Mountain boots

Scarpa Ribelle Lite HD WMN Boot Review

By Felicity Thomas

I have a checkered history when it comes to ‘walking’ boots. My general motto has been to avoid them whenever possible, opting for trail shoes since a pair of saturated, old, cheap, leather tramping boots savaged my feet back in 2013. Only recently have I even been convinced of the benefits of the additional stiffness and grip of approach shoes for certain terrain. I have owned a pair of boots for the occasional summer trip where snow is involved and ski boots are sadly inappropriate. I often question my life decisions when on these trips.

None more so then in the summer of 2023, when I completed the Macpherson-Talbot traverse in my 10+ year old Salewa Ravens, which I picked up second hand and probably a half a size too big (but they were a bargain!). The main issue on the traverse in the Darrans was the snowfields below Talbot were stripped back to firm glacier ice and my old, oversized boots paired with my lightweight Petzl Ivris crampons felt like they had the structural integrity of tissue paper. Not to mention the boot’s delaminated soles, which I had DIY’d back together with shoe glue and wood clamps. Not very comforting when you have the exposure of the Macpherson cirque below your feet.

After another short mountaineering excursion in late 2023, where I carried my boots in my pack to avoid wearing them for the non-snowy sections, I decided that perhaps some new boots might help my enjoyment of these summer trips—especially as the winter and my ski boots felt like miles away. I wanted a women’s specific boot, as I have narrow and low volume feet. I also wanted them to be lightweight and breathable, as heavy and hot feet are one of my major gripes with walking in boots. My best options seemed to be between the Scarpe Ribelle Lite HD, the La Sportiva Aequilibrium LT and the Mammut Taiss Light Mid GTX.

After a failed gamble on the Aequilibruims—which are too high volume for my scrawny feet—I ended up with a pair of Ribelle Lite’s in a 39.5 (for reference I am mondo 24.5 in ski boots). The Ribelles are still fractionally too wide for my forefoot, but hold my heel better than the Aequilibriums. They are approximately 100 times stiffer than my Ravens and have grippy Vibram rubber soles and robust rands on the toe box.

Their first outing, outside of a short walk from my house to the river, was an attempt on Mt Crosscut. This was possibly a very foolish thing to attempt with a pair of new boots, so I carried my approach shoes in my bag as a backup. While the summit was not reached, the Ribelles were truly put through their paces scrambling up hideously steep shrubberies, unconsolidated snow patches and loose rock gullies alike. We even had to traverse muddy debris from a recent rockfall, which had turned over huge amounts of top soil on the steep tussock slopes.

Mountain view
High on the flanks of Mt Crosscut, with Mts Macpherson and Talbot across the Gertrude valley. Photo: Tom Hoyle

While it took me probably 30 minutes to get accustomed to the stiff and less responsive nature of being in rigid boots, I never regretted wearing them. They were light enough that I didn’t feel like I was dragging around lead blocks on my feet and their edging capability was possibly the only reason I was able to safely navigate some of the more complex terrain we encountered.

After over eight hours on my feet they were sore from the stiffness of the soles, but I did not have a single blister and all my toenails were intact (the sorry lot that are left). I think I will look at investing in some cushier innersoles to help reduce the volume of the boots slightly and give a more forgiving foot-boot interface for longer days.

I did get quite a bit of tussock and dirt down the tops of the Ribelles, which I stopped once on the way down to remove. I think in deep snow, without pants or snow gaiters the same issues would follow, but I don’t think the Aequilibriums or other modern boots would perform any better in this regard. Gaiters or boots with an inbuild gaiter are really your only option to prevent this that I know of, but this also makes your feet hotter and possibly less comfortable especially in the summer months.  

Near the end of the day, once we had returned to less treacherous footing, I had the option of putting my La Sportiva TX2 approach shoes back on to descend the hut. However, even though my feet were a little hot and sore, I chose to keep my Ribelles on, just because I valued their ankle protection and stability for the homeward slog down the unstable talus. Overall, while I don’t think I will be wearing the Ribelles for every long walk I go on, I think they are hugely capable in mountainous off-trail terrain and am looking forward to them taking me on some more adventures while we kill some time waiting for the snow to fall.

I expect these to perform very well with crampons, due to their sole rigidity, but will update this review if I discover anything unexpected.