Snow travel gear dilema

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Harlen
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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by Harlen » Mon Mar 19, 2018 10:11 pm

Thanks All,
Good points and ideas; we especially like longri's light axe taped to the pole method, as we usually carry the axe anyway. The only new contribution I can add is the long, sharp piece of slate I once carried in desperation while descending a small steep! glacier coming down from the ridge above upper Marie Lake. It just might have arrested a slide- and better than tearing your finger nails off!








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mrphil
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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by mrphil » Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:08 am

Axe vs Whippet:

http://www.alpineinstitute.com/articles ... r-ice-axe/

Both have their place, but either way, you better practice your self-arrest techniques extensively if you're not planning on being sliced up or impaled by whichever one you're deploying. Aside from conditions being foremost in what tool is superior, I've always considered it basically a matter of what's already in your hand and how fast the fall is. The Whippet is great, for a moment, but if you're screaming down the slope, might as well get it as far away from you as possible for all the good it'll do. And, of course, there's always that point at which the only thing that's going to save you is your rope and anchors.

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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Mar 20, 2018 3:10 pm

Back to the crampon/microspike use. If you are on actual ice, you can slip and crack your head on a very low slope. There is no need to self arrest, so trekking poles are fine. At lower angle very hard snow this also is the case. Hard ice is more often encountered in Fall after a high snowpack year.

Self arresting in a real situation with a full pack on is not as easy as theoretically "using the same technique". It is a really harrowing experience! It definitely slows down your ability to immediately get into the self-arrest position. Probably more tricky is self-arresting with crampons. It takes only one unintended point to hit hard snow to send you cartwheeling. My preference is always a deep mountaineering tred and ice axe, vs using crampons with an ice axe.

When I look at any particular slope, what I choose to use also has to do a lot with runout.

One piece of "equipment" that is really important is a composure. If you do enough snow travel, at some point you will end up misjudging a slope and be half way across and have a real "oh SHxx" moment. You then have to really concentrate, totally focus, and stay calm, not hurry, regardless of retreating or continuing onward. This is when minutes seem like hours.

I have been snickered at about this, but if I am going to be on snow a lot, I bring and wear a climbing helmet, even just hiking. I have climbed for years wearing a helmet, so it is just second nature, not uncomfortable at all. And if it is on my head, I do not have to carry it in my pack. It also is useful if you climb up snow couliars where chunks of ice can fall on your head or traverse under snowfields (did this on Mt Ritter).

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mrphil
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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by mrphil » Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:59 am

I think some people might find this article on the subject of ice axes and crampon considerations useful and interesting:

http://publications.americanalpineclub. ... w-Climbing

It's not a full tutorial on self-arrest by any means, but it's a pretty good primer on conditions, techniques, and considerations when using an axe and crampons. However, maybe some of us are "old school", but I have to agree with WD on where crampons and rational thinking fall into the equation during a fall, and I don't understand why some guides would recommend digging in your toe points "no matter the cost". Sure, you're trying to stop your fall at all costs, with as much drag from points of contact as you can muster, but that requires as much control as you can possibly try to salvage out of the situation, and that's not the case when you're cartwheeling or facing downslope. In those cases, you have nothing left but flailing mercilessly until you go for the full ride, regain control, or you've run out your slack and hope your anchors hold or your partner has some serious emergency belaying skills. With or without an axe, be that with mountaineering boots, ski boots, microspikes, or wearing crampons, feet go up. That's the way I learned it anyhow. Only with practice and a clear head can you learn to get into the self-arrest position, drive that pick in for all you're worth, and get your feet up and out of the way, no points given for style at all, just all three happening as simultaneously as possible. Training and muscle memory are wonderful things when they come as second nature, and those things are only as good as how well you've imprinted them.

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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by longri » Wed Mar 21, 2018 6:52 pm

mrphil wrote:I think some people might find this article on the subject of ice axes and crampon considerations useful and interesting:

http://publications.americanalpineclub. ... w-Climbing
That's a pretty well written article.

But when did front pointing become Austrian technique? I thought it was German technique. Personally, I find the so-called American technique more comfortable than the French technique. I could never maintain that sideways frog thing for very long before punching in a front point.

