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  1. #1
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    Default Which traction system should I use?

    Hi;
    I've got a pair of Lowa Camino GTX trekking boots. For winter hiking in these boots, I have an old pair of instep crampons. For more serious winter hiking, I wear my Koflach boots with Grivel 12 point crampons.
    Since the full crampon does not fit the Lowa boot, I was wondering what traction system would be best.
    I have looked at Kahtoola Microspikes, and several other similar products. The Kahtoola Microspike specifically states it is designed for flexible footwear. I don't think my Lowa boots qualify as flexible footwear, so I'm not convinced that MicroSpikes would work.
    I do have a pair of Kahtoola NanoSpikes, which I wear on my running shoes when I run on icy trails, but of course these will not fit the Lowa boots.

    Thanks for your advice.

    Arden

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    Microspikes work fine on rigid boots if that’s the question. I’ve used them on my ice climbing boots many times.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    Microspikes work fine on rigid boots if that’s the question. I’ve used them on my ice climbing boots many times.
    Thanks. I guess I didn't take the time to think it through.

  4. #4

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    FWIW - I have used Katoola and Hillsound Micro-Spikes on rigid boots, they work fine. Though the Micro-Spikes work well in most conditions, I will also take a pair of crampons with me if I am going way out into the back country or high elevations to be sure I can walk out of any trouble I walk into with the spikes.

  5. #5

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    The Hillsounds have better traction on ice then Katoolas. The velcro strap over the instep also is nice upgrade as it keeps the chains from hanging loose and more importantly assures that you don't lose one. Its real easy to be walking along and get one snagged on something and keep walking. I retrofitted straps on my spare Katoolas and it makes a big difference.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 01-27-2019 at 08:14.

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    Thanks for the advice guys;
    I would have taken my full crampons with me yesterday, but I didn't feel that the hike warranted wearing the much stiffer Koflach boots, which I must wear if I am going to use the full crampons.
    I briefly thought I could use the set of Kahtoola NanoSpikes I use on my running shoes on the Lowa boots, but sizing them up, I could see that they were not intended for such a large boot, and attempting to stretch them so far probably would have resulted in destroying them. My foot is a size 12, but obviously the running shoes are much smaller overall.

    I also have an old pair of Yak Trax, which I never really liked. The spring-like gripping elements don't work nearly as well as crampons do, and they keep slipping around on the boot.

    Question: How well will the MicroSpikes handle walking on soil or even rocks without ice? I ask this because I find it a real pain to be putting them on and taking them off as needed, when the distance between icy spots isn't far enough to warrant removing them.
    When I bought my Kahtoola NanoSpikes, I asked the company about running on non-ice or snow covered hard surfaces, and they told me that the spikes were hard enough to withstand that kind of use. While I wouldn't leave the spikes on when I see that there is no ice for a good distance, there are often situations where you have patches of ice but with significant distances of dry ground between.
    I don't know about MicroSpikes, but the NanoSpikes cannot be sharpened - at least not without any special equipment.

  7. #7

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    I have tried most all traction strategies, up to and including threading hex head screws into the soles of hiking boots to find the best winter traction tool. The short answer is, there is no one-size-fits-all type of traction gear for all conditions, so the simple solution is to be ready for what you can see and what you can't.

    Nano-Spikes are designed more for trail running on snow/ice covered surfaces (broken in/groomed tracks/paths) than for trail use. Every once in a while I will run across someone on a trail who is trying to make them work without a lot of success. To me, the spikes are too short to provide the level of stable footing one needs in varied and/or steep, broken terrain, however some people may have a different experience in conditions that are less than New England winters.

    Yak Trax are designed for getting mail and newspapers, shoveling snow, and other casual consumer level use. They are not well suited for trail use, my experience is they fail quickly on even fairly tame trail terrain. That said, they are fine for walking the dog.

    To answer your question, in my experience microspikes perform well on most surfaces, including dirt and gravel. They will wear out faster if you walk in a lot of loose scree and dirt over long periods of time, however I do agree it can be a PITA to take them off very 50 yards only to put them on again 100 yards later. I leave mine on unless its clear there is no ice and snow on the treadway for a while. They grip bare rock ok, but the spikes make it a little difficult to keep stable footing (rolling side to side or skidding) on bare slab rock without using some technique.

    I know some people who sharpen microspikes but I have not been inclined to do that myself. For me, replacing microspikes every few seasons when I notice they are not gripping ice surfaces as well as they used to makes sense. The two major makers of microspikes have different spike construction, Hillsound microspikes are a little longer than the Kahtoola spikes, which make them nice for more serious ice conditions that exist at high elevations. However, for me the Hillsound spikes being longer they snag on roots/rock more easily as I tire and I find I stumble more with them than I do the Kahtoola's so my feet prefer the Kahtoolas.

