Trail Mix
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Jess
December 22, 2016

Winter Traction: How to Choose

Snowshoeing, Traction Spikes or Crampons?

For the uninitiated, winter hiking can seem daunting. Inclement weather, tough route finding and the sheer difficulty in traversing slippery snow and ice are some of the added challenges of hiking during the colder months. For those determined to enjoy a winter wonderland, there are several pieces of gear on the market designed to help.

Snowshoes

Snowshoes are one of the more widely known gear choices. Attaching to the foot with bindings, these large, flat devices help the user ‘float’ on top of the snow. If the snow is deep enough that your boot sinks down a fair way, then snowshoes will be a better option than traction spikes.
There are many designs for snowshoes, from wide surface area designs intended for open fields and casual hikes, to narrower, lighter designs for tight trails. The underfoot spikes vary widely according to use, and there are many binding options, too.

Best usage: fresh powder, deep and loose snow, flat terrain

Snowshoes do not work as well on icy slopes or partially covered trails as the spikes on the bottom of the snowshoe do not bite into the ice to give enough grip.  For narrow or uneven trails, snowshoes can be too wide and cumbersome to walk  comfortably in. Another downside can be the weight and size of the product adding considerable bulk to your backpack when not in use.

 

Snowshoeing

Traction Devices

Crampons, spikes, traction devices and ice cleats. There are a variety of names, brands and designs out there, but they all share the same principles. Metal coils or spikes on the underside of the foot, attached to a rubber harness that stretches over your footwear. A benefit of these devices is that they are lightweight, packable and easy to get on and off, so they can easily be brought along on hikes where trail conditions are unknown.

Best Usage: icy trails, partially covered trails, compacted snow.

Hiking spikes do not work as well in deep snow. Snowshoes are the best choice for this terrain. In conditions where the snow is compact or the trails are icy, however, traction devices give superior grip on slippery surfaces. Hiking spikes allow the user to walk nimbly on narrow icy trails and steeper scrambles. They do have their limits, though. When the terrain turns very steep and there is considerable exposure, mountaineering crampons (along with a helmet, ice axe and rope) are the safer option.

Ultra Running

Mountaineering Crampons

These crampons are for the more adventurous winter hiker with training for high altitude climbing and mountaineering. Technical crampons are designed for steeper inclines and declines, where the smaller traction devices do not provide enough grip. Most mountaineering crampons have 12 spikes, which includes the two spikes at the front of the crampon that enable the user to kick into vertical snow and ice. The different categories include ice climbing crampons, mountaineering crampons and the less technical snow walking crampons (such as Hillsound’s Trail Crampon Pro). There are various binding systems and materials, but most are made out of stainless steel or aluminum. For an in-depth guide to mountaineering crampons, check out the REI website. Make sure you get the proper training for using these technical pieces of gear- there is skill to walking in crampons without tripping over, damaging rope or stabbing your leg with one of the sharp points.

Best usage: mountaineering routes, steep ice, glaciers.

mountaineering rampons

For more information on Hillsound’s traction devices, head on over to our crampons page.

Jess
November 19, 2016

Earlier this year, photographer and self-confessed adventure addict, Jeppe Kuld, set out to complete the United State’s famed Pacific Crest Trail. Starting on the U.S. border with Mexico, Jeppe hiked northwards for 2, 650 miles, crossing three States and another international border at the trail’s terminus in B.C, Canada.

Like many thru-hikers, the inspiration to attempt the long distance trail came at a time of change in Jeppe’s life.

“I was in a place in my life where I needed to do something different – I needed a change! And in the search for what to do I heard about The Pacific Crest Trail – a perfect combination of adventure, challenge, outdoor living and opportunity to take a lot of nature pictures,” Jeppe comments.

Over 139 days, Jeppe made his way through the deserts of California, the deep snows of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the lush forests of Oregon and the craggy Cascade Mountains of Washington.

hillsound_pct_kuld_small-4

“The best part of the trail was the people I met along the way, and the hiking in the High Sierra in a snowy year. Maybe the combination of the two things. Hiking in the Sierra Nevada with my new great friends.

