Danika Gilbert has been guiding around the world for over twenty years. She has worked in many different environments and locations, and with women’s specific groups. From mountain biking and trekking to ice climbing and skiing, Danika can pretty much do it all. We are proud to have Danika as our expedition leader for Ascend Afghanistan’s first project. Not only does she bring solid climbing and guiding skills, her experience with wilderness therapy and leadership training adds to the overall project. Danika lives in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado, working as a mountain guide and grant writer. – Ascend Athletics
When I first saw the La Sportiva Mutants, I thought, hmmm… weird lacing system! I was skeptical of what appeared to be a “gimmicky” new system aimed at making them stand out from other shoes. After a few runs around my neighborhood in the San Juans of Southwest Colorado, I decided to take them out for what I knew was going to be a snowy hike/run up into the alpine. About an hour in, I hit my first deep snow drift in the dark north-facing forest. After slogging through, I stopped in a sunny spot to clean snow out of my shoes, then tightened up my laces that had loosened in the first two hours of uphill trodding and started off again.
Next snowdrift wasn’t far away, and when I exited I slowed to check for snow built up inside the shoes again I had a good chuckle. That “gimmicky” lacing system was actually pretty darn ingenious! When tightened up, the internal tongue created a neat little gaiter system. No snow to clear! I had to laugh a bit at myself for ridiculing the lacing set-up.
Later on in my run, I put the shoes to the second test that I consider a good litmus of whether I really like a shoe or not. I jumped off a snowdrift, onto a rock ridge crest, a few feet wide and held my breath to see if I slipped with the wet soles. Nope! Another smile spread across my face as I picked up my pace to run, hop, and jump along the spiny ridge with confidence. Now in the sunshine after the darker forested, snowy sections, the shoes dried quickly.
Stopping for a quick snack at the crest of the ridge, basking in the sun, I changed out of my soggy socks and tightened the laces back up. I tucked the shoelace bow under the little flap I’d grown so fond of already (it kept my laces from catching on bushes or untying, brilliant!) and shivered with the chill I so love in spring mountain air. As I started down the steep, snowy, slushy, muddy descent, I again grinned as the shoes held re-assuredly on both crusty snow, slippery mud, and mossy logs. I was sold, in one run the Mutants had become my favorite trail shoe!
A week later, I got to put the shoes to the test again running a soggy, mossy trail outside Girdwood, AK. Again, they performed well, holding solid on thick mossy logs, slimy downhills, and wet stones during creek crossings. After a squishy water crossing, I was amused at how the water shot out of the shoes. No quick drying here in the soggy wet weather, but at least I wasn’t dragging along a bunch of extra water inside them.
Since these two runs, I’ve had a hard time putting on any other shoes whether it be for a walk, a hike or for other long “adventure” runs. This past August, I actually chose these shoes for an expedition in Afghanistan [read more about the historic trip here]. With limited packing space, I was limiting myself to three pair of footwear, my La Sportiva Batura‘s for on the mountain, my flip-flops, and one other pair. Hmmmm… which shoes would it be? I had several traditional approach shoes laid out, but ended up packing the Mutants.
I love how light they are and decided they had proven themselves well enough on rocks to fill the gap between flip-flops and mountain boots. They did not disappoint! On glacier polished slabs high in the Hindu Kush, under the weight of an expedition pack on a rugged approach trail, and skipping about the high alpine on reconnaissance runs, my feet were happy! Whew… right choice after all.
Only thing to “complain” about was, after miles and miles of running and then scuffing around talus fields for three weeks, the tread on the toes has started to pull off and the fabric is getting thin around the pinkie toes. However, I am more than impressed with how they’ve held up. At that same initial inspection that I questioned the “silly” lacing system, I also doubted they would hold up very long given how light they are and how thin the fabric was. I was completely wrong and am looking to get my next pair of Mutants to be at the ready when these do finally give out.
When I buy my next pair, the only thing I’d like to see different is the color… I’m not much of a pastel color woman, ha!! Love that this is all I can find to complain about. Nicely done La Sportiva.