Charmoz GTX – Scarpa
I was fortunate enough to spend my alpine summer with a pair of Scarpa Charmoz GTX Mountaineering Boots to try out and pass my humble opinion on, and I have to say it was an experience I’d be only too happy to repeat. Aimed squarely at the mixed ground climber the boots take a B2 rated crampon, working particularly well with the Grivel Air Tech for mixed routes up to Grade 5. The midsole provides good support whilst the ¾ shank gives just enough flex to keep the approach comfortable. The Charmoz uses the recently introduced FT last, giving a good, precise, feel both when scrambling and climbing and the Vibram Mulaz sole with its plastic inserts for better traction on snow.
Where the Charmoz really excels is on true mixed ground, with constant switches between snow, rock and ice proving no problem. When you’ve got a snow slope followed by a rocky scramble then an ice pitch or two you need something that gives support, grip and traction reliably throughout, and inspires confidence. The waterproof breathable Gore-Tex membrane somehow managed to keep my feet dry even when post holing to knee deep on the ascent of Mont Blanc. Long hard walking on rocky paths felt comfortable which I attributed to the ¾-length shanks, and when it came to steeper icy routes it was simple to fit a pair of Newmatic crampons. The rigid soles and flexible uppers gave excellent support and the shape and fit gave all the precision needed for grade 5 ice and hard mixed climbing. I believe if you want one boot that does it all – or at least Alpine summer or Scottish winter, then look no further. When the mountain terrain changes every few hundred feet, take it all on with the versatile Charmoz GTX Mountaineering Boots.
Nick Parks – Mountain Guide
Glacier travel is not something that is possible to replicate easily in the UK and as many alpine excursions involve tackling glaciers, understanding the dangers of crevasses and falling ice cliffs and how to minimize the risk is essential. Crevasse rescue skills and prussiking can be simulated to a degree on rocky crags but there is no substitute for practicing on a glacier itself and this is highly recommended at the beginning of your first alpine visit.
Top tip: Understand the hazards and get to grips with all these new skills by undertaking an alpine course with a qualified mountain guide http://www.mountaintracks.co.uk/summer/introduction/alpine_101
Weather and clothing
Alpine weather is often extreme and can change very rapidly; in summer you can have snowfalls, dramatic thunderstorms and sweltering temperatures all in the same day even at moderate heights. This means you have to be well equipped to cope with all eventualities not only with the skills but also with the right kit. In recent years there have been significant advances in outdoor clothing technology and my recommended solution to coping with Alpine weather is to use a layering system.
Starry skies as you leave the hut often belie the afternoon realities of alpine climbing, take climbing Mont Blanc du Tacul for instance. Absorbed in the colossal North facing glacial approach you don’t see the thunderheads rolling in from Italy until it’s too late. The early start means you may have to cope with a bone chilling wind, your efforts in the mid-morning sun have you sweating and then bang you have to try to out-race the showers. So lightweight layering is the only way to cope with the absurdity of it all.
It’s a three-hour uphill grind to the summit so you need effective base layers to evaporate your sweat the whole way. When the wind kicks up your Wind Jacket’s hanging mesh liner adds warmth and facilitates wicking, while its shell blocks wind and sheds moisture. The entire time, light, hard-working Simple Guide Pants breathe, protect, and dry in a snap. When the afternoon storm hits you find shelter, that’s when the down jacket becomes a reassuring heater. If afternoon showers catch you a back-up hard shell stashed in your rucksack keeps you dry.
Certainly for climbers it is a jump up in lots of ways and there’s a learning curve everyone must follow. A sense of urgency is vital and at all times you must remain alert and aware of the potential pitfalls. For most of us alpine trips have a tendency to throw up the odd hiccup, mercifully not too serious, and dealing with hardships; caught out in a storm; benighted high up; sun burn; dehydration and exhaustion are weirdly in retrospect all part of why we do it. Remember the Alps are daunting and rightly so but they are awesome too and worth taking those steps for.
Nick Parks is a leading British Ski and Mountain Guide who has been guiding parties for 25 years in mountain ranges across the globe. Particularly well known in the ski industry Nick is also a highly regarded safety expert to the adventure film industry. A keen photographer he contributes regularly to outdoor magazines and professional publications.
“Things are warming up for the our film crew here in Vietnam as we get close to the start of our shoot. So it was a welcome break for me to shower and cool off in one of the beautiful gorges here and a chance to really test my Keen sandals. Well I have to report they stood up superbly giving me great grip in the raging torrent and the confidence i needed to execute our stunt rehearsals”
We’ve stopped asking him currently as we are all completely jealous! Suffice to say, we think he is road testing them fully now ;)
Here at Webtogs, we are lucky enough to have some fairly gnarly mates, and they don’t come any gnarlier than Keiths buddy Nick Parks (not be confused with Aardman animation!) Nick is a full IFMGA Mountain Guide, and has been leading mountain expeditions on skis and on foot for almost 20 years, journeying with his clients to some of the most remote corners of the globe.
He’s currently helping out Bear Grylls in charge of rope safety, mountain safety etc for everyone on the new series. Whilst he is out filming, we asked him to test some gear for us in some of the toughest environments that Planet Earth can offer. We gave him some Keen H2 Sandals and Icebreaker socks to use & abuse, today we received this missive back from Vietnam where they are filming at the moment.
“Now my first despatch on the Keen sandals and Icebreaker sox…. first off a quick weather report so your readers can appreciate the conditions I’m testing these under. Vietnam is about to enter its rainy season, which means temperatures and humidity are at their highest, I can only describe it similar to being in a warm shower! Sweat is just pouring off us, our shirts are drenched, the only respite is in the a/c of the restaurants or from the rush of air travelling aboard our 4 wheel drives.
Sandals first, very impressed, super comfortable, no rubbing which is so often a problem in high humidity. The insole claims to be odor preventing and so far, admittedly only 3 days, that’s true. This is highly significant as I’ve never had a pair of shoes or sandals that didn’t honk to high heaven from day one! This afternoon we scrambled around on the boulders next to the Saigon river and they felt very secure. I particularly like the protection offered by the chunky toe piece, not that I’ve tested this feature but if I do inadvertently
kick a rock ‘m confident I won’t lose my toe nails!
Sox, equally impressive.. I was dreading pulling on boots and sox in this temperature although admittedly I did this under my room fan. Beautifully comfortable in my very basic jungle boots providing much needed cushioning. They stayed this way throughout a hot jungle yomp, never got sweaty and where even dry and not smelly! when I pulled them off 8 hours later! But most impressive I was the only person out of our group of nine whose sox weren’t penetrated by leeches, I’m not sure if Icebreaker advertise this fact… maybe they should.”
We’ll have more from Nick over the coming weeks as filming progress. We’re sending him some icebreaker boxers to make sure the leeches don’t go anywhere else they shouldn’t!