Vasque Talus Trek UD Women's Hiking Boots Review & Our Worst Day On The Inca Trail
Sam and I needed new hiking boots before heading to Peru to trek the Inca Trail. We did heaps of research and although trail shoes were tempting due to their lightness, we both opted for ankle-height hiking boots. I originally tried out the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX Trail Shoes and decided that the toe box was not meant for my foot shape.
After a couple of blisters, denial of my purchasing regret and some awkward training hikes at home, I finally went back into Sail and tested out the Vasque Talus Trek Ultra Dry Women's Hiking Boots. You never really get a good sense of how well a hiking boot is going to work for you until you really use them and break them in, but I already knew these were a better fit than the Salomons (although slightly worse for my wallet).
Now, I could easily give you a list of the features, pros and cons of these boots, but I won't. The only way I can really explain my experience with these boots is by telling you the story of our toughest day on the Inca Trail. It's a long story so buckle in.
THE SNOWSTORM FROM HELL ON THE TREK TO MACHU PICCHU
We honestly thought we were prepared for anything before heading into our trek. We trained. We researched. We looked up every packing list recommendation and tips for preventing altitude sickness and read all the documents from our tour company. Our friends that had done the trip said we had nothing to worry about and if we were in half-decent shape we'd survive no problem, even on the dreaded Dead Woman's Pass.
Our first day on the trail was, in one word, cruisey.
Excitement made us antsy but we were feeling good and were pumped to check off this bucket list trip. We fell asleep in our tents that night thinking the rest of the trip would be as laid-back and scenic as this day had been.
The next morning, we woke up to rain. In fact, it had rained all night and soaked our tent.
No problem! We kept our belongings off the sides of the tent edges (an old trick from my camp days) and luckily our tour company put tarps down inside our tent to keep us dry. We put on our rain jackets, warmed up over Coca Tea and breakfast and started Day Two of our trek.
SIDE NOTE... Everybody that has hiked the Inca Trail or has done even a teeny bit of research on it knows that Day Two is supposed to be the hardest day. From the moment you begin your hike you head straight up stone steps that are hundreds of years old. Steps that don't stop for HOURS. About 5 or 6 hours of stairs straight up to Dead Woman's Pass at 4,215m (13,828 ft). Once you've reached those stairs up, you go down 3 hours of more stairs. AND even if you run stairs like Rocky every day, you have the effects of altitude to deal with. Yes, it's just as brutal as it sounds.
Ok, back to our story...
So we knew we were in for a tough day, but trying to not have an ego about it and enjoying the journey was our game plan. We decided we'd take breaks when we had to without feeling the pressure to rush through it all. After all, we were filming clips for our trek vlog and that (and photos) were always a good excuse for a quick break. Although we weren't too keen to dig under our ponchos for our cameras and didn't want to get them wet, so our photos are limited from this day.
It rained non-stop all morning as we hiked through the cloud forest. We passed waterfalls and moss covered trees and it smelled like the damp vegetation one might associate with the rain forest.
It was beautiful, yes, but most of that was missed with our rain jacket + poncho hoods on and us keeping our eyes on the stairs so that we wouldn't fall. None of us were talking much that day - which says a LOT for our rowdy Aussie group - so we paced out the day zig zagging up stairs and listening to the rain.
A couple hours in and somewhere maybe 1/3 of the way up, I started thinking it was getting super cold and put my gloves on (BIG MISTAKE... more on this later). At one point, I lifted my head and thought, "this is some seriously thick rain... wait... is this snow? Nah."
It was definitely turning into snow.
Our Australian trekkers got excited for a moment and I believe I made a joke about someone making a snow angel. It was super light hearted and we all were still in relatively good spirits even though we were soaked to the bone. Ponchos and rain jackets can only do so much for your arms and legs in a downpour like this.
