“Frostbite is Failure”
Interview with Adrian Ballinger:
A run-through of every climbing shoe and mountain boot in his arsenal.
Mountain guides may be the most shoe-obsessed people on the planet. From rock shoes to 8,000m boots, every shoe has an ultra-specific purpose. In this interview, Adrian walks us through his favorite La Sportiva footwear for each climbing discipline. Have you ever wanted to take a peek inside Adrian’s closet? This is your chance!
Tahoe Via Ferrata
“There are two reasons I really like this shoe for the Tahoe Via. Number 1, the sticky rubber sole is great for both when you’re on the natural rock and when you’re on on the metal rungs. And number 2, it’s a durable shoe, so it’s beefy without being heavy, and it has good support for your entire foot.”
Rock Climbing Donner on Summit
“The TC Pro is ideal for slab, to cracks, to everything in between on Donner Summit. It’s a supportive shoe so it’s easy to stand on edges or to jam your foot into cracks. The slightly higher upper offers good ankle protection for crack climbing. It sticks to EVERYTHING with the stickiest rubber out there, so it’s great for slabs too. I live in my TC Pro’s all the time when I’m in Tahoe or Yosemite, anytime I’m on granite.”
Gym Climbing at Mesa Rim
“For my gym shoe I really love the Skwama. It’s comfortable like a slip-on but it has a velcro closure so you feel really locked into it. It has an aggressive shape that great for edging, overhanging terrain and heel hooks- exactly what you need in order to use your feet effectively on steep terrain. I’ll use this shoe inside and also if I’m climbing something hard outdoors.”
High Sierra Alpine Climbing
“If I’m doing a long non-technical High Sierra Alpine Climb I choose the Akyra GTX. It’s a great trekking approach shoe. If I’m hitting snow on a trail or running through puddles, the Gortex really helps. The shoe is aggressive but still stable. It has a great sole for gripping mud and rock but still with plenty of padding for long days and long miles. If I have a more technical objective in the High Sierra, I might want to switch to a TX4 which is a little more nimble with a stickier sole.”
“I wear my approach shoe for the majority of Kilimanjaro until summit day, where you’ll need a boot with some warmth and ankle support. I like the Trango Tech GTX. It’s the stepping stone between a backpacking hiking boot and technical mountaineering boot. It’s perfect for that one big day up high.”
Ecuador Climbing School
“I would wear a La Sportiva G5 to the Ecuador Climbing School. It’s a single boot with an integrated gator. It’s super warm for being a single boot, great for 6,000m peaks. The lacing system is really simple and helps the boot to hug your foot while still giving you wiggle room for your toes. The integrated gator keeps snow out when you’re breaking trail. You can connect a variety of different types of crampons to the boot and feel really secure. The boot does well climbing highly technical waterfall ice as well as hiking. It’s one of my favorite boots out there. This is also the boot I would wear for something like Elbrus.”
“I’ll still wear an approach shoe sneaker like the Akyra GTX for some of the lower mountain days. Once we get higher on the mountain, warmth is really imperative while still being as lightweight as possible. Aconcagua is a REALLY cold mountain. So I go all-in with the G2SM boot. It’s a double boot with a really lightweight inner boot and then a stiff outer boot that can take a crampon for summit day. It’s got an integrated gaiter- so the whole system is waterproof, super warm, and still lightweight.”
Cho Oyu & Everest
“On Cho Oyu and Everest, or any 8000m peak, there’s really only one option- the single best big mountain boot I’ve ever seen. The newest version coming out this fall is the “La Sportiva Olympus Mons Cube.”
This is an ultra-warm boot that can go all the way to Everest and protect your toes. Frostbite is failure- so we really want to avoid that.
It’s a double boot so you can take the inner boot out to dry or wear it around camp. The outer boot is stiff, very warm, and has a high integrated gaiter that comes all the way up your calf so you’re not going to rip your down suit open while you’re climbing with crampons on.
AND the whole package still climbs well on technical terrain. You can still climb on the rock you’ll find on summit day on the Northside of Everest. It takes any sort of clip-on crampon, like a metal bailed crampon. When I put on the Olympus Mons, I have confidence that I can handle the most extreme conditions in the world. It’s a great boot.”