Pros and Cons
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Filed under:Footwear, Gear reviews, Mountaineering Boots, The North Face Summit Breithorn Futurelight Hiking Boots
Chris Kempster tests out a light mountaineering boot from TNF’s new Summit Series footwear range
The North Face had a big launch for their Summit series apparel and footwear ranges this winter, and the footwear range includes no less than four models, from the Cragstone Pro approach shoe, right up to the Torre Egger boots at £630, a super-stiff and technical boot for ice climbing. In between these are the Cayesh double boot, which would appear to be well suited to winter mountaineering, and the model we tested, the Summit Breithorn Futurelight Hiking Boots (to give them their full name), which is a light mountaineering boot with semi-automatic crampon compatibility. The whole range is distinctive-looking, with bright red and green colour accents on otherwise black boots, and the funky design even stretches to an animal print-like pattern on the Torre Eggers that is sure to elicit mixed reactions from buyers – some will love it, and some will hate it. The Breithorns, however, are fairly restrained in comparison, with a green paint-fleck type design on the heel bumpers and red and green coloured laces and eyelets to provide some colour.
On paper the Breithorns look capable of everything from alpine trekking, scrambling, glacier travel, classic alpine mountaineering routes and winter walking/mountaineering in the UK when it’s not too cold. They are C2 crampon compatible and have a rear welt to accommodate a crampon clip. The Futurelight bootie provides waterproofness of course, as well as the best breathability on the market, while a Vibram Litebase Mont outsole with its low profile helps keep weight down, and uses the tried-and-tested Megagrip rubber compound. This is quite a stiff boot, and the rigidity is achieved by a nylon fibreglass reinforced shank in the sole unit.
The upper of the Breithorns is all synthetic, with a ripstop fabric and various overlays making what feels like to be a very durable boot. Rubber toe and heel rands circle almost the whole circumference of the boot, while a padded ankle area is topped off with a stretch Lycra collar that’s intended to help keep debris out. The lacing system uses a mixture of fabric and metal eyelets, and it works well enough, however we didn’t manage to get any ‘lock off’ (in a speed-lacing sense) that TNF suggests should be possible. A large fabric loop at the rear of the boot aids getting the boots on and off, and could also be used to clip them to the back of your harness if you wanted to swap to climbing shoes or approach shoes during your day out.
We’ve used the Breithorns in a range of conditions and routes in the few weeks we’ve had them, from damp and muddy trails through to snowy climbs with crampons on, and they’ve taken everything in their stride so far. It’s quite a close-fitting boot, but with a little wiggle room in the toebox which is useful on colder days. A quite slender profile means that the Breithorns aren’t as bulky as some other boots, and we found this particularly good when placing the feet in cracks or one holds when scrambling. The stiffness of the boot also makes it a great scrambler, and of course is also necessary for when you don crampons. Comfort is another strength of the boot, with plenty of cushioning around the ankle area, and the Futurelight bootie giving more breathability than other waterproof linings. With its breathable lining and overall light weight and profile, the Breithorns make an ideal summer mountaineering boot, whether for scrambling, classic alpine routes or trekking, though you could also press it into action on winter days that aren’t too frigid.