NEW ARTICLE: Moving in the Mountains in Winter

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 UKC Articles 17 Mar 2011
Jon Griffith in his Spantiks and super-light skis after skiing the Valley Blanche, 4 kbJack Geldard takes a look at the different options climbers have for moving through the mountains in winter.

Ever wondered whether to take ski boots or climbing boots, skis or snowshoes? This article takes you through the different options and their pros and cons.

With guest input from Jon Griffith - master skier:

"Many people say that skiing in climbing boots is impossible, but it's not... Climbing boots are much better for climbing in, are warmer and you look cool skiing in Spantiks!"


 galpinos 17 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

Just a general point, if you've got skis there's no need for telescopic poles. If your skis aren't on your feet, they're on your sack and your poles are far shorter than skis so won't make a difference/stick out. Solid poles are less likely to snap (i've snapped both Komperdel(sp?) and Leki poles before) and far cheaper (£10).
In reply to UKC Articles: Interesting article although it's a shame Jack didn't get chance to talk with people who have snowshoed more, as overall the article has a bit of a 'Chamonix' feel to it - there aren't actually many mountains in the world with cable cars up them! Last week I used my snowshoes everyday for six days of ice climbing in Norwegian arctic. On most days they were the optimal solution, better than both walking (in fact walking was soul destroyingly hard) or skiing. We didn't carry them up routes as we were doing icefalls that we abbed back down on v-anchors, but at well under 2 kgs a pair they are not too epic to carry if necessary and obviously you don't have to think of about what boots to use. The other guys we met up there don't ski, so were reliant on their snowshoes and were having a very productive trip using them.

I would look seriously at the companies that make snowshoes with mountaineers in mind - MSR primarily, but my friend had Tubbs flex alps which also seemed just the job. They will have an aggressive crampon and some way of getting grip out of the frame - like the MSR lightenings I have do. I found even easy angled water ice was fine in them.

Skiing is normally going to be more fun going back down at the the end of they day - if you can ski, but if you are ice climbing above deep, wet snow and amongst birch brush - pretty typical for most arctic areas it seems - skiing can really suck for all but the very best. Then snowshoes can be less hassle.

BTW - something else not mentioned. With NTN binding and boots, it possible for telemarkers to wear their boots for climbing just like AT skiers. I suspect due to boot flex you would want to match them to a rigid crampon like Terminators or Rambos - but I've been told by Finnish skiers/climbers that they work just as well as light AT boots to climb in.
 DreadyCraig 17 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:
One method which has been overlooked is the combination of skis/snowboard with a kite, no seriously, a google search will throw up lots of examples of snow kiting, a very efficient way to cover ground quickly. lots of fun too apparently, does require learning another skill though
 tech 17 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

I think you've overlooked split-board snowboarding. I've snowboarded in my La Sportiva Nepal's before and it's no different to using normal snowboard boots. You just need a bit of padding at the back on the bindings as the boots don't come up quite high enough. Much easier to learn to snowboard as well. As for split-boards, never used one myself but the article I read on here about it was pretty positive. They give you a big surface area on powder too.
 Kevin Avery 17 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

I've snowshoed in and out of one route in the Alps....I won't be doing it again!
 colin8ll 17 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: I find snowshoes to only be useful over a rather specific consistency of snow. When it's hard packed snowshoes are fine but no better than boots, when it's powder you don't sink in as far as with boots but getting your feet out of the holes is more difficult so there's not much benefit. The only time they are really useful is when the snow is moderately firm where a booted foot would sink but the extra surface area offered by snowshoes is capable of keeping you on the surface.

I've retired my snowshoes as I now have a nice splitboard
 Dominic Green 18 Mar 2011
On the skiing in climbing boots issue,
anyone have experience of the "alp control" "mountain spring" thingies specifically designed to help?

 James Rushforth Global Crag Moderator 18 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice article Jack. In Europe you seem to see alot of Brits wading through powder with their crampons on!

I love skiing so always try and approach climbs with ski’s. Its surprising how quick you can move over flat / slightly inclining ground with skins on. The Maestrale are excellent. I also use Scarpa Mobe's and though more of a freeride boot for single day excursions they are fine. The Ortovox rucksacks are worth a special mention as they hold skis so well when climbing. I enjoy the down as much as the up and find climbing with Mobe boots and Movement Jackals (adventure skis with a waist of 105mm) fine up to about WI4. You get some fantastic runs down. And more importantly the photos climbing with skis on the back look good!

For multi day, longer and more serious climbs you'd want a more flexible boot and lighter skis though!

It's also worth mentioning skis with a slightly kicked up tail (not twin tipped though!) work better with skins. Also skins with a clasp front and back are so much more reliable in the long term. Oh and touring in skis with a rocker is hard work!

On the note of snowshoes I think they have a place if the snow is windslabbed with a thin layer of powder over the top (seem to happen alot out here in the Dolomites). Its hard to skin in on skis as the top layer moves making traversing and kick turns difficult. If you are to walk however every third step you punch through the windslab crust and sink to your waste.

They are also good for steep terrain when constantly kick turning in skins gets exhausting. Kicking steps in steep powder in snowshoes is a joy (providing you have snowshoes that you can lock the heel down in).
 JIB 20 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Enjoyed the article, not sure about snoeshoes being considered naff tho' I use snowshoes and touring skis in the mountains, both have their particular advantages...

One point I would raise is to read the following article about the tests done on shovels before purchasing a shovel:-

There are good articles on the different types and properties of probes too, as well as alternatives to the Mammut Barryvox Pulse.
 Brendan 21 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

Very informative article, nice one.
DLT 25 Mar 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Nice article. Snowshoes got a bit under rated though. Great for all sorts of terrain and conditions. You can ascend and descent some surprisingly steep ground on them if you have the right type. In general steeper ground needs something with a decent crampon and a design that stops them side slipping (e.g. the MSR Evo Ascent), and in deeper snow with heavy loads then a larger design does the job.
A bit like skis not all snowshoes are suitable for all terrain.

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