Weight: 1lb 14oz (850g) each (US Size 9)
Geography is a big determinant of destiny. So it’s only logical that Italy, a mountainous and boot-shaped country, would be home to many of the companies producing high-end footwear for our alpine endeavors. The nation with a centuries-old heritage of crafting fashionable and functional shoes is home to brands including La Sportiva, Scarpa, Kayland and the makers of my recently worn ice boots, Asolo. The Cholatse TH model, Asolo’s high-end ice and alpine model, is an excellent example of solid craftsmanship topped off by several functional tweaks that separate it from other boots of this style. The light, solid foundation and slickly integrated insulation makes it excellent choice for everything from water ice cragging to climbing in the Greater Ranges.
The Cholatse TH is built upon a carbon fiber/kevlar footbed frame, keeping the weight of the boots to a minimum and maximizing space for the Thinsulate insulation. The look is clean and the designers have wisely eliminated all seams and stitching from the bottom of the foot, a design choice that will improve longevity. And although the carbon fiber does theoretically flex more under-foot (for easier walking) than normal full-shank boots, I didn’t find these any more comfortable to approach in (or more squirrely to frontpoint in) than full-shank models from other major brands.
I had no problem reaching a secure fit with fully automatic crampons from American and Italian companies, and the Vibram rubber soles, now basically standard on high-end alpine boots across the brands, provided traction and sensitivity on slick granite approach slabs or muddy trails.
Ankle-high, built-in neoprene micro gaiters are made of a stretchy and synthetic fabric to keep snow and ice out from above, and use a large, well-thought-out tab for easy on-off with gloves. Those sticking to waterfall cragging or who prefer a traditional gaiter can easily save a few ounces by cutting away this material. I had no warmth issues wearing them into the single-digits, and they were easy to take on and off, even when frozen. With the integrated gaiter, a high-gusseted tongue and the wrap-around rand’s seamless rubber coming high up the sole, the full Goretex lining may be overkill. It limits breathability more than keeps your feet dry. But even with the design refinements and waterproof laminate membrane up high, I didn’t notice my feet ending up any sweatier (or smellier) than the typically humid state I find them in following a day of climbing.
The Cholatse lacing system lacks any of the eyelets designed to “grab” the bootlaces in place midway up the foot. This means if you want a snug fit in the toes, you’ve got to have a snug fit high on the foot, and vice-versa. The inability to dial in tension in two or three independent zones would have been easy to remedy with the type of lace eyelets found on the Mammut Mamook and other models. My other primary complaint about this boot is a sizing system that seems in no way related to other brands on the market. Definitely try this model on before you purchase, as I found them to run 1.5-2 sizes larger than the stated EUR fit from other Italian boot-makers.
As with other true ice climbing boots designed for vertical performance, long approaches make you appreciate wearing a light pair of tennis shoes while keeping these strapped to your pack. That’s what I found myself doing in Patagonia and the Colorado Rockies, though for shorter walks such as the cragging in Vail, Colorado, I happily wore them the whole time.
Though Asolo may not be as well known among climbers as the brand’s more famous Italian counterparts, their Cholatse TH model demonstrates that the company is a serious player in the alpine and ice arenas. A better boot for across-the-board winter climbing in the Lower 48 would be hard to come by, but if it’s out there, it probably comes from Italy as well.
Pros: Durable; flexible around the ankles; built-in micro gaiters.
Cons: Difficult to lace tightly; fit is unusually large.
The Cholatse TH will be available through 2012. Asolo’s most comparable continuing model is the Eiger GV. –Ed.
Disclaimer: This product was tested and the review submitted to Alpinist prior to the author’s current affiliation with any footwear company.