Tuesday, 11 September 2018 23:31

Columbia Peakfreak Venture LT Shoe: Tested & Reviewed

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This summer wasn’t the best time to be testing a pair of waterproof shoes. Record temperatures and a distinct lack of rain left many parts of the country dry as a bone. However, if you’re looking for water North Wales rarely disappoints, so after a couple of weekends camping in Snowdonia, Ward managed to give the Colombia Peakfreak Venture LT shoes a good walk out.

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Columbia seem to be mainly promoting these based on three things; being waterproof, comfortable and giving good grip. As someone who runs more than walks, I’m used to heading into the mountains in trainers rather than shoes, so having wet feet is something I’m well used to. I’m also used to a mixture of garish bright colours on my feet, so looking sensible was novel.

The sensible look means I’ve been able to wear these shoes every day since they arrived, for work and generally mooching about, so I already knew that the comfort was spot on before I was as last able to go for a rainy walk around one of the hiking trails in Coed-y-Brenin forest.

As there had been some heavy storm showers a couple of days previously and a day of relentless heavy rain forecast, it made sense to go find a waterfall. Coed-y-Brenin has 4 marked walking trails ranging from 1 to 4.5 miles. The longer one takes in 2 impressive falls near where the Gain and Mawddach rivers meet and was an ideal stroll to take in order to loosen up after running the Welsh 3000s the day before.

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The Gain and Mawddach waterfalls in Coed-y-Brenin forest.

Even with sore feet from the day before, the shoes were very comfortable. There is plenty of cushioning in the insole and plenty of flex in the sole so these shoes do not feel too different to walking in trainers. The upper and tongue are also made of cushioned material to add to this comfort. It also meant that these are quite warm shoes so not best suited to the hot sunny day’s we’ve had this summer but ideal for more typical British weather.

A bit of clambering about on the wet rocks at the base of the waterfall proved that the grip was good, but wasn’t quite enough to really test them. For this I needed a proper mountain day, so the following weekend in slightly better weather, I headed out on one of North Wales classic circuits, the Llyn Bochlwed Horseshoe.

This classic route takes in the grade one scrambles of Tryfan north ridge, Bristly ridge and Y-Gribin. I’ve done it no end of times in all sorts of conditions and it’s always a joy. On this occasions I had a mixture of weather. Sunshine and showers meant lots of stops to change layers and dramatic views appearing and disappearing in matters of seconds. It is also exactly the conditions these shoes are ideal for walking in.

Joined by Mary, who was also trying out some new footwear, I headed up the north ridge of Tryfan enjoying the scrambling on dry rock and soon had a lot of confidence in the Omni-Grip outsole.

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The shoe with a view.

The outsole neatly wraps around the base of the shoe and there is a leather rand to protect your toes, so while it’s not what these are specifically designed for, they are fine footwear for scrambling and I really enjoyed making my way up to the summit of my favorite Welsh mountain, occasionally pausing to take in the dramatic views down to the Ogwen valley.

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The clouds heading our way.

Upon leaving the summit the cloud rolled in and the rain fell, making Bristly ridge a different prospect. The wet rock meant that a bit more concentration was needed. The rock on Glyder Fach always seems pretty slippery when wet, and today was no different. The poor conditions had led to a few people, who were doing the scramble for the first time, having a bit of a hard time and we soon found ourselves in the front of a chain of folk who had decided to follow us because we “looked like we knew what we were doing”. After a sociable scramble we reached the summit plateau of Glyder Fach, still completely ensconced in cloud, so map and compass were needed to navigate our way to the top of Y-Gribin where we opted for the scratty path rather than the scramble down the ridge, where the views re-appeared.

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The view re-appears.

Descents are where you really find out how good your shoes are and the long drop down to Lyn Bochlwed thankfully resulted in me finding that these were fine. They offered good support on the uneven ground and good grip both on the dirt path and grassy slopes that lead down to the lake.

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Plenty of grip on the long descent.

On reaching the stream crossing, I knew I was only 15 minutes from the car, so I dunked my feet in the water to see just how waterproof these shoes are. The water came up above the laces but my feet stayed dry. These shoes don’t have an all in one tongue, meaning a prolonged dunking would have resulted in a squelchy walk out, so I kept it at that and got back to the car after 6 hours walking, with my feet still dry, comfortable and without having landed on my backside once. A success!


The waterproof material worked well and kept my feet dry in all sorts of conditions. I found them to be on the warm side, but the breathability kept my feet from being uncomfortable sweaty and the cushioning on both the upper and insole meant that long days on the hill caused no discomfort. I’m typically a size 10 and these were spot on in that size, with plenty of room in the toe box and no movement in the heel. I tried these on all surfaces and they gripped well on everything but muddy slopes, where the small size of the lugs meant they didn’t dig in. Having smaller size lugs does mean that they are better on every other surface though, so it’s always going to be a compromise and I feel that these have it right for normal walking conditions. All in all, these are a great pair of shoes that are ideal for trail and mountain walking in changeable conditions.

Look out for the overall scores from the Hiking/Approach Shoe group test at the end of the week.

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