Light and versatile, Asolo's Freney XT is a B2 boot with the weight and comfort of a B1, says Tom Ripley
At first sight the Freney XT looks like Asolo's take on a classic B1 boot – think Scarpa Charmoz or La Sportiva Trango Tower. Pick them up and they're fantastically light. It isn't until one tries to flex the sole that you realise how stiff they are – noticeably stiffer than a traditional B1 boot, bumping these into more of the B2 category. This stiffness, combined with the super sticky Vibram sole, makes the Freney XT excellent for climbing as well as supportive for long days on your feet on tough terrain.
The Freney XT are fantastically light for a scrambling boot. According to my digital kitchen scales, my pair, in size 43.5, weighs 1060g for the pair. Unusually this is over 100g per boot lighter than the quoted weight on the Asolo website, but perhaps they included footbeds while I did not. To put this into context my La Sportiva Trango Towers and Trango Cubes weigh 1160g per pair (also weighed without footbeds).
In mountain boots I normally size between 43 and 44. Having never used Asolo boots before and with no local stockist I opted for a size 43.5. I lucked out and they fitted well straight out of the box. However, as with all climbing footwear, I would strongly recommend trying them on before purchasing. No matter how sexy a boot looks, if they don't fit they're next to useless. Asolo have reputation for producing narrow footwear and with middling to wildish feet, I was nervous that they wouldn't fit at all. Thankfully the lacing around the forefoot is adjustable enough to accommodate feet of varying width, and they fit me great. Very broad-footed users might need to try them on extra carefully in the shop though. One thing to note is that this boot only comes in a male-specific last - it's one of the few Alpine boots that Asolo make only for men.
The Uppers of the Freney XT are made from a mix of a water resistant fabric from Scholler called K-Tech, with synthetic microfibre placed at points where the upper needs structure - for example, where the eyelets for laces are attached. I have been pretty impressed with the durability of the uppers and despite my best efforts to shove them in every rhyolite crack I've come across they still look like new. The Freney are lined with Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort. This is a fully waterproof, breathable, and allegedly lightly insulated, liner that does a great job of keeping my feet warm and dryish. I have only tested the Freney XT during the summer and autumn months and haven't noticed them being particularly hot, compared to other similar boots I have used. That said I'm sure they are plenty warm enough for Scottish winter walking and easier climbing, as well as summer alpinism, and I wouldn't hesitate to use them for that.
One of the little details I really like are the webbing loops on the back of the boot. In addition to their primary purpose, pulling the boots on, these loops allow the boots to be clipped to the back of the harness, like one would with approach shoes - handy on a big mountain day, when you might want to change into rock shoes for a few pitches to speed things up. The only real difference here is that rather than clip both together, like you would with approach shoes, I find it is better to clip one boot to each rear gear loop. That way they don't get in the way as much and weight is more evenly distributed. This would be a good strategy to employ on a long alpine rock route.
Underfoot is a very sticky Vibram Mulaz sole. This seems to be the industry standard for scrambling boots (Scarpa and Sportiva both use it on some of their similar models too). I've used this sole extensively on other boots and have always been impressed with how well it climbs, offering superb traction on the rock. The climbing performance is particularly noticeable on the Freney XT as it is stiffer than other similar boots, making it superior for edging and more stable on smaller holds. The extra stiffness in the Freney XT is largely thanks to the Carbon Fibre lasting board, which is very light and very, very stiff. The only negative here is that Asolo have opted to use a very thin sole, roughly 4mm at the edge. Unfortunately the flipside to the rubber's excellent friction is that it is fairly soft. Combined with the thinness, this means it will wear out quite quickly, especially as the boot is so stiff - though it should be easy to get them resoled.
Climbing and scrambling performance
I have been really impressed with the scrambling and climbing performance on the Asolo Freney XT, having spent much of the last summer wearing them on everything from VS wall climbs through to boggy night navigation sessions in the rain. On rough, dry rock they are an absolute pleasure to climb in. On greasy damp rock they can be a little slippy, but I am yet to find any boot that is sticky on wet rock. The extra stiffness is a real boon when climbing, allowing much smaller holds to be used. This was particularly helpful when I led Kirkus' Climb in Cwm Lloer in them last summer. The steep offwidth crack has some small footholds on the right wall; I was very glad that I was confidently able to utilise these, wearing my Freney XTs, especially as my biggest piece of gear (a gold Camalot) was some distance below me by this point.
There are TPU inserts at the rear of the Freney XT (but only at the rear) which allow any crampon with a rear heal clip (and front cradle) to be fitted to the boots. I haven't yet had a chance to test the boots using crampons, but I did fit a couple of my pairs to them no problem. One of the advantages of the extra stiffness you'd expect from a B2, compared to a B1, is that it gives a more secure crampon fit, meaning these boots will be more appropriate for winter climbing. Think Scottish III and IV, rather than just I and II - though bear in mind in the larger sizes that the increased leverage on the sole is likely to have a bearing on how stiff and winter-climbing-capable they feel.
In summary the Asolo Freney XT is a lightweight, stiff boot that's ideal for everything from UK winter walking and winter mountaineering, through Alpine summer to via ferrata, scrambling and the more demaning sort of trekking route. As long as their relatively narrow last fits your feet, they're a perfect all-rounder. The extra stiffness significantly improves their edging performance and crampon compatibility. Whilst they wouldn't be my go-to boot for Scottish winter climbing, they will certainly work well in the lower grades. My only reservation is that the Vibram Mulaz sole is very thin and will wear out quickly, making me wonder if at £320 this boot represents the best value for money.
The right choice in terms of lighteness and technology. A revolutionnary compact boot, able to guarantee maximum performance and agility. Water-resistant Schoeller K-Tech upper. Insulated, waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex® lining. Provided with a Vibram outsole offering maximum support and torsonial stability, adaptable to semi-automatic crampons.
Recommended for : Technical climbing, Via Ferrate, demanding Trekking.
- Price: £320
- Sizes: UK 6 - 13.5 (men only)
- Upper: Water Resistant Schoeller K-Tech Micro Tech + Microfiber
- Lining: Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort Footwear
- Lasting board: Duo Asoflex Ascent in Carbon Fibre + EVA
- Anatomic footbed: Lite 3
- Sole: Vibram 1229 Mulaz + Dual Density Microporous Midsole + PU Heel + TPU Crampons Insert
- Weight: 640g (1/2 pair UK size 8)
- Made in Italy
For more info see asolo.com
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