View Full Version : Crampons needed for Early start ?

09-21-2015, 19:26
My wife thinks I'll need them as I'm starting in late Feb 2016. I think its over kill, Any thoughts?

09-21-2015, 20:15
Ill be carrying katoola (sp?) microspikes. Im worried about some icey conditions, but will send them home down the path.

09-21-2015, 20:42
Crampons are expensive, heavy, somewhat awkward to walk on and complete overkill. Microspikes fit light weight flexible shoes, are plenty for icy and snowy trail conditions, are easier to carry than crampons, and you almost don't notice they are on your feet, so you can use them to advantage even when conditions are only slightly slippery.

09-21-2015, 21:40
Thanks I'll look at the micro spikes, guess its better to have them, then wish you had them.

riff raff
09-22-2015, 04:33
My large microspikes weigh in at 15.5 ozs.

09-22-2015, 06:52
As noted above, crampons are large, heavy, can be somewhat dangerous and difficult to use. It is possible to have long stretches of icy rocky trail on the AT in February and March, but some sort of regular traction device works just fine. Microspikes are popular.

09-22-2015, 07:50
Here's the average snowfall by month for Clingmans Dome:

Jan. - 18"
Feb. - 20"
Mar. - 26"
April - 5"
May - T
June - 0
July - 0
Aug. - 0
Sept. - T
Oct. - 2"
Nov. - 5"
Dec. - 8"

T= Trace

Above information, as well as average high and low temps are provided at the bottom of this page: www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/weather.htm (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/weather.htm).

Snowfall (and ice accumulation) can vary dramatically year to year.

A high snowfall year may have 5 times a much accumulation as a low snowfall year. Drifting can also allow 10 times as much snow to collect in places as the actual reported snowfall.

It's not just February starters who may need strap-on traction devices for the Smokies, or appropriate footwear and gear for deep snow.

In late October, 2012 a southbound thru-hiker had to be rescued because he got stranded in deep snow. Here a paragraph from an ATC article about the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on the Trail:

Ignoring weather warnings, one southbound thru-hiker had to be rescued in the Great Smokies. He reportedly took eight hours to hike 1.25 miles south from Tricorner Knob Shelter where he became stranded in snow drifts. Fortunately for him, he reached 911 by cell phone and was patched into NPS who coordinated the rescue and dispatched two park rangers. Despite high winds, a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter-crew managed to pluck the hiker out of the woods in one of the park’s most remote locations.

And a more in-depth article here (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/02/nation/la-na-nn-tennesee-hiker-rescued-appalachian-trail-20121102).

On November 19 last year, ATC issued this alert for issued for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

ALERT: CRAMPONS NEEDED to traverse the Smokies at high elevations. Solid ice covers a 1/2 mile section between Newfound Gap and Icewater Spring Shelter. In other sections there is a spotty mixture of ice, snow and trail.Other trails in the higher elevations likely have similar conditions as well. Information provided to ATC by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Backcountry Office.

Strap-on traction devices might have be better (the park probably used the term "crampons" generically for greater impact with the broader public), but the point is snow and ice can be present from as early as late October to as late as early May (the widest possible window). Typically snowfall is light in November and December, potentially deepest in January through March, but the park has occasionally had major snow or ice storms in April. In recent memory, snow has been deep enough a couple of times to reach tree branches above the Trail, making the trail impassible.

Some years, of course, snowfall is lower than average. People reading trail journals for just one of these low-snowfall years and attempting an early-start thru-hike the next may be in for a big surprise.