With towering snow-capped peaks, jagged, technical terrain and dramatic alpine landscapes, the Alps are one of the world’s most dramatic mountain ranges. It is here, in the shadows of this glorious mountain range that Lowa has spent nearly 90 years crafting authentic footwear that “walks the talk” when it comes to quality, performance and sustainability.
Part of Lowa’s “trekking series,” the Khumbu II GTX offers the body and soul of a backpacking boot in a lighter weight design with softer flex designed as an ideal choice for do-it-in-a-day excursions. In an effort to best test the claimed performance characteristics of the Khumbu II GTX, our review team decided to go medieval on these boots, subjecting it to the ancient system of justice: Trial by Ordeal.
Trial by Ordeal….
For the better part of a millennium, Europe’s legal systems decided difficult criminal cases in a most peculiar way. When judges were uncertain about an accused criminal’s guilt, they subjected the individual to a series of unpleasant, usually dangerous experiences. In some cases, the accused were considered innocent only if they survived the test or if their injuries healed.
Reaching their height between the 9th and 13th centuries, these trials were called “ordeals”. And while our modern world rightly condemns those trials for being cruel and arbitrary, from the perspective of a gear tester, it seemed the perfect way to test the gumption of the Lowa Khumbu II GTX.
Ordeal of Water…
Seamless, waterproof GORE-TEX® lining is intended to reduced hot spots while keeping feet oblivious to streams and spring showers. Just to make sure the Khumbu II lived up to the billing, we subjected them to trial by water. In this ordeal, the Khumbu II GTX was submerged time and again in icy cold streams and rivers to be acquitted only upon survival. At the end of the trial, the boots basically looked at us, smiled and said thanks for the bath.
Ordeal of Fire…
Ordeal of fire typically required that the accused walk a certain distance, over red-hot ploughshares or holding a red-hot iron. Instead of walking over coals, we took the Khumbu II miles under the hot sun, criss-crossing bald granite passes reflecting the suns harsh rays. Thanks to a unique combination of fabrics in the upper – a thin, breathable Cordura nylon overlaid with a plastic polyurethane mesh – heat escaped with ease. Even when temps neared the “unbearable” range, the Khumbu II kept our feet calm, cool and collected.
Ordeal of Trail…
Now granted, in the 12th century there was no “ordeal by trail”, but clearly no gear review would be complete without one. So we took the Khumbu II GTX through the great expanses of California’s Desolation Wilderness and traversed miles of terrain in California’s Auburn Canyon. Between these two regions, these mountain trekkers were subjected to every obstacle available in Mother Nature’s arsenal.
From schaal to hardened clay, to rocky outcroppings, and snow covered rock, the Vibram® Apptrail with aggressive lugs gobbled up every obstacle in their path. The Apptrail sole also features a self-cleaning tread so while your Khumbu II is devouring miles on the trail, it will take less of the muck and mire with you.
After subjecting the Khumbu II to the perils of trial, we had time to enjoy the near perfect volume in the toe-box. The Lowa design team nailed this feature, providing just enough room for toes to rest in their natural position while still allowing for the foot to swell during longer outings.
While some may find the tongue of the Khumbu II on the narrow side, we felt as though the patent pending tongue stud not only provided for better pressure distribution, but helped to keep the tongue in place for greater comfort.
There’s no doubt that a $250 price tag will be a slight sticker shock to some. However, the Khumbu II is well priced within this category of boot, and will likely out endure most of its competitors.
The Bottom Line…
Why reach for a full-blown mountaineering boot and wear your legs out with weight when all you need is a fully featured trekker like the Khumbu II GTX? With the protection to prevent rolled ankles and wet toes, and the tread to tackle any obstacle, the Khumbu II GTX Trail Boot not only crushes medieval ordeals, it will help ensure your next trek is a successful one.
Manufactured by LOWA (http://www.lowaboots.com/), the Khumbu II GTX is available in three color options for $250. The shoe can be purchased from a variety of online retailers. Sizes, Womens 5 to Mens 14.