Don French - NZ Alpinist of the Year 2021

LOWA would like to extend a huge congratulations to Don French for winning NZ Alpinist of the Year for 2021! This is a massive achievement and we wanted to take a second to recognise the immense effort that Don has put into winning this title.

With a 30 year goal of climbing 100 peaks in New Zealand, Don French accompanied by expert hunter and mountaineer Greg Duley from NZ Hunter climbed Mt. Unicorn and Mt. Green and achieved this incredible goal in February 2021!

The original list of 100 peaks was conceived by Ross Cullen, then president of the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC), as part of the NZAC centennial celebrations in 1991. After consulting with prominent climbers of the day, the list was put forward as a challenge and way of encouraging climbers to get out and attempt some summits off the beaten track. The list was designed to address the aspirations of climbers at all levels and genres. Hence there were relatively easy peaks, very hard and steep peaks, and a number of very remote peaks included.

The decision to climb the full list was made when Don and two fellow climbers entertained themselves reviewing the list in St Winifred’s hut up the Havelock River while they sat out some bad weather in January 1992. They had just climbed Malcolm, one of the more remote peaks and Don saw the opportunity to use the list as continued motivation to get out climbing and explore new places.

30 years and 100 peaks later, Don French has completed the challenge and been awarded NZ Alpinist of the Year 2021.

Both Greg and Don wore the Alpine SL GTX® to complete Mt. Unicorn and Mt. Green - a revolutionary and lightweight mountaineering boot by LOWA that is dropping in New Zealand in August 2022.

They were the first to test this boot in NZ conditions and told LOWA they were very impressed with the lightweight, durable construction of the boot, and of course, the uncompromised comfort that is found in every single pair of LOWA's.

Check out the full list of the 100 peaks challenge below! Could you be up for the challenge?

Keep reading for Don French's review of the Alpine SL GTX® and check out our current mountaineering range below too.

The 100 Peak Challenge:

Don French - Alpine SL GTX® Review

Expected NZ release date: August 2022

What a boot. 

I recently used the Lowa Alpine SL boot on my ascents of Mt Green and Mt Unicorn which complete the New Zealand’s 100 peaks challenge.

Green was a mixed climb including some hours on the front points of one’s crampons.  Unicorn was a rock climb where we ascended in our rock boots therefore having to carry our alpine boots which were used for the approach and descent.

There were two things that impressed me about these boots, namely their lack of weight (684 grams) and their rigidness for such a lightweight design.     The boot has excellent lateral rigidness which is very important for sideling over the steep snow grass approaches or across the compact gravels of glacial moraine walls.    On the glacier moraine I was able to bounce from boulder to boulder with no difficulty.  The Vibram soles friction properties performed to the high standard which we can expect from this material.

The weight is their number one advantage.  At 684grams (per boot for my size 45s), they are less than half the weight of my traditional alpine boots.  This was over 1.5 kilograms of weight saving, multiplied by over 1200 metres of vertical ascent, making a significant difference to the amount of energy you use – and as you are carrying them in your pack for the steepest section of the climb, less weight up on your shoulders helps balance control, minimising the chances of a fall and just making life so much easier.    Physically the boots are smaller as well which means you don’t need to have such a large pack, thereby saving you even more weight, and giving you a little more room for that extra chocolate bar!

In New Zealand we struggle with most alpine boots which are too heavy on hot days and the long approaches of our river valleys and moraines.   Being so light means you don’t get as tired on the walk in and your feet do not get over heated like some of my other Alpine boots.

I did like the generous clip hook at the back of the boot which enables you to easily use a karabiner to clip them onto your harness, pack or anchors whenever you take them off. This is very effective and enables you to quickly remove the boot making transitions from snow/crampons to rock/climbing shoes and back much easier.  You should not clip to the laces, as this only increases the chances of dropping a boot as you have to unclip them before they are laced up.   

The Alpine SL is a superb boot and I think now a must have for ascents where every gram counts - without compromising the stiffness you need for the long New Zealand alpine approaches and on the mountain itself.

- Don French, 2021

Can't wait till August 2022? Check out our top mountaineering boots comparison below and shop now!


See the Cevedale Evo GTX® HERE

See the Alpine Expert GTX® HERE

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