The Scarpa Ribelle Mountain Tech OD is designed to take you from the valley floor to summit and back again which points to the versatility at the heart of this boot’s conception. Developed with Scarpa’s lead athletes including the late great Ueli Steck the Ribelle OD is yet another step forward in the evolution of alpine boots – something you could wear from leaving your valley campsite/hut all the way to the summit of your chosen peak and not feel you were compromised performance wise at any stage.
Appearance wise this is a futuristic looking boot though some of the visual glamour such as the lace cover are more cosmetic, it is only when you start to closly examine the boot you begin to understand how clever it is. Firstly to satisfy the weight weenies (me included) out there my size 43.5 come in at 651 grams (1302g a pair) so yes straight off the bat these are some crazy light mountain boots.
They are rated as B2 and have a TPU crampon insert on the heel to accept a semi automatic (C2) crampons. They are built on Scarpa’s ARG last which even my broad feet found comfy – on a par with the Mount Blanc Pros I’ve used for the last 4 years but not quite as roomy in the toe box I felt. They have a nice ‘rocker’ to the sole unit which makes walking super comfy and helps with the light and agile feeling when moving over mixed ground. The sole unit itself is a Vibram Pentax Precision III and the following graphic gives a good idea of the rocker that aids walking.
The uppers are fully synthetic ‘KCN TECH Fabric’ which makes for easy care and has proven robust so far. There is a significant rand and the boots incorporate a stretch gaiter which together with the OutDry barrier keeps them waterproof and prevents snow ingress. OutDry was developed by Italian company Nextec srl as a waterproofing technology that has proven especially popular with manufacturers of boots and gloves. The waterproof breathable membrane is bonded directly to the outer fabric leaving no ‘gap’ between outer and waterproof membrane for water to collect and eliminating many of the seams making for a lighter, more flexible and thus comfortable upper. The Sock-Fit Plus technology ensures a minimum of seams and a supremely comfortable fit. The tight fitting nature of the integrated gaiter means that you do need to pull these boots on using the provided pull on loops almost like a pair of socks or a rock slipper (but without the ensuing toe crushing)! The upper is very light and also very flexible both fore and aft and laterally at the ankle – much like an approach shoe. This again helps with agility on both the rock (they climb brilliantly) and on snow where the flexibility makes it easy to roll and flex your ankle to get all crampon points in contact with the slope using French Technique – pied a plat style; something that will save a lot of energy on a long day. It is amazing how many people you see on the hill front pointing or step kicking on relatively moderate slopes. If you are puzzled by these terms please beg borrow or steal a copy of Chouinard’s iconic ‘Climbing Ice’ it maybe 40 years old but the photo’s of the man himself along with André Contamine are fabulous! Lacing is actually fairly conventional – it does extend a long way to the toe which is good for climbing performance – but apart from a ‘lace lock’ prior to the last two eyelets there is nothing revolutionary though the fact it is all eyelets and no hooks does enhance the approach/training shoe aesthetic and feel. The laces are covered by a simple mesh flap or LPC (Lace Protection Cover!), I’m not quite sure what it protects them from as the laces are tough enough and it’s not waterproof, but it does keep muck out to an extent and aids the sleek futuristic look.
Pulling on the Scarpa Ribelle Mountain Tech OD feels both weird and liberating the first time both amazing light and comfy but at the same time difficult to believe they can take a crampon and perform in the mountains. If a trail running shoe and a light alpine boot where crossbred then you would expect the offspring to resemble the Ribelle Mountain Tech OD. There is no single element of the boot which makes them so good but rather the combination of the ankle flexibility, fit and lightweight together with effective waterproofing. A bonus on alpine rock climbs is that thy take up minimal space (for a mountain boot) and add minimal weight to your climbing sac. I was hoping that I could try my pair in the Alps this summer but somehow a wayward courier managed to find Kev’s house to deliver his pair but not mine! So I had to wait for my return to the UK.
Some easy big boot rock routes on Dow Crag instantly showed the Ribelle Mountain Tech OD’s credentials they climbed with the sensitivity and precision of a good approach shoe but with better edging, whilst the walk in and out felt like you were in a trainer. Total comfort. Total performance on the rock. Winter walks and scrambling in the Lakes further reinforced these impressions but also threw up a few foibles. The LPC is secured with velcro and velcro does not like being immersed in half frozen muck and munge. The upshot being that on several occasions it began to peel undone, not fully but just annoyingly. Cleaning the velcro once back at the hut solved the problem. Now this is something that is not going to be an issue in your typical summer alpine environment (later on in Scotland it stayed secure in wet powder without incident) but certainly is a factor of everyday winter in the UK. The cynic in me can’t help thinking the LPC is largely cosmetic to help the boot fit in with the modern sleek aesthetic – which is unnecessary given this boot’s performance. I didn’t find the lace-lock that effective either, it seemed fiddly to me and there was slippage – in fact I just removed it and just twisted the laces round themselves four times like I do with my normal winter boots. Finally the ‘sealed’ nature of the boots makes them a bit slow to dry after you’ve sweated into them all day. You can’t open them up in the same way as a conventional boot so even in a drying room they take a while to dry out. A dedicated boot dryer works wonders but if you’re away for a while then you may need to put some effort in to dry them overnight.
Early season conditions in Scotland allowed me to test their usability with crampons. Paired with a set of Grivel AirTechs they make a fantastic team for Scottish winter. Semi step-in crampons like the AirTech are great for minimal fuss on and off which aids efficiency on those long summer alpine days too. Although the classic gullies were not in condition I played around on some steep turf, patches of ice and an alpine stroll up and down Ledge Route on the Ben to get a good feel for their potential. I would happily use them up to Grade 4 on Scottish mixed/gullies and similarly in the Alps think Green Gully or Cheré Couloir. The agility and flexibility made for more secure and accurate crampon placements in some awkward wet powder over loose scree/rubble situations. Overall they make for a fantastic Summer Alpine or British/Scottish winter boot although they might feel bit chilly in full on Scottish conditions.
If you can afford them (and always if they fit your feet!) these are the best summer alpine boot I have tried and make a great UK winter boot within the parameters mentioned above. They are comfy, nimble and super light so will help save precious energy on your summer alpine objectives. There are a couple of niggles that I’ve outlined but I’ve no hesitation in giving them 5 stars!
- Super light
- Agile, precise and nimble
- LPC seems cosmetic and doesn’t like UK muck
- Slow to dry out from sweat.
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!