When I first saw these boots at OR last summer they looked like the best thing ever, and based off the spec sheet they sounded about the same — except for the low cuff. That low cuff seemed an odd design choice on a fully-rigid boot designed for ice and mixed climbing but after most of a winter season in them, I have to admit I was wrong about questioning it.
The Nordwand Light Mid GTX is part of Mammut’s Eiger Extreme collection which encompasses apparel, footwear and equipment designed for the harshest conditions and most demanding routes. Most of the collection features bright blues and oranges — long a signature colour theme — and these boots are no different, with a striking blue outer broken up by futuristic-looking orange lace tensioners. They look like nothing else out there and I get numerous questions about them everywhere I’ve climbed, from the Ouray Ice Park to the Canadian Rockies.
That bright blue outer is made of abrasion-resistant Schoeller WB-400 Stretch-Fabric and is one of the toughest boot materials I’ve encountered, with nary a scratch on it after months of regular use. Inside, the Gore-Tex Performance Comfort insulated lining keeps my toes warm down to around -15c, and runs all the way to the top of the boot for full waterproofness when walking through streams, or just standing under that dripping icicle. Providing additional warmth and rigidity is an insulated carbon midsole. Of course there are front and rear welts for fully-automatic crampon compatibility, and a high rubber rand protects the lower fabric section from excessive abrasion.
Height comparison, L to R: Scarpa Rebel Ultra, La Sportiva Trango ICE Cube, Mammut Nordwand Light Mid, Arc’teryx Acrux AR. The Mammut’s cuff is about 1cm lower than the Ice CUBE, which doesn’t sound like much but feels significantly lower when worn.
The outsole is a brand-new design that’s a collaboration between Mammut and Michelin (yes, that well-known tire manufacturer). The tread design looks similar to other mountaineering soles but Mammut claim that working ground-up with a partner such as Michelin, new to outsole manufacturing and design, gave them more freedom in the process and resulted in an outsole that’s approximately 40% lighter than comparable products, without any loss in tread depth or durability.
Traction is outstanding on every wintery surface I’ve tried, from clear, flat, lake ice to iced-up and uneven wind-slabbed snow. More trivial surfaces, such as rocks or dirt, barely deserve a mention as the outsole grabs onto everything so effectively. There’s minimal rocker so walking on even and hard surfaces for long periods of time is not the most comfortable. The stiff and relatively flat sole excels at kicking steps and side-hilling.
There’s to-the-toe lacing, and moving further up the boot, a locking eyelet that separates laces over the bridge from those that pull in the heel, a tensioning heel-retention hook, and a final non-locking eyelet across the top of the ankle. Though the boot does end noticeably lower than similar footwear, the upper three lacehooks effectively lock the heel in and prevent any unwanted lift. The top-most eyelet also aligns with a small leather tab across the tongue to alleviate any pressure and keep the laces from cutting into the fabric upper. It is also worth nothing that all three of the upper eyelets are all-metal in construction, and I haven’t had any issues with breakages.
Fit is on the wider side, and these feel noticeably roomier through the ball of my foot than similar Scarpa or Sportiva boots. The heel also feels roomier but the middle tensioning lacehook is so effective at locking it in that I’ve never experienced any discomfort or rubbing. On a further lacing note, I’ve really come to appreciate the three distinct zones you can create with the lacehooks: lower foot, heel lock, and upper ankle. I can dial in the exact fit I want for either the approach or climbing and know that the laces won’t slip over the course of the day. Length-wise, I find them to be slightly shorter than either the Scarpa or Sportiva and had to go up 1/2 a size to achieve the same fit (I have the Mammut in 44, the others are 43.5).
One of the bigger (or smaller?) claims that Mammut made about the Nordwand Light Mid is their weight, and like the rest of the boot, they live up to the specs: my size 44 weigh in at 728 grams per boot. This is almost 50 grams less than comparable boots from Scarpa (Rebel Pro, 761 grams in 43) or La Sportiva (Trango Ice Cube, 776 grams in 43.5). So not massive gains but still heading in the right direction of lighter yet equally adept at climbing.
Another surprise is the price of these: $400 USD or $500 CAD. That is an absolute bargain price for boots that perform so well and weigh so little. By way of comparison, the Rebel Pro retails for $500 USD or $625 CAD, while the Trango Ice Cube costs $550 USD or $770 CAD. (Don’t ask me about the seeming price discrepancies and the US to Canadian conversion rates… not my department!)
I was genuinely surprised by these boots. I hadn’t used anything from Mammut before but the fit and performance of these is exemplary. They’re incredibly light for a full-shank ice boot, very warm for their weight, and a bargain given their retail price. I choose these out of the lineup every time I’m heading out in milder conditions, and if I lived in a climate warmer than the Canadian Rockies and temps didn’t regularly drop below -15c, I can see these being my only pair of ice climbing boots. Very highly recommended.