“The worst part was about half way. I hiked alone for weeks and got sick, so I was struggling with both mental and physical meltdown,” Jeppe said.

Prior to the hike, Jeppe said he did not have a lot of experience in long-distance hiking. “I didn’t really know what to expect of the trail. The trail was so far away from my everyday life in Denmark. But I did find some of the days tougher than I thought they would be.”

The Pacific Crest Trail is the ultimate gear test, and Jeppe came away with some new-found insight on vital items and others that he’d leave behind next time.

Pacific Crest Trail

“My best piece of equipment was the Patagonia Nano Air jacket – when it was cold I even slept in it. The worst piece was my tough and heavy hiking pants. They are made for the Scandinavian wilderness not the PCT, so I sent them home.”

And the best trail meal? “Annie’s mac and cheese topped with nuts,” Kuld said.

For now, Jeppe is back in Denmark continuing his work as an art director and working on his blog, A Kuld World. But he won’t be stationary long.

“I am always searching for my next adventure and only time will tell where I’m going next. But right now I’m planning a trip to The Faroe Islands.”

hillsound_pct_kuld_small-2

You can read more about Jeppe’s adventures on his blog and follow him on Instagram. 

Jeppe used the Armadillo LT gaiters and Trail Crampon Ultra spikes on the trail.

 

Jess
October 14, 2016

The Whistler Alpine Meadows 50km is a new race in 2016 from the Coast Mountain Trail Series. Featuring over 3350m/ 11,000ft of vertical for the 50km course, this race has a tough elevation profile to say the least. But runners are rewarded with some of Whistler’s best alpine and glacier views, and the opportunity  to race through terrain that has only been opened up in the last few years.

Hillsound brand ambassador, Pat Malaviarachchi, ran the 25km course on September 23rd, which boasts an impressive 1500m elevation profile. Hillsound caught up with Pat after the race to hear about his experience.

Hillsound: This is a new trail race from Coast Mountain Trail Series – how did you find the course? I noticed the elevation change was 1500m- well done!

Pat: Thanks! The course was fantastic – tough but easily among the most scenic I’ve encountered. There was a good mix of climbing, descending, smooth trail, and technical singletrack. The real prize was getting above the treeline and running through alpine meadows. Waterfalls, wildflowers, glacier-fed lakes, this race had it all.

H: What made you want to run this race?

P: This was on entirely new terrain for me so there was a nice element of the unknown. The course runs on the relatively new Skywalk Trail system (opened in 2014) so it was exciting to explore that for the first time.

H: What was your training like in the lead up?

P: I’d spent most of the summer hiking and scrambling and didn’t have many proper running miles under my belt. Fortunately given the elevation profile of this course, it worked out okay!

H: What was your game plan going into this race and how did you feel about your performance?

P: I wanted to start conservatively as the day began with a big climb into the alpine. The plan was to save my strength for the long descent back into Whistler valley. It went reasonably well with only a brief double-leg crampfest with a few km’s to go.

Photo Credit: Brian McCurdy

Photo Credit: Brian McCurdy

 

H: Was this familiar terrain for you- do you trail run in Whistler often?

P: I’ve run a bunch on the Whistler side but not the Rainbow Mountain side, where this race was. On a clear day, you’d have great views of Whistler-Blackcomb across the valley. While we didn’t get that, we did have a fantastic thermal inversion and got to run above the clouds for big parts of the day.

H: Did you glimpse the glacier at the end?

P: Yes, it’s the only race I know of in Canada where you get to run to a glacier! As another example of how epic the course was, the aid station near the glacier had supplies heli-dropped in!

H: Any other upcoming races we should look out for you in?

P: My calendar is wide open at the moment and I’m in planning mode. Thanks for the support as always!

H: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Pat. Congratulations again!

You can learn more about this and other races from the Coast Mountain Trail Series on their website. 

Pat uses the Trail Crampon Ultras to continue his running training through the winter in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. You can read more about Pat on our ambassadors page.