What better way to enjoy the snow than to go check on some new zones…
Chaletan Phil Wortmann discusses his time in the Garmont Icon Plus GTX.
When Mountain Chalet brought in Garmont footwear to outfit a number of outdoor adventures, one of the highlights of the season came in – the Icon Plus GTX. The shop even ordered a couple of pairs so the staff could go out to play on some rock and ice. One staff member in particular, Phil Wortmann, got to test them out in environments the average climber – by “average,” I still mean Level 10 Badass – can’t quite get to. Phil is well versed in first accents, and has quite a few to his name in the Rockies, Cascades, and Alaska. Once Phil said he was interested in testing the new boots out, I knew we were going to get some quality beta back from his trips.
For the article, I asked Phil to give me a review of the Icon Plus (where he was able to use it, and how it works for his climbing style). I also asked for other information such as his favorite route and the hardest route he climbed.
Alex: Phil, I’m super glad you got the opportunity to demo the new Icon Plus GTX boot we brought in this season. From a technical aspect, what features did you like about the Icon Plus GTX?
Phil: I was excited to hear that Mountain Chalet was adding a new boot to their winter lineup last fall and, of course, wanted to try it out as soon as possible. My preference in the mountains is steep mixed and ice. For this I need a boot that is light enough not to hold me back on hard on-sights at my limit, or to add to the fatigue of long approaches. In the past, I’ve made sacrifices in things like warmth and comfort, in order to use a boot that climbed well.
The Icon is a crampon compatible single boot designed for light and fast mountaineering objectives. It has a stiff shank for precision cramponing, and a slight rocker in the sole to make hiking more forgiving on the ankles. Garmont cleverly added a padded layer under the heel to absorb some of the typical knee pounding associated with hiking downhill with a climbing pack. I weighed them in my garage at 4.8 pounds (US11), which is comparable to my Scarpa Guides. Extra padding was added to the ankle of the boot to keep the heel from sliding out of the pocket. This works remarkably well, and seems to even add a little to the overall warmth of the boot.
I used the Icon in a variety of terrain including steep ice climbing at Vail, a winter attempt on the Diamond of Longs Peak, and while establishing a new multi-pitch mixed route above Ouray. The Icon worked well in all situations, from easy approach pitches to Wi5+ and M8. They were comfortable on long approaches, precise on steep ice and mixed, and still warm enough on long belays. They fit me well right out of the box and didn’t require any break in period at all. In fact, my first run in them was a seven pitch mixed route.
What I liked most about the boot was the fit. They were snug where they needed to be, allowing for precision placements, but roomy enough in the toe box to allow circulation and keep my toenails from slamming the front when kicking. This is rare in an entry level ice/mountaineering boot, where you usually have to sacrifice warmth for performance.
Overall, I’d honestly have to say it’s the best boot I’ve used in its category, and climbs as well as some more expensive models I’ve used. I would recommend the Icon for any single day of climbing in the Colorado.
Cons are lack of gaiter and zip front (but you have to pay much more for that in a boot, so it’s a tradeoff).
Alex: Any routes stick out in your mind specifically?
Phil: “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” (WI3,M6++ R) is the hardest First Ascent I’ve done to date, calling for hard and serious mixed climbing on thin and run out gear. In all, about two hours went into leading this pitch, and imprecise footwork was definitely not an option here. As far as favorite climb goes, it’s the famous Jeff Lowe test piece “Octopussy” (WI5,M8) in Vail, Colorado. It requires a boot that is stiff enough for the approach WI 5 pitch, but light enough for overhanging mixed climbing and a mandatory free hang to reposition on the dagger. Without question, it is my favorite pitch in the world!
Another highlight with the Icon Plus GTX was an attempted winter ascent of the Diamond of Longs Peak (Fourth Photo). We were turned around one pitch from the top by a harsh blizzard. Not only was the climbing hard and technical, the approach was 10 miles round trip.
GARMON ICON PLUS GTX BETA:
Price: $499 (check with Mountain Chalet for special pricing)
Fully crampon compatible
Gortex Insulated Comfort
Thermal footbed with PrimaLoft 200g insulation
Carbon Fiber insole
Vibram Mulaz Evo outsole