    My strategy is to take microspikes with me even when trails look clear to be prepared for any unexpected conditions. Anytime I am doing more than a quick few miles on some local trails I will take microspikes and throw a set of crampons into the pack as a strategy to avoid traction related problems.

  8. #8

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    My vote for Microspikes. And yes, Yaktrax are practically useless, no grip at all on hard ice.

    I didn't take 'em, Kahtoolas... kinda wish I had. Many long stretches like this.

    Ice_trail_01_small.jpg
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

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    That looks bad enough to warrant my 12 point mountaineering crampons!
    At this point, I am undecided as to whether or not to invest another $70 in ice gear, when I already own a pair of full crampons.
    I think on my next winter hike, I'll try the heavier boots and Grivel crampons. If that proves to be too awkward or heavy on my feet, I'll go for the lighter weight MicroSpikes or the Hillsounds. I watched a couple YouTube vids comparing the Kahtoola MicroSpikes with the Hillsound Trail Crampons. They compare very well, but both have issues with balling when walking on wet loosely packed snow or 'powder'. I have had the same problem with the Grivel crampons, but since the spikes are much longer on the Grivel, I would think they would tend to ball up less frequently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arden View Post
    That looks bad enough to warrant my 12 point mountaineering crampons!
    If you're talking about that pic that cmoulder posted, I'd take that stretch in my Hillsounds with confidence. (Except if it's melty and slushy and the ice is parting company with the rock - there's no safe way to hike on sh-,uhm, stuff like that.) Hey, cmoulder - red triangle on white, looks like Arden-Surebridge? Was that this year, after the ice storm?

    Full crampons are for where you're breaking clear of the trees and the wind has blown the snow into 'snowcrete', or you have hard ice on a slope that's steep enough to need real climbing. Here's a buddy starting to switch from snowshoes to crampons while I'm bringing up the rear as usual. All I have is 10-point walking crampons - I'm not an ice climber, just a winter hiker. Yeah, that's an ice axe on my pack. If you're in conditions where full crampons are warranted, you need some means of self-arrest. I don't own a pair of hardshell mountaineering boots. For what I do, Sorel pac boots are enough. Although Elf thought he had found a pair for me once - but they turned out to be about a half-size or a size too small, and in hardshell boots that would be a disaster.

    .

    I do keep my Hillsounds on in mixed conditions. I think I do them more damage walking in town with them.
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  11. #11

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    Hi, Kevin, good spotting! Yes that is Arden-Surebridge, not too far from Bottle Cap. There was a very bad section that almost caused me to turn around right past here, where a flooded waterfall was coming in from the north side of the trail. Very dicey. And then after I get thru here, over to Times Square and up Ramapo-Dunderberg, I was just cruising along on 'easy' stuff and sprained my ankle. Not too bad... that was Sunday and I did my little 4 mi hike with the dog today. Close call.

    Wish I'd had some microspikes Sunday, and I concur they would be adequate for anything in Harriman. I wore them today out of an abundance of caution. The ankle is barely healed and I'd be screwed if I re-injured it now.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

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    I agree, full crampons (especially the 12 point with front facing points) are way overkill for Harriman. I originally bought my Koflach boots and the Grivel 12 point (climbing) crampons for a trek I was planning to do on Mt. Washington NH in November. I never went, and haven't tried anything up there in winter since. I have used the crampons in Harriman, because I own them, and am a bit short of cash, so I am trying to make do with what I've already got. Besides that, I don't get up to Harriman all that often, so maybe I would need the ice gear once or twice a year; hardly worthy of a $70 investment on a tight budget.
    If my NanoSpikes would fit my hiking boots, I would use them, but they are sized for my running shoes, and will definitely not fit the Lowa boots.
    Just a thought: Perhaps I should look on Ebay for a used pair of MicroSpikes or Trail Crampons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arden View Post
    I agree, full crampons (especially the 12 point with front facing points) are way overkill for Harriman.
    I wanted mine once, on the scrambles on the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail north of the Parkway. But that's once in a lot of trips over several decades, and that's just about the only spot in the park where I imagine I'd have a use for them. I see crampon scratches in the rock on West Mountain, though, so someone uses them there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    I wanted mine once, on the scrambles on the Suffern-Bear Mountain trail north of the Parkway. But that's once in a lot of trips over several decades, and that's just about the only spot in the park where I imagine I'd have a use for them. I see crampon scratches in the rock on West Mountain, though, so someone uses them there.
    I used my 12 point crampons on the Major Welch trail from Hessian Lake to Bear summit. There were several icy spots on the steep rocky section. The crampons were very useful on that trek. Interestingly, when I reached Bear summit, there was another guy wearing the same crampons. He had also come up the MW trail.
    I'm wondering whether some of those scratches on the rocks could have been made with MicroSpikes and not full crampons. Would anyone be able to tell the difference?

