The pandemic that kept us caged and steering clear of each other as if we had the plague has at least taught me to appreciate normal, small things. Frothy expresso sputtering from the stainless-steel nostril of the machine. The incessant crowing, even at 2:00 in the afternoon, of neighbor Bill’s rooster. A jaunt up the Speedway, a 1,000- foot varnish of ice over rock on the canyon wall down the road from the village. Only four months ago these things passed unnoticed. Now, I appreciate them like heartbeats.
Even in ordinary times I would appreciate the Asolo Eiger XT EVO, a model similar in name to the boot it replaces, the Asolo Eiger GV, but so reimagined that its only shared DNA is the brand name. The new Eiger joins Asolo’s trifecta of teched-up boots that includes the Manaslu 8000 GV and the Mont Blanc GV. The three boots all have a carbon-fiber footbed, integrated gaiter, Fastlock closure, and synthetic uppers. The key differential across the boots is warmth. The Manaslu 8000 GV is the warmest, for high-altitude mountaineering; the Mont Blanc GV is the midweight, for winter mixed and ice; and the Eiger XT Evo is the flyweight, for ice and alpine. The Manaslu 8000 GV and the Mont Blanc GV are slated for reviews at later dates.
Weighing one pound 8.8 ounces per boot (size 42), the Eiger XT EVO could wear the crown for “world’s lightest,” yet, magically, it doesn’t skimp on features. The upper is over-the-ankle and made of four materials including Gore-Tex. Ankle flex is good and doesn’t hinder sidestepping, and the soft-feeling boot doesn’t crush your feet on approaches. Underfoot the Eiger uses the Vibram Litebase sole, a ply that is about 50 percent thinner than typical soles. There’s less heavy rubber underfoot, so the boot gets lighter yet retains deep lugs—other thin-soled boots I’ve used are slippery because the lugs are shallow. A waterproof zipper seals the gaiter. I’ll note that waterproof zippers only survive the long haul if you keep them clean. Dust or grit in the teeth can split the zipper, and replacing a blown zipper can be impossible. I wipe my zippers clean, never force them, and pull the sides of the gaiter close together when zipping, to prevent stress.
I started this article with the Speedway, a modest and ordinary line that has a kitchen sink of terrain: rock moves, snow, verglas, ice steps. There’s even a squeeze chimney. Conditions on the east-facing wall often suck, and getting up it before the sun rots it means moving like you’re on fire. Wearing light boots puts a fat finger on the scales in your favor.
The Asolo Eiger XT EVO isn’t just light, it’s the most nimble ice and alpine boot I’ve ever worn, and is absolutely stiff, rock-solid heel to toe. A sculpted, deep heel dish is as snug as a Formula 1 cockpit. There’s no slop in these boots. Add up the parts, and the sum is razor edging, and front-pointing with minimal foot and calf fatigue even on fearsome vertical ice.
I wore the Eiger XT EVO in just about every condition down to zero, and my feet were never cold or wet even when water gushed over the boots without my permission. I’ll qualify, I used the Eiger mostly on routes where I was either in constant motion, or the belay sessions were short. I would hesitate to lace on the Eiger for very cold, long routes where you spend significant time immobile at belays, or it’s just really damn cold. For those conditions, I’d opt for a more insulated boot, and this coming winter that will be the Mont Blanc GV.
Like I said near the beginning, the Asolo Eiger doesn’t cut any corners, and that applies to the price tag. The $625 cost dents the pocketbook, but is competitive relative to similar lightweight synthetic boots with integrated gaiters. Advances in design and technology are seldom cheap and always worth it—you don’t, after all, still use a flip phone, now do you?
The politicians say that they might have a vaccine for the pandemic sometime around January. Maybe February. Until then I’ll wear a mask, scrub my hands, continue with my hermitage, and bask in every rooster crow and climb.
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