“Are these warmer than the Nepals?” “Do they front-point as well?” Lighter? Heavier? More or less supportive? As durable? What about the price?
From climbing blogs to message boards, it doesn’t take long to find someone making a comparison to the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX boot. And it should come as no surprise that La Sportiva’s Nepal Evo is one of the most popular mountaineering boots of all time; a combination of rugged, supportive 3.2mm Perwanger leather, classic lacing system, lugged Vibram sole with rigid midsole, all lined with insulated Gore-Tex to keep a mountaineer warm and dry (elusive conditions, to be sure) add up to a serious boot that may not be the best at any one thing, but proves consistently strong across the board.
Cuff, Laces & upper
With many examples today of using man-made materials to build mountaineering boots, the Nepal’s full-leather upper is a welcome nod to time-tested and proven technology. The silicone-impregnated Idro-Perwanger Roughcut leather resists wear and gives great support while still permitting adequate ankle articulation. The yellow color is hardly low-key, but at least keeps the palette interesting (the women’s version is an equally non-subtle bright green). To increase durability and protection, a high rubber rand surrounds the lower part of the boot. A traditional lacing system allows the wearer to tighten or loosen where needed, and is further enhanced by the presence of a set of locking eyelets just before the ankle. These D-rings cam down to lock the lower part of the Nepal’s laces in place, which gives the wearer the choice of keeping the lower and upper parts of the laces at different levels of tightness. This small feature might be my favorite on the Nepal; I have found it particularly useful in letting me keep the top of the boot loose on a long approach while still maintaining a snug, sneaker-like fit below the ankle. Later, when the climbing starts, one can easily tighten the top to achieve the desired level of support. The only (admittedly small) gripe I have is that the stock laces seem to work themselves loose at the knot more often than some of my other shoes and boots. In general, I’ve found a good double-knot to do the job, but not always.
The Nepal’s cuff is padded and ergonomic, and includes a thin elastic gaiter at the rear to keep snow or other items from entering. I initially was skeptical of the little gaiter, but in retrospect I’ve not had any issues with foreign debris getting into my boots, so I’m a believer. I also have not experienced any shin bang from using these boots, which let me do long approaches in relative comfort when needed. I wouldn’t—and haven’t—thought twice about using the Nepals for long or committing days.
Sole, midsole & footbed
On our ill-fated trip to climb Hiuchi and Myoko, I received an alarming demonstration of the effectiveness of the Nepal’s traction. While traversing a short snow field and kicking small steps to keep my footing sure, the snow under my downhill foot gave way. My uphill foot did not—between the lugged Vibram sole and the uphill snow flush against the side of the Nepal, my body slid down, cranking my ankle in the immobile boot. Even with the support of the Nepal’s leather uppers, it was a significant injury that slowed us down and took months to rehabilitate. But I digress. The fact is that the Nepal’s sole grips well on snow, rock, dirt or wood (we covered plenty of duckboard on that trip), allowing its wearer to move with confidence (if not always grace).
The sole features Vibram’s Impact Brake System, a forward-facing scoop in the front of the heel that bites into snow, turf or rock irregularities to give increased purchase while moving downhill. The whole sole is impressively solid, eschewing stickier but softer rubber for a bomber, long-lasting formula. Edges kick steps easily up snow fields and allow for good edging on rock.
The stock footbeds are disappointing and I recommend replacing them with a supportive after-market model. I have had a great fit in the Nepals with the heat-formable Ed Viesters Sole, but also like the green and black Superfeet, depending on the boot or shoe. For comfort, the midsole features a variable thickness expanded polyurathane AntiShock layer to dampen shock.
Warmth and waterproofness
The Nepal Evo is a general mountaineering boot suited for year-round use in the alpine. A Gore-Tex Duratherm liner simultaneously makes the boot waterproof and adds important insulating properties. This also means that the Nepal might be on the warm side for sub-alpine pursuits or warm summer weather. In that case, an uninsulated summer mountaineering boot like the La Sportiva Trango line would be more appropriate. That said, I’ve never found the Nepals unbearably hot in warmer conditions, and I tend to run on the warm side. Everybody’s feet are different, so what works for me may or may not work for you. I’ve stood around in snow in sub-freezing temperatures in the Japanese Alps and my feet have stayed toasty warm in the Evos. I usually wear a single medium-weight wool sock, such as one of these Darn Tough models. A bellows tongue keeps the top of the boot’s waterproofing high above the ankle, and helps when moving through low streams or mud.
It should go without saying that, though it is a warm boot, the Nepal is not designed for multiple days out at extreme altitude or weather; if you’ve got trips like that in your future and you’re unsure what footwear would be appropriate, please check with a reputable guide service.
next generation of the La Sportiva Nepal: the cube
La Sportiva has released a newer version of the Nepal Evo called the Nepal Cube. The Cube is lighter and stiffer than the Evo, with both qualities largely due to the use of a carbon honeycomb midsole instead of the Evo’s TPU one. I haven’t had occasion to try the Cubes. Though the lighter weight is appealing, I love the very, very minor flex of the Evo. Certainly the Evos are stiff enough for any use I might put them to, and this pair should last me years. If you’ve tried the Cube, or both the Evo and the Cube, leave a note in the comments to let us know what you think!