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Climbing Boots

Arc’teryx Acrux AR GTX Review

This is the best-fitting boot I’ve yet worn. The stretchy foam inner boot sucks onto your foot like an eel’s throat, and by itself makes a nice camp bootie. When the inner is in the outer, the package feels soft and accommodating, but crank down the laces and the Velcro ankle strap, and the AR will frontpoint with only scant heel lift, the mark of a hardcore climbing boot.

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About 15 years ago I chatted with Arc’teryx co-founder Jeremy Guard. He was hyper excited, trembling even, about a possible foray into footwear. Some time later the company had the first proto, a sock dipped in liquid rubber. That never made it to market, but now Arc’teryx really has done it. Its “Acrux” line includes an approach shoe, the Acrux FL GTX, and an alpine boot, the Acrux AR GTX. Both have “Adaptive Fit” Gore-Tex liners, neoprene-like booties that meld to your feet. In the case of the AR, the bootie comes out, making it a double boot.

From its looks and weight the AR (for “all around”) seems an imposter, a mere single boot. Even with its integrated gaiter it’s as trim as most single boots, and at 2 pounds 2 ounces (size M9) it is also about the same weight. The AR climbs like a single boot too. It is precise and feels locked on.

The AR, like many technical boots these days, is completely synthetic. Layers of rubber and nylon and Gore-Tex encapsulate your feet. The AR is billed as weatherproof. I used it in slop and on ice falls flowing with water, and my feet never got wet from the outside. Inside, the inner bootie does an admirable job of wicking and breathing, but my feet got clammy from sweat. Remove the liner and dry it after each outing. This won’t take long.

Arc’teryx markets the boot for high-altitude mountaineers and alpinists tackling technical terrain. That sounds accurate, depending on your interpretation of “high altitude.” The AR isn’t an 8,000-meter boot, but it is warmer than a single boot, and unless you are going into the Death Zone or tackling Denali in winter, it should be plenty warm.

This is the best-fitting boot I’ve yet worn. The stretchy foam inner boot sucks onto your foot like an eel’s throat, and by itself makes a nice camp bootie. When the inner is in the outer, the package feels soft and accommodating, but crank down the laces and the Velcro ankle strap, and the AR will frontpoint with only scant heel lift, the mark of a hardcore climbing boot. A carbon-fiber footbed delivers the heel-to-toe rigidity required by ice climbing, yet the AR will still get you comfortably down the trail with practically no breaking-in.

Beef? But one. The gaiter cuff closes with a snap that is difficult to secure.

This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 232 (February 2016).