Walking boots are one of those bits of kit that climbers often overlook, but all walkers know how important they are, and have strong opinions on them. We've all seen people with the wrong pair, and the blisters that come with them, and after a few disasters of my own I was interested to try Mammut's latest offering for the B1 boot market – the Merlon GTX.
The first noticeable thing in their favour is that they don't look too 'red socks'. Nothing against leather walking boots (or red socks) but fashion matters on the mountain and these boots look pretty cool. The second key thing is that they are well shaped and, although fit is a personal thing, they were snug in all the right places (ankle and across the top of the foot), but have a reasonably big toe box, so there's room to wiggle your toes but not enough that your feet slide around.
"It's always a bit of a risk to say this, but I knew straight away that they weren't going to give me blisters, so I decided to chuck them in at the deep end and took them on a 5 week trip to Nepal for as thorough a test as you can give a boot."
The first few days we were passing through jungle and the boots were a bit too warm, but still breathed pretty well in the face of some heavy sweating. Once on the higher trails they were superb, with plenty of grip underfoot, and just the right amount of stiffness in the sole when walking on rough terrain. Mammut have also done a pretty good job of making the boots feel sturdy around the bottom, but also comfortable and almost trainer like around the ankle. This meant that they were pretty good at negotiating boulder fields (although obviously not as good as a B2 or B3 boot), and also comfy enough to walk around on good paths all day.
One of the most impressive aspects of the boot was just how consistently waterproof they were, even when faced with long periods of walking through wet grass or doing numerous river crossings. All boots are pretty waterproof, but these boots didn't let a drop in regardless of what I used them for – a key consideration if you're not going to be able to reproof them regularly. The boots are reasonably warm too, but not noticeably warmer or colder than most B1 boots.
One slight issue I found with the boot is that the lacing system can be a bit fiddly, and it is excellent for making your feet comfy, but the laces can get stuck in some of the little eyelets and it makes getting the boots on and off tricky. In particular it can be quite difficult to pull the laces clear of some of the eyelets when trying to loosen them, and it requires a bit more dexterity than you'd like when you have cold hands. Aside from that, it's tough to find many issues with these boots.
Comfy but tough, thoroughly waterproof and pretty trendy as well – a pretty impressive package all round.
What Mamut Say:
All round technical boots, Mammut's new alpine boots the Merlon GTX have been engineered to offer the precision needed to tackle walking, backpacking, scrambling and Via Ferrata routes, year-round.
The Merlon GTX use a combination of nubuck and synthetic leather as well as Dropstop textile so are tough. Being B1 these boots have enough flex to allow the wearer a full day's enjoyable walking or scrambling in the summer as well as adapting well to easy winter conditions. Both boots will also take a flexible walking C1 crampon with strap attachment.
A secure fit is assured through the asymmetric lacing and Base Fit technology. The asymmetric lacing has encompassed the foot's anatomy and as a result places more pressure on big toes giving the wearer greater precision. Mammut's patented Base Fit technology: a lacing configuration which sees laces being anchored at the sole, provides a more snug, bespoke fit, again, giving the wearer greater precision.
What else? Well, as you'd expect, this high-end boot features a water-resistant GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort Footwear membrane and a multifunctional vibram® Maton sole with integrated Climbing Zone.
Mammut has topped this technical offering off with an all-round rubber rand and a lightweight cushioning Poro wedge.
Sizes: 4 - 8.5 for women; 6.5 - 13 for men
Stockist info: 01625 508218, or visit www.mammut.ch
Charlie Boscoe is a skier and climber based in Chamonix. His popular blog on Chamonix climbing conditions is: chamconditions.blogspot.co.uk. He and his partner, Sharon Wray create and run expeditions to the Himalayas, Andes, Alps and Atlas Mountains, and offer bespoke expedition planning. See his website: www.mountainworldltd.com.