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 Microspikes or Crampons? 
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 Microspikes or Crampons?
Hey all-

I want to start winter hiking and am slowly building up my inventory.
I already have Yaktrak pro's for my shoes....I am guessing that I need much more for that.

Do I go with something like Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System or the Hillsound Trail Crampon Traction Device

or something more official like Kahtoola KTS Aluminum or Petzl Charlet Irvis Flexlock.

Thanks


Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:36 pm
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There have been many-a-discussion about this question. The short answer is that microspikes or hillsounds are very well suited to (moderate grade) icy or packed snow conditions - deciding between the two of them is a matter of personal preference. Crampons are less used overall in the whites and would be necessary generally only on steep sections of trail or above treeline in extremely icy situations. Good snowshoes have a lot of traction to them but don't grip as well on ice flows or the like.

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Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:56 pm
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So with summits like Chocura, Monadnock or even the Franconia Ridge using something like Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System or the Hillsound Trail Crampon Traction Device are good to go with over full-on crampons?


Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:09 pm
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The answer is, it depends. Those are all pretty rocky summits, so if there are thick sheets of ice on every surface then crampons would be the way to go. Spikes are great for not slipping on flat or moderate hills, but shouldn't be relied on for steep climbs (talking large rocks at an angle or steep trails that turn into ice luges, not rock steps where you're putting your foot on horizontal ground with each step).

I imagine there are a few occasions when those summits would be better with crampons than spikes, but there are a LOT of occasions where crampons would be overkill ad spikes would be more suitable. Better chance of bending/breaking crampon spikes if there are still exposed rocks. So if I were to only get one I would say spikes and then keep an eye on trail conditions. Then maybe next year get a pair of crampons and keep them in the pack just in case.

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Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:17 pm
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From my experiences, 95% of the time I've either worn snowshoes or spikes. The Hillsounds spikes are a tad longer, I believe 1/2' vs 3/8". There are arguments for both. However, if you go with the Katoola KTS don't get the aluminum ones. You'll wear them out in no time flat. I own the KTS steel and I'm pretty happy with them.

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Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:26 pm
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I have done winter hiking on Monadnock for three seasons and have never needed crampons. I have used crampons just to get used to hiking in them but have never needed them. I just use Micro Spikes and hiking poles. It may be worth looking into Trail Crampons, which are less aggressive and cheaper as a just in case thing.


Thu Nov 08, 2012 4:47 pm
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Kelly's laid it out pretty clearly. Most of the time my actual crampons stay on/in my pack. In fact the only times I remember using full crampons instead of micro spikes/instep crampons/stabilicers is in the higher Presidentials and the Franconia Ridge. Lighter traction or snowshoes has been sufficient for everything else I remember doing. For me prsonally I always like to have an ice/mountaineering axe with me too, especially when using lighter traction on open slopes.


Thu Nov 08, 2012 8:35 pm
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Are you proficient in the practice of self-arrest? Many will say that if you need an ice axe, you should be wearing crampons. If you are not capable of arresting, then an ice axe is a false sense of security at best and a liability at worst.

In 100+ winter 4Ks, I have needed crampons exactly once - on the Airline last March. I have used them maybe half a dozen times, but mainly for practice. I do not own an ice axe and have never found myself wanting one. I suppose if I was benighted it might help me dig out a shelter. There are routes where it could be considered required, but every 4K has at least one "safe" route. Even those routes, under the right conditions, could justify an axe, but those days are very rare. Jefferson's snowfields are one place where you might need an axe. I never have though.

Tim

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Fri Nov 09, 2012 7:22 am
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While you should know how to self arrest properly with an axe they have many more uses than self arrest. This is just a quick overview of their uses I copied and pasted.

■When you walk on snowy steep ground, an Ice Axe will provide extra stability and will also help prevent slipping. It will then act as your third leg.
■When you accidentally slip down a slope, you will be able to use the Ice Axes as self belay if you push the shaft down into the snow.
■If the slip turns into a slide then you can use the Axes as brakes. The Axe is then held across the body and the pick pushed into the snow.
■The Ice Axes can also be used to cut steps in hard snow when Crampons aren't being worn. This is particularly useful if you are just crossing a short section of snow and do not want to put your Crampons on.
■To dig seats or large steps (for resting, organizing equipment, etc.), pits for checking snow profiles, or snow holes, the Axes can be used as a kind of a shovel.
■When you use the Ice Axes together with a rope, then they can provide extra security on steep snow slopes to construct bucket seats, snow bollards, and buried Axes.
■You can use the Ice Axes while you are climbing on ice, hard snow, frozen turf, or rock. The pick is then used for hook onto bulges or steps, swung into ice, or twisted into cracks. The Adze, head, and shaft may also be jammed or twisted into cracks.

Personally I often use it for the first thing although most of the time I do it probably isn't 100% necessary. The four times I can think of that I would have actually been uncomfortable without it and turned around were on the snowfields on Jefferson last March, Monroe's summit cone three years ago (also in March), The Franconia Ridge in March a couple years ago amd the Lions Head trail a couple years ago (almost in March, Feb 28th to be exact). Seems to be a march thing around here! :D

Occasionally I have used it to cut steps for people without full crampons and used it quite a bit on the Star Lake trail last winter to grab/pick onto rocks on the Star Lake trail which was a mess of mixed ice and rock.

Never had to self arrest but have practiced a number of times everywhere from Snowbanks, to Pawtuckaway, to Washington. Fun to practice and do, at least when your life isn't on the line.

Also had to use it once in a rescue to lower someone down the upper section of the Ammo Ravine trail. Drove it in and lowered them down the steep sections by wrapping the rope around it and letting it out slowly. Full crampons helped get traction for that too but what are the odds you'll ever need to dig into ice really well for something like that? Probably and hopefully a once in a lifetime deal.

