Snow shoes
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Chad Eagle
(Eaglesd)

Locale: SoCal
Snow shoes on 11/21/2011 20:43:16 MST Print View

Thinking about taking on some winter hikes. I know nothing about snow shoes, help me decide on some good ones to start out with. I would be hiking in southern sierra and socal mtns. Uphill, downhill, etc. Don't want to spend a fortune either.

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Snow shoes on 11/22/2011 06:38:48 MST Print View

I always recommend either the MSR EVO Ascents or the MSR EVO Tours because I am a huge fan of the televator heel to take the stress and fatigue off of the calves while you climb. The binding system is very simple and secure, just set it once and forget about it, I also like the 360 degree traction in conjunction with the center crampon as opposed to the standard tubular frame and single crampon as it offers more stability when traversing and provides that added contact point when going up hill.

All in all, for under $200 I don't believe that there is a better snowshoe on the market right now. The only negative is that if you are a bigger person or will be carrying a huge pack were the total weight will be in excess of 250lbs then you may need a 25" or 20" shoe and in which case MSR Lightening range can cost you $240-$300 at full retail price depending on the model (Ascent verses Axis).

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Snow shoes on 11/22/2011 12:08:35 MST Print View

Hi Chad -

I did a lot of research a while back on snowshoes. I ended up with the MSR Lightning Ascents (25"). I also got the tails, which I have never needed. Very happy with them. They are probably among the more expensive. You might want to research Atlas for price.

For most of my trips I find I use crampons more than snowshoes, that has been the nature of the snow. My Kahtoola aluminum crampons have been wonderful, but need to be careful to stay of off rocks.

I can lend you the MSRs if you want to try them out on a weekend trip. Also have a pair of BD Contact Crampons you can try. Also you want to learn how to use an ice ax. I can loan you that too. And if you want to go old school, I have a pair of Sherpa snowshoes with the pivoting snow claw you can try.

Don't forget that we can get avalanches in so cal too. So prepare for that.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Lightning Ascents too on 11/23/2011 00:16:53 MST Print View

Like Nick I too have MSR Lightning Ascents (30") because I once slid down a steep slope on my Atlas 'shoes ahd hurt my shoulder when I landed against a tree.

The new Atlas snowshoe model that imitate the Lightning side "teeth" are testament to the effectiveness of the Lightning design, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

Richard Fischel
(RICKO) - F
+1 for msr on 11/23/2011 06:22:36 MST Print View

i have evo ascents with 8" tails and wouldn't think of replacing them. they are bullet proof and that's what i want in my winter gear. they might be overkill for some, but i think of them as insurance because of the confidance i have in my foot to snow/ice connection.

Scott Pickard
(gon2srf)

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 07:17:22 MST Print View

I too am new to winter hiking and realized last weekend that I need crampons, snowshoes or both if I am to continue hiking through the winter. My favorite hike is Icehouse Canyon to Cucamonga Peak. Above the Icehouse Saddle there are a couple very narrow sections with steep drop offs that I am concerned may be too narrow for snowshoeing. Should I expect to find myself switching between crampons and snowshoes often? Is is necessary to have both in our local mountains? I hike solo and therefore need to use extra caution until I build experience. What additional gear or preparation do you recommend for possible avalanche conditions?

Thanks,

Scott

Edited by gon2srf on 11/24/2011 07:18:48 MST.

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 12:22:34 MST Print View

Scott,

I have zero knowledge of your area, however from a general viewpoint crampons are used once the slope gets too steep (35-40 degrees or so) or when there is not enough snow coverage to use snowshoes-- again this is just a very general idea as I have many times used snowshoes all the way to many summits in Colorado, you will certainly know when slopes or the terrain just gets too much for snowshoes.

My advise is too practice putting on, taking off and walking in crampons before you venture out into those types of circumstances. Find a climbing partner, look on local forums or meetup.com and get some lessons from those people on crampon and ice axe techniques before you are in a situation were you actually need to use them!

Again, very general but I find myself wearing snowshoes pretty much up until treeline and then I switch to crampons and don't switch back until I am back at treeline. I can't think of a time where I have switched between shoes and crampons multiple times on a single trip.

Avalanche conditions-- take a basic class or two at the VERY least! Look at your local REI-- here in Colorado there are free Avalanche clinics every so often during the winter at REI. Look for local climbing clubs that may also put on avy clinics for you to attend. As for gear: Shovel, Probe and Beacon-- however if you go solo the last two are irrelevant because if you are caught in an avalanche in the back-country with no one around they become useless. A shovel is always good for digging snow pits to evaluate conditions which is what you will learn in any credible avy class. If you get really serious, then I advise you to take a certified AIARE Level 1 course-- they are well worth the $150 or so that it costs.

Also pick up a copy of "Snow Sense"-- this should be in every backcountry winter enthusiast's book collection.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 12:26:10 MST Print View

Scott,

We do not get a lot of snow in So Cal. What we get turns into cement. So unless we hike after a recent storm with a good dump of the stuff, I find crampons much more useful and appropriate than snowshoes most of the time.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 14:48:45 MST Print View

scott ... there 2 articles you should read ... how to kill yrself snowshoeing ... and how not to kill yourself snowshoeing .. the author is SAR up here in bc

http://blog.oplopanax.ca/2010/10/how-to-kill-yourself-snowshoeing/

http://blog.oplopanax.ca/2010/11/how-to-not-kill-yourself-snowshoeing/

purchase yr gear accordingly ...