    I've also used my full crampons in the Catskills, on the trail from Woodland Valley to Slide Mtn, and once on Algonquin Mtn in the Daks. BTW; I always carry an ice axe whenever I've got the crampons on. I have never used the axe for anything but a walking stick on ice (a bit too short for that though) and to chop ice out from under a car that was stuck on ice at home. I have never practiced self-arrest, but have seen how its done plenty of times. I don't think self-arrest would work very well unless the snow is very deep, or if you've got enough ice for the adze to really bite into, and enough upper body strength to hold onto it. I think the crampons would do more good during a fall in a place like Harriman, the Catskills, or the Daks.

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    Question: How well will the MicroSpikes handle walking on soil or even rocks without ice?


    I don't notice too much wear with the Kathoola Microspikes on red rock. Frozen soil not much an issue as afr as durability. Too much walking on bare granite or lava at high elevations in Hawaii or elsewhere and they start to dull. Yes it snows at the higher elev in HI. I take them off and put them back on when needed on icy slopes. The spikes are 400 series stainless which I like for durability when not opting for a full crampon and rigid boot. The Micros are shorter spikes though than the carbon steel Hillys so unless I'm going icy and consistently steeper up and down on frozen ridge lines I backpack in the Micros but possibly adding an ice axe or trekking poles. This isn't hardcore techy mountaineering or climbing on the really steep stuff.

    As others said the Kathoola and Hillshound are made to stretch on flexible shoes to stay attached but that does not mean they can't also be used on rigid boots.

    The Nanos are a better gripping more durable version for winter runners than anything YakTrax makes.

    Why are you going with such a rigid boot? I thought I recall you being a runner?


    getting the nanos, micro and Hillys sized right for your foot and footwear is important. Like Peakbagger, I too have added a retrofitted velcro piece across the instep which the Hillys come stock. It helps as PB stated.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arden View Post
    I used my 12 point crampons on the Major Welch trail from Hessian Lake to Bear summit. There were several icy spots on the steep rocky section. The crampons were very useful on that trek. Interestingly, when I reached Bear summit, there was another guy wearing the same crampons. He had also come up the MW trail.
    Hmm, maybe. You surely need some traction gear there, but spikes are up to it, I think. And I forgot to mention the Lemon Squeezer. That's another place I'd want crampons, although I've done in in spikes and gotten away with it.

    Those Grivel G10 and G12 sure are popular. My crampons are Black Diamond Contact, which I also see a lot of in NY. Do not use aluminium crampons in the 'Gunks or Cats - the abrasive rock just eats them, so the cheap CAMP USA ones are not going to hold up.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arden View Post
    I've also used my full crampons in the Catskills, on the trail from Woodland Valley to Slide Mtn, and once on Algonquin Mtn in the Daks.
    Good plan! Those are places where spikes are not enough. In the Catskills, I'd add Blackhead and Black Dome, the Devil's Path anywhere between the east side of Hunter and Devil's Kitchen, Kaaterskill High Peak unless you are very familiar with the approach from the west, the Escarpment Trail between the Mary's Glen and Batavia Kill turnoffs, and most of the bushwhacks. (Bearpen, Vly, Leavitt/Southwest Hunter, and Graham are relatively safe on the herd paths.) The snowshoers call Sugarloaf 'Suicide Mountain' for a reason, and Twin is hardly any more friendly when there's ice about!

    On the Burrough Range Trail from Woodland Valley to Slide, here's how not to do it in winter (Start at about 1:29, WB cut off the start time in the link.) Are those guys trying to get themselves freaking killed? (Of course, not wearing crampons isn't the only thing they're doing wrong. Anyway, it shows why you want crampons in the Catskills! Spikes just won't grip for that one move at the top of the crack.)



    Quote Originally Posted by Arden View Post
    BTW; I always carry an ice axe whenever I've got the crampons on. I have never used the axe for anything but a walking stick on ice (a bit too short for that though) and to chop ice out from under a car that was stuck on ice at home. I have never practiced self-arrest, but have seen how its done plenty of times. I don't think self-arrest would work very well unless the snow is very deep, or if you've got enough ice for the adze to really bite into, and enough upper body strength to hold onto it. I think the crampons would do more good during a fall in a place like Harriman, the Catskills, or the Daks.
    You're right that you need an ice axe wherever you need full crampons.

    You're right that virtually all the time, you're holding the axe piolet canne (cane position). In fact, if it gets steep and icy enough that I need to raise the axe above piolet ramasse, I'm going home because I know that my technique isn't good enough.

