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Question Snowshoes vs Crampons?

Discussion in 'Backcountry' started by HansH, May 15, 2020.

  1. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    Hi all,

    Last season I got my first taste of backcountry hiking/camping in the snow, and loved it. This season I was hoping to get out a lot and in preparation am trying to dial in my footwear. After reading countless forum posts and articles (many of which are based around US/Europe conditions) I though I would come and ask the opinion of you guys who have a lot of experience in the Australian Alps.

    So my current setup is:
    • Gore-tex hiking boots,
    • Gore-tex gators a
    • MSR Evo snowshoes.
    My goal is to undertake multi-day hikes around the Vic Alps (Bogng, Feathertop etc.).

    My question is:

    1. I am trying to understand at which point would you hike in snowshoes vs crampons? I do find the snowshoes a little cumbersome sometimes (especially if hiking on a steep ridgeline, etc.) and was wondering if the agility/traction of crampons would be a better option? If so, which crampons would you recommend?
    2. When hiking in the backcountry do you recommend a safety device (such as an ice axe) to self arrest if I slipped/fell down a steep slope?

    Also any other thoughts/comments on my setup or any other general wisdom to a newbie would be appreciated.
     
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  2. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    One stops you sinking. One stops you slipping.
     
  3. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    So on a trip you would typically pack both (assuming there is enough depth of snow to warrant it, snowshoes for deep soft bits, crampons for icy slippery bits)? In which conditions would you leave the snowshoes at home? In which conditions would you leave the crampons at home?

    Also considering they would be used for hiking and not mountaineering, how aggressive (and consequently heavy) a crampon would you buy/pack?
     
  4. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    Sorry for being a bit obtuse. Unless you are intending doing some ice climbing, snowshoes generally have a grip plate that will give you sufficient grip on all but an acre of boilerplate. If you are ice climbing, then you will be wanting a whole bunch of gear. For a toodle around the snow, snowshoes (with grip plate) and a pair of ski poles will suffice.

    Crampons are not that heavy.
     
  5. CarveMan

    CarveMan Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    If you’re just hiking a light Alu crampon will do. Just don’t step on many rocks as they will go blunt quick.
     
  6. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Depending on where you are based you can hire crampons and ice axes too probably - in Melbourne from Ajays In Heathmont or the Wilderness Shop in Box Hill - very reasonable rates. (Wilderness Shop closed till 28/05 for renovations)

    So before you go to the expense of buying crampons you could try some out.
     
  7. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    In Oz you would never leave the snowshoes, and as crampons are not that heavy you would aways carry them in any case.
     
  8. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Welcome to the forums HansH!
     
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  9. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    That's great advice! Thanks, I will 100% be doing this.

    As is this, thank you again :)
     
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  10. teckel

    teckel Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Or, you may want to upgrade your Evos to MSR Lightning Ascents. These are the top of the range and suited for far more rugged terrain that the Evos. The deck is flexible and the cramponing more extreme.

    Regarding ice axes, my opinion would be 'yes' if you're doing extreme terrain (eg: Mt Feathertop). But I should leave that to people who know a lot more about it than I - eg: @Bogong
     
  11. Bogong

    Bogong Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    Generally snow shoes with a few pointy bits on the bottom are quite adequate for snow walks in the Victorian high country... but there are several important exceptions where you really should take proper crampons, an ice axe and know how to "self arrest" using the axe if you go for a slide.

    Places where an axe and crampons are almost essential include the West Ridge of Mt Buller, most routes up Mt Bogong, any route up Feathertop, etc.
    The last time I checked, Bogong Equipment in the city also hired stuff like that.
     
  12. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    Thanks guys. Last year I did Feathertop/Razorback with just my snowshoes and definitely would have felt safer along the ridges if I had a way to self arrest. I will look into hiring an axe and doing a bit of practice in some safe areas.
     
  13. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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  14. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Just like @CarveMan is too polite to mention the awesome ski gear you can pick up at https://aussieskier.com/ - well worth taking a look - currently like an art gallery in there with the new season line of skis!
     
  15. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    @HansH - you do know what you’re really after is a pair of touring skis don’t you!
     
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  16. CarveMan

    CarveMan Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Black Crows arrived yesterday so it's 120% more arty!
     
