‘Do I take the crampons too?’
Having finally got around to buying a pair of snowshoes (on the todo list for at least a decade), I’m off on a week long traverse of a local range, the Kakanui
The question I’m toying with is ‘do I take the crampons too’. The terrain is mostly retired high-country sheep farms - summer run blocks, now mostly in the conservation estate. So it is quite extensively tracked with old farm tracks, but, there several untracked sections, and a few brief steep climbs (up to 500m altitude gain per 1km). And unless anything changes by Monday it will pretty much all be under a foot or two of snow, and probably well iced before the sun hits. But it’s all in the realm of tramping (hiking) - would not be a climb or even a scramble under summer conditions.
*(Note 20m contours, not 10m!) *
(Also note, starting in the east and walking until I run out of time - so not the whole planned trip detailed)
If I didn’t have the showshoes, I’d definitely be taking the crampons, and would expect to need them on icy slopes. So I will probably take them anyway, given it’s the first real outing for the shoes.
But I’d be keen on feedback from other more experienced snowshoers. What do you take, and for what terrain/conditions?
Plus any other last-minute tips.
Matt, the ones I use (MSR) have instep crampons which work really well on icy ground. They also have a flip up heel bar which helps when going up hill.
Like you, I carried crampons too, but then quickly realised that the snow shoes did a really good job on most surfaces and gradients. Everything apart from steep slopes where you’d be using your crampon front points.
Should have said - have the MSR Evo Ascent:
(not from that retailer - but shows you the model)
Which does have the heel bar.
These look more aggressive than my ones.
I’m sure you’ll have fun. Of course if you come across any deep powder, you’ll still sink. Skis are the only thing for those conditions.
I also have the MSR Denali Ascent Evo (…because of my weight always with extension. ) …certainly already 15 years Therefore, I now take spare rubber straps with me.
Since you have the snowshoes new, I recommend you to test times, as you can fix them most skillfully on the backpack. Do you have hiking poles that are suitable for snow and have larger plates at the bottom? With my old Leki I can attach different diameters.
Somehow I always have cold hands when hiking with poles in winter. Meanwhile, I also have different gloves with me. I am a fan of thin silk inner gloves.
I used to run with gaiters… today I run only with a 3layer Goretex pants. The 2 way zipper on the side I leave open while hiking for cooling in the upper area. The first thing I do on the summit: I close it and swap the Goretex jacket for a down jacket.
You’ll find out all the things you didn’t need!
Thanks Armin. All good points.
The salesman at Small Planet reckoned that snow conditions in NZ did not merit the extensions/skirts - and none of the national or local retailers appear to sell them. We rarely get the sort of powder colder drier climates get, so hopefully they’re right. Otherwise, it’ll have to be an order of a set from overseas.
I absolutely hate hiking poles - so don’t own any. I’m borrowing Sim’s (my partner’s) Macpac carbon-fibre poles for this trip. They only have about a 45mm plate, which they claim is suitable for snow, but looks smaller than the baskets I see online overseas. I will see how they go and decide on whether/what to buy for myself. So advice welcome in that regard.
For general tramping - unless you’re on farm tracks or groomed tourist trails (where I’m faster without them) - I find poles of little value. Either terrain is steep enough that I want something I can trust to self-arrest with (i.e. ice-axe), or I’m walking up riverbeds and need something heavier and stronger (e.g. long-handled ice-axe) to plant and hold against the flow, or I’m down crawling through the scrub & bush and they are just a hinderance unless stored inside the pack where they can’t hook on anything.
However I do acknowledge that from watching videos online they seem essential for snowshoeing, so time to give in and buy some!
Chaps / gaiters / overtrousers
I run very hot when tramping - so long pants or full-length chaps are not an option unless there’s serious windchill. But I always have thick canvas knee length gaiters to protect against scrub / windfall and these are also good at keeping snow out of boots and protecting the shins against that cutting crust of ice.
This makes activations challenging as once on the summit and cooling rapidly I have the options of continuing in shorts, or trying to get overtrousers over boots (and crampons) or taking off said boots to put on long-johns. That’s another problem to resolve one day!
This is also an ongoing issue for me. Since getting frostbitten a few years ago the circulation in my fingers is terrible and cold is a real problem, even with gloves. With the single ice-axe this is resolved by alternating hands whenever possible - but that’s not an option with two poles, clearly. Thick gloves don’t give enough dexterity for climbing, map&compass use, manipulating vegetation, etc - and just end up heavy wet weights of water anyway. So I stick to was warm and thin as I cat get. I’ve not tried additional inner-gloves. That might be one to look at - thanks.
I felt the same way for years… and most of the time they are also superfluous and stuck at the back of the side in the backpack. In the meantime, I love my poles… especially downhill. It relieves…
But in snowshoeing it’s a bit like cross-country skiing… most power for propulsion comes from the arms and shoulders.
I definitely think a diameter of 45mm is too small. With it, you only sink the stick in the snow and have to laboriously pull it out again.
In your place I would make round stable plastic discs (about 10 cm) … drill a hole in the middle and push them from the lower end over the stick under the other plates… and fix them with these. (Small holes and wire?) Then you can take them off at any time and use them without additional plates.
I also work up a sweat quickly. There I am also always planning… If I only move… then I take ski underwear, which transports the sweat to the outside.
But if I squat on the summit in the cold to activate it… then I find nothing better than my merino icebreaker…