Obviously others are fine without one. Personally I prefer to have it for the rare occasions its truely necessary and for the extremely rare case it's needed in an emergency situation. Really not that heavy to strap on your pack just in case IMO.


Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:50 pm
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You forgot the most common use for an ice axe--to hold over your head victoriously for the summit photo :roll:

Tim

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Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:18 pm
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I guess we must hike different routes or in different conditions. I use mine quite often, although like I said other than 4 times its either for insurance or just to make things easier. Haven't done over 100 winter 4ks like you but I've done my share with and without one and many winter routes are perfectly doable without it but easier and safer with it. To me its normally just insurance or admittedly overkill and often never even leaves the pack, but like carrying a splint, when you need one you need one. A decent one is about 65 bucks and weighs a pound and a half. For me my safety and piece of mind is worth that. Never hoisted one over my head in a summit photo either, but its been by my side a few times. :roll:


Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:42 pm
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It's fine if you want to carry one - that's your choice - I have never wanted one, and most of the gridiots I know don't routinely carry them either (I only know one who does, come to think of it.) I don't do technical routes, and we do agree that Lion's Head (not a standard winter route for peakbagging) and the snow fields on Jefferson are two likely places you might want one.

Experts (Chouinard) do strongly suggest that if you feel the need to have an ice axe in your hand, you should also be wearing crampons. The best way to stop a fall is to not fall in the first place.

I stand by my statement that except in rare conditions or on slide or ravine routes, an ice axe is overkill in the Whites. And, I will bet you $100 that half the people carrying them can't demonstrate any of the techniques described by Chouinard.

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Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:04 pm
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You're right Tim. Gridiots probably don't need them. Climbing tree lined trails in powder certainly doesn't require one. There's probably only 8 or so 4Ks and a handful of others where it might ever truely be needed, but I'm not a gridiot, and have no desire to be so I can't speak to that aspect of winter hiking. Personally when I go in the winter it's usually in search of an adventure type hike I can't get in the summer on the bigger peaks. I've climbed in the Presis with enough powder that snowshoes were more than enough and I've climbed it on days when its hard pack/boiler plate and crampons and ice axe were required. If someone wants to skip the latter conditions and stay below treeline on days like that they can probably get by without one except for emergencies and then there's probably lots more stuff they could use too.

As for your bet I have no idea how many people know all his techniques. I do know the professionally guided Presi traverses, from Chauvin and EMS at least, have it on the required gear list and their basic winter mountaineering courses teach you to use one, so for whatever that's worth it seems the local experts think its a good idea to have it, even if you never need it.

But to each their own. I myself don't get how anyone can hike with poles in the summer. I can see how if you have a bad knee or something they might help and I could force myself to do it for that but the few times I've even tried them they've been way more of a hinderence to me than a help. I hate having anything in my hands making them sweat when I'm hiking in summer. In winter with a heavy pack I use them occasionally but still prefer to go without them.


Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:41 pm
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See, I use poles all the time - I'm faster with them, they reduce fatigue, etc. I had knee problems and they definitely helped. You may not like them or need them, or you may be using them incorrectly. I have an XC background and they definitely help propel me.

I said earlier that they might be necessary on slide routes or routes like Lion's Head - so "adventure" type routes - sure. I remain firmly of the belief that they are largely unnecessary for winter peakbagging - but of course that's not everyone's thing (but it is a popular thing.)

I've had similar debates with people who are in love with their crampons. I very seldom use them either, but I do think they are a necessity in certain conditions, which occur more frequently on standard peakbagging routes.

What really caught my eye was your statement about spikes + ice axe - both Chouinard and your guides would most-likely require you to be using crampons in ice axe territory. Everything I have ever read on the subject says so, except for learning to self-arrest - which is best practiced without crampons. The mountaineering courses teach you mountaineering - which applies to places like Ranier as well as the Whites. It's great that they teach ice axe usage, and hence they require you to have one. That doesn't mean one is required or necessary to actually hike in the Whites. They probably teach roped glacier travel as well - I have never seen that in the Whites - ever - although I have heard people training for Ranier / Denali do so for practice.

Gear acquisition order

100% - Boots
75% / 20% - Snowshoes / Spikes (spikes handier now, snowshoes handier most of winter)
5% - Crampons
0% - Ice Axe

The % are the % of hikes I have used each item on.

As always, YMMV.

Tim

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Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:12 am
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I'm now totally confused on what we are discussing here! :D For the most part I think we're in total agreement.

All I said originally was when I find myself on an open hard slope with less than full crampons (which wouldn't be a planned thing) that personally I like to have the added security of the axe with me even if that means on 95% of winter hikes it just rides along on the pack. I also originally said the only time I recall needing full crampons was on the higher Presis and Franconia Ridge. No argument from me that carrying an ice axe up Mt. Pierce and the likes is overkill.

The required gear list for a guided Presi traverse includes the ice axe. I've never taken a guided trip but my three PT attempts all had axes with us and the only sucessful trip actually used them but yes we could have avoided the Star Lake trail and it was more for security crossing the Jefferson Ravine headwall than 100% necessary. Id say my percentages of gear useage are just like yours but the axe makes an appearance about 5% of the time. Just another tool of the trade I don't mind carrying just in case.

I think our discussion boils down to me thinking its better to have one and not need it than need it and not have it, even if it's rarely ever needed, and if I read it right you're saying there's routes to most if not all peaks that would almost never require it and if you avoid the more difficult trails on days it would be needed you'll never need one. Just hike elsewhere on those days.


Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:12 pm
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