A great all round mountain boot, precise, versatile and super comfortable.
Last season we reviewed the fantastic AKU Serai GTX boots. These have been my favourite boot for technical mixed and steep ice climbing. They have been the lightest technical boots I have ever used so I was super keen to try out the more general Tengu GTX boots for more general wear.
I’ve been using them throughout the autumn for scrambling and early winter for snowy rock and winter climbing. I’ve happily climbed Scottish grade IV (5) in the Tengu GTX and would happily feel confident for Grade V. I’ve been using them with Grivel Air Tech crampons with a Newmatic binding and they have worked well together as a lightweight B2/C2 combination. As with many AKU boots they are super light and at 800g (for my 42.5 sized boot) you’ll hardly feel you’ve got them on your feet. They were great for all day wear and I never felt tired.
The styling is similar to the Serai GTX boots we featured last season (although there is a nice looking blue colour if you are feeling bold). The black and orange is a staple across the mountaineering range and looks great. The nylon and suede uppers are very durable and have proved robust when rock climbing and scrambling and after continuous wear this season they are showing little signs of wear. The heel/achilles cushioning provides plenty of comfort but don’t interfere with the rigidity for climbing. There is a great loop on the tongue that has plenty of room for two fingers and makes pulling the boot on really easy and the bellowed tongue was plenty wide enough to make getting the Tengu GTX on and off a breeze.
The B2 stiffness is down to the combination of carbon fibre and die cut EVA which means that the Tengu GTX is great for general mountaineering and great for all day wear. The stiffness was perfect for easy winter ascents in steep snow and they took a crampon really well. I did have to spend a little time at home making sure the crampons fitted properly, but once they were fitted they stayed on tightly. They will take any C2 fitting crampon as well as C1 hiking crampons but will not take a fully technical C3 crampon as there is no toe bale fitting. I also preferred to use them for fast moving ascents as when I was belaying in deeper snow my feet got cold despite the insulation and the Gore-Tex lining, but then for more technical climbing I prefer the Serai GTX boot.
The sole unit is the new Vibram Curcuma, this offers a large lugs and plenty of climbing area on the toe. The toe was precise on rock moves and I had confidence in the grip of the rubber on dry rock. On snowy terrain the lugs worked well on grippy neve and enough traction to give confidence when kicking steps up steep ground. The EXOskeleton midsole gave plenty of cushioning which you will appreciate at the end of a long day and a long descent to the valley. On the whole the sole is great and climbed really well, if you are intending a lot of technical alpinism with long approaches the AKU Tengu GTX will be perfect for you.
The lacing is a combination of nylon loops and riveted hooks with the first hook being tight to lock the lace in place. The laces are round and I have a little tip for using round laces which can often come undone: as you tie the initial part of the knot, make it into a reef knot. Then complete the standard knot as you wish – whatever happens you boot laces should stay tight. Even if the rest of the knot undoes the reef knot will stay tight. It’s easy to undo too so no matter how wet the laces are the knot should undo quite easily. The lacing is all cushioned with a comfortable bellowed tongue.
The toe box is nice and rigid and it was perfect for kicking steps in steep snow and the full rand meant that crack climbing and using corners felt secure. That coupled with the good friction on the sole rubber meant that you will be able to tackle rock ridges and straight forward, easy rock climbing with confidence. I particularly like the way that when I looked down, the toe box and the toe rubber met at the same place, so I could choose footholds with quite a bit of precision. Often the toe box will overhang the toe rubber so you are having to make calculations as to where you think the toe rubber and foot hold will connect efficiently. This was never a problem with the Tengu GTX.
In conclusion, the AKU Tengo GTX is a great and versatile B2 boot. I’ve climbed some great routes in these and they have performed perfectly. If I had any niggles it would be that the top of the boot was very close when laced up, but then I have spindly sport climbers ankles so most people should be fine. I’ve scrambled snowy rock and confidently climbed Scottish Grade IV. I have worn them all day and they have been super comfortable and the light nature of the boot means that my legs can recover for that extra day of climbing the next morning. AKU are committing themselves to sustainable manufacturing with chrome free leather and, in some models, recycled soles. They source locally and the entire range is handcrafted in Italy – what more can I say!
The AKU Tengu GTX comes in sizes 38 – 47 with some half sizes in between (see the website for size detals).
Dave Sarkar has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for over 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA both in the UK and Internationally: working as a mountaineering instructor and expedition leader for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering at his local crag or ice climbing; as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!