I’ve been a long term user of Mammut products. This has included a range of their clothing, rucksacks and lots of climbing equipment. I have always viewed them as an innovative brand producing high quality products.
But despite that, when I thought back over many years of adventures, the only Mammut footwear I remember using was one pair of boots. This was soon after Mammut took over the footwear brand Raichle, and the boots were called Monoliths. The Monoliths served me well for several years and I really rated them as a well designed and manufactured Mountaineering boot.
So, I was keen the try some more of their footwear and the opportunity came along when Mammut sent me some of their new Ayako High GTX boots to test…….
The Ayako High GTX is designed as a via feratta boot and so some of its extensive feature set is inevitably designed around that. The sole is a grippy Vibram Mulaz unit with a deep tread pattern and climbing zone toe area. The midsole features 3 layer EVA varying density cushioning with memory foam padding to offer additional comfort in key areas.
On the upper a lot of thought has clearly been put into the Ayako’s design (I will sometimes refer to the boot as the Ayako in this review but please note there are other Ayako models in the Mammut range). The main upper fabrics used are a mix of suede and nylon. The suede overlays the nylon to offer durability and strengthening around the lacing points. At the ankle a supportive synthetic cuff is topped by softer padded material.
At the heel Mammut have used what they describe as an ‘anatomically shaped heel cap’ which is, in effect, a very rigid plastic/rubber cup which surrounds the heel. This is integrated with the motion control and base fit system and designed to lock the heel firmly while minimising lateral movement.
Mammut have added a Goretex liner with elastic tongue construction to minimise creasing and the front is protected with a rigid rubber toe cap with additional wear protection in other side areas via liquid rubber. Finally, the lacing system is a 3 tier system designed to allow considerable flexibility in the way the boot tightening is controlled.
Phew! There is a lot of terminology there and a lot of carefully thought out features. Hopefully explaining how they work in practice will provide clarification. Which, of course, leads nicely onto………
As previously mentioned, the Ayako High GTX has been designed with a focus on via ferrata use but, of course that same terrain relates closely to scrambling ground and for any mountain day there will always be considerable walking. So, I tested the Ayako more as a general hill going boot with features that also make it ideal as a scrambling and technical ground boot. So far I have used them in the mountains of Northern Spain, on a selection of Snowdonia scrambles, in the Caucasus mountains of Russia and for general hillwalking activities in the Peak District.
I’m going to dive in straight away and say this is one very fine looking boot. They are available in a green colour or in the black and grey colour I received. I think both options look great and the pair I’ve been using has some lovely detailing like red lacing and red stitching in key areas. There are other red detail flashes in the midsole and the Mammut labelling and the heel cup and motion control system also subtlety stand out in matt grey and black contrasted with a shinier black plastic. I’m going on a bit there, but suffice to say its a great looking boot and it has certainly prompted some very complimentary comments from people that have seen them.
Of course, good looks should really be secondary to good performance and so let’s look at that. The Ayako’s felt comfortable from the first try on and I always think that’s a good sign. They feel a stiffish boot with plenty of heel support and, because of the elasticated tongue system, they felt secure even before they were laced up.
The solid heel cup definitely feels snug and secure but the main benefits of this really became clear when the boots were laced up. The Ayako’s feature what Mammut describe as 3 tier lacing. This means, in essence, that the toe, heel and ankle are all tightened with some autonomy. The lacing starts just above the toe cup which is perfect for a technical boot. This then extends up to a locking hook at the top of the forefoot. Above this, there is lacing hook on each side that sits back and is connected to free moving tape which in turn is anchored at the base of the heel cup.
This means, when this pair of hooks is pulled tight, that the heel is cinched tight and the toe is pushed into the toe box. It works brilliantly and you can really feel the benefit. I had wondered if this would push the toes forward and they would squash against the front of the boot, but this is easily prevented by tightening the forefoot section adequately. The final stage of the lacing system is a couple more hooks to secure the boot around the ankle. I love this lacing system.
The sole unit does a great job on varied terrain and it has been used from the rocky and dusty trails of Spain to the slippery peat of the Peak moorlands with equal ease. The climbing zone around the toe box is great for use on small edges on technical scrambling terrain and I have had no problem ascending grade 3 scrambles with confidence in the Ayako’s.
Of course, for technical ground the sole and lacing are key, but good midsole support and lateral stability are also essential. Mammut have used a 3 layer EVA construction for the midsole. This offers good support, but they have also gone beyond this by using different density and thicknesses of EVA where required to match the support needed. At the toe the layer tapers to offer the toe sensitivity needed whereas at the heel impact zone it is a more energy absorbing combination. Overall, the Ayako is still a fairly stiff boot so do bear that in mind if your prefer lots of cushioning, but I have certainly had no problems walking in them for many hours over challenging terrain and carrying a fairly heavy pack.
As mentioned, the final link in the performance chain is lateral stability and this is where the Ayako’s solid TPU heel cup, combined with their thoughtful use of supportive internal foam, comes into its own. The heel cup does a great job but also works in conjunction with the lacing system to solidly support the foot. I have found it works a charm on technical terrain but is also great when traversing steep slopes.
The internal cushioning also has a part to play here too. Mammut have used a system they describe as ‘body mapping’ to allocate the right density and thickness of foam according to the areas it is needed. Put simply, they are superbly supportive and very comfortable!
So, at last we are down to the final details. For protection, besides the TPU heel cup which offers great protection at the back, Mammut have also added a solid rubber toe box which does a good job of fending off sharp rocks. In addition, on the outer edge they have added liquid rubber reinforcement. As it’s name suggests, liquid rubber is added in liquid form and then it solidifies in place. This allows it to bond to the underlying fabric while also providing a lightweight protection layer. I am a little surprised that Mammut didn’t add a layer of this around the instep (this area is suede), but otherwise protection levels for the boot are well thought out.
Of course, lots of via Ferrata takes place on sun soaked rock in Mediterranean and Alpine areas and so it could be questioned how well the Ayako’s would cope with the wet conditions we often experience in the UK. Well, the addition of a Goretex performance sock and solid other materials suggest this won’t be a problem. I have certainly had no issues with leakage on some wet Peak District days, a monsoon Snowdonia day and while trogging about in wet and deep snow on the lower slopes of Mount Elbrus (please note that Mammut don’t rate the Ayako High GTX as crampon compatible).
Summarising the Ayako High GTX isn’t really very difficult – Mammut have produced a corking boot that ticks all the boxes for scrambling and hillwalking. Ironically I haven’t yet had chance to try them on the via feratta terrain they were designed for but, as this is almost identical in technicality to scrambling ground, I have no doubt they will excel on that ground too. I can’t yet comment too much on their long term durability, but they are so well constructed and with reinforcements in all the right places (although as mentioned I would have liked to see something to protect the suede in the instep), so I am very confident they will stand up well to long term use.
The Ayako High GTX is a great boot and comes very highly recommended. I had high expectations of these boots and they have delivered in every way. They retail for £160 and there‘s plenty more detail on the Mammut website here. Please do also watch the informative video below.
Posted by Paul