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  17. Chaeron

    Chaeron A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    I saw them - was in there having my new Cochise 130 DYN boots adjusted - really good boot fitter you’ve got there!

    The new line-up looks awesome!

    Won’t last long I reckon - should fly off the shelves if we have a season which looks increasingly more likely....
     
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  18. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    You have no idea how much! I would really love to do some backcountry skiing, however sadly I have never skied before (and I have done heaps of hiking/bushwalking). I figured snowshoes take less skill than skis so this would be a good start?

    How would you advise someone who has never skied get started?

    I will definitely check out @teckel and @CarveMan stores, thanks everyone for you advice!
     
  19. Bogong

    Bogong Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    Okay, if you're not yet a snow person, then it's also just as much fun to do more relaxed snow walks as the big peaks. If you're an experienced hiker there's also a much smaller amount to learn if you do shorter snow walks and you probably won't need to get any extra equipment.

    I ran outdoorsy activities for groups for nearly 20 years and the snow walks that I discovered worked best for people were:
    • Mt Torbreck, a pleasant walk in shallow snow, followed by steep rocky climb then a mostly flatish walk in deep snow. My notes for it are here
    • Donna Buang from the 10 mile carpark to the top and then a circuit along Road 2. The walk can be extended via Mt Victoria.
    • Lake Mountain summit area (to the south of the car park and XC ski area), although the high entry fee makes this rather expensive.
    Once people have done those, they should be ready for
    • Feathertop via Bungalow Spur (much easier than along the Razorback). A very long day walk or a fun intro to snow camping at Federation Hut
    • Climbing the West Ridge of Buller heading down via McLaughlins Shoulder and Klingsporns Track. Challenging and technical, with the need to pay close attention to navigation on one bit of the descent, but probably my favourite snow walk anywhere. My notes for it are here.
    [​IMG] Torbreck summit ridge
    [​IMG] Buller West Ridge
     
  20. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    @Bogong thanks so much for your tips, these are great! I will absolutely be doing these walks this winter. Your photos look great!

    Last year I went up Bungalow Spur, summited Feathertop, walked the razorback, then came down Bon Accord. It was the first time I have hiked in snow (well anything more than a little left over in spring etc.) and it was incredible (I absolutely loved it and it definitely gave me the bug... I have been looking forward to snow season ever since). BUT I definitely felt like I lacked experience and was too ambitious for a first outing, if things had gone wrong I could have been in trouble. I can't wait to get back into some snow, just want to make sure I am safe out there and not doing anything stupid.
     
  21. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    In my mind, if you're thinking crampons you should be thinking axe. Nothing better than feeling the pick bite when things are feeling sketch
     
  22. Moondog55

    Moondog55 One of Us

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    Crampons do open another box of works tho; good crampons need a stiff to very stiff boot. For our conditions tho you can get away easily with flexible crampons and not go to the expense of a rigid automatic but boots suitable for use with crampons are heavier and less comfortable for track walking. It is my preferred option but it isn't the lightweight one. Also as piolet say; if you need crampons you also need an axe, with the right technique an axe will do far more than crampons but crampons make boilerplate ice so much easier. I often left the crampons at home but I always take an axe
     
  23. legend

    legend One of Us

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    Instead of crampons - a very specialised ice tool, have a look at microspikes boot chains. They offer amazing grip, can't injure yourself if you fall and very easy to attach over your boot. They work exceptionally well on blue ice. We use them on all our winter trips on the Overland Track and Walls. Our club (VMTC) use the Kahtoola Microspikes, but there are many other makes out there now. Google is your friend.
     
  24. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    What kind of slope angle would they be useful on?
    Would you use them over exposure?
     
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  25. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    Thanks for the input @Moondog55 and @piolet. Looking at available options I keep looking back at the Grivel G10 or G12 crampon. My understanding is these can be fitted to a "summer boot" (i.e. non rigid sole) or rigid sole boots so I can use it for now and upgrade boots later if I feel the need? Have you had experience with this crampon, would you consider it a good choice?

    As for ice axe, I have no idea what I am looking at... time for me to do some research. If you could point me in the right direction (i.e. some basics of what to look for and any recommendations) it would be great!
     
