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Crampons vs. Snowshoes

Colorado 14er peak questions, condition requests and other info. 14er Trip Reports, Condition Reports
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Crampons vs. Snowshoes

Postby Nelson » Thu Jun 18, 2009 9:12 pm

Fellow climbers,

This is my first appearance in the forum and I am a little reluctant to raise the topic but in the last 2 weeks I have seen and heard things that worry me.

First, I have seen people out on steep snow covered slopes without an ice ax or crampons.

Secondly, a number of people have suggested to me that snow shoes are a slightly lesser form of crampons which should be able to handle steep slopes that are not bullet proof.

I think that this combination of thought can lead to disaster. For the current conditions we have relatively warm temperatures (soft snow) but relatively high winds (hard snow). On Little Bear, Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle I have actually been front pointing in places in the last 3 weeks. You need the ice ax and crampons. Don't try to save weight here. If you try to get around this with a later start you incur a higher avalanche risk and you will be postholing on the way home.

Snowshoes are not a substitute for crampons. They are designed to keep you on top of the show. Crampons are designed to keep you in the snow and not sliding.

I am not the final authority on this, or anything for that matter, but I think we need a discussion of this topic or we are going to have some heart break.

Your friend,


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Re: Crampons vs. Snowshoes

Postby MtHurd » Thu Jun 18, 2009 9:25 pm

How did Kit Carson look from Crestone? I usually take an axe and crampons, but weight is an issue for us on The Prow. We plan to descend down the couloir right next to it to the east. We figured if it was too dangerous, we could traverse over to Bear's Playground and descend down into Spanish Creek from there. Any pics of Kit?

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Re: Crampons vs. Snowshoes

Postby Nelson » Thu Jun 18, 2009 9:46 pm

Definitely snow. I have some pictures in that direction which I will put up on a trip report, hopefully tomorrow.

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Re: Crampons vs. Snowshoes

Postby CO Native » Thu Jun 18, 2009 10:04 pm

I have used snowshoes as traction devices rather than floatation devices on gentle slopes. Quandary and Elbert come to mind. Since I had them along anyway for the softer snow in the trees they do serve as suitable traction (especially MSR snowshoes) on the gentler slopes where crampons would be overkill but the snowpack is hard enough to need more than just boots. Basically where something more like microspikes would be appropriate.

I agree though that if the slope reaches an angle steep enough to merit crampons, then snowshoes simply will not provide the necessary traction.

I have also seen more than enough people on steep snow without appropriate gear. I've had to carry a few of them out of the mountains as well. It's a valid warning worth repeating.
Remember what your knees are for.

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