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Snow traction devices

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Snow traction devices

Postby Snowtrout » Fri May 13, 2016 11:49 am

Since the last two weeks have dropped snow and slowed the snow melt through the Sierra, my wife has become really concerned about hiking through snow when we start our JMT trip, starting on June 19th from Tuolumne Meadows. So, she is wanting some type of crampon/traction device. A salesperson at REI said we should look at the Yaktrax Pro. The "ladies of the JMT" on Facebook are telling her she needs either Microspikes or the Hillsound trail crampons.

Any suggestions or comments to help relax her a bit? Beer and wine are helping a little so far :D



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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby AlmostThere » Fri May 13, 2016 2:59 pm

I wouldn't use Yaktrax, even the heavier duty ones, outside a parking lot. Katoohlas will be far more durable.

Tell her there are already people out there stomping foot holes up the passes for her. She'll be fine.
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby maverick » Fri May 13, 2016 3:25 pm

Time your passes for later in the morning or early afternoon (depending on the temps), so that the snow is not frozen/icy or to soft (posthole), use trekking poles with snow baskets, helps with balance and stability. Second the Katoolas recommendation by AT.
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby Snowtrout » Fri May 13, 2016 5:08 pm

Thank you both for the recommendations. We are going to buy the katoolas as suggested. Guess a little extra weight is worth the added security, especially with our early trip date and the snow this year.

I'm looking forward to hearing some pct trail reports over the next few weeks, so we have an idea what we are in for.
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby Hobbes » Sun May 15, 2016 8:08 am

I have Kahtoola micro-spikes that work great with my Altra Lone Peak trail runners. I also have mountaineering boots (Scarpa Charmoz) & crampons. In my experience, at least from a confidence perspective, trail runners + spikes are roughly equivalent to these (types of) boots alone on anything from flat to maybe 25 degree slopes. Steeper than that, it becomes more of the domain of crampons, ice axe, etc.

As AT mentioned above, by the time you are hiking, there will be well developed tracks across every pass and any sections of trail with remaining snow. Typically, the tracks just follow the actual trail, especially with the advent of GPS devices that indicate where the trail is located underneath. So in those kinds of conditions, trail runners & micro-spikes really excel.

There are different considerations & preferences when to cross passes. For example, Donohue (your first major SOBO pass) will be still holding snow. If you camp south of the bridge, you only have 3 miles to go. Depending on where the snow starts - which you will quickly be able to ascertain from either looking or talking to the many hikers going north - you can determine when to break camp and hit the snow.

I personally like hitting the snow by 6-7am, which means getting up/hiking even earlier depending on the distance to where the snow begins. In the early morning, the snow is still hard & crunchy, so you can move pretty fast. The downside of course is that the snow is still hard & crunchy ie it can be icy & slippery. However, since there will be a boot tracks and trough, you can walk along placing your feet in established compacted steps. If you start later, the snow will be begin to soften and provide more grip, but the downside is you might end up post-holing - especially as you begin to descend the south facing slopes later in the morning.

Since you might have some prior experience with patches along the way, you will develop your own preference as to what type of surface conditions you prefer and let that dictate your subsequent action plans. In any case, I would look into getting calf/knee high gaiters. Not so much to keep snow out of your shoes when (not if) you post hole - even though that's the obvious selling point/benefit - but to protect your shins. If they have a bottom strap, even better, because it might help keep your shoes on when you finally pull your leg/foot out. If you get a full crotch drop, you're looking at digging down 2-3' trying to retrieve a shoe after you extricate yourself.
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby The hermit » Sun May 15, 2016 2:14 pm

Micro spikes are great for the hard snow that you will likely see. Solid ice or soft snow not so much. Has anyone tried the nano spikes? They seem pretty nice
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat May 28, 2016 11:18 am

Slips on ice are a major cause of injury or death. RJ Secor slipped on ice on Mt Baldy resulting in serious lifelong injury. He had crampons but did not put them on. Just having traction devices is not enough-you need to know WHEN to put them on, well before you are strung out on some steep slope. Snow changes minute by minute. Particularly dangerous is a coating of new snow that may cover ice. Melt conditions sometimes produces very sticky wet snow that can gum up traction devices. You have to regularly kick off the build-up under foot. On low angle snow, traction devices will help you move faster and avoid that slip that could result in an injured hip. On steeper slopes, they can prevent serious injury. There is a limit on steepness that works for simple traction spikes vs real crampons. You may assume that you will have level steps across a slope, but short sections can get melted out or go missing. In the old days with 5-pound mountaineering boots we would kick a step; with trail runners that is not as easy. I have hand carved steps with a rock, when caught in some situations. Not ideal! An ice axe is the tool to cut steps.

Regardless of the traction device you decide to use, be sure to go out and practice with them. You have to walk differently and be careful not to catch a spike on your pant leg, which can cause you to trip. I am a big proponent of using knee high gaiters if using crampons or spikes. At least use those Velcro straps that bicyclists use to tie back your pant legs.

For any traction device to work properly, you have to place your foot flat on whatever surface you have so all spikes stick. On a slope this results in pressure on the outside edge. If the device is not strapped on solidly, this could be a big problem, actually making you more unstable.
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby Hobbes » Sun May 29, 2016 4:34 am

The Baldy Bowl can get steep:

Image
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby Tom_H » Tue May 31, 2016 10:17 am

Agree with all that WD said.

I will only add this-look at Hobbes photo. Notice the ice axes. On a slope this steep, ice axes are very important. If you slip, you will careen wildly and can hit a boulder at high speed, resulting in injury or death. Modern ice axes have shed a lot of weight from the old oak and steel days. If you are going to travel on steep slippery slopes of snow, a lightweight modern ice axe is worth the weight.

Of course you need to know how to use it and perform self arrest. It is best if an experienced person can teach you on ice in a place with no trees or rocks at the bottom. If that's not possible, at a minimum, find some youtube videos of self arrest technique and then practice when you reach some snowpack that is not too dangerous.
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Re: Snow traction devices

Postby Snowtrout » Wed Jun 01, 2016 7:19 pm

We bought the Microspikes and tried them on our trip to Summit lake near the Tule River over Memorial day. Snow was softening during the day on Saturday and didn't really need them. Sunday morning, the snow was solid, so my wife and I played around with them to see how they felt. Great for the icy areas in the morning but didn't do too much in the softer stuff we saw later in the afternoon. Staying flat footed on flat areas , digging my toes in on uphills and digging my heels in on the downhills seemed to work.

I put a basket on my trekking pole and it helped a little in the snow but was a hindrance off it. Stepped on it a few times and even bent the bottom of my pole :\
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