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Developed from high altitude expedition boots, lightweight synthetic winter climbing boots with an integral gaiter are now firm favourites of many climbers (myself included) for Scottish winter, icefall and alpine climbing. These boots offer a simple all in one package (no additional gaiters required), are generally lighter than equivalent more traditional leather boots, require no breaking in, and are precise and nimble to climb in.
Having merged with Swiss boot maker Raichle a few years back, Mammut are the latest to join the party in the form of the Eiger Extreme Nordwand (yes we get the picture) boots. These follow the same general design as other manufacturers' models: a non-removable synthetic, insulated inner boot, kept away from the elements by a waterproof fitted zip-up gaiter.
So, other than a different colour scheme, what does the Nordwand offer in comparison to the other models out there - namely Scarpa's Phantom Guide and La Sportiva's Batura? Basic fit-wise, all feet are different, all I can comment is that the Nordwand and Phantom fit pretty similarly, while the Batura feels a bit narrower so I personally find them a bit less comfortable. Weight-wise, there's little between them, with all coming in at around the 1800g mark for size UK8. Price-wise, the Nordwand (at £450 RRP) tops the pile by £50 more, but you do get a bit more for your money...
"Other than a different colour scheme, what does the Nordwand offer in comparison to Scarpa's Phantom Guide and La Sportiva's Batura?"
First, while the Nordwand remain very neat and compact, and don't feel at all chunky, they are a good bit warmer. I'm not sure I'd wish to spend much time at the Mammut rated -35° C, but they certainly feel warm enough for winter alpine days, sitting somewhere in warmth between the Phantom/Batura, and chunkier double boots like the Phantom 6000 or Sportiva Spantik.
Second, the inner boot fastening design is much much better than its rivals. Instead of relying solely on skinny laces, which even with lace locks, shift, slip and loosen throughout the day, the Nordwand uses laces around the foot, and a ski-boot-esque Velcro strap around the ankle. Protected by the gaiter this doesn't clog with snow, and doesn't loosen with motion so the fit you set is the fit you keep for the day. This is particularly noticeable when front-pointing, where the Nordwand gives much more solid support, while still remaining very flexible and nimble on mixed routes. The tongue and heel of the inner boot also feature well sized grab loops making pulling the boots on with cold hands a doddle. Top marks all round!
"The Nordwand remain very neat and compact, and don't feel at all chunky, but are a good bit warmer..."
Moving onto the gaiter, the material is suitably tough, showing no damage from granite boulder field tussles, and is well protected on the inner foot - generally where the most punishment is taken - by a high rubber rand. The YKK drysuit zip has worked perfectly, sliding easily and keeping moisture out. I do have a couple of niggles about the gaiter, however. First, the stitched on 'Mammut' logo has the slight downside of putting a few thousand holes in the waterproof gaiter, allowing a bit of water ingress when fully immersed in Scottish bog, though this can easily be rectified with a hefty application of seam sealer. Second, for reasons that escape me, the top of the gaiter does not feature a drawcord to cinch it tight. There is an elastic hem, but this is too slack unless you have Chris Hoy sized calves. This isn't a massive problem if the boots are worn under trousers, but is a bit irritating when approaching in leggings and doesn't enable the Boswell TM youth on fire tucked in trouser method.
"The stitched 'Mammut' logo has the slight downside of putting a few thousand holes in the waterproof gaiter..."
The sole is relatively straight, so all the crampons (G20, Dart, Terminator, G14) I tried fitted very securely unlike on some of the more asymmetric soles on other boots. The carbon midsole makes them very rigid so there are no problems using full clip on crampons. The tread on the sole is suitably deep for decent grip, but there is less rubber depth (a compromise on weight) than on some other boots so they might not last as many seasons of rocky walk-ins. That said, the sole design is of the type that is very simple to replace if required. From brief scrambling experience, they rock climb very well - as with most rigid boots, they edge brilliantly, and the low profile (than the more rounded Scarpa and Sportiva) rubber reinforced toe gives lots of grip in cracks.
Excellent lightweight winter climbing boots. A notch warmer than similar models and with a superb lace system and Velcro strap inner boot fastening system giving a very secure hold of the foot. The lack of a drawcord around the gaiter is a bit of an oversight, but all in all an impressive and capable package.
About Viv Scott
I've been climbing for a bit over ten years, and am currently based in Edinburgh having escaped from the southern flatlands. Climbing highs include Scottish winter climbing, a couple of trips to the Alaska Range, classic alpine routes, sunny ski touring, cragging in the UK and abroad, and beers and craic in the pub afterwards. Lows include Scottish winter climbing, alpine bivies, base camp blues, midges and the UK weather... I guess I'd like to be a jack of all trades and I'm definitely a master of none, but most enjoy the great variety of climbing and look forward to trips back to old favourites and hopefully many new and different places.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by vscott: