The time came for me to get a pair of winter walking boots - my Zamberlan Fell-Lite sadly weren't up to the job. But what about my wallet? Boots are expensive, aren't they? With that in mind, I went looking for some 3-4 season boots, which I could use up in Scotland but use the rest of the year as well. For features and price, I found La Sportiva's Makalu boots to be good enough. They are 3-4 season, which means they are strong and rigid enough to take crampons, but still give enough flex for comfortable walking. As with all winter boots, the Makalu boots do tend to rub at my heels, so an extra pair of socks goes on. This is as could be expected though, as they need to be fairly stiff. They take grade C1 crampons, which are good enough for crossing areas of snow and ice. This is OK for me, as I'm not planning to do any climbing in them. For that, you would need grade C2 or C3. ( -> see update at bottom of page) A very handy feature on these boots is the lace locks - as you pull the laces tight, two of the eyelets lock the laces so they don't loosen as you walk. I had to mess around with this at first, because if I locked the laces too tight then the laces pressed into my foot. A bit of adjustment sorted that out. The ankle supports are very comfortable, going past the ankle and giving a tight fit, but the ankle cuff has a lot of padding. The outer of the boots are made water-tight, the only stitching being at the heel counter and around the top of the laces. The newer Makalu model also has a Goretex lining for complete waterproofing. The only problem I've found with these boots so far (after 8 walks) is the soles - I don't know if it's because they aren't Vibram, but they do seem heavy. Each boot weighs in at 1.9kg. It's not too noticeable, except at the end of a tiring walk. But then it's always like that! As with any boot, the leather/suede
of these boots needs treatment. La Sportiva recommend Nikwax Fabric & Leather, which only costs £3 per bottle. It's liquid-based, so it goes on easily. ** Update : 10/1/2001 ** My boots have just been put to the test in Scotland, so I'll add some more regarding crampons and the sole. These boots will take step-in crampons, with having lugs at the toe and heel for the cam which locks the crampon on. Having said that, I used strap-on crampons which again the boots were suitable for. These boots can only take grade C1 crampons - the front and back halves are connected by a slightly flexible bar. Grade C2 and C3 are more rigid for walks on which you'd be doing a lot of front-pointing - using the spikes which point forwards to go up very steep ice. The soles are designed to be able to kick steps and grip hard snow (not sure about ice though), and that's what they did. The only problem was me - I wasn't very confident when I saw how far I'd fall if I slipped! The times I braved it and used the boot edges, they did what they claimed to do and gripped the slope. On another note, they are properly broken in now after a few months of walking, and the problem regarding blisters on my heels has gone, thankfully. ** Update : 11/1/2001 ** Also I forgot to mention the waterproofness. A few times during walks I've had to cross streams. Sometimes my foot is underwater for up to a minute, and other than water going in over the top of the boot, my feet stay completely dry. So it was worth spending the extra money for the goretex model.