Winter mountain walking requires a B-rated boot - what does that mean?

On a growing number of our trips, we want to introduce you to the mountains in winter. If we’re aiming to head up high when there’s snow and ice on the ground, you’ll need winter boots, an ice axe and crampons.

Though we can hire out the ice axe and crampons, boots are trickier, and you’ll need to bring your own. However, these can’t be your usual summer walking boots. Summer boots are too flexible and not durable enough to hold a pair of crampons, and will be uncomfortable if we are kicking steps in the snow. They’re also not as insulated and as warm as winter boots, so will lead to cold feet.

Winter Snowdon

For this reason, on some trips (it’ll say on the trip sign-up page) we insist on you have ‘B-rated’ boots. These have sturdier, less flexible soles, and can be a little bulkier in some cases.

B1, B2, B3

B-rated boots come in three types, rising from 1-3. In general, a B1 boot is good for winter walking, warmer than a Summer boot and can hold a basic crampon (C1). B2 boots are for the next level up, stiffer in the sole and able to clip to a sturdier (C2) crampon and are useful for steep slopes and winter scrambling. B3 boots are the top of the range, will have a sole that is very stiff along it’s length and are usually the warmest and sturdiest and can be used for winter climbing, including ice climbing.

Scottish Winter

B1 boots are fine for any of the trips we run involving winter mountains. If you intend on extending your winter mountain walking experience to include steep terrain, you may want to consider getting B2’s, which will also work fine with the same crampons as B1’s, but they will allow you in the future to get a sturdier crampon and tackle harder walks/scrambles.  The B2 boots are probably the best compromise in terms of boots to buy for winter walking and mountaineering, being warmer, sturdy enough to cope on snow and ice and able to accept a mid-grade crampon (C2).

B2’s have a heel ledge that will allow the fit of C2 crampon, allowing for a secure fit and all round versatility.  B2’s have stiff midsoles and uppers, however, there is just enough flexibility for general walking when on less technical terrain.

Many good outdoor shops will have B-rated boots, but they won’t be in the cheaper stores such as Mountain Warehouse or Millets (nothing against these stores, but winter technical kit just isn’t what they do). We recommend Cotswold (where we have a discount), or another technical shop such as Ellis Brigham or Snow and Rock. Staff should know what B-rated boots are and be able to help you choose a pair.

A good example of a B1 boot is the Scarpa R-Evo Pro.

A good example of a B2 boot is the Scarpa Manta Pro.

Please contact us if you are thinking of buying crampons for use on one of our trips, or talk to the staff when you buy the boots to make sure they’re compatible.

You can view our full list of Winter Walking trips on our dedicated – Discover UK Winter Walking Page…

Scottish Winter

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