Boots with integrated gaiters have been around for a while, but they are very much the preserve of the specialist end of the market. Marrying together boot and gaiter is an elegant solution that removes most of the weaknesses in a boot’s defences and pays dividends in the way it can be constructed. The problem is they do tend to look a bit odd, and for that reason they have not made many appearances in the general mountaineering market.
Scarpa, with its recent revamp of mountaineering boots, has bitten the bullet and put the Phantom 6000, the Phantom Guide and the Phantom Ultra right at the heart of its range with only the Mont Blanc (reviewed in Spring 2010) falling into the ‘traditional’ category. These boots have replaced the Freney and Cumbre, which for many years graced the feet of climbers on winter routes in the UK, Alps and all but the highest peaks in the Greater Ranges.
The B3 classification covers a surprisingly broad range of flex, support and insulation. The Scarpa Phantom Guide sits squarely at the centre of this range, and is essentially the classic B3 boot. It is suitable for tackling rock, snow and ice, ranging from simple glacier tours through to highly technical Alpine routes. Inevitably covering this range of terrain means compromises, which is where B3 boots can be problematic. Employing the integral gaiter system has allowed Scarpa to tackle some of these compromises head on.
Always the main gripe with B3 boots is their clumsiness, which is generally due to the need for stiff support and substantial insulation. Having what is in effect a double boot has meant that the Scarpa Phantom Guide’s insulation and protection are delivered in two specialised layers, which work in harmony. This allows the structure to be built with a balanced level of support.
For me the Scarpa Phantom Guides in action have been something of a revelation. Firstly, on your feet they are extremely light and sensitive: you can feel the nuances of the ground rather than blundering over it. This is most notable on long approach walks (always a bugbear in B3 boots), making it much less of a chore. But this improvement for walking is not at the expense of climbing performance. While rock-climbing you can feel and place your feet on small holds with confidence. On snow, without crampons, you can kick steps, heel down and stand on edges in complete balance. And on snow, ice and rock with crampons on you have an amazingly stable platform, which greatly reduces fatigue.
Multilayer upper S-Tech outer fabric; waterproof membrane; EVA + aluminium support and reinforcement; felt reinforcement; Primaloft; Dyneema laces with Fast Lock
Sole lightweight TPU midsole with variable thickness for walking comfort; PU shock-absorbing inserts in the heel and forefoot; Vibram’s Total Traction sole; Pro Fibre insole
Sizes 37-48 including half sizes
Weight 2080 (pair, size 46)
Made in Italy
Stockist details – tel. (0191) 296 0212; www.scarpa.co.uk
At £400 the Scarpa Phantom Guides are a big buy, but if you climb regularly in winter or in the Alps for the level of protection and dexterity you get it is a price worth paying.
Review by Jeremy Ashcroft
First published in Trail magazine March 2011