Scarpa's new Manta Pro GTX is the original Manta's more glamorous younger sister, with swanky alpine styling, a closer fitting, more 'technical' last and features borrowed from the brand's latest high-tech trekking boots.
It's a boot for those who find the Manta - still in the range and £50 less/150g-odd heavier - a little clumpy and unsophisticated despite its UK winter workhorse credentials, but essentially it does the same job of providing a B2-rated crampon platform while still being reasonably comfortable for mountain walking below the snow line.
There's plenty going off with the Manta Pro GTX. For starters it uses a snugger FT last for a closer, more technical fit. It also nicks stuff from the trekking boot range, in particular the Autofit Collar and the Flex Point Zone, which are designed to give better ankle mobility - a good call for both comfort and crampon technique.
It also gets a waterproof Gore-Tex lining - something you'll either appreciate or not, the Manta doesn't have one - and, underfoot, a new TPU crampon plate plus PU shock absorbing inserts for heel and forefoot for better shock absorption.
It also, says Scarpa, has 'more progressive flex characteristics' than before for better long distance walking comfort.
The stuff that makes boots good with crampons and kicking into hard neve is also what makes them less comfortable for general walking below the snow line, so you're alway looking at a balance between the two.
The good news is that Scarpa has managed to hit something of a sweet spot with the Manta Pro. The reduced weight and closer fit in the forefoot in particular means the boot feels instantly less clumpy than the standard Manta, but the real tour de force is the brilliantly flexible ankle.
Lace the forefoot snug using the slick Speed Lacing furniture, lock off the laces using the locking hooks at the instep and you can leave the ankle area slightly slacker for walking comfort, but for once it's not strictly necessary, the ankle area is brilliantly cushioned and super flexible.
Pop on a pair of semi-automatic crampons - the boots are B2 rated with a heel clip ledge - and you really do appreciate that ankle flex when flat-footing on steeper terrain, it's simply easier to get more of the crampon in contact with the snow without restriction or ankle rubbing.
They make an excellent crampon platform and are stiff enough to kick into harder snow without as well with the full rubber rand giving protection to the Cordura and leather uppers. Our only slight reservation was that we experienced a little heel lift when front-pointing on steeper slopes, but that's an individual fit issue and these are more mountain walking than climbing boots.
For walking use we found the boot deceptively comfortable for a full-winter design. The ankle flexibility works well here too and there's just enough underfoot cushioning and flex to take the edge off stomping along rocky approach paths. The stiff sole makes them good on rock holds and rough terrain too.
We wouldn't choose them for year-round walking below the snow line, but it's nice to know that long walk-ins to remote Munros needn't be a purgatorial experience.
One thing to be aware of is that the solidly reliable Vibram sole unit has shallower tread than many traditional four-season boots, so may wear faster with heavy walking use.
If it fits your foot shape, the Scarpa Manta Pro GTX might just be the ultimate UK winter mountain boot with a brilliant balance of underfoot stiffness and ankle mobility that works well with crampons, but offers enough comfort and flexibility for winter walking below the snow line too.
The closer fit makes for a more precise, less clumpy feel than the standard Manta, and the svelte good looks are the icing on the cake. Expensive, but very impressive.