First Look - Salomon X Alp MTN GTX Boot - £200 / 631g (size 43)
Salomon's new X Alp MTN GTX is what the brand is calling a 'door to summit' lightweight alpine boot, which combines walking-friendly flex with crampon compatibility and ultra-rigid lateral stiffness to allow you to edge confidently on small holds. All that and it's incredibly light too - our review pair weight less than the new Salomon Quest Origins hiking boot...
- B1 crampon compatible
- 1.5mm waterproof nubuck leather upper
- Cordura fabric with Gore-Tex lining
- Protective rubber toe-cap and heel rand
- 3D Edging Chassis
- Contragrip mountaineering outsole
- Compressed EVA mid-sole
- Ortholite footbed
The X Alp GTX is part of a new for spring 2015 range of Salomon kit, which is designed for lightweight alpine use. In particular, the boots are intended to hit the sweet spot between being flexible enough for comfortable walking, but with the ability to edge on smallish holds and also to take a crampon.
So how does that work then, particularly given the the boot - and it's not even the top of the range S-LAB X ALP Carbon - weighs just 1262g per pair in a size 43?
3D Edging Chassis
The key to it is what Salomon calls the 3D Edging Chassis. We saw it stripped down at a show earlier this year and it uses interlocking plates that allow lots of lengthways flex, but are utterly rigid laterally as they lock together under sideways load. Normally boots use a simple, solid plate.
It's really ingenious and there's a load of flex in the sole unit as you can see from our pic of the top-end carbon version on the right. That boot, by the way, weighs a ridiculous 500g per boot and that's including the integrated gaiter.
Anyway, the rest of the boot is about moderate weight saving: it uses a mix of 1.5mm Nubuck leather uppers with Cordura fabric, an EVA midsole and a Contragrip mountaineering outsole complete with a smooth 'climbing zone' under the big toe.
Salomon hasn't forgotten that it's a mountain boot however, there's also a 2.5mm rubber toe cap and a partial 1.5mm rubber rand for abrasion protection.
Plenty of ankle padding and support, locking lace hook lets you optimise fit
It's also crampon compatible with C1-rated crampons using a harness-type fixing, which makes it one of the lightest officially crampon-compatible boots around.
Bear in mind that it's designed for easy alpine routes rather than hard, front-point action, but with Salomon rating it down to temperatures down to -12˚C, it could also make a versatile British lightweight winter mountain walking and moderate mountaineering boot.
The fit will be familiar to Salomon hiking boot wearers, it's snug on the heel and kind of medium in the forefoot and the boots feel very similar on to a standard issue lightweight Salomon with a locking lace hook letting you set tension differently front and rear.
What you can feel, on firmer ground at least, is that there's less cushioning under the forefoot in particular, but there's plenty of lengthways flex when walking and the X Alps feel light years away from any other lightweight alpine boot we've used in terms of walking comfort. There's plenty of ankle comfort and mobility too.
Edging Not Hedging
So they're more than flexible for comfortable walking, but what about the vaunted edging performance? Toe first they feel like any normal walking boot on small edges - the boot simply flexes and won't support your weight, but pick out a half-inch wide ledge hold and stand on it sideways on and the sole unit simply holds in the way you'd expect a fully-stiffened mountain boot to.
It feels a little uncanny that a flexible walking boot can do this and it should be ideal for UK scrambling routes which, like the sort of easy alpine ridges Salomon has in mind, mix up walking approaches and positive, reasonably large holds. So far then, it seems to do what it says on the box.
As far as crampons go, they fit on just fine, but how they'll work remains to be seen. We're waiting for some snow to arrive...
Magic boots! It's counter intuitive that a boot with this much longitudinal bend and walking comfort should simultaneously be able to edge happily on surprisingly small holds, but it really does promise to combine the comfort of Salomon's walking boots with the lateral stiffness of a full-on mountain one.
There are limits - you can't 'toe' on holds in the same way as you might with a conventional mountain boot for example, and there's less underfoot cushioning than with a pure hiking shoe, but overall it seems like a pretty good trade-off and it'll be interesting to see what it makes of its transplant from the Alps to the UK's mountains. How will the relatively shallow tread on the outsold cope for example?
The other plus of the X ALP MTN GTX as opposed to the £250 carbon version, is that it looks a little less, well, Hollywood than it's swankier cousin. There's also, by the way, a £230 PRO GTX version with an integrated stretch ankle gaiter, but otherwise the same spec. Finally the low-cut X ALP GTX rounds off the range.
So far we're impressed. Now if we could just have some more winter please.