Meet the mountains of the Rhinogydd range in south Snowdonia, Wales. These lowly lumps are widely regarded as being some of the roughest, most testing mountains in Wales. There are a handful of 2000ft peaks, each rising out of a sea of dense, waist-high heather. There are also scattered terraces of gritstone crags, some of them quite large, but many of these shattered into huge boulder fields and flat plates of scarred, rough-hewn rock. These crags and scree are in places half-buried beneath the heather, and through this wilderness only a few paths lead the walker to the summits of the mountains. The rest of this magnificent range is wild, untamed, and usually untrodden. This is where I took the Transalpina walking boots from AKU to give them a run for their money.
The Transalpina boot from AKU is the forerunner of a host of new products to hit the UK market this summer. It’s been around for a couple of years in the guise of the Transalpina, but this was the first opportunity I had had to try a pair from this well-known Italian manufacturer.
When buying boots I often go for the more solid feel of a leather boot, but the combination of suede with AIR 8000 produce what I found to be a surprisingly sturdy, yet light-weight boot.
The Rhinogydd is known for its bogs, as well as all that heather and gritstone, and I found on my first outing in these boots that they stood up to lengthy spells of immersion in peaty water. I’ve since worn these boots on a Mountain Leader training course, also in the Rhinogydd, and my feet stayed dry throughout two days of constant rain thanks to the Goretex lining.
I was also very keen to know how the Transalpina would perform on rough and rocky ground. Admittedly, Rhinog gritstone has, like all other gritstone, amazing frictional properties, but I soon found myself striding over occasional boulders, loose scree, and small crags with ease in these boots. This is thanks to the Vibram Cloud sole, and the extra support of the Exoskeletal system which provides optimal cushioning for the arch of the foot.
On crags with small footholds the Transalpina had enough of an edge to the sole for weight to be transferred onto the big toe and the ball of the foot, and the lateral tension of the boot kept the foot from rolling off the holds. Very impressive for what is intended to be a simple hiking boot, but giving me confidence to take these boots on some technical scrambling ground too.
There is little not to like about the Transalpina, although a correspondent friend of mine did say that he found the colours and design a bit fussy. I can’t say that I thought that with the pair I was sent to test though. Retailing at around £130-£150 they are not the cheapest summer hiking boot on the market, but they are certainly by no means the most expensive either, and for the quality of the materials and manufacturing I think they are well worth every penny. Now I’m very keen to try out some of the newer models that AKU have introduced for this summer, including the Alpina Plus, and the Alpina Air. For more serious mountain use the Nuvola Mid GTX looks superb too.