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Arc'teryx Procline: One boot for skiing and ice climbing
Posted on: April 27, 2017
MSRP: $750-$1,000 (depending on model)
Spokane, Washington, has easy access to some of the best ice in the world. A quick trip north across the border brings me to my go-to place for winter ice climbing and early spring alpine ascents in the Canadian Rockies. In my case, that means long approaches and deep snow. In years past, I had four mediocre options: 1) take nothing but my ice or alpine kit and risk wallowing desperately in deep snow; 2) ski up in my sweet off-piste ski setup and fill my nice, light ice pack to the brim with a pair of ice boots, often leaving half my kit dangling outside of the pack and clanging up the trail like a Boy Scout; 3) snowshoes, the slowest option but sometimes the most secure; and 4) which has been my go-to, cheap skis with Silveretta bindings, an excellent option on the way up followed by a disastrous comedy show on the way down: heavy pack + flexible ice boots = Jess in tree well. There's no great option, often leaving WI6 M7 the least stressful event of the day.
With the Procline, Arc'teryx did a nice job creating a boot that can handle climbing and skiing equally well. There are two versions of this boot: the Procline and the Procline carbon. The carbon boot is slightly lighter and stiffer than its less-expensive brother. Both boots come in a "lite" and a "support" version. The support version has a more skier-friendly liner, whereas the lite is better for the climber at heart. I chose to review the Procline Carbon lite.
I am a climber first and foremost. I am a good skier and an even better snowboarder, but my excitement in reviewing these boots came about when I was told that the Procline is a climbing boot that can ski, not a ski boot that can climb. I have read a few reviews on these boots, but mostly from ski magazines that reviewed how well the boots ski downhill, with a smaller, incomplete review using semi-automatic crampons to frontpoint uphill, an approach that missed the point in why I believe Arc'teryx designed these boots in the first place. I imagined these boots skiing uphill for a long approach, climbing a WI6 waterfall, and skiing back to the car in a controlled, comfortable and warm manner, eliminating all those issues I previously described, making this the go-to setup for winter climbing.
The weight of technical boots has been getting lighter and lighter since I started climbing 15 years ago. I was pleased when I compared the weight of the Proclines to my other light ski and ice boots. I wear a size 13. The Arc'teryx website reports a weight of 1,190 grams for a mondo size 27.5 (men's 9.5) boot, making them as light or lighter than any comparable ski or ice-climbing boot. That was enough to satisfy my ideal requirements for this new category of hybrid boot.
Jess Roskelley climbs a mixed pitch on the first ascent of Raggedy Man (5.9 WI4+) in Montana's Cabinet Mountains, March 20. [Photo] Scott Coldiron
I have very narrow and flat feet. In my opinion, the Procline boot is a narrow boot. I added my own foot bed to help with my non-existent arch, but if you have wide feet this boot may not be the best fit.
The Proclines come stocked with a moldable liner, which molds seamlessly around all the gross peculiarities of our hammered climbing feet. The liner tightening system is a 3/8-inch-wide strap with an inch of Velcro at the end. This strap crosses over the front of the liner a few times before eventually wrapping around the top of the boot and then sticking to the liner. For some people this may be all right, but if you have chicken legs like me, you might as well not cinch up the liner at all—the strap was left way too long. I ended up cutting the end of the strap off and re-sewing the Velcro back on to accommodate the smaller circumference of my calf. I think designing the strap to fit a skinnier leg is something that Arc'teryx should consider. Other than that, I felt the liner of the Procline boot was warm and comfortable.
Knowing that my Procline setup was mainly going to be utilized to access climbing and backcountry areas, I bought a new pair of bindings and skis. I was told that this two-buckle boot wouldn't ski as well as the bigger, heavier boots we are used to. This, of course, is to be expected of a dual-purpose boot. To remedy this problem, I ordered the Black Diamond Helio carbon fiber 95mm ski with the Vipec 12 TUV bindings. I am 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds, so I went with the 164cm skis knowing that they would be incredibly light and would therefore allow me to push them around with a light boot.
Just for fun, I took my new kit to a resort on a trip to Kicking Horse, British Columbia, with my wife. I wanted to see how well they shredded the slopes of the Pacific Northwest. They skied awesome! You may have to work a bit harder, but it was a blast. The Proclines proved to be the most comfortable boot I've skied on. I've always had issues with ski boots being uncomfortable. There is nothing more miserable than going from too tight to too loose and spending the entire morning in frustration attempting to break them in. My wife was in awe to not hear me complain once!
So the Proclines are warm, comfortable and ski well, but how do they climb? I feel that my generation of ice and mixed climbers has been spoiled with today's modern ice boot. That being said, climbing ice the first time in the Procline left me sort of feeling like a newborn deer...on ice. Don't worry, though, you get used to it. After a few pitches of WI5 and WI6 I felt right at home and noticed that I felt incredibly stable on vertical terrain. I also found that locking in the ski mode allowed me to lean into my boot and relax those calf muscles. Amazing! I felt awkward at first on mixed terrain as well, but after a while the odd feeling of the plastic shell went away. These boots climb well and are extremely light, but let's not forget that it is a plastic boot, and for some people it will take a bit of getting used to.
Like I said before, I'm a climber first, so something I like to see with a climbing boot is an excellent crampon fit. A semi-automatic crampon works for ice and mixed climbing but some folks prefer the security of a full-automatic crampon. When looking for a good boot, I pay attention to the size of the crampon welt on the front of the boot. Seeing that front bail sink deep into that groove makes me feel good and secure. My number-one complaint about this boot is that the front crampon bail groove is small and shallow. The technical department at Arc'teryx told me this issue will be remedied for the second generation of Proclines. If using a full automatic crampon with the Proclines, pick your crampon carefully and make sure they fit and are secure. The Petzl Lynx and the CAMP Blade Runner crampons seemed to fit well. Now, I realize that the vast majority of climbers who buy this boot will not be climbing WI6—for those people I recommend a semi-automatic crampon for all your mountaineering needs.
The Procline is a great first-generation boot. It skis, it climbs, it's warm, and it's comfortable! This boot should help to clear out your gear room and make your trips out much lighter. It means that you don't have to haul your ice boots in your pack, look like a noob trying to ski in your ice-climbing boots—or dread the approach or descent any longer.
Jess Roskelley is a professional climber who has done ascents on three continents. He grew up climbing with his dad, John Roskelley, who is also a highly accomplished climber. You can learn more about Jess at jessroskelley.com.
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