As we ascended the mountain further the snow only thickened and the storm hadn't slowed down for a second. It soon became the thick packing snow we used to dream of building snowmen in, but on our already savage stairs that we still had hours more to conquer. At this point I really started noticing my shortness of breath, either from my asthma or the altitude or a bit of both. The only time I've ever had full on asthma attacks was in high humidity doing physical activity, so a) being cold + struggling to breathe was an unfamiliar combination and b) the sensation of not being able to take in a full breath gave be a bit of anxiety reminding me of those full on asthma attacks I used to have. Cue to some casual tears and a mild panic attack on a break. We took advantage of having to move over mountainside to let porters pass - did I mention some of these guys were hiking in SANDALS???
If they could do it carrying 4x our load, we could surely suck it up. So we did.
Until the guides made us take a group break. This is when s*** started hitting the fan.
We stopped at one of the toilet huts. I did NOT want to stop at all. Sam got a snack and there were about 30 people squeezing into a covered area to get a break from the wet snow. I just wanted to keep going so I could take little breaks when I needed to and still feel like I was progressing. These big 5-10 minute rests always killed my momentum.
What the guides didn't tell us at this point was that they were considering turning back. We also learned later that the hikers doing the Lares Trek the same day had to turn back and got stuck in Lares!
Anyways, the second we stopped hiking for more than 3 minutes our bodies got cold. Like... aggressively cold. I tried to run on the spot instead of sitting because I was convinced I would never be able to get back up if I sat down and had a snack. I took my wet gloves off because at this point they were just turning to ice.
We were told we had about an hour left to get to the Pass and after 10 or so minutes of a break, we kept going. This time without my gloves. It wasn't overly windy at this point, just wet and icy, which was lucky.
Continue the cycle of 30 steps up slush, catch your breath, 30 steps, move for porters, repeat. We couldn't see very far ahead of us, which was probably lucky because we would've been discouraged by how much further we had to go. I was sick of going up, sick of being light headed and sick of having to work twice has hard for each step in the snow.
We were instructed to keep to the right side of the mountain when we finally reached the top of the pass to avoid heavy winds. Typically when you reach the pass you'll wait there for the rest of your group and take a group photo. It was still a full on blizzard at this point and now that we were in the cold wind we just wanted to start the 3 hour journey down.
We rested for about 2 minutes, took a few photos and attempted to get some, albeit shaky, vlog footage. Someone had made a snowman (snow bunny?) and we were there thinking "who the heck wanted to stay on this freezing, windy pass and make a snowman?"
Then we started the descent.
I had tucked my hands into my armpit to warm them up when we reached the pass, but now we were going downhill on even more slippery stairs (snow, slush + refreezing) and I had to use my poles to steady myself. The wind, however, was relentless and my hands were completely frozen without my soaking gloves. I've had enough Canadian winters to know when you're close to serious frost bite. 10 minutes of this freezing rain + wind was all I could stand and I knew I had to MacGyver some kind of covering or I was going to lose a finger. I got Sam to pull out my pack towel from my bag, wrapped both hands in it and awkwardly used my poles in front of my body.
I was one of the only people not having major wipeouts on the slippery rocks. We had sprained wrists and bruises to the bottoms (and egos) in our group, but I was not slipping at all. I was SO impressed that my feet were the only warm, dry and safe parts of my body thanks to these boots.
After three hours of downhill Everest slip and slide, we finally made it to our camp. Thank goodness our porters had set up our tents because we immediately stripped off all our wet clothing, changed into warm layers, ate a snickers and took a NAP.
Even though we booked our trip for the Peruvian winter aka DRY SEASON, we still got the craziest rain and snowstorm experience on our trail. I still would've taken this crazy weather on Day Two in exchange for a clear day at Machu Picchu, which we were lucky to have.
The entire day the only thing I never had to worry about was cold & wet feet. I was shocked at how dry my shoes were on the inside, aside from sweat, considering the outside had dealt with rain, slush, and snow for 9 hours.
On our warmer days, the boots were a bit toasty but still breathable and light. I'd take sweaty feet over freezing wet feet any day! I'd highly recommend the Vasque Talus Trek Ultra Dry Women's Hiking Boots to anybody taking on a major trail with varying weather conditions!
For the record, I'm not being paid by Vasque to say any of these things. These are just my straight up thoughts on a killer hiking shoe that took one for the team. I will, however get a small commission if you end up buying these shoes here. YOU DO YOU THO.
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