Saturday, 24 November 2012

Busy times!

Well, I have just landed in Zermatt for 6 days work running a BASI Mountain Safety course. Forecast is clear for tomorrow, then snow, snow, snow and more snow - looks like winter is well on the way.

November has been busy here at 'offpisteskiing towers' - early in the month I was in Zermatt for the BASI Trainers conference - 5 days of interesting workshops making sure our courses and standards are properly aligned for the coming winter, and a great talk from Sir Steve Redgrave - new BASI President, and no mean skier.

2 quick days at home, then a very useful Outdoor First Aid course with React First in Chamonix- highly recommended, lots of activity and good reinforcement of accident protocols. Early the next day i was airport bound for my annual stint as a main presenter at the Kendal Mountain Festival. - 4 days of films, speakers, socialising, and the odd pint of Mountain Rescue Team ale. Highlights for me this year included the film Light Line, Jim Blyths great 1 hour whirlwind tour of ski touring on 7 continents, 2 great short films - one about hound-trailing and the other about Rab Carringtons time in Argentina and the beginnings of his down business.

But of course the main highlight was the Snowsports Session which this year I was MCing - guest speakers Andreas Fransson, Bjarne Sahlen and Mike Douglas were on hand to present their film Tempting Fear, but the surprise crowd pleaser was Kenny Biggin and John Sutherlands Hidden Gully, with reality and a human touch far outweighing any lack of slick production - link to follow as soon as the full version is online.

Meanwhile, out in the Alps the steep season is underway, with an impressive ascent and descent of the Mallory on the Midi (sans cable car) from Luca Rolli & the Italian crew - 2700m of D+ !, and a day or two after, the first descent of the Migot Spur on the Chardonnet by Kilian Jornet and Vivian Bruchez - an impressive and serious descent...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Dynafit TLT5 review

Its getting to that time of year when people start thinking about new kit for the winter. I have been promising a review of the TLT5 boot from Dynafit for some time and here it is (finally).

*Note* This review is simply my first thoughts & impressions based on approximately 20 days skiing/touring in the boots last winter. The boots were skied with Dynafit bindings on a pair of Dynastar Mythic Light skis (184). For those who don't know my skiing style then a quick look through the archives of this blog should give you an idea...

First off - these boots are light, light, light!  When I first put one on it felt the same as having a running shoe on my foot - though in reality the boots do weight in round about the 1Kg mark per foot. For anyone coming from an alpine boot or beefy touring boot background this is a major change - even compared to the Scarpa Maestrales which I dallied with for a few outings (see here) these boots are in a different league.

Dynafit TLT5 P

Comfort - the TLT5s are built on a narrower last than the Titan (my regular winter boot) and for my forefoot they needed a bit of gentle widening (thanks to Jules & Damien at the Boot Room) - this can be done but care needs to be taken as you can stretch too far and create a gap between the forefoot bellows and the rest of the clog.
The inners are very thin compared to my regular thermo liners (Palau) but were surprisingly warm considering. After the stretching above the boots have been very comfortable

The TLT5s only have 2 buckles - one over the forefoot and one around the cuff (+ a velcro strap at the top) - the cuff buckle also doubles as the ski-mode locking mechanism; the tongue is also removable for those who want a bit more flex or movement (not something I bothered with on the way up or down).
It is worth noting that the TLT5s are designed to work with 'low-tech' bindings ie Dynafit or Plum etc. I have heard of people using them with Fritschi etc, but the reduced rand on the toe of the boot is not designed to work with a normal step-in binding - on your own head be it...

The second thing you notice with these boots is the range of movement in walk mode (or walk/run mode as Dynafit call it!) - pop the cuff buckle open and you have masses of ankle movement - an amazing experience for anyone used to skinning with a heavy 'freeride' boot. Combined with the light weight these boots almost make going uphill a pleisure (almost)!

How do they ski?
Pretty damn well considering there is so little to them - the 2 buckles give reasonable foot hold in the boot and the carbon shell is super-responsive giving good support and lateral control. In most snow conditions skied these boots were just fine though in heavier snow I personally would have liked a 3rd buckle over the instep to help hold the heel in the 'pocket' - if you are being thrown about fore & aft it is noticeable that the foot isn't always pinned down into the back of the boot...
The forefoot flex (due to the bellows) is also noticeable on firmer snow - giving a strange feeling sometimes - almost a bounce, or sag as you load up the ski - for this winter I will be riveting this out (see Wildsnow for details) as it is superfluous to me (I don't intend to run in these boots...).

Other points of note are the fact that when the boot is in walk mode the cuff is wide open which isn't ideal if you are booting up a steep slope or climbing. The buckle is also quite bulky in walk mode:

This is definitely a downside for mixed climbing (or even bootpacking a firm set of boot holes) but can be easily solved by adding a small flap of plastic to cover the locking hole on the back of the shell - this means you can clip the boot almost-shut without locking it, maintaining ankle movement but with a low profile clip and without the risk of falling out of your boots!

In summary:

Pluses:  Super light weight, great walk/skin mode, responsive to ski

Minuses: Bulky walk mode, metatarsal flex, lack of an instep buckle

Overall I have been very happy with these boots and can't wait to give them more of a work out this winter.

It is worth noting that in Dynafits 2013 range the Vulcan and several other models potentially fill the gap between these and the Titan (even the Ultralight) and fix some of the minuses above (3rd strap, no metaT flex) and could well be THE boot (though at ~500g per foot more).

Worried about if you can rip on these boots? Check out this video from Gilles Sierro...