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La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX Boots: Lighter and more versatile than ever
Posted on: November 16, 2016
Weight: 31.5 ounces (894 grams)
The Nepal Cube GTX boots served me well on a recent AMGA Alpine Exam while we were climbing in the Joffre and Tantalus Ranges of British Columbia. Our first objectives were technical rock routes on Joffre Peak (2721m) and Mt. Matier (2783m) with the forecast calling for a little snow above 2400 meters and temperatures hovering around freezing overnight. Most folks donned lighter, three-season boots for this quick three-day trip. But since I was feeling old, cold and softened by a long bout of summer sailing off Maine's balmy coast, I chose to bring the Nepal Cube GTX. I've climbed in all versions of the Nepal, from the original Tops to the Extremes in the 1990s, to the EVOs and now the Cubes. I have always experienced a good out-of-the-box fit.
Still, I'd only spent a few days hiking in them and climbing moderate snow in Colorado's June conditions, so I expected some hot spots (I very rarely get blisters). As we set off on the five-hour approach to our camp, we began on a trail weaving through rainforest. A twinge here, a tweak there...soon my feet settled into the boots with nary a complaint, and immediately, I noticed how much lighter the Cubes felt than their predecessors (about 4 oz. lighter per boot than the EVOs, and about 8 oz. less than the Extremes). A gently rockered sole made walking the dirt-and-gravel paths effortless, even easier off trail. In these temperatures (around 15 degrees Celsius), my feet weren't too warm and definitely not very sweaty despite the heavy overnight packs. My crampons snapped on easily (the Nepals will accept any style of crampon attachment) as we transitioned from rocky slabs onto the glacier. With 10 centimeters of new snow over bare ice, I was really able to test the ankle flexion of these boots while flatfooting in my crampons. Thanks to Sportiva's 3D Flex technology, the unencumbered range of motion is vastly improved from the old Extremes and felt on par with lower-cuffed boots like the Trango Ice.
When I put on the Nepal Cubes the next morning, the boots were surprisingly comfortable despite them sitting in a freezing tent vestibule all night. My fellow guides in three-season boots complained bitterly all morning as their feet slowly warmed. We tackled Joffre's "S. Ridge" route and I found my Cubes to jam and edge easily as we moved up some 5.8 pitches where, again, the lighter weight was notable. I was very pleased with the Cube's ability to transition from rock, to ice, to snow, and perform well regardless of the material underfoot. A crisp, new sole doesn't hurt, either, of course. The only situations I felt insecure in the Cubes were on delicate or very smooth rock slabs where these boots were completely unable to smear because of their honeycomb carbon fiber insole (read: very stiff). But that stiff construction is what enables Sportiva to make a lighter and more insulated boot, and those features easily compensated for the momentary struggles.
And it's this insole technology that really sets the Nepal Cube GTX apart from its ancestors in weight as well as warmth. Although I have yet to spend a winter day on vertical ice with these boots, La Sportiva claims that the sole's greater insulating capabilities make it warmer. The Cubes simply feel too light to be warm enough for my winter work, but we'll see. Keeping true to its roots, the Nepal Cube has a lace-lock system and adjustable tongue for customizing fit. But again, I have found the Nepal line to always fit me well out of the box.
The Nepal Cubes worked well as an all-day boot in the mountains, transitioning smoothly between rock and snow. [Photo] Andrew Councell
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