Buying a new pair of boots less than 24-hours before a long backpacking trip is generally not the best idea. It’s like diving into a swimming hole without checking for rocks first. Will your new boots cause blisters or hotspots? How will they support your feet over multiple days? What kind of terrain will they perform best on?
I had originally planned on wearing a pair of trail running shoes on a 4-day hike through the Weminuche Wilderness, but decided the technicality of the trail and the weather forecast would have left my feet beaten and cold. I chose the La Sportiva Trango TRK’s because they are lightweight, waterproof, have an aggressive tread and a firm plate of rubber under the toes to help with 3rd and 4th class terrain.
A view of the surrounding mountains in Chicago Basin near Durango, CO.
When trying the boots on, I found two sizes that worked for me: the 43.5 euro (10.5 us) and the 44 euro (10.5+ us). I wear a 44 with very few exceptions, so I’d say these boots are true-to-size. The 43.5 was a little snug, but I nearly bought them because of the enhanced precision they would have given me on 3rd/4th class terrain. I decided however that the 44 would give my forefoot a little more room to swell while hiking 8 to 15 miles a day and that the time spent in technical terrain would be minimal. So approximately 14 hours before we started the hiking, I bought the boots I’d spend the next four days in.
Day 1: We started at Purgatory Flats and hiked down to the Animas River. From there we trekked around the southern end of the Needles to the mouth of Chicago Basin. The weather was promising up to this point, but the summer monsoons strike like clockwork in the San Juans and we found ourselves crouching below trees while hail pelted us and lightning snapped less than a mile away. Fifteen minutes of storm left the air cold and the trail damp, however I never noticed discomfort in my feet. We made it to the campground towards the top of the basin and ended our first day of hiking.
Day 2: This was the day when we would leave our trekking weight behind and summit the 14ers of our choosing. Myself and two others from our group decided to climb Eolus and North Eolus: sister 14ers connected by an exposed catwalk traverse. We opted to bag North Eolus first, which offered bulletproof steep granite. The Trangos bit the rock well and gave me no inclination that I was unsafe. Eolus was a bit more technical and the shoes gave me the same sense of comfort while I placed my foot on holds no bigger than the width of a cell phone. The rigidity and traction mirrored that of a high-end approach shoe.
The locals in Chicago Basin don't need no stinking Gore-Tex boots.
Day 3: We packed up our gear and made our way over Columbine Pass which lies just below 13,000 ft. The steep trail and heavy weight on my back was fine once I realized that I still didn’t have any hotspots. After summiting the pass, we made our way down to Vallecito Creek where we made camp at 8 or 9,000 ft. Four thousand feet of elevation loss was less forgiving than the way up because the balls of my feet felt bruised, but once the trail flattened out a bit, the sensation disappeared. I believe this temporary discomfort was due to the 35 lb pack on my back, as well as the relentlessly steep trail. A softer shoe may have helped prevent the soreness, but the support was necessary and not worth giving up.
Day 4: Eight miles of flat to downhill hiking was the perfect way to end our weekend trip. My body hurt in all the right ways, and I still had no hotspots to complain about. The Vallecito Creek Trail criss-crosses the waterway numerous times, mostly on bridges, with the exception of the “third river crossing.” An avalanche wiped out a significant bridge several years ago and it has never been replaced. At this point we had to wade through the knee-deep water. I should have gone barefoot, but I saw a line of rocks I thought I could hop across. When a rock shifted, I fell in feet first, ruining my plan to keep my feet dry. We only had a few more miles to go, so I didn’t even change out of my wet socks. Just as suspected, the boots did not dry on our final miles and caused a bit of rubbing near the upper tongue of the boots, ultimately giving me small blisters.
The La Sportiva Trango TRK’s saw gravely dirt, steep slabby granite, rain, wind, hail, multiple creek crossings, and sunlight at 14,000 ft. They walked over 30 miles and cruised about 8,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. The La Sportiva Trango TRK’s did all this out of the box, and I only had two minor issues:
1. Two bug-bite-sized blisters, one on each shin from crossing a knee-deep stream on the last day which didn’t give the boots a chance to dry.
2. The laminate seems to be giving way on the upper part of the boot. The Gore-Tex liner is below this point, so the damage should only be superficial and won’t actually hinder the integrity of the boots waterproofing.
Come pick up a pair at Backcountry Experience! And if you’re not convinced the Trango TRK’s are for you, I guarantee we have something that is.