Monday, August 10, 2009

Epic boot Failure - Trezeta double mountaineering boots

There use to be a tire commercial on TV (Michelin tires I think), where they say that there is less than an inch of material between you and the pavement. Then followed by their famous slogan, "Cause so much is riding on your tires." Well the same or more can be said for your shoes. The soles of your shoes are your connection between the earth and you.

As someone who spends alot of time on this feet in the wilderness, I have developed a certain fondness for boots. The fondness actually grew out of a necessity, for having the proper footwear for the proper conditions, can make the difference between a good trip and a bad one. This last weekend on a mountaineering trip, the importance of your footwear became very obvious as my climbing partner had an epic boot failure, which almost caused an unsuccessful summit bid.

Many years ago a pair of Trezeta Double Mountaineering boots was purchased (8 or 9 years ago). They were a double boot, meaning they had a separate inner boot, and a outer shell. This was a true mountaineering boot which would have given the equivalent performance as a plastic boot. Because the owner does not mountaineer much, these boots only saw action once every few years, when they are call to duty. And this last weekend they were.



Hiking the approach to our climb I hear a complaint about the boot making a funny clicking noise. A few minutes later I was turned around by a loud, "ohhh SHIT". What I found was a rather comical site. The sole of his boot had ripped off entirely. Our laughter soon turned to serious humming, as we tried to figure out a solution to this situation. The sole of boot was going to be very important on this trip. Not only does the crampon we were going to be using attach solely to the sole, but the 5th and 4th class route climbing was also going to require a good bit of rock to human connectivity. We both searched our packs for some lose straps we could use to bind the boot together. Using a bike toe clip strap, and a friction buckled strap, the sole was secured to the body of the boot. A cinch around the instep, and a strap around the heel and ankle was enough to secure the boot till we got to camp.

In my many year of boot owning/using/and observing, I have never seen a failure such as this one. Sure I have seen a sole begin to peal off, but never just fall off. It appears that the sole was purchased by Trezeta from Vibram. Then they used some molten rubber injection method to sandwich the plastic mid sole and a full shank steel bar. This rubber is then bonded to the leather/Kevlar upper boot, which extending high enough to act as rand protection. It was this bonding rubber that completely failed, and simply fell apart.

Who's fault is it? I would ultimately put the blame on Trezeta. However other factors should be considered and evaluated. The age. Do boots have a self life? Is 10 years approaching the life limit of a pair of boots? I would think not, having many a boots that are much older and still kicking. The boots were bought at Sierra Trading Post, a discount retailer of older or blemished gear. This should not have any effect on the quality of the product either. As a manufacture of goods, one should not allow a product they know will fail when put in use, to leave their factory door. It is one thing to have a scratch or an off color, another to have the sole fall off. Therefor STP did not know that they were selling defective items. Exposure to degrading elements. Maybe the boot sat in a vat of sulfuric acid? This in fact could be a possibility. Though not acid, maybe some other household agent. Maybe the boots were exposed to extreme heat from the trunk of a car on a hot day, or a campfire. However possible, one would think the ill effect would transpire upon both right and left with equal vengeance. The owner also never remembers subjecting the victim to any harsh treatments which would be considered out of the ordinary.

Once at camp I dug through my "first aid" kit to see what kind of repair items I might come up with. It was examine time and my fix it skills were being tested. The heel and the center portion of the boot was fairly secure with the straps rigged earlier. The toe was of primary concern. Duck tape was a last option. I could only imagine wrapping lengths of tape around the sole and the body of the boot. I knew I did not have enough tape to wrap as many times as I would have liked, and I did not want to decrease the traction by covering the rubber sole with tape. My first attempt was thermo Glue. I carry a small packet of glue used to repair Therma Rest Inflatable sleeping pads. Boil the packet for about three minutes to soften the glue then apply. This attempt did not work out for various reasons. A collection of zip ties however yielded a solution. Three holes were pierced in the outer sole, which the zip ties were threaded through, and fashioned into loops. The three loops where then connected to form a basket to keep the toe in place. In conjunction with the two straps, this seems to keep the boot together. When crampons where installed, an additional strap was used around the instep to further insure the crampon would not fall off. In the five pitches of ice/snow climbing, the crampons required to be readjusted only once.

At the end of a day of mixed climbing and two days of hiking the repair job held and still had many miles and verticle feet left in them. However I belive that these boots will never see another outting. The last picture shows the boot at the end of the trip. Much of the bonding rubber had fallen off, yet the other boot remained in good shape. I have contacted Trezeta to see what they had to say about this failure. So far I have not heard anything from them and will update this post if I do. Products fail, that is a given fact. But these failures can be reduced with proper feild testing and consumer feedback. It will be interseting to see if Trezeta cares enough about their customers to respond to my inquiry. Aside from product quailty and performance, customer service is what often seperates a good company from a bad.
Oh yeh, I guess I passed my test.

4 comments:

  1. Impressive! Mental note light weight and almost as usable as duct tape.

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  2. Hi Bill,

    The exact same thing happened to me yesterday as I was preparing for a hike. The soles of both left and then right Trezeta mountaineering boots literally separated from the body of the boot.

    I bought the boots around 2001 from a retail store and only used them every 2 yrs on ice or mountaineering activities. They were stored in the basement at room temperature. I am thankful that the boot failure happened at home instead of in the backcountry.

    What news have you had from Trezetta?

    Walter

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  3. http://mrpulldown.blogspot.com/2009/09/trezeta-epic-boot-failure-part-ii.html#comment-form

    Trezetta told me "they are out of warranty"
    Translated to "we suck as a company, so much so that we no longer make mountaineering boots, just light weight hiking shoes"

    ReplyDelete