Scarpa North America Blog

SCARPA Gecko Guide field review by Jim Donini

Apr. 28th 2011

Jim Donini (via Wikipedia) – (born 1943, Philadelphia, PA) is an American rock climber and alpinist, noted for a long history of cutting-edge climbs in Alaska and Patagonia. He was president of the American Alpine Club from 2006 to 2009, and a 1999 recipient of the AAC’s Robert and Miriam Underhill Award.

“I’ve done a lot of trekking into remote, nearly inaccessible, places – make that about 50 years’ worth. Scree, glacial moraines, temperate rain forest, sandy desert washes, river crossings and even the occasional maintained trail or two. Your pack is important and so is your clothing but nothing is the game changer your footwear can be – for better or worse.

“Patagonia has been a special place for me since I started pioneering new routes there in the early 70’s. Frankly though, the places you’ve heard about-the Torres Del Paine and the Fitzroy/Cerro Torre Massifs have gotten too well known and too accessible. It’s gotten to the point where I refer to them as Chamonix Patagonia. Maybe I’ve seen too much of civilization- whatever, a few years ago I went in search of Wild Patagonia, and I found it.

“My wife and I now have a small home on five acres perched on a hillside a couple of hundred feet above Lago General Carrera with the highest peak in Patagonia, San Valentin, and the Northern Ice Cap as our bedroom view. It’s Wild Patagonia in a nutshell. In the last three years I’ve climbed six neighborhood virgin peaks and only one has been technically difficult. The approaches, that’s another matter- gnarly bushwhacking through unexplored terrain is the norm.

“This year I was back at work in the beautiful Exploradores Valley which skirts the northern flank of San Valentin on its way to the Chilean Fjords. A primitive road is being forced through virgin country ending, eventually, at the Pacific Ocean.  The side valleys are largely unexplored, a little matter that I want to do something about. In January I made the first of four trips into a secret, for the time being, valley that leads to a sweet little, previously untouched, glacier now named Ventisquero Angela after my wife. Hours of rain forest bushwhacking with multiple river crossings rewards you with granite crags and slabs and eventually the glacier and a couple of unclimbed peaks beyond.

“What I’m getting at with this rambling preamble is that the SCARPA Gecko Guides blew me away, they were simply the most functional, durable and comfortable approach shoes I’ve ever used. After miles of extremely rugged use I’ll still be wearing the same pair tomorrow in Indian Creek. They were constantly wet from shoe-on river crossings and viciously assaulted by rough granite, loose scree and even looser glacial moraines and they are still in good enough shape to be my go to shoe. They dried quickly, were adept on 5th class scrambling and worked well with aluminum crampons on the glacier. Best of all, even after hours of load carrying with wet feet I had nary a blister to complain about.”

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