So a few weeks ago I received my new Arcteryx Procline boots, a pair of boots I have wanted since I first saw them at a trade show last year and although I haven’t managed to give them a proper thrashing yet I thought I would write up my initial thoughts on them.
So firstly what makes these things so special apart from the fact that they have a bird skeleton on the side. Well the idea here is that they fuse two boots into one. If you head over to Chamonix in the spring, you see a lot of people heading up the cable cars with their ski boots on and their mountaineering boots strapped to the side of their bag. Ski approach to mountaineering objectives is becoming increasingly popular. It is quicker and require less energy so you can spend more time climbing, I also think that global warming has something to do with it as many mixed or ice lines that would stay formed in the summer no longer do meaning people have to do them in winter and spring when there is still a lot of snow on the ground.
Know as you can imagine carrying a second pair of boots with you is a pain and changing your boots at the bottom of a route is even more hassle. Know I have climbed routes in Ski boots like the Dynafit TLT6 and the Scott Cosmos however it was always low grade routes and even on these they felt cumbersome and hard work, the thought of climbing anything technical in ski boots did not appeal or even safe. Know this is not to say people don’t climb hard routes in ski touring boots but they tend to be mountain gods, not me.
So Arcteryx has picked up on a very real need here. A boot which you can ski approach in, climb to a very high technical level and then ski out again. So how have they achieved this. Well it has all about reducing volume in the boot and creating an unparalleled freedom of movement in the ankle which can then be locked tight for skiing. It is this climbing ability that really interested me as that is why I got into ski touring initially.
So quickly on general fit. Arcteryx are owned by Amer sports the same group that own Salomon and Arcteryx have openly said that Salomon did help in the production of this boot which makes sense as Salomon have years of experience making ski boots. What it has also meant is they have the same foot shape which is very narrow and low volume across the top of the foot, for me perfect, I have very narrow feet but very long size EU46 feet. But if you have got wide feet or high volume feet you are going to struggle.
Most ski touring boots only flex forwards and backwards and even then it can be minimal, on some touring boots you also have to release some of the buckles which mean your foot can become sloppy in the boot. Arcteryx have managed to create a system where the boot can be realised in to flex mode without undoing any of the buckles and gives you crazy forward and back flex and on top of that they are the first boot with side to side articulation. The side to side articulation allows you articulate your foot more naturally and thus allow you to climb more naturally. To test this I took the boots o my local climbing wall to test them out. May sound a bit weird but before big alpine trips I do train in the wall with mountaineering boots to get use to moving over moderate technical terrain without having to squeeze in to my rock shoes. In this test they performed as well as any mountaineering boot I have ever had. They allowed me to climb up to 6b with a bit of effort which is not to be unexpected. Sadly, all the ice has melted know so haven’t had a chance to test them on that medium yet but going on how they are rock climbing I would imagine it is going to be pretty good.
Skiing is the second test. Know when I brought these I except that they are not going to allow me to ski as well as in a more dedicated ski boot or drive a more aggressive ski. If I was just ski touring or plain old skiing I would still use my Dynafit Vulcans. Know I went for the stiffer carbon model and with the stiffer support lining. The boots come with two lining options, support and light, the only difference I could feel between the light lining and support was that the support had more padding around the ankle which I guess adds to the support but for me gave a little more comfort, didn’t really seem to effect the articulation of the boot. Despite the most supportive model even when you lock these things in to ski mode they still have a slight bit of flex about them in the cuff which in fairness I was suspecting due to the super lightweight and freedom of movement you get when in climbing mode. When skiing they still allowed me to put a good amount of power through the ski and make some powerful manoeuvres although it did require a bit more effort than in other similar weight boots like the TLT6 or Cosmos. They also do not force you forward as much as other boots giving you a slightly more up right stance, Again I can see why they have done this from a climbing side of things but it does mean you have to lean forward a little more as you go into your turns. Another point is that these boots can only be used with Pin binding (tech binding) and while they do have a front and back lip this will only hold a crampon, not clip in to a ski binding, whilst this doesn’t bother me as I use pin bindings on all my skis it is not that obvious from internet pictures and Arcteryx don’t mention it on their website. Proof that you really should go to specialist retailers in person if you can.
Overall I think this boots should be seen not as a ski boot that allows you to climb rather a mountaineering boots which allows you to ski. If I was purely skiing or touring, then I would still go for a more traditional boot but for ski approach climbing nothing comes close.
I will do another review next year when I have given them a good thrashing and can go into more detail on durability and long term usability.