Scott Pickard
(gon2srf)

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 15:22:21 MST Print View

Paul-

Thanks so much for the detailed response it was very helpful. We don't get much snow here so I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule and am able to choose the days I am able to get out. My last two hikes purposefully followed our recent snowfalls of which 1'-2' accumulated on the N-NW faces. My hike usually starts below the snow level and progress's into the snow and ice. Last time out I spent a good hour on icy trails working to find good footing until I reached a fair amount of snow. The snow was fresh, wet and hard but I still found myself shin deep on occasion.

This is why I was asking about snowshoes because they seem more appropriate for this type of snow where you're sink into it. I have no idea which is more aerobic: Climbing in shin to knee deep snow or snowshowing but it's seems logical that snowshoeing would be more efficent?

I'm going to purchase crampons and try them out first and move to snowshoe's next as I feel they will be used much less here in So Cal.

I have not heard of avalanche danger in the area where I hike but I'm definitely not opposed to taking a traing class on the subject.

Thank you again for your input and a Hsppy Thanksgiving to all.

Scott Pickard
(gon2srf)

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 15:26:01 MST Print View

Hi Nick-

I think you may be right and that is the direction I'm heading. If you don't mind me asking, what brand model crampons do you own and with what shoe/ boot do use them with? Also what are your favorite snow hikes in So Cal?

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 18:33:31 MST Print View

Scott,

Regarding crampons, I would look for a pair of 10point, stainless steel strap-ons for my first pair of 'pons.

Something like the Black Diamond Contacts will see you through anything short of vertical ice and will fit to 98% of all boots and trail runners.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 19:16:03 MST Print View

The BD Contacts are good. Just make sure you fit them to your shoes before buying. They will not work with the heels of my Salomons. I normally use Katoohla aluminum, which have certain limitations. Most of my snow trips are in the San Jacintos. I have a season Tram pass so it is quick and easy with no worries about road conditions or chains.

Scott Pickard
(gon2srf)

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 19:44:04 MST Print View

Thank you again Paul. I would like to use them with my waterproof hiking boot and my light weight trail shoe (I use a vapor barrier and gaiter)as well. Sounds like these BD's may do the trick.

Scott Pickard
(gon2srf)

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 19:50:46 MST Print View

I'll check em out thanks. I live in Costa Mesa and usually hike Taquitz and San Jacinto via Humbert Park. There is spot on the north rim I love to camp at. It's isoloted and has an amzaing view of Suicide, Lilly and the valley. Let me know the next time you're heading up and maybe we could meet up at Round Valley.

Richard Fischel
(RICKO) - F
shin deep? on 11/24/2011 19:56:34 MST Print View

i guess it depends on how far up your shin, but if i'm only sinking into mid-shin i'm pretty happy. i put on snow shoes to avoid post-holing.

Edited by RICKO on 11/24/2011 20:02:55 MST.

Scott Pickard
(gon2srf)

Locale: Southern California
Re: shin deep? on 11/24/2011 21:13:14 MST Print View

Richard- I always considered shin deep as mid way between the ankle and knee. Post holing is a perfect anology for what I was doing last weekend and for a considerable distance and elevation gain. I guess you have to just grin and bare it or carry the neccessary gear for the present conditions. I just don't want to be the guy carrying crampons, snowshoes and ice ax as I am passed on the trail by a kid in Van's skate shoes and board shorts. LOL

Scott Pickard
(gon2srf)

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Snow shoes on 11/24/2011 21:30:20 MST Print View

Eric-

Fascinating reading and exactly what a newb like me needed (great reality check). Thank you for the links!

Paul Hope
(PaulHope) - F
Re: Re: shin deep? on 11/25/2011 08:35:10 MST Print View

"I just don't want to be the guy carrying crampons, snowshoes and ice ax as I am passed on the trail by a kid in Van's skate shoes and board shorts"

Probably a little different here in Colorado, however you see those types of people on the trails all the time in the fall (not so much in winter) as they have been used to climbing all summer long with perfect conditions and so they believe that the same gear and techniques will work all year round-- sadly this is not the case, all it takes is one slip or fall with no way to self-arrest and a bad run-out before the consequences can turn dire.

Personally, I always carry crampons, ice axe and a helmet (depending on the route) with me until well into June most years here in the high country and so do my climbing partners. We occasionally see the odd person with incorrect gear getting to 12,000ft and encountering a snow field or an icy ridge with no safe way to cross-- we always advise them to turn around as we are putting on our 'pons.

I guess read into this what you will, just be safe out there.

Mark Primack
(Bufa) - MLife

Locale: Cape Cod and Northern Newfoundland
Kill yourself on snowshoes on 11/25/2011 09:34:45 MST Print View

Hey Eric, Thanks for those two excellent articles.

Hard to believe--I look so young!--but I've been out there and up there on snowshoes for more than 45 years, with a particular love of the alpine zone atop the Presidential Range in NH White Mountains. I've had serious accidents myself and been there when expert winter mountaineers were hurt and even killed. I've learned, the hard way--four broken ribs from a quick little backwards slip--that, exertion aside, it can be much more dangerous descending than ascending. Knowing when to turn back or not attempt a traverse is one of the key lessons I've learned. Its one thing to snowshoe on the flats or moderate slopes, but above treeline, I've finally come to accept that caution must trump conquest.