating from an ice climbing injury in, oh, 2011, made for a season of major ups and downs. Biggest down: spinal surgery sucks a lot! Biggest up: these boots rock!
The sample boots were delivered in multiple sizes early in the season (and my recovery) so that I could select the best ones for my feets. Ice was not in abundance at that time, nor was it in the forecast. So at first I tested out the boots by clomping around in them on my carpeted stairs, kicking at the wall in an attempt to find the right size. Among the many pieces of great news about these boots is the fact that they are sized really well. That means you can just order your regular Euro size and your tootsies won’t be squeezed (some people claim to like tight ice climbing boots but ehhh not me). The fit is sort of long and skinny-ish, but even if your feet trend to the hobbit-like, there’s enough room in the toe box to keep things comfortable and the blood flowing. You could potentially toss these boots on a boot stretcher and have them punched out like ski boots (yes I do experiment with bold climbing boot fitting moves) if you have any hot spots, but you might also want to give them a little time to break in and see how they do.
It was a good while before I both felt good enough to really put these boots to the test and had ice and snow actually available to me during the mild winter. Rest assured that the walk capabilities of these boots were well-tested, as walking is great physical therapy for your spine, as it turns out. Between walks, I foisted the boots on all my mountain rescue partners, strapping them in and urging them to “climb that and then tell me what you think!” whether they liked it or not. This is actually a great test, because I live in a place in which my friends hang water hoses off of their cliffs in the winter (we live on cliffs) to make personal ice climbing parks. These are people who know what they’re talking about. They’re also people who were faster and stronger than me for a while this winter (anesthesia is weakening) so I had some trouble wresting the boots back from each tester, though I did get a good broad review base to draw from while writing this. Finally I came back to full strength and was able to pull of the boot recovery caper so that I could take the Weisshorns climbing, too.
My last pair of ice climbing boots were burly, but they paled in comparison thanks to the Weisshorn’s tall upper, which wasn’t something I would have known I would have liked until trying it. I love the way the extra height helps snug your heel back into the heel pocket. The other thing that helps with that is the adjustable tongues. Yes, you have to goof around with them a little bit, but once you get them dialed, the fit is fantastic. You can even take them entirely out if you really want a bunch more room. By some alchemy, the upper gives lots of support but also allows for enough flex to make walking comfortable, without having to Frankenstein flat-foot clompy-stomp your way across non-technical terrain. Of course, you’re going to have to strike a balance with your boots between comfort for long hauls and approaches, and stiffness for actual climbing, but I use an extremely rigid technical crampon for ice climbing that bridges any gaps anyway.
The lacing system on these babies is a huge win. With a combination of lace locks and ball-bearings, the wearer can adjust the fit of the boot to allow for glacier hiking, crampon-less approaches, and technical ice needs. The three sets of ball-bearing eyelets help distribute the lace pressure over the forefoot, and you can lock in the tension at the ankle with the lace lock. Then you’ll have one pass through eyelet and three hook eyelets up the ankle. If you can’t find a good fit with that system, well, uh, I just don’t know about you.
I admit these boots were a bit of a sleeper. There are other brands with a lot more exposure in the women’s mountaineering/ice climbing market. These boots are lighter and perform better than all of them. I didn’t know what to expect, and the Weisshorn’s exceeded my wildest dreams. Another cool note: the women’s version is the same color as the men’s version. Equal opportunity greenage in LOWA-land. Anyway, great boots. I love them and recommend them, above all for the toe wiggle room which, as I accumulate more and more “Alaska damage” to my appendages.