Review: La Sportiva Trango Cube

Construction

La Sportiva bonds most of the boot together by injecting some sort of rubbery plastic onto a waterproof fabric. The structure of the boot is created by this plastic. It enables them to create a boot with a minimum of stitching and is a great base for a fully waterproof pair of footwear. On my last outing with these boots I accidentally dunked my foot into a pool of frigid river water. Not a drop made it to my sock. And early season dripping conditions seem to have no effect on the waterproofing of these puppies. I’ve had them totally encrusted with ice and no issues.

They’re light. Really light. During my first climbing outing in the them, a romp up Odell’s Gully on Mount Washington, I felt like I was in running shoes. Jumping, lunging, skipping; they can do it all. They also have a little flex in the forefoot which makes them walkable like a pair of stiff hiking boots.

The outer tongue is a nice softshell fabric that conforms nicely under lacing pressures. The interior tongue can be moved around or removed entirely for those with super-high volume feet. It is certainly comfy and does a good job distributing the force from the laces over the top of the foot. No serious hot spots even with tight lacing.

The lace loops are molded directly into the plastic frame of the boot. Super durable design. The lace locks at the ankle work splendidly and the hooks farther up the boot also keep the laces in place. The hooks on my Nepal Evos and Baruntses always let go of the laces at some point and needed to be re-tied.

Crampons

No toe welt. Bummer. This probably makes them easier to walk in and shaves off a little weight. But it rules out a lot of the classic crampons that this boot would love to be paired with; like the Petzl Dart.

Luckily for me, my Petzl Lynx crampons should be able to fit onto just about anything. And they fit onto the Trangos...sort of. The toe of the boot is so narrow that the plastic toe strap on the Lynx seems to slide way too far down the boot. And it migrates; likely from kicking ice. By the end of the day the heel lever is very easily flipped down, the rear spikes are a tiny bit floppy and it takes an enormous effort to pry the front strap off the boot. I’m not worried about them falling off. They’re definitely on there. But I would have appreciated a front toe welt to make them compatible with more crampons, even if that forced them to be a little stiffer.

Fit

These boots are short and narrow. My toes gently kiss the fronts of these boots in a size 48 and with a thick sock they’re pretty well crammed into the toebox. I’m finding that I prefer this kind of fit. It’s more of a rock shoe sensitivity. Maybe not totally necessary for ice climbing but it should prove to be useful for mixed climbing.

Despite this narrow fit I find that my heel will still lift while walking to a certain. This probably has more to do with my wretchedly awkward feet than any fault of the boot. I don’t notice any lift while frontpointing on steep ice if I’m keeping my heels in their proper heel-down position.

The drawback of such a narrow fit is cold toes. When the rest of my body is warm my toes are almost assuredly cold. Once again, someone with normalish (what’s normal, anyways)? feet should feel some relief because their toes won’t be crammed into the front of the boot as much.

Someone with wide feet probably wouldn’t be too comfortable in the Trango Cubes. A higher volume boot like the La Sportiva Nepals may be a better choice.

Warmth

Insulation? None here. But; the Trangos have made me rethink what kind of insulation is necessary for an ice boot in New England. I hear a lot of chatter along the lines of “What’s warmer? Nepals or Baturas?” Frankly I’m not sure if it really matters unless it’s REALLY cold outside.

I spent a day and a half climbing in Smuggler’s Notch. The highs reached 15 degrees on the first day and 20 degrees on the second. If I couldn’t warm up my feet I’d have to make the slog back to the car to grab my Baruntses. With a pair of chemical toe warmers pasted to the tops of my socks they performed remarkably well. My toes didn’t get any colder than they would have if the temps were at 35 degrees. They still got a bit cold but nothing close to making me want to grab a different pair of boots. I certainly didn’t feel like I was anywhere near frostbite. I wouldn’t want to bring these on a summit push on a 0 degree day on Mount Washington. But a fast push up Shoestring Gully would likely be okay. Just keep moving.

Summary

A low-volume, lightweight, ice and rock cruiser that should work down to 15 or 20 degrees for most people. Probably not the best boot for a winter Presidential traverse but will kick ass on alpine gullies gullies during warmer days and would be a svelte addition to a mixed climber’s arsenal.