A few weeks back, six companions and I set out to summit the South Sister in central Oregon. Stepping off at 5AM without a cloud in the sky meant the weather was crisp and clear, a perfect day to summit the South Sister. For those who aren’t familiar, South Sister lies in the Cascade Range and has a significant hiking profile (5k feet in just over seven miles).
I was eager to try a new pair of hiking boots but had hesitations. I’d been encouraged to try these new La Sportiva’s out without breaking them in and was even more hesitant because I’d pegged myself as an ultra-light minimalist. Compared to the inov-8’s I’d worn in the past, these seemed like overkill.
Since my time in Ranger Battalion, I’ve followed the mantra that one pound on your feet equals five on your back. After enough miles humping in Danners and Bellevilles, I’d set out to stay light, fast, and avoid boots at all costs. I knew the day would consist of scrambling up lava rock and doing so in any shoe can cause issues, but with the Core High’s coming in at only 441 grams(.97 pounds for you metric opposers), I was more than concerned. How much support could they really give?
However, as soon as I got these boots on my feet I knew that something was different: I was comfortable, I felt supported and, most importantly, I was light. By 6AM we were out of the forest, working on the ascent. The grade increased and the ground turned to scree and sharp rhyolite. Despite this and a pack full of water and pogey bait, my feet felt great. I had numerous opportunities to roll my ankles and was solid – I’d walked through some light streams and yet, my feet were dry.
At the summit, we found a field of packed corn snow that had thawed and refrozen dozens of times through the summer. For the rest of the party, walking across was a challenge. The track was narrow and folks were slipping. Had I been wearing my worn out trail shoes I’d likely have been in the same position but the Sportiva’s kept me on the path with minimal effort.
Everyone knows that the vast majority of hiking/climbing injuries happen on the descent. You’re tired, focused on that warm Gatorade you’ve got waiting in the car, and aren’t placing your feet as carefully as you were on the way up. After five hours of ascent, I was at risk for, at best, a rolled ankle on the way down. However, the high tops of the Sportiva’s kept me in check. Coming off the mountain with Bachelor and Broken Top in view I felt like I was flying. I rarely had to stop and, for once, I wasn’t thinking about my feet. They didn’t ache, they were dry and, despite the fact that these boots were brand new, I had no hot spots.
Looking back at my time in Ranger Battalion I would have killed for a boot like this. Light and sturdy, able to take on the Hindu Kush or the streets of Ramadi. I’d be comfortable wearing these chugging up a 50% grade with the 240B, sprinting from a helicopter, or coming down a high fast rope.
Get your La Sportiva Core High GTX here
Guest Author – Kyle Morris. Kyle served in 2nd Ranger Battalion from 2003 – 2007. Over that time he had four deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan as an infantryman and graduated from Ranger School in 2005. In 2010 he earned a Bachelors of Science in Business, Entrepreneurship from the University of Oregon and has spent the past five years working in the tech industry in Silicon Valley.