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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:45 am

I would like to hear more from backpackers who use microspikes. I have never used microspikes so have no opinion or experience with these. I know there are several kinds of microspikes with various shoe attachment systems and spike depth. I have never tried to self arrest with microspikes.

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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by longri » Thu Mar 22, 2018 12:23 pm

There are a number of different varieties of microspikes ranging from barely any sort points to almost being crampons.

I bought a pair of Kahtoola microspikes last year. With the big winter I was anticipating snow on high passes and thought I might want some sort of snow gear for a longish summer trip. The microspikes are pretty light and compact. But after fiddling around with them at home I came to the conclusion that they would probably let me down if I needed them. They seemed designed for fairly moderate situations. So I ended up carrying my aluminum strap-on crampons but not an ice axe. That's a little unorthodox. Usually people take the axe first, then axe and crampons. But I figured that on steep, firm snow an axe would be useless, particularly in runners, whereas a good set of crampons would make travel a piece of cake. I just couldn't fall without an axe. I think it was a good choice.

Anyway, the microspikes have their place, just like the Whippet. They're an in-between item. I'd carry them without hesitation in other situations.

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mrphil
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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by mrphil » Thu Mar 22, 2018 10:23 pm

I would never use a set of microspikes in place of crampons. Definitely not for climbing. They're basically just strap-on cleats for extra traction, with only about a half an inch of spike. Really handy and helpful for hiking and flat footing on flats to slight-moderate inclines when your lugs would otherwise ball up or just not give you enough purchase and you need just a little more than your boot will give. There are a couple toe points, but if you stress them in any direction and don't distribute the load more or less evenly across your foot, they're going to twist because they're really just chain links and siliconized rubber straps based on general boot sizes, not anything that can be tuned to your specific boot or cinched tighter. Great device that's worth having though. I also use Kathoolas. Yak-trax are just cables, not spikes, so they're more delicate and less versatile.

With toe pointing, from what I know, I always understood it that it was both the Germans and Austrians that developed the technique, because it worked better in the conditions they faced on their side of the Alps, and because it differentiated them from the French. I'm sure that if they could've just put climbers into cannons and accurately shot them to the summit in order to get more of them there, faster, they would have, as long as it was their flag that was there first. Ah, nationalistic pride and ego. I just wonder who got more chicks and free drinks?

Oh, and Daisy, in self-arrest, spikes would be pointless. At worst, you would snag up just enough to tear a ligament or break a leg, or, at best and more likely, you might be lucky if you can either find them or have at least one of them still on your boot.

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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by TurboHike » Sun Mar 25, 2018 2:26 pm

I do some backcountry skiing from time to time. Ice axe for the trip up the mountain, skis and poles for the trip down. When coming down, not falling is preferable, but sometimes it happens, which brings us to self arresting with a ski pole:

http://www.timefortuckerman.com/forums/ ... elf-arrest

It also works with trekking poles, just grab very close to the basket to minimize pole damage.

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Re: Snow travel gear dilema

Post by bobby49 » Sun Mar 25, 2018 3:38 pm

I have some YakTrax. They are lighter, but not terribly durable. I bought them right before a light/fast Trans-Sierra dayhike over Mono Pass to Lake Edison. There had been some October new snow which had hardened, so they were helpful. They are better than nothing.

Kahtoola microspikes are more serious. I bought them right before a trip on the High Sierra Trail in summer 2017, and I added small straps across the top to help keep them tight. For steep summer snow (like above the Hamilton Tunnel), they would have been perfect. However, I turned back because of the high stream crossings. Since the points are tiny as compared to real crampons, they are much safer if you fall and slide. Of course, with real crampons you wouldn't have fallen in the first place.

If you are using real crampons, then you must have a real ice axe. Anecdote: We were climbing a big peak. Two guys were up around 6000 meters and going with crampons and no axes. As is typically the case with inexperienced climbers, one guy did not know how to keep his crampon straps tight enough, so one got loose and shifted to the side of his boot. Obviously he had to re-strap that, so he sat down on the steep snow. Then there was no anchor, no axe, and nothing to hold him there, so he slid. His body was recovered 400 meters below that. By the time that we got up there a few days later, the snow had changed to be "Styrofoam snow" which is perfect for most crampons. It was perfect until it got thin and ran out. Then it was crampons on gravel. Yuck.

I bought my real SMC crampons in 1977, so they are well broken in.

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