June 11, 2016

La Sportiva G2SM Review

I just finished up my season in the Alaska Range. This year that involved a personal climbing trip to the Ruth Gorge and a trip guiding folks up The West Buttress of Denali. All in all the G2SM's were on my feet for over 30 days.

The last few years I've been training more, and in a more structured way, than ever before. Mainly this is because I've been pursuing what are for me alpine climbs of increasing difficulty. No small motivation comes from the fact that my partners in these endeavors (who are quite fit to start with) are themselves training more and I need to keep up if I'm to hold up my end of the partnership bargain.

It seems to me that the complement to training hard is having the right equipment. Having the correct kit is a very easy way to multiply all those box steps and ice tool hangs. It always amazes me that climbers who obsess over reps and training cycles and diet are reluctant to upgrade their kit. Having the latest and greatest in gear won't help if you're out of shape or can't make the moves, but lightening your load makes you instantly stronger/faster/whatever and is a lot easier than doing push-ups. Arguably the most energy efficient place to shave pounds is from whatever is attached to your feet and legs: skis, ski bindings, crampons, and of course, boots.

The La Sportiva G2SM's in action on the "Thin Man's Squeeze" section of the Southwest Ridge of Peak 11,300. Photo by Andrew Yasso.
With that in mind I was interested when La Sportiva came out with the G2SM. I had been using the Spantiks for several years, originally in The Alaska Range, but also on particularly cold days or multiple night trips in the Canadian Rockies and here in the Sierra. The Spantiks are warm and provide an amazing amount of calf support for long frontpointing sessions. I'm not particularly impressed with their weight or bulk. They're about as heavy as my old Koflach Vertecal's and just as bulky. The other big problem I have with them is "side to side" ankle articulation. All that calf support for steeper ice makes any sort of french technique a pain and often encourages me to frontpoint on terrain where I could be using a more efficient technique.

For these reasons I was psyched to take the G2SM's out of the box. I wear both boots in size 43 and the pair of G2SM's are 19oz (538g) lighter than the pair of Spantiks (they come without insoles and I ended up adding a pair that weigh 2oz (56g)). They're less bulky. The sole length is about 1/4" (0.6cm) shorter and the boot is about 1/2" (1.2cm) less in circumference around the ball of my foot. They also delivered on the hope of ankle articulation. They're still not a pair of 3/4 shank summer boots, but the side to side ankle movement is about as good as you could expect from a double boot. All of this make the boot feel more nimble on technical terrain and more comfortable on sustained moderate terrain.

One of the first things other climbers mention about these boots is the Boa lacing system. Though the Boa system has been around the ski and snowboard world for a while I have never used it. A few folks I talked to had some problems with the system a few years ago. I had no problems with the Boa system, despite the fact that I cranked it down pretty tight a few times. It was nice to be able to use the lacing system to dial in the tension a few clicks at a time. The Boa knob is also easy to operate with big gloves on.

Big pull loops on the shell and liner are a nice touch for cold mornings.
The big pull loops on the liner and shell of the boot make it easy to get on and off. I had an easier time getting the liners into the boot when they were already on my feet. The top of the gaiter has a drawcord built into it that's really easy to tighten but difficult to loosen. With softshell pants pulled down over the boot there was pretty much no way snow was going to get in, and the top of the gaiter formed a reasonably snug seal on my skinny calves, so I didn't worry about the drawcord too much.

La Sportiva footwear tends to fit my low-volume feet fairly well. I wear the same size - 43 - in Muiras, TC Pros, running shoes, lots of approach shoes and a number of mountain boots. A little bit of fitting help from Mammoth Mountaineering tuned them in just right.