    You need to have a teacher for self-arrest. You can't learn just by watching. It needs to be in muscle memory because in an actual fall you don't have time to do it consciously, and that means drilling it. Before I use my ice axe in any winter, I go out to a local nature preserve that has a canyon wall with a safe runout and do a half-dozen practice falls.

    Properly done, a self-arrest is more technique than strength. If you're holding the axe right - another thing you need a teacher for because every beginner needs to be scolded repeatedly about getting it wrong - then it's no harder than doing a couple or three pushups. As I said, that involves being drilled so that basically any time you pick up the axe, you grip it in arrest position automatically - even carrying it like a cane, you have all your fingers in the right places around the head at all times.

    Crampons aren't helpful in a fall. They're deadly. They're there to avoid a fall, not to stop one. If you're actually sliding, catching a point is likely to flip you tailfeathers-over-teakettle and risks a broken neck! The first thing you do in a self-arrest is to get your crampons clear of the ground, which is why you arrest with bent knees when you're pointy.

    That goes just as strongly for an intentional glissade - "never glissade when pointy" is a basic safety rule on ice. Stow your crampons before starting your slide! (By the way, the glissade down the west side is the best part of climbing Blackhead in winter!)

    Also, you arrest with the pick, not the adze. Since nobody cuts steps any more, the adze has been relegated to tasks like leveling your tent site, clearing the ice from a spring to get water, or as you said, digging out a car. A lot of climbers use ice tools that don't even have an adze.
    Last edited by Another Kevin; 02-03-2019 at 10:51.
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    Thanks for the advice. I see that I have a lot to learn if I ever want to do any serious winter hiking.
    i watched that vid of Cornell Crack. I never tried it by kicking off the opposite wall. From that I remember, I just found a foothold and climbed up.
    I did that in summer with a full (50lb) pack. Going up was OK. I just climbed with the pack on my back. But coming back down, I thought I should remove the pack and lower it to the ground below using rope & a tree branch, but when that didn't appear to be working out I just put the pack back on and climbed down.

    I was hiking the Devils Path - again with a full pack - heading west off Twin when I came to a spot where the path narrowed so much I was afraid I would slip off. It was a decent drop from the trail down a steep embankment. I used a small tree for support as I moved around the section. It was very short, so not so bad, but a 50lb pack on your back is a whole different game than day hiking with a lite pack. I have no idea of why I used to hike with such a heavy pack. Even more recently, on a 55 mile trek on the A.T. from Bear Mtn Park to Pawling my pack (not the same one) weighed around 35lbs. I try to keep it below 30lb, but I carry a bear canister, which weighs nearly 3lbs empty. I am absolutely no good with tossing a cord into a tree to hang my food, and usually hike alone, so I don't have many options.

    I've never done anything more than day hiking in winter, but I can imagine that when you're carrying a full pack 30-35lbs, you would want the full (heavy) crampons rather than the MicroSpikes or similar.
    I resharpened my Grivel crampons a few years ago, but haven't used them since. Now, I'm more into long distance running than hiking, even though I know that hiking is a lot less stressful on the body. Interestingly, I had been having (patellar) knee pain after some of my running, so decided to take a short (4.5mi) hike in Harriman - which I think I mentioned in my first post. No pain after the hike, and now, no pain after a run either. So I'm thinking that mixing it up between running and hiking is probably the best way to handle it.

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    In winter on ice when I'm carrying a bulky heavier pack often with more apparel and bag I load the apparel and bag to the outside of the pack. This way should I anticipate a hard fall I try to fall onto the pack like an overturned turtle. Sometimes you know in the briefest of moments as a fall is occurring it's going to be a hard fall and you can choose how to fall. Stunt men and Parkour enthusiasts do that doing some amazing things while reducing or eliminating hard injury. Like using an Ice Axe to self arrest you want to practice before needing it to save your life. Kinda funny practicing how to fall wearing a pack or when trail running.

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    Don't soft landings feel better than hard falls? With the polar vortex and snow you've been having in NJ go out and practice in the snow. Make a few angels too,

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arden View Post
    I was hiking the Devils Path - again with a full pack - heading west off Twin when I came to a spot where the path narrowed so much I was afraid I would slip off. It was a decent drop from the trail down a steep embankment. I used a small tree for support as I moved around the section.
    Know the spot! Right where the trail switchbacks on the top of this scramble - as if the scramble weren't scary enough.



    The other spot on Twin that's, uhm, interesting in the winter is the chimney above that cliff, which gets choked with ice. In the summer it's easy, the rocks are full of cracks and there's no problem finding footholds, but in the winter, ir's pretty dodgy.



    When you look back across Pecoy Notch from Sugarloaf you can see why the trail on the west side of Twin is as hard as it is. There are a few bands of cliffs that there's really no way around.



    Although the traverse across the slab on the east side of Slide is worse. I think it's just about the most technical spot I've seen on a marked hiking trail.


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