these are not small boots. despite the 6000m description, they are not that. having worn both 6000m and 8000m boots, these sit somewhere between. i normally dont go on about boots, but these are such a departure (and one ive long wanted to see) they have me thinking.
parallel to the Spantik, these boots may be more of a bridge between the Batura and the Olympus mons than the Spantik is, with the Phantom 6000 falling somewhere between these and Baturas.
having worn them about and pondered them for a few days now (in the right size finally) they fill a gap in the boot canon that was waiting to happen. from the 8000m boot end comes extreme cold/high altitude details, a ‘warmth first’ design and a fundamental concept the same as Olympus Mons, Everests Phantom 8000s etc. from the 6000m end of the spectrum comes a technical climbing sole (Vibram Mulaz), streamlined performance and a very competitive weight.
The Verto S6K Extremes dont have the rocker to the sole that the Spantik does, being like the Batura/Phantom series which is great for crampon fit, taking a tech ice crampon as well as a big peak basket style – something that Spantiks compromised on. Despite the many 8000m boots features that trickled down, the flat sole profile and bulbous toe box didnt, if anything the streamlined profile tricked up after looking at the Verto S8K’s design with easily the most tech-friendly front end of any 8000m boot. this means that there will be a degree of heel-lift, but not as much as a super big boot – even tho on the scale of things these are BIG; a size 44.5 is significantly wider and longer than Batura and even a Spantik
inside they are all 8000m style. Phantoms, Baturas etc are basically a light ice boot covered by the integrated gaiter. even the Phatnom 6000, which is aimed to act like a 6000m boot, is more light tech boot than big mountain boot (as no doubt is the intention). the Verto S6K Extreme not so. the inner boots is plush and generously insulated – its foremost priority is insulation over time. to move about in they are soft, with minimal dead air space. the reduced ridgitity compared to a La Sportiva inner booot takes some getting used to, and will no doubt have an impact on stability with fine footwork on sensitive ice/rock, but for a large part of what these boots are intended for (ie long approaches, life in severe conditions, mixed mountaineering) the warmth and comfort is a trade off. from what ive found so far there is ZERO of the lower leg bashing that Olympus Mons are notorious for.
fit-wise they perhaps at their most 8000m-ish. the shape of the ankle, volume of the box, support of the ankle and articulation of the whole unit is straight from 8000m. indeed they almost a scaled down Olympus Mons in every way. tho soft on the side, the greater design is ridgid and supportive, with a deeply ergonomic rear section that allows for a wide range of ankle movement downwards, but keeps things solid laterally and when on front points – something other 6000m boots have avoided in favor of maximum ankle mobility (too much in some opinions). this leads to considerable bulk, which ends up being just slightly less than a Spantik, yet they are not as ridgid – you certainly wont consider skis on these. by forgoing the light-boot interior of 6000m boots they have done away with using leather, making them more ‘carton-like’ and so doing away also with complex lacing. they are simply not soft enough to warrent a lot of it. appearing smartly, the laces stop at ankle level, then with a velcro strap to lock the heel in, assumedly this is for easy transtions between walking and climbing mode. we will se how that goes; as yet im wanting a bit more lacing to crank things about with.
with more use comes more things im intrigued by. The North Face has got these boots very light – oddly so. they are light even for a regular 6000m boot, so considering all the 8000m input its interesting to assume that disparity goes into the technology used. the new rubbers, fabrics and approach to insulation makes a neat package despite a few niggles – mostly operating ones with the gaiter and the reason i got jack of integrated gaiters a few years back (i have enough velcro, waterproof zips and fastenings already…The North Face has done well to get me back again).
do these boots change the gameboard? i think they do, reshuffling what boots are ‘meant’ to do. boots like the Batura and Phantom 6000 are very different, but both are described as ‘6000m’ boots – even tho many including myself have been above 6000m in regular single leather boots. to my mind baturas and P6000s are really 6500m boots, maybe to 7000m – which is the realm advocated for Spantiks – any yet Spantiks are regularly worn well above that. of course im aware these numbers are only arbitary labels given by manufacturers, but they still dictate the perception of the boots, which in turn affects demand. the point being that with The North Faces S6K Extremes, id say they are firmly in the advertised 7000m range of – way beyond their ‘6K’ label. would i put my ass on the line and actually do it? gladly.
who will benefit from wearing them? people with a 7000m demand – either in altitude or cold or duration. these boots are overkill for just climbing one day stuff; too bulky with expedition details to be surgical enough for delicate ice routes, things like the relative area of the sole – being so insulated – are not as ice-specific as regular ‘6000m’ boots.
and dont worry, photos coming soon