Thursday, January 20, 2011

Light and toasty,.. The Lowa Mountain Expert boot review


Putting the Lowa Mountain Expert to the test

Over the years I've tried many boots, starting with leathers, upgrading to plastics then moving back into leather during the lightweight leather craze of the late 90's and now well into the 2000's.  Lightweight leather boots now seem to be the choice of most new climbers.   During the Early 2000's  the boots of my choice were the LaSportiva Trangos of various models, and the Sportiva Nepals of various models.  One common thing I noticed about all the boots were that my feet always seemed to be cold.  In 2008 after many miserable frozen toe days (even with toe heaters) I decided it was time to change.  Was it possible that my LaSportiva boots had a death grip on my toes that was keeping them from being warm and cozy?  I didn't want to think it possible, but had to try.  Since I mostly climbed in the Sportiva Trango's I figured I'd do some research and see what I could find that closely matched that boot.   I had good luck with the Lowa Civetta Exteme plastics years ago and thought why not see what Lowa had to offer in a mixed climbing boot.  I checked their lineup and ordered up a pair of the Ice Expert GTX boots.  The Ice Expert GTX (currently unavailable) was a Silver and Green leather and hybrid boot sporting an ankle gasket similar to the Trangos.  First point is that the Lowas are less expensive.  Reatil of about $350.00 compared to the $400.00 of the La Sportiva.  The insulation used in the Lowa boots is 200g of Primaloft and a kick ass radiant footbed.  I ordered both a US men's size 11.5 and 12.  After trying  them on I decided to go with the 12 which was a 1/2 size upgrade from my "normal" street shoe size.   First thing I noticed when I pulled them on was how much WIDER the toe area is in the Lowa boots.  Much more wiggle room then the cramped Sportiva.  I was very pleased with the fit out of the box.  My only problem was that I had a little heel lift.  I ended up placing a partial memory foam footbed liner under the heel to take up the space and solve the problem.   I used these boots for 2 seasons often questioning as to whether I should've went with the 11.5.  I think being gun shy of having tight boots again prompted the 1/2 size upgrade.  After 2 seasons of heavy use the only issues were with a broken lace lock which was easily remedied with some Gorilla Glue and ripped velcro on the ankle gasket.   Despite these minor issues, I was very satisfied with the boots and my warm toes.  Who could believe that the tight toebox was the cause of so many days of cold toes.

Moving ahead... This season Laura wanted to get a pair of lighter boots.  She was wearing women's LaSportiva Nepal EVO's.  Hearing me praise my Lowa's so many times I convinced her to try the Lowa women's Mountain Expert GTX which is the replacement boot for my beloved Ice Expert GTX.  right out of the box she praised the fit.  She too was having problems with cold feet in her Nepal EVO's   She's climbed in her new Lowa's a dozen days so far this season and is amazed how much warmer her toes are after the switch.

After checking out Laura's NEW boots, I am fairly certain that its basically the same boot as the Ice Expert without the ankle gasket and with a cool new tongue stud to keep it in the center of your ankle.  Which was great to see.  I thought the gasket wasn't of the best design and was often irritated by the tongue sliding around to the outside of my foot.  I REALLY liked the design of her new boots.  After careful thought and questioning my previous 1/2 size upgrade, I decided I NEEDED some.  I again ordered 11.5 and 12.  After we picked them up from Fred's, I went straight for the 11.5.  Bingo this was it.  Perfect fit.  I've been climbing in them a couple weeks now and have been very pleased with the fit and performance so far.  Virtually the same as the Ice Expert with improvements.

  • No gasket
  • Lace locks redesigned into a less breakable design
  • The tongue stud gizmo

Ice Expert GTX and the Mountain Expert GTX, very similar

Lowa's tongue stud keeps the tongue centered, works great!
So if you're looking for a high quality, light weight, ice/mixed climbing boot, don't overlook the seldom seen Lowa Mountain Expert GTX.  Its a top performer that offers great ankle mobility, approaches well, stiff enough for pure ice and still light enough to throw above your head like a pretzel if the urge arises. I'd also like to add that for additional warmth on cold days Laura and I both use shake and bake style toe heaters to boost the boots cold weather performance.


Since were talking feet,  I thought it also be good to discuss that I currently use Petzl Darts and Darwin crampons on these boots with the Leverlock heel spur rears (with the spurs mostly chopped) I've found this rear provides a much more solid fit than the standard quick adjust heel piece.  This combo provides a more snug fit with minimal crampon movement and is lighter weight on the Lowas.  I usually get several fronts worth of use out of the heels and its cheaper to pay $130.00 for dart or dartwin fronts for use on old rears, than to pay full price for new crampons.  See the photos below

Modified heel spurs, still functional but less to catch the rope and
 invert you in a fall. Plus the bolt to linking bar system makes a perfectly
 flat platform for your boots heel to sit on (less crampon heel
movement on your boot)
Old rears, new fronts = $130.00 new darts


NOTE:  I have no affiliation with Lowa boots.  I get nothing in return for writing this review.  I just thought I'd pass on a little learned knowledge that might be useful to other folks with wide toes looking for a warm mixed boot!  Hope this helps someone.


I'd also like to say your welcome to all who've benefited from my expensive boot experiments and purchased my like new, ill fitting boots, for next to nothing.  Happy climbing!

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