Mera Peak Footwear Question
May 31, 2016
Thought it might be worth a punt to drop you a line on kit for Mere Peak trek in October - such a lot of info on the inter web but lack of experience makes it difficult to distinguish the good from the bad! Going higher than previously (Everest Base camp), my focus is on gloves (I do suffer cold and poor circulation) and boots.
I’m awaiting a bigger size Spantik to try but am otherwise keen on the Boreal G1 lite. That said, I can appreciate the value of the Spantik’s unique lacing system over the boreal’s trad laces which might be liable to freeze? On the research front, I’m working my way through The Freedom of the Hills.
Can you recommend anything more specific on managing feet and health at altitude, to avoid frostbite etc? I would welcome your advice. BTW I’m a 43-year-old woman and run trail marathons so my fitness is good - now working on upper body strength.
First off although some people may scoff at using very warm boots on Mera (the Spantik and G1 would be classed as high altitude boots, or for very cold climbing), pointing out the mountains been climbed in single layer leather winter boots, it’s not as daft as it seems. People have been using very lightweight leather boots on all sorts of climbs, even on 8000-metre peaks, but then people have also summited Everest in almost nothing but their underwear. What you can get away with one day, using speed and experience, you may not get away with another day, leading to either failure or frost damage to your feet. Another factor of having light boots is that although you may get bragging rites on your return, that you climbed Denali only lightweight ski boots (as Kilian Jornet did), you don’t hear how much stress they had with cold feet the whole way. Worse still when you’re cutting gear to the bone you have no room for manoeuvre if things go wrong. If Kilian had fallen into a crevasse or slipped and slid off down the trail, or a storm had blown in, he’d have lost his feet, and maybe his life (it’s best not to try and emulate people like Jornet, Steck, Honnold etc ).
So either boot would be a good choice if you can afford it (you will be able to sell them on if you just want them for one trip), as you’ll not have to stress about cold feet and keep your feet safe and able to deal with any conditions you find. It’s also worth noting that even with these space-age boots you need to carry out good foot/boot care. This would include:
- Always sleep in dry socks and start the day with these (dry damp socks next to your skin).
- Sleep with your inner boots inside your sleeping bag (but never on your feet).
- Make sure your boots are not tight, and more socks are better than fewer socks!
- Keep your outer boots inside your tent, and ideally, use them as a pillow to stop them freezing.
- Try and time putting on your boots so you’re not stood around waiting (not always easy with guided groups).
- Don’t crank your boots up too tight.
- Stay hydrated as this will keep the blood flowing.
- Stay off the nicotine and alcohol as this makes you cold.
- Tape up your heals (micropore tape and gaffer tape) if your feet and not used to these boots
On the handwear front, this should be less crucial, just stay away from overly fancy gloves or gear that promises to have magical properties. The go to handwear should be mitts, with one very thick pair, and one thin paid (wool), and maybe a couple of pairs of fleece gloves for camp. A few hand warmers may help you worry about cold hands, but again it’s down to being well-fed and hydrated. Also using ski poles can help a little, as they elevate the hands (also make sure your wrists are covered well). Lastly, make sure the mitts are attached to your wrists with bungee loops or cord so they can’t be dropped or blown away (although you should always have spares).
I hope that helps and enjoy the trip (drop me an email to tell me how it went).