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Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

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Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby oldschoolczar » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:37 pm

I just picked up some MSR Lightning Axis snowshoes. I haven't snowshoes much but I anticipate using these for some leisurely hikes at first and eventually using them for mountaineering. I was right on the line between needing 25in. or 30in. due to my weight. The guy at Bent Gate said that nobody uses long snowshoes (~30in.) for mountaineering. Is that true? I was under the impression that these were snowshoes made specifically for mountaineering.

Is it true that shorter snowshoes are better on steep hikes? Are these snowshoes any good in the mountains? I have little experience snowshoeing so I don't really have a feel for it. Any advice would be helpful!
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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby KentonB » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:45 pm

I have 30" snowshoes, and I use them for mountaineering... So obviously the guy at Bent Gate is wrong! ;-)

Actually, it depends on a lot of factors... Such as how much you weigh, what type of snow conditions you'll be hiking in, etc.

I'm 6'4", and ~215 lbs (and a fair bit more than that with winter gear). Since I hike in various snow conditions, I like the extra flotation a 30" snowshoe provides. Sure, they're a little big for some situations, but that's never proven to be a serious problem.

The most important thing for mountaineering is to have an "Ascent Bar" (each manufacturer calls it something different). Basically, some type of bar that flips up giving extra support for uphill climbs. It makes a world of difference! I haven't been snowshoe shopping in a while, but it appears your MSR shoes are equipped with one.

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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby d_baker » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:08 pm

oldschoolczar wrote:The guy at Bent Gate said that nobody uses long snowshoes (~30in.) for mountaineering. Is that true? I was under the impression that these were snowshoes made specifically for mountaineering.


Maybe the guy at Bent Gate thinks of mountaineering as a crampon/ice axe thing, and the snowshoes are for approaches if/when used. ??

I have a MSR Denali shoe, and will use them on slopes approaching 30 degrees. Beyond that, I feel more comfortable without the shoes on, and will use crampons if they're needed. I use the snowshoes for approaches and such. Usually ditch them down low when I don't need them anymore, and when I know I'm coming back the same way.

I sometimes use the tails, sometimes not. Most times I don't use them anymore, unless I'm doing an overnight.

Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby forbins_mtn » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:17 pm

I'm 5'9", 200 lbs and own MSR 25" and Atlas 1135's. I use the MSR's for lite snow and the Atlas when I know I'm standing on a ton of powder. I have never used snowshoes in a mountaineering sense, just for the approach. So buy what feels good to you. I think my Atlas shoes are overkill 80% of the time

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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby DaveSwink » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:30 pm

oldschoolczar wrote:The guy at Bent Gate said that nobody uses long snowshoes (~30in.) for mountaineering. Is that true? .......
Is it true that shorter snowshoes are better on steep hikes?


Naw. More snowshoe area equals more floatation, so longer/bigger works better in deep snow. Many winter mountaineering routes involve hiking on trails that have not been packed down so more floatation is important. Plus winter climbs require heavier packs with increasing the floatation requirement. My recommendation would be to go with the 30 inch if you are over 150 pounds.

Another snowshoe consideration for the mountains is traction when downhilling or traversing. Many snowshoes are built with relatively flat trails in mind and provide traction only when going up. It can be alarming to have your snowshoes turn into skis when traversing. MSR makes great snowshoes, and the MSR Lightning Axis appear to be built for traction in all directions.

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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby SurfNTurf » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:40 pm

I guess I'll be the one guy to agree with the Bent Gate employee. I weigh 180 pounds and use the 22" MSR Evo Tours. The 6" add-on tails are nice for overnights or when I know there's a ton of fresh snow, but for ascending and sidehilling on steep slopes I prefer the agility of the shorter shoes.

That said, 30-inch snowshoes are fine for mountaineering. Ideal? Maybe not. More than suitable? Yeah. As others have said, the heel lift and crampons are what make a good mountaineering snowshoe, regardless of length.
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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby CO Native » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:14 pm

I'm a big guy and anything less than 30 inches doesn't seem to help me much. It's not the use that determines the snowshoes you need, just your size and weight (with pack included). I don't know if I'd say I use them for mountaineering though. Usually once I break treeline I stash them.
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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby oldschoolczar » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:59 pm

Thanks for all the advice.. I snagged the 30".. weighing in at 185lbs I think they'll work well for me. The agility of the shorter shoes is appealing, but these'll be better in fresh snow.. which is where I'm hoping to use them!
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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby oldschoolczar » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:11 pm

Hey, I didn't want to start a new thread, but was wondering if anybody had been up to Indian Peaks snowshoeing lately? How is the snow? My girl and I are going to head up there and break in these new shoes!
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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:54 am

Sounds like you've found your 'shoes.

For others reading this thread, I'll make a few points from experience.

1. MSR snowshoes are dynamite.

2. Ken Nolan, I believe, typically uses 30" snowshoes. MSR Lightning Ascents. He feels the MSR's are extremely well engineered.

3. Gladbach I think is still using Denali's. However, a sprung deck, like the LA's, (not like the Denali's) are easier on the back. Steve still has a strong back. (Apparently.) Dominic Meiser was using Denali's last I saw. No endorsements here, just examples of experienced folks and what I've observed them using.

4. Biggest point I can make here - totally surprised that the Women's Flash Ascent in a 25" has been an incredible snowshoe the last couple of years. I have the Men's Lightning Ascents in a 25" and haven't even used them the last two years. True, we've had lower snow winters; that may be a factor. But this Women's snowshoe is 3.1 lbs. Versus almost 4lbs for the Men's LA. The female version is 1/2" narrower, so slightly diminished deck area. It also has no clmbing bar. Truth be told, I have rarely missed the lack of a climbing bar. Often, when the pitch gets steep enough to use a climbing bar, it doesn't last long, and you're busy putting the bar up and then back down.

On the other hand, if you are mountaineering in snow conditions, you will be carrying snowshoes a fair amount. So consider the weight.

No one likes to have to use these damned beartraps on our feet - so my thought is, the lighter the better. Balance this thought against the possiblity of a return to more "normal" winters with deep sugar snow - where 30" snowshoes will still have you post-holing up to your crotch. But then, that's a different concept altogether...

Hope any of that helps. In summary, I've been really pleased with these 3# snowshoes. The MSR site no longer lists them, but I believe the women's axis is the replacement.

Oh, and one other extremely important thing. Greg Fisher uses the Women's Flash Ascent. (Yes, the Greg Fisher.) He cites the haute white color as the primary motivation for endorsing these very stylish 'shoes. In fact, it is my understanding he is currently pioneering a new dance genre known to the cognoscenti as snowshoe samba. (Otima, camara! :wink: )


But seriously, if you use these beartraps as work-horses for approaching winter peaks, get the lightest thing you can find. It will pay off in the long haul.

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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby DanR » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:12 am

oldschoolczar wrote:Hey, I didn't want to start a new thread, but was wondering if anybody had been up to Indian Peaks snowshoeing lately? How is the snow? My girl and I are going to head up there and break in these new shoes!


Haven't been to the IPW recently, but was up at nearby Finch and Pear Lakes on Tuesday. The trail was well packed, but off trail with snowshoes we were hardly postholing - the snow was maybe calf deep at most.

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Re: Snowshoe length for mountaineering?

Postby geojed » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:27 am

Just snagged me a pair of these guys for $118 with STP 35% off coupon and FREE shipping.

Atlas Aspect Snowshoes 24" or 30" length. STP Coupon Code: EWF5873X
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