Intro image of yours truly posing hard on the icy roof of a glacier cave. Photo by John Price Photography
If the local crags are any indication, mixed climbing, and the dry-season off-shoot known as dry-tooling, are becoming more popular by the week. And with the rise in popularity, not only are there more climbers around but there are also more and more climbers getting significantly stronger — strong enough to enter into the double-digit realm where ‘fruit boots’ become an important tool.
Scarpa released the Rebel Ice boot last winter and after over a year of use I have to say I’m very impressed. Because this is such a specialized bit of kit, I don’t have a lot of others to compare it to: I’ve used the previous (yellow) version of the Scarpa, the Lowa Ice Comp GTX, as well as the previous-generation La Sportiva Mega Ice Evo. As befits the newest design, the Rebel Ice is the most technologically advanced, and the most capable.
The Rebel Ice is made of a stretchy upper, which utilizes Scarpa’s Sock-Fit to achieve a very close, foot-hugging boot. Insulation is provided via Primaloft Micropile and provides enough warmth for me to comfortably climb at -10C, maybe a bit colder. The full-carbon sole is very, very stiff, and the Vibram-rubber heel has ridges specially designed for heel-hooking.
A Boa closure system tightens down the forefoot, while a more ‘normal’ velcro straps locks the ankle in place. The Boa closure provides even pressure across the foot, is easy to tighten and release, and doesn’t slip, while the velcro strap can be cranked down to eliminate any heel lift or ankle shift even when pulling hard upside-down.
I had not expected the carbon sole to last as well as it has — especially after a year of scratching around on rock. Mine has picked up a lot scratches, gouges and nicks but nothing that would indicate serious damage to the carbon itself. The Vibram rubber sole has also held up very well, showing hardly any wear.
The sole comes pre-drilled in a four-bolt-square pattern, however the boots do not include the necessary bolts. The newer, stainless-steel, BD Raptor and Krukonogi Air Light crampons bolted on without issue, however the three-bolt triangle-pattern Petzl D-Lynx fits onto two bolts only: the third hole required drilling the sole. Not much of an issue, just something to be aware of as getting the bolt into the boot after drilling the hole is a tight, hand-twisting process!
Thanks to their advanced construction, the Rebel Ice are incredibly light and low-profile. My size-44 pair weighs just 630 grams, and that includes the crampon (vs, say, a BD Stinger which is 472 grams for the crampon alone!). Thanks to the stiff but minimal carbon sole, they’re also very low-profile and the crampon is very close to your foot — the most noticeable aspect when navigating a horizontal roof and trying not to snag the rope.
Sizing is spot-on Scarpa, though as they come in whole-sizes only I think this is something to address. I wear a 43.5 Phantom Guide and went with the 44 Rebel Ice — they’re tight to get your foot into as-is, and I figured the little bit of extra space can be compensated for with a thicker sock. My friend Will, who also wears a 43.5 Phantom Guide, chose the Rebel Ice in 43 — he somehow gets his foot in there, but I’ve tried his pair and think they’re a bit too tight. But then again, he climbs M14, and I’ve only managed a couple M10’s…
The one area of potential issue is the inner lining on sample and early production models. I have two pairs of the Rebel Ice — a pre-production sample pair and a retail-version — and I’m really glad I bought the second, retail, pair as the lining in one of my sample boots ripped at the stitching near the top of the ‘cuff.’ This type of damage would typically be replaced or repaired under warranty by Scarpa, however as mine are a sample they don’t qualify for warranty. I tried getting them fixed by a couple of cobblers but both said they couldn’t fix this type of material — I ended up cutting up the lining, duct-taping the material together and stitching leather patches over the whole mess. Again, this is an issue with some samples and early production models only, but something to be aware of if you were to find a used pair somewhere. The retail pair I bought hasn’t shown any issues with the stitching.
If the recent 2015 Bozeman Ice Climbing World Cup is anything to go by, the Rebel Ice are the most popular fruit boot currently on the market. It seemed as if every other competitor was sporting the orange-black Scarpa’s, and their retail-level availability is sure to increase these numbers.
As with other fruit boots, this is a very specialized piece of footwear. Given their $500+ retail price, plus a $200-ish pair of crampons, the Rebel Ice are a serious investment in mixed climbing and dry-tooling. But, if you’re getting into the double-digit grades a pair of these will go a long way to making those grades feel just a little bit easier — the weight savings and lower-profile are worth it alone, the precision and stiffness are just bonuses!
Pros: warm, low-profile, stiff, nice closure system
Cons: expensive, early pairs have (had) durability issues
Overall: The Rebel Ice is the best fruit-boot I’ve used, and though pricey, it’s worth every penny if you’re venturing into the horizontal realms.