Italian gear maker Salewa recently introduced some of its footwear to the North American market. The company, like a European fusion of Black Diamond and North Face, sells everything from climbing gear to jackets and tents. For now, only a few shoe models in the mountaineering and approach genre are being offered stateside.
For a recent Mount Rainier climb, I tested Salewa’s Raven Combi GTX boot. It is advertised as a lightweight alpine boot said to be “100% blister free.” For me, the claim was certainly true. Over the course of my trip, I logged around 12 miles in the boots on snow and trails and never experienced so much as a hot-spot.
The Ravens cost $289 and weigh about the same as your average trekking boot. On Rainier, lighter feet meant more precise movements and salvaged energy. Flexible, neoprene cuffs allowed a freedom of movement and keep out snow. Super trick, tiny cam-devices keep laces tight over the toe-box — a nice feature if you get on technical terrain. Crampon compatible and GORE-TEX lined, these boots are a great pick for spring and summer alpine ascents.
Any drawbacks? This is really a subjective argument, but on Rainier, my guides asked that I wear plastic boots once we reached the glacier. Their concern was that the Ravens were not insulated enough in the event that we had to spend time sitting still on the mountain (such as in an unexpected emergency). So, I wore the Ravens as far as I could and then switched to plastic boots for the glacier travel and the summit.
Looking back, I wish I had just insisted on wearing the Salewas, as I feel they would have been perfect. Alas…
Indeed, the big plastic boots the guides recommended were far from optimal. Within an hour or so, the Asolo AFS 8000 rental boots were dishing out hotspots that soon became blisters.
As soon as I got the chance, I switched back to the Salewas. It was like putting pillows on my feet by comparison to the bulky Asolos. The offending plastic boots strapped to my pack, I fell in line and hiked off the mountain, satisfied with a successful summit and much happier feet. For out-of-the-box comfort, these tough little alpine boots are going to be hard to top.