Pros and Cons
Filed under:Footwear, Gear reviews, Mountaineering Boots, boots, Cube, La Sportiva, Mountaineering boots, Nepal
Will Harris takes a look at the latest version of La Sportiva’s popular winter and alpine workhorse, the Nepal…
The Nepal Cube’s are the latest in a long line of ‘Nepal’ boots in the Sportiva range. These distinctively yellow boots, in their various guises, have been a staple for Scottish winter mountaineers and alpine climbers for the last couple of decades, and for good reason. Whilst there are arguably better boots for some of the tasks that are asked of the Nepals, as a versatile and hardwearing boot they are extremely hard to beat.
I used a pair of the 2018 version of the Nepal Cube over the 2018/19 Scottish winter season, before testing out the new 2019 version of the boot this summer whilst guiding in the Alps. Whilst there have been some changes between the versions, particularly around the ankle cuffs, they are similar enough for a review to be based on experiences of using both.
On rocky, scrambling ground the boots can feel somewhat ‘clumpy’ and imprecise, especially when compared to something more suited to the job like the Sportiva Trango Cubes. In cold weather I would go for the reassuring warmth of the Nepals on a predominantly rocky ridge, but when conditions allow would opt for something lighter and more dextrous every time. The Nepals wouldn’t be a good choice for something like the Cuillin Ridge under summer conditions, feeling overkill in both warmth and stiffness.
It’s for snowy mountaineering that the Nepals really come into their own. Out on the hill they are reassuringly stiff, making it easy to kick steps in firm snow and giving a secure, comforting stability when wearing crampons. They work well for winter mountaineering in Scotland, and are equally at home on snowy 4000m peaks in the Alps. When climbing steep ice and mixed routes I find that they feel less precise than a more technical, climbing- focused boot such as the Scarpa Phantom Guide, but this is less of an issue on easier climbing and mountaineering ground up to Scottish grade V. I’ve used used a variety of crampons from Black Diamond, Petzl and Grivel with these boots and found them to all fit well.
The Nepals have a soft, foamy and slightly elasticated trim to the top of the ankle cuff which does work to keep snow out, but in particularly snowy conditions I used separate gaitors to make sure that no moisture would get in. This was a reversion to the old-school for me, as in recent years I’ve used boots with integral gaitors, such as the Phantom Guides. Whether to go for an integral gaitor or not will be down to personal choice. For me a modern boot with built-in gaitors makes more sense if you’re going to spend lots of time in the damp Scottish West Coast climate, with the gaitorless design more appropriate for the drier alpine summer.
Warmth-wise, I’m yet to have cold feet in these boots despite being out in some wild weather in the Scottish winter and having summited Mont Blanc early in the morning whilst wearing them on a couple of occasions. As a summer alpine boot they can feel too warm during the hottest months, particularly at lower elevations, but they will work. Both the 2018 and ’19 versions of the boot were comfortable to wear from their first outings. They have a secure, cupped heel that works well in reducing heel-lift, with a lacing system allowing for separate tightening of the upper and lower sections of the boot. The toe/foot box feels large enough to accommodate a more voluminous foot.
After significant amounts of use through the Scottish winter season the boots were still in good condition, and this is really where the Nepals come into their own; they excel as a real workhorse pair of boots, well built and burly enough to keep going through years of all-purpose mountaineering. They might lack the precision of a lighter hard-climbing focussed boot, but for the general mountaineering that is at the core of what most British all-rounders do they are still at the top of the game.
More info: www.lasportiva.com