UKC

Salewa Vultur Vertical GTX Boots Review

© Dan Bailey

They're no lightweights, but the Vultur Vertical GTX are superb solid B3 boots, which combine warmth, comfort and technical performance, says Dan Bailey.


With big and awkward-to-fit feet I've had a long and difficult relationship with winter boots. Few brands or models over the years have really been a perfect fit, a situation exacerbated by the fact that two Italian names between them seem to dominate the UK market. I've nothing against either (except that I often find them too narrow), but there are many more makes out there - and in my experience among the best for a broader foot is Salewa.

We covered the Vultur Evo GTX in our bumper test of B1/B2 boots back in February 2019, finding them solid, supportive and generous-fitting. Having got on very well with those, I went straight away to take a look at the more technical Vultur Vertical GTX. However the combination of injury and a crap late season limited what I could do with them, until winter reasserted itself in November 2019. So this has been a long-drawn-out test. But they still haven't been out on ice. Here's hoping...

Solid rand, synthetic upper, integrated gaiter and super-chunky sole unit - the makings of an excellent B3 boot  © Dan Bailey
Solid rand, synthetic upper, integrated gaiter and super-chunky sole unit - the makings of an excellent B3 boot
© Dan Bailey

In terms of design, this boot clearly looks like an evolution from Salewa's old Vertical Pro. That boot had the interesting ability to switch between a more flexible walking mode and a stiffer climbing mode. The Vultur Evo GTX doesn't have this feature, but does share other similarities:

Weight and build quality

On my kitchen scales I make them 2306g for a pair of size 47/12 (including the two footbeds supplied). You really wouldn't class the Vultur Vertical as lightweight by the standards of modern technical mountain boots, and they're more comparable with a work horse such as the new Scarpa Mt Blanc Pro (2220g/pair size 47, review pending) than a stripped-back model such as the La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube (1758g/pair size 47). However I am no lightweight myself and I find them comfy enough that the weight doesn't bother me on walking ground, while the flex of the ankle makes up for it when climbing.

They're nice and warm for snowy days  © Kevin Woods
They're nice and warm for snowy days
© Kevin Woods

Overall they have a tough, well-built feel, and though I've only had them out for something like seven full days so far, I'd certainly be confident in their longevity. If saving weight is a priority then you could do better elsewhere, but for me solidity, support and the likelihood of a good long life are key in a pair of winter boots.

Fit

I am a bit taken aback to discover that Salewa don't do this boot in a women's/low volume fit, but only the high volume 'male' version. The size range from 6-12 should cover most men, and I guess some larger-footed women too; but it's disappointing that in 2020 they didn't feel a women's-specific model would have been a worthwhile investment. If they want Salewa, people with smaller/lower volume feet will have to settle for the B2 Vultur EVO - a good boot, but by definition less climbing-oriented.

Let's state the obvious: no boot will fit everyone equally well. Always try before you buy, and take my thoughts on the fit as general guidance rather than gospel.

As per other Salewa mountain boots I've reviewed over the years, the Vultur Vertical are wide-fitting overall. At the front they are less aggressively asymmetric than some technical winter boots, and this suits my broad-toed foot. But even still my little toe is only just OK with the outside curve of the boot, and I have to take some care with my combination of insoles and socks to avoid a bit of mild toe strike when walking downhill.

A nice solid boot for general mountaineering  © Dan Bailey
A nice solid boot for general mountaineering
© Dan Bailey

And good for mixed climbing too  © Dan Bailey
And good for mixed climbing too
© Dan Bailey

There's a fair bit of volume in these boots - more so at the front, which is good for some toe wiggle room (important in cold conditions), while in the midfoot the fit feels slightly snugger - a combination I've got on well with. Salewa provide two footbeds. Both are cheapo floppy bits of foam, and nothing to write home about. However if you want to reduce the volume, and to an extent the width, then you can double these up. However the two together do create a lot of bulk under the arch, which I find uncomfortable, so I've swapped one of Salewa's for a flat insole culled from elsewhere.

At the rear the fit is closer, with deep padding that holds the foot firmly and comfortably in position, cupping the heel without putting pressure on the achilles. When walking I've suffered no rubbing at all in these boots, while for climbing the locked-down feel at the rear means no danger of heel lift.

Lacing extends down to the toe, giving you a decent amount of play in terms of tightness/looseness right to the front of the foot. With two sets of locking eyelets, you can vary the fit for different parts of the foot. I generally tighten right up when climbing, and relax things a bit for walking. A wrap-around tongue makes for a close fit across the top of the foot, with no danger of the tongue slipping to one side or developing a ridge, as you often get on a traditional floating tongue design.

Trying them on a spring mountain day in Glen Coe  © Dan Bailey
Trying them on a spring mountain day in Glen Coe
© Dan Bailey

Overall I've found these boots really comfy for big Scottish walk-ins and long winter hill days, of which they've now done a few. A boot that feels capable and nimble for climbing, while remaining comfortable when you're on your feet for hours, is quite a hard double act to pull off - and for me the Vultur Vertical strikes this balance just right.

