La Sportiva Baruntse ReviewFebruary 13, 2015
- Synthetic double boot built for 6,000-7,000m peaks (Denali & Aconcagua)
- Heat moldable inner boot for custom fit
- Allows for agile footwork compared to traditional plastic boots
- Compatible with all styles of crampon fitment (universal strap, automatic and semi-automatic)
- Not as durable compared to double plastic boots
- Does not have a built in gaiter
- Not the best choice for technical mountaineering terrain (steep ice)
The La Sportiva Baruntse is well suited for climbing moderate routes in cold weather such as Denali’s West Buttress, Mt. Elbrus and early spring on Mt. Rainier. Thanks to near custom fit delivered by the heat-moldable inner boots, the La Sportiva Baruntse proved very comfortable, unlike many rigid climbing boots. The boot is priced appropriately for its performance in the 6-7,000m category.
The La Sportiva Baruntse’s design fits a variety of feet thanks to a heat-moldable inner boot. If heat molding isn’t practical, the inner boot can be worn into a custom-fit shape over the course of a few climbing trips. However, I would recommend taking it to a ski shop for custom molding. The footbeds included with the boot are less than ideal, so I suggest selecting an aftermarket footbed. This not only adds warmth and takes up volume if needed, but it also provides extra support on those long days moving up the mountain. With the molded inner boot and a pair of quality aftermarket footbeds, I never dread putting on the Baruntse in the mornings.
I wore the La Sportiva Baruntse for five weeks on Denali, 40 days on scree-plagued Aconcagua, and for countless climbs of Rainier’s Disappointment Cleaver route in early and late conditions. The boot lacks durability in the transparent polyurethane film found above the black rubber rand. One a small tear or abrasion mars this material, snow and rocks start to get inside and the separation spreads. This can be remedied with Kg’s Boot Guard, a protective seal that can be painted onto these areas, but it is a point of concern. The Vibram soles are thick and with the combination of snow and crampons the soles experience only light wear.
Not all boot lasts will fit everyone’s feet. A common assumption is that a mountaineering boot can be broken in like hiking boots, making them less rigid. Not so. Mountaineering boots are designed to have a rigid sole and shank so that you can kick steps in the snow and crampon effectively. But that rigidity can make them uncomfortable. Not so the Baruntse. With the liners molded to your feet and an after market footbed, the La Sportiva Baruntse proved extremely warm and enjoyable for climbing. The liners do get damp from sweat and should be removed to dry in the sun and then placed in the bottom of your sleeping bag overnight to keep them warm and to help dry them for the morning.
The Baruntse shell is built with multiple layers to provide insulation and protection from wind, snow and rock. The inside of the shell is built of material that insulates your feet from the cold ground and retains ambient body heat produced by your feet. The insole of the boot uses aluminum insulation to reflect infrared rays back to your feet. A final layer of heat protection comes from the removable inner boot made of moldable EVA foam that has a durable Cordura face fabric. The Baruntse kept my feet warm while guiding at 20,000+ feet on Denali and Aconcagua.
The Vibram Montagna sole does what it was intended to do: Kick good platforms in snow to provide climbers with traction when not wearing crampons while resisting abuse. The traditional lacing of the outer boot is nothing special, however the patented speed lace system on the inner boot is a great addition. This feature allows working with the inner boot while wearing big gloves in cold weather. Baruntse is not the boot you want to take to Ouray, Colorado, for ice climbing but it will take you to the summit of Denali!