  26. Moondog55

    Moondog55 One of Us

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    While the Grivel is a flexible crampon that doesn't mean it can be worn with runners, tennis shoes or really lightweight boots.
    I use a reasonable stiff but still flexible boot with my old Stubai which are pretty much the same as the G12
    http://www.bogong.com.au/footwear/m...rtiva-karakorum-hc-mountaineering-boot-1.html
    The Karakorum is a stiff walking boot but not really a deep winter boot, although I have worn mine at -25C I was wearing supergaiters and two pairs of socks. Sounds like you need a walking axe rather than a climbing axe.
    I use a Black Diamond Raven Pro sized a bit longer than standard as my everyday axe
    https://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en/climbing/ice-axes-piolets/raven-ice-axe-BD410151_cfg.html
    I also have an older model Venom because I still have dreams of climbing, the Venoms have interchangeable picks for different terrains which makes that sort of axe more versatile. But axes like boots need to be tried before purchase, I use the BD because I like the feel and balance in my hand, other people dislike them intensely. Start with something at the cheaper and lighter end but because they are a safety tool they even cheap ones are not cheap.
    Also metal shafted ice axes need modifications before using or they rob all the heat from your hands, the cheap solution is multiple layers of duct tape, a much neater and warmer solution is textured shrink wrap from Shimano sold for the handles of surf rods and the shafts of kayak paddles
     
  27. Bogong

    Bogong Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    There is absolutely no point in getting ultra-rigid, ultra-butch crampons unless you're planning something ridiculous like a 7,000er in the Himalayas or maybe one the higher and more technical mountains in NZ like Mt Cook. Just get affordable crampons that will fit a moderately firm hiking boot that you already own. That way the boots you walk in will be comfier than unforgiving climbing boots.

    Put simply, ice axes come in two flavours: walking axes and technical axes. Technical axes are the shorter ones that often have a bend in them, they sometimes have changeable blades or a hammer on the other end for hammering in pitions and the like. DO NOT get one of these (for the same reasons you shouldn't buy gee-whiz crampons). Instead buy a walking axe. Depending on your height, the shaft should be about 70 cm long with a serrated blade on one end and a shovelly looking thing on the other end. (You use that for cutting basic steps.) It can also be fairly cheap, because if you ever become a proper mountaineer, you'll be replacing it with climbing axes and hammers. I bought the cheapest walking axe at a shop in the Melbourne CBD and I've never regretted going for the cheapskate option.

    Most of the time you use your axe as a walking stick by holding it upside down and spreading your hand over the T bit of the axe. Practice the technique of quickly bringing it up diagonally across your chest with the shovel bit just above your shoulder and then slapping your other hand over the shaft, so when you start to go for a slide, you automatically self arrest without thinking.
     
  28. Kletterer

    Kletterer Thredbo Doughnut Tragic Moderator

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    As others have said with crampons you should also have an ice axe. Aim for a 60 cm model. Those 50cm jobs are too short for general travel. For extra security - when on severe ground you can utilise a simple tandem arrest system - a short length of climbing rope attached between 2 people (Harness required).
     
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  29. HansH

    HansH Early Days

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    Thanks @Moondog55, most of my hiking is 3 season so I use trail runners 90% of the time. For winter I use a Salomon X Ultra GTX boots (which to be honest is hardly much of a step up from trail runners... just waterproof with an ankle). For snowshoeing these seemed to work fine (as my foot is almost always above snow level), but if my understanding is correct you are suggesting that these would not be appropriate for hiking in more extreme conditions with crampons (for example Bogong circuit/staircase in winter)? Something like the Karakorum and a decent crampon (with ice axe in hand) would be a safer and more appropriate option? Black Diamond Raven Pro looks good, I will head into Bogong and try how it feels in my hand.

    Thanks @Bogong. Looking at the crampons Bogong sell (I am not limited to Bongong, but they are close enough to where I live and so good if I want to try things on) The most affordable are the Grivel G1 or G10 ($209 and $229). Would you consider these overkill for hiking in the Vic Alps (looking to do difficult hikes, doubtful I will do climbing at this stage). Would you have any suggestions if not the Grivels? As above, it is likely I will need new boots as mine are very light weight (as much as the price hurts). Great insight into axes, thanks. I will head into some stores and see which of the affordable walking axes feel best in my hand.