Uppers

With a combination of leather-look microfibre and Kevlar-like 'Superfabric' the all-synthetic uppers feel both tough and very protective. The high all-round rand adds an extra layer of protection, though on my pair the rand has already started showing signs of abuse (better the rand than the fabric beneath). Overall this is a hard, almost shell-like model, which makes your foot feel well armoured - just what you want when walking on rough terrain, for kicking steps into snow or front pointing on steep ground. It's quite a bulky boot though.

However that rigid lower boot ends at the ankle cuff. Soft and giving, this 'Flex Collar' allows a really good range of movement, so footwork on more fiddly terrain does not feel clumsy or compromised. I've worn a lot of winter boots over the years, and I think this is one of the best collars for ankle freedom. In theory the downside of this is less side support when traversing steep snow slopes, or to help prevent rolling an ankle on uneven terrain - but I've not yet noticed either being an issue in real world use. While the cuff is quite high, a deep cut-out at the rear helps take pressure off the achilles, and contributes to the flexibility. A stretchy mini gaiter then seals it all up around the top of the cuff. This keeps loose snow out very effectively, and most of the time I've got by without an additional gaiter. I always avoid them if possible, though I doubt the integral gaiter would properly be a match for stream crossings or Scottish bogs.

Giving them some early season action on Creagan Cha-no  © Kevin Woods
Giving them some early season action on Creagan Cha-no
© Kevin Woods

Inside you get a Gore-Tex Duratherm XL waterproof-breathable membrane. As you might hope given its weight, this is a good warm boot, and while I've occasionally felt chilly in my body this winter, I've yet to suffer cold toes in the Vultur Vertical. Noticeably warmer than lightweights in my gear cupboard like La Sportiva's Trango Ice Cube, I think the insulation is spot on for Scottish winter - though I guess that would make them a bit toasty for alpine summers!

Sole

If you like a chunky winter sole then you've come to the right place. The Vibram 'Salewa Pro' outsole is one of the beefiest I've used, with really deep lugs for bite into hard-ish snow, and a massive heel breast for downhill traction. There's a bit of flat climbing-zone at the toe in case you ever did want to climb rock in them sans crampons. It's an excellent winter-worthy outsole for Scottish rough stuff, but for one big caveat - it doesn't seem that hard-wearing. After only light use, admittedly a lot of if below the snow line, the toe edges are already visibly worn, while the plastic midsole is also getting a bit chewed up at the front.

The sole's deep lugs bite well into hard snow  © Dan Bailey
The sole's deep lugs bite well into hard snow
© Dan Bailey

For walking, all stiff boots need a bit of a rocker (or upturn) at the toe. The Vultur Vertical's rocker is less pronounced than some, but I've not found them too clumpy despite this - perhaps thanks to the ankle flex. The advantage of less upturn is that it tends to make it easier to pair the boot with more models of crampon.

So far I've used the Vultur Vertical with only one C3 crampon with a wire toe bail, the Edelrid Beast (review pending). These give a perfect secure fit with plenty of front point showing. They also marry very well with my old Petzl Sarkens with a rubber front cradle; however the boot toe is too broad for an ideal fit with my Grivel Air Techs (also with a plastic front cradle).

For a techy winter boot, I've found them very comfy for long days on your feet  © Dan Bailey
For a techy winter boot, I've found them very comfy for long days on your feet
© Dan Bailey

Even in my hefty size 47s, with the added leverage of their length, the nylon/fibreglass midsole is good and stiff, providing a secure platform for front pointing. Don't expect much shock absorption though, when trudging along hard-packed tracks.

Summary

Warm, supportive and protective, these solid B3 boots are far from lightweight, but thanks to their excellent flexible collar they still feel surprisingly nimble for climbing. Compared to some aggressively techy boots their more generous fit may particularly suit wider-footed users, and personally I've found them really comfy on long walk-ins and snowy Munro days. Quality mountain boots don't come cheap, so I think the £360 price tag for the Vultur Vertical GTX is quite a bargain. I'll be wearing them out of choice long after this review has been published, and I guess that's a pretty decent endorsement.

Salewa say:

Our Vultur Vertical GTX is an extremely robust high-cut boot. For mixed routes and ice climbing, the stiff nylon insole, ergonomic Pebax® midsole and Vibram® SALEWA PRO outsole provide compatibility with full-automatic/ step-in crampons (i.e. there is a heel and toe welt), while still allowing good walkability.

Inside, the breathable GORE-TEX® Duratherm XL® membrane will keep your feet and toes super dry and warm even in colder conditions. Customizable fit technologies allow you to tailor your boots to the unique shape of your foot. Climbing Lacing offers accurate adjustment in the toe-area for greater climbing precision. Our trademark SALEWA 3F System connects the instep area with the sole and heel, ensuring flexibility and support. The multi-layer MFF+ footbed allows customization with two interchangeable layers. And the Flex Collar increases the ankle's rear range of motion and comfort during descents.

  • Sizes: 6 - 12 (men's only)
  • Weight: 2306g/pair size 47
  • Fit: wide
  • Insole: Stiff: Nylon + 27% Fiberglass
  • Lining: GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort (Duratherm XL)
  • Outsole: Vibram SALEWA PRO
  • Upper: 360° full rubber rand / Microfiber / Superfabric

  • CSR: Fair Wear Foundation
  • 3D-Lacing
  • Climbing Lacing
  • MFF+
  • Cleansport NXT ®
  • Overlap Closing
  • Flex Collar

For more info see salewa.com



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