[pct-l] Thru hike snow concerns 1

Ned Tibbits ned at mountaineducation.org
Sun Dec 27 01:31:55 CST 2015

Recently at the Facebook group, PCT Class of 2016, I have been writing somewhat long but informative essays on all things snow-hiking to help thru hikers know their options in dealing with snow and how to decide.

It started as short advice, then evolved to the lengthier “Snow Myths 1-9.” I know some of you don’t do Facebook, so here was the first, written sometime around November 1st....

How to walk on springtime snow (traction-aides):

Ever try to walk on an ice arena? You know how you've got to walk "flat-footed," take short steps, and not push off your toes? Well, snow, when it goes through springtime "freeze-thaw" cycles, can be pretty hard and slippery every morning necessitating added control when walking so you don’t slip and fall. This is where traction-aides come in handy!

To help with traction and balance, even when walking in a hiker-made trough in the snow (which can be even more slippery because of compaction), you'll want either deep lugs in your shoes or some kind of attachable traction-aide like chains (like Kahtoola Microspikes) http://kahtoola.com/product/microspikes/ or crampons (like Kahtoola KTS or K-10)http://kahtoola.com/product/k10-hiking-crampon/ . 

Once the surface of the snow becomes soft in the mid-morning sun, the lugs in your shoes should have enough of a grip to keep you moving forward, except when out-of-trough on steep side-slopes where you’ve got to use the edges of your shoes and you may not get enough of a grip, so at this point you may want to remove your traction-aides. If you don’t, they have the tendency to “ball-up” underfoot such that you periodically have half-grapefruit-sized lumps of snow stuck to your feet! Therefore, as the snow further softens, as the sunny day progresses, you'll be able to push a bit more off your toes without slipping. 

So, traction-aides keep you securely moving forward when the snow is frozen in the morning, yet may not be such a great idea once the snow softens in the sun. Realize, however, that several design factors need be present for you to feel securely stuck to the mountain, teeth under all the areas you stand on, even the edges, the device can't be inadvertently forced, rolled, or slid off, and it must be strong enough to do its job while you rely on it to give you good grip when going straight up, down, or more importantly across steep snow.

Ned Tibbits, Director
Mountain Education, Inc.
ned at mountaineducation.org 

"To minimize wilderness accidents, injury, and illness in order to maximize wilderness enjoyment, safety, and personal growth, all through experiential education and risk awareness training."

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