    Thanks @Kletterer, I hadn't even thought about a tether! Definitely need to look into it.

    Thanks again guys, I really appreciate your input... Starting out with little experience can be a bit overwhelming, and often you don't know what you don't know.
     
  30. skifree

    skifree A disciple of the blessed avi giraffe Moderator Ski Pass: Gold

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    Also look in Gear Swap right here on this forum for crampons & axes & all sorts.
     
  31. sidetrack

    sidetrack One of Us

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    Yeah but there really cheap
     
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  32. Bogong

    Bogong Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    I'll see if I can dig out my gear tomorrow, but here's the sort of stuff I'd suggest from the shop that is near HansH and shares a name with me. (No relation, I've been using 'Bogong' online for decades).

    Ice axes. http://www.bogong.com.au/climbing-gear/ice-climbing-gear/ice-axes.html?dir=asc&limit=48&order=price
    Cheapish, long and almost straight like these priced at $170
    [​IMG] Grivel 58, 66 or 74 cm $170

    Don't get the all singing, all dancing crampons with bits that can be screwed on and off. They are just for (very rich) heroes who do big walls and big name mountains. Instead the crampons stamped out a sheet of metal and bent a bit, are more than you are ever likely to need. Looking at this list of stock, the $100 6 points are actually okay for 90% of places people go in Vic and NSW (Tassie is a bit more weird), but if you want proper full size 10 or 12 point crampons, the cheaper ones at that shop are no worse than the mid priced ones.
    [​IMG] . . . [​IMG]
    $100 Edelrid 6 points . . $210 Grivel 10 points

    Of course, hiring is a sensible option, but if you want to buy, you should be able to get perfectly good second hand gear for a fraction of those prices. However the extra money for new gear gets you expert advice from staff who know the subject better than anyone here and that expertise may be worth paying for?

    BTW, a few people on trips I've run have turned up in those lightweight suede and nylon hiking boots and 10 point crampons actually worked well on them without falling off or breaking. So while I'd recommend at least mid weight leather boots, crampons seem to work okay on light weight boots.
     
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  33. Kletterer

    Kletterer Thredbo Doughnut Tragic Moderator

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    This what i use for the non vertical stuff and yes the curve makes a difference -less stress to the wrists when working the point and a well positioned/ angled adze for cutting steps etc,Edelrid Ronin Ice Axe - Mont Adventure Equipment
     
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  34. Moondog55

    Moondog55 One of Us

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    This is good advice but you do need the history of any S/H gear you buy, because sometimes the damage can't be seen.
    Although this applies to axes more than crampons.
    My walking axe is 75cm because they don't come any longer but I have long legs and have used axes up to 90cm long with no trouble. It can be a long term investment tho. I sold my first real ice-axe on eBay as a collectors item 30 years after I bought it, I used it for about 20 seasons until the shaft cracked.
    $200- divided by 20 is only a dollar a year.
    Good luck with the search, I trust the staff at Bogong myself, good advice from there usually
     
  35. Bogong

    Bogong Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

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    That is an ideal axe for use in Australia and is good value at $150 including postage.

    The only drawback is that (like most affordable ice axes), it doesn't have a proper grip, but wrap some decent quality cloth backed gaffer tape around the end of the shaft and it will be hard to tell the difference from more expensive models.
     
  36. Moondog55

    Moondog55 One of Us

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    Jeez Shocking arithmetic there; but even at $10- a year it's cheap insurance and they do make great snow anchors in a storm.
    That axe from Mont does seem OK and the price is good
     
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  37. sidetrack

    sidetrack One of Us

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    You don’t want a grip on a walking axe as it will make it harder to push it into snow.
     
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  38. Untele-whippet

    Untele-whippet beard stroker Ski Pass: Gold

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  39. Moondog55

    Moondog55 One of Us

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    I've never had that problem sidetrack and my axes have always had a wrap on the metal shafts, the older wooden and laminated bamboo were always waxed but that was for waterproofing and grip. Snow has very little resistance to penetration and on Australian boilerplate ice you're lucky to get the spike to go in very far. But I wrap the full shaft length in shrink wrap these days
     
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  40. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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  41. DJM

    DJM One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

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    My 5 cents worth.
    1. At what point should you transition..
    Well before you think you may need to switch over. Don't get caught out halfway up or across. I've been caught out and had to do some scary ledge cutting to keep safe while switching out.
    10 minutes in a shady chute or traverse can be all it takes for the surface to set.

