Fortress Peak GTX: A good boot at a fair price
It was cold and rainy. The clouds thickened as the days progressed. The Tetons are a beautiful mountain range, but I wouldn’t have known it. Two days and all I saw was rain and snow. If I’d wanted cold and rainy, I would’ve stayed in Aspen for vacation. “Time to go south,” I told my girlfriend, Susan.On the way south to Jackson, Wyo., I pondered where to go. I also needed a new pair of boots. The three pairs I had were old and worn out. I’d been boot-shopping for a year so and now was the time to buy. After trying on a few pairs, I settled on a pair from The North Face: the Fortress Peak GTX. The basic product description on their website states is “One piece full leather Gore-Tex® boot suitable for three- to five-day treks carrying loads up to 50 pounds.” Hmmm, we’ll see.
They made all the usual boasts: Vibram soles, nubuk upper leather, Gore-Tex for waterproofing, anti-microbial lining, etc., etc. But the real tests were yet to come.We arrived in Moab with five days of vacation left. I’d been driving with the boots on for a day, and they breathed well and kept my feet cool. They were also comfortable. Good on test No. 1.The second test came on the Kane Creek-Hurrah Pass road. We were stopping a lot to shoot photos, but the boots kept my feet cool, even in 90-plus degree heat. They were also light – about 3 pounds for the pair.
Another test was the grippy sole. We found a rock outcropping on the way to Dripping Spring that had a maze of caves. For 30 minutes or more, I explored every nook and cranny I could find, then climbed on top and hopped from rock to rock. The solid footbed and grippy sole let me scramble over the rocks with ease and confidence.After a day driving around the backcountry, it was time to make camp. So the first real day of wearing my new boots was over. The “Northoticô Custom Anti-microbial Footbed” is supposed to fight foot odor, but my girlfriend nearly passed out when I took my boots off. Failed that test (I admit my feet should be registered as a WMD with the U.S. government).The next day we headed to Arches. The boots were finally breaking in, and were a little more comfortable. I was still amazed at the grip of the soles.
I was most impressed with the boot on the hike to Delicate Arch. Even though I was carrying about 25 pounds of photo gear, the footbed absorbed the extra weight and my feet hardly felt a thing. There was a downside, however, to the boots’ great traction: I scared my girlfriend while walking on some high and steep sandstone around Delicate Arch. Overall, a durable and comfortable boot, great for hiking with a pack. The Fortress Peak GTX retails for around $150.
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