Flick through any climbing book or mag from the Eighties and more than likely the boots worn in winter or Alpine pictures will be plastic, sporting the ubiquitous Asolo logo. Asolo were the ‘plastic-meisters’, setting the standard for B3 class boots: stiff, with flat soles for mountaineering, snow and ice-climbing. Now, as then, making a pair is a thankless task.
The market is so picky because this class of boot has to tackle mountains head on and deal with contrasting tasks. They have to be able to get you to the hills without completely trashing your feet; keep you warm and dry; provide a stable platform so you can crampon all day long across everything from perfect névé to horrible iron-hard black ice; then, in the same breath, they need to be dexterous enough for balancing on tiny rock holds.
The above asks a lot of a boot, and it is not easy to get it right. The standard-setters at present are the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX and the Scarpa Freney XT GTX. La Sportiva broke the mould of the plastic generation of boots with a slightly lighter, more sensitive leather pair that were just as warm, then Scarpa made that package even lighter.
The natural habitats for B3 boots are British winter climbs, winter Alpine ice climbs and 4000m Alpine peaks in summer. I gave these boots a run for their money in Zermatt for a couple of weeks up at 4000m. Before I left I went scrambling in the Lakes a few times, a good test of their performance on rock. Here, their ‘waterproofness’ got a through testing as well. Out in the Alps I used them on a couple of training peaks before tackling a snowy 4000m peak. First off I was slightly irked by the extended heel, which seemed longer than on other boots, I found it a bit odd walking on hard surfaces like rock, but this did however redeem itself on snow, particularly when heeling down steep descents – it gave a very useful extra bit of bite. This aspect would be put to good use on long, snowy descents on any of the 4000m peaks.
The toe unit is very good. It does not constrict your toes while kicking steps or descending, yet it is still streamlined enough to allow careful placement on small rock holds. It is great for jamming – the profile is very slick, allowing a good clean camming action. The ankles are not overly high for this class of boot, which for me is fine as I like good flexibility for climbing both ice and rock; but if you prefer stiffer ankle action then they might be a bit on the relaxed side for you. I really liked the floating tongue. It adds to comfort and insulation, though you do have to get it in the right position when you lace up. This is aided by a Velcro patch, but if you get it wrong it’s a real pain as it either constricts your toes or the top of your feet. It’s difficult to say at this stage if Asolo are going to return to their glory days with these, but they are well up there on quality, performance and price so I would not bet against them.
Upper 2.2-2.4mm water-resistant Perwanger leather with Gore-Tex lining, rubber rand and synthetic reinforcement
Sole Vibram Tri Fusion
Sizes 6-13 (men’s); 4.5-9.5 (women’s)
Crampon compatible B3
Weight 1900g (pair, size 46)
Made in Romania
Stockist details – tel. (01539) 740840; www.asolo.com
The Asolo Lhotse GV B3 is hard to fault. It offers confidence-building support with a surprising level of sensitivity considering the level of warmth and protection they offer. But the heel action takes some getting used to on hard ground and they might lack support if you like a high-cut boot. In conclusion, they fall midway between the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX and the Scarpa Freney XT GTX
Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine January 2009