    2. As others have mentioned, they generally go hand in hand. If you are crampon terrain you are in axe terrain.

    I've used approach crampons in Scarpa's before but 99% of my time has been in snowboard boots which offer slightly better stiffness IMO. By the time I've ridden a line and started climbing out, surface conditions have changed so if it's late in the day make the decision early to change out.

    Take both. Use both. Learn both.
     
  42. Kletterer

    Kletterer Thredbo Doughnut Tragic Moderator

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    Damn this thread. Now i have a strong hankering for going Ice climbing again.
     
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  43. DidSurfNowSki

    DidSurfNowSki One of them Ski Pass: Gold

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    @zac150 is the resident snowshoe expert :p
     
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  44. ecowain

    ecowain One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I know hey!

    Clearing out the closet of unwanted ice tools, crampons and screws is very saddening.
     
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  45. Newsteve

    Newsteve Hard Yards

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    Its all been said above..
    Australia is not extreme.. you have to look hard to find steep pinches, and they can be walked around in most cases.
    I have never used snow shoes... I use B/C skis and skins to tour. When it gets too steep, Climbing axe and crampons (on B/C boots, Dynafit is my preference) when it gets beyond the skis, you should be roping up ... (you need a buddy)
    But saying that... snow shoes are a good option for boarders. (A guide would break track for you.. Hi Hi)
    So
    Axe... The steeper it is the shorter .. up to a point. All axes need a tether. So walking - long axe, climbing/very steep - a short one or two.
    Crampons.. climbing needs rigid full crampons (The front points are for climbing - they can be deadly if you get tired and careless). Walking .. as Bogong said.. use the short ones or traction cleats for hard ice - for extra grip. In soft snow the tread on your boots should be enough.
    Shovel.. camping out? to flatten an area for the tent, dig a cave and carve out a "kitchen"
    If you have been walking for a while, you have already sussed out...
    Stove.. A whole new/old discussion. Trangia or MSR metho/white spirit. If you get a gas one it needs to use "Tri gas" not just butane which will not vaporise in the cold. .
    PLB.. Personal Location Beacon. You can't trust mobile coverage
    Now I'm itching to get out there...
     
  46. PAW

    PAW Hard Yards Ski Pass: Silver

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    What about these?
    https://www.climbinganchors.com.au/camp-ice-master-spikes
    They also have ice axes and crampons.
    TBH I haven't ever felt I needed an axe or crampons, maybe I haven't vebtured into terrain requiring either. A good set of snowshoes with good bite has been enough so far.
     
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  47. Kletterer

    Kletterer Thredbo Doughnut Tragic Moderator

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    Micros are a bit harder to get on and off. In variable conditions they also have more tendancy ( than full crampons) to get snow balling up underneath, which can compromise grip/ stability. Good for freeze- thaw conditions around town but not so much in alpine conditions. I used some in Europe where they were good at night on Spring pathways.
     
  48. PAW

    PAW Hard Yards Ski Pass: Silver

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    Cheers! Always good to hear from someone with real-world experience!
     
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  49. teckel

    teckel Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

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    Welcome to the forums :)
     
  50. pegasusSki

    pegasusSki Addicted

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    There's a principle that the ice axe goes with crampons, you don't use 1 without the other.

    I first did the Razorback in the first week of September one year - we used crampons the whole way and left for dead our snow-shoer. I am not a big fan of snowshoes, and will prefer crampons if the snow is right.

    Most flexible crampons will be compatible with a half-sturdy walking boot with decent sole. Avoid trainers or built-up trainers. I prefer the ones with rear vertical lever, and front toe basket, easier than straps all-round. I have a pair with a front metal bail for AT boots. They look the business, naturally.

    Crampons are dangerous if you try to 'front point' or lift the heel on a bit of a slope - you need the whole foot down.
     
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