View Full Version : necessity of crampons and/or ice axe in the 46

10-18-2004, 05:46 PM
:confused: I have not been on many of the 46 peaks in the winter, and was curious when crampons and an ice axe would be necessary or could be necessary? I have been on 44 of the 46 so I have a good idea of what the main trails to the peaks are like. I guess the thing is, I am having trouble deciding which trips I should bring this sort of thing on. Or maby the more efficient question is what trips could you leave them behind on. Or maby yet as a more general question what types of situations (ie. the cable route on Gothics or the cliffs on Cliff). Of course I guess it could all depend on how comfortable you feel in these situations. And of course I know that you need snowshoes on all the peaks.

10-18-2004, 06:41 PM
The need for crampons is very dependent on conditions at the time. For hikes that go above treeline such as Marcy, Algonquin to Iroquois, Rocky Peak Ridge, Colden, & most of the Great Range they can be absolutely necessary. Most times the cleat on a snowshoe is enough, especially if you use trekking poles.

As far as an axe, I have never needed mine on a hiking trail in the ADKs except to use as a brake on a glissade. The trails are just not steep enough to warrant an axe for climbing, and self arrest is usually not an issue. Again,trekking poles help.

Now if you're going to attempt the trap dike or any of the slides in the winter that is a whole different tune!

That being said, I still carry my crampons & axe if I'm venturing above treeline. you never know when they may be needed.

10-18-2004, 07:54 PM
I honestly think it depends on your snowshoes and you risk tolerance level. I passed 2 guys on Algonquin in sneakers in February one year.
Some folks would be petrified stepping onto ice in snowshoes, others just clatter away. Do your snowshoes have larger front claws and heel crampons?
do the have good solid bindings and are you comfortable wearing them on steep sections?

I have found the most use for my ice axe in chopping through the ice to get to water in the streams by the L/Ts. I always have hiking poles with me and usually only bring crampons/ice axes on day hikes for the exposed peaks, or troublesome areas such as saddleback or the tought areas between little haystack and haystack.

FWIW, the cable was buried one January day when we were doing Gothics and Saddleback. I changed into Crampons in a sheltered spot 3/4 way up, while my friends just boogied on - I wasn't comfortabel with the exposure. there was another time I turned back from Upper wolfjaw (I didn't have crampons) and was very uncomfortable with the smooth ice from the ledge waterflow not far after you leave the col. It took me about 5 minutes to negotiate all that green slick ice on that ledge when I decided to turn around.

10-18-2004, 08:28 PM
: I guess the thing is, I am having trouble deciding which trips I should bring this sort of thing on.if you want to make sure you have the best chance of getting to the top bring the crampons on all winter hikes - if you don't care if you have to turn around and go back, don't bring them - - - they are like insurance, there when you need them - they aren't that heavy.

10-18-2004, 11:07 PM
Take a look at some of the earlier threads on ice axes vs not.
There are tons of reasons an axe is handy. Here's just a few that come to mind quickly. And the most important, self arresting when necessary.

Breaking stream ice for water when camping.
Poking down thru the snow below you for the "clink" of the cannister lid buried down in the snow below you. (Oops, I forgot, the 46ers got rid of those).
Used as a portable handhold on steep snow - Up or down.
Hooking around something to pull yourself up a steep spot.
Holding it by the head and flipping the pick point up in front of you in thick stuff to knock snow off trees.
Bashing frozen snow balls hanging tree branches down in front of you.
Sticking the pick thru the binding of your snowshoes to anchor it while taking a break on steep, icy snow or sastrugi.
Wacking frozen snowballs off your snowshoe binding.
Yep, using an axe runs the risk of making you look like a poseur. On the other hand, its pretty handy if you know how to use it for all the purposes it was and wasn't designed for.

10-19-2004, 01:55 AM
I am a winter 46er. I own an ice axe, two pairs of 12 pt crampons, and a couple of different styles of instep (4 pt & 5 pt) crampons. I've used them all. IMHO, all 46 can be climbed via non-technical routes without an ice axe, and without 12 pt crampons. In winter I always carry crampons, usually insteps, and always pre-adjusted for the boots I'm wearing. I seldom need to put them on, since I'm wearing MSR Denali Ascent snowshoes, which have the best crampon system & best overall design I've seen yet for the Adirondack High Peaks. I use them mostly to save beating up the snowshoes on long stretches where there isn't much snow, mostly ice, frozen mud, rocks, etc. That being said, nothing beats the feeling of confidence walking on ice in 12 pts. Mind your technique so you don't tear your gaiters.

10-19-2004, 05:41 AM
Hi Critter,

The ADK area is the playground of Us for every season.

Usualy it is not during the real winter (21 december to 21 marsh) but since now too the good snow cover.... and more time in the early spring We will need crampons.

Unfortunately too few hiker hike with crampons and made a bad pressure in the artic vegetation specialy to Algonquin.

We are in perfect accord with Rick concerning the ice axe in this area the only We never started without was when We go to Saddleback from Basin or We have a plan to negociate a slide.

When We hike every weekend and consulte this forum it is very easy to take the decision if You will put the crampons in Your packsac or no...

Have a safety winter and prewinter hike.

Pinpin Junior. :cool:

10-19-2004, 07:08 AM
Here's another thread/discussion on the same topic.


Tom Rankin
10-19-2004, 08:42 AM
I've done 8 ADKs (Algonquin, Sawteeth and Dix for example) with just snow shoes. I have MSRs, and they have a huge grip in the front.

I call recall a time when crampons were essential but it was only November. There was no snow, but Dial and Nippletop were very icy. With crampons on, I felt much safer. You can walk down bare rock faces with them on. You feel like Spiderman! But be careful, there are limits! :-)

If you've never used crampons, they are VERY sharp! I ripped my gators with them once. Fortunately, they did not cut into my leg. Be especially careful when you are negotiating narrow, twisty places. If you walk bowlegged, you will be better off. It takes some concentration to use them correctly.

10-22-2004, 03:16 PM
Last season I and two friends were up Basin and one in our party lost purchase in mixed snow/ice conditions on a 45-50 degree slope that ended in a 150 foot fall off. (He was wearing very good hiking/climbing snowshoes, but no ice axe.) He arrested his slide just as he reached the precipice by grabbing some scrub bush. (BTW...on the ascent, we took a trailless route up an 800 foot slide and trust me when I say that we SHOULD HAVE had them with us for that too.) None of us carried our ice axes on that trip. I told myself after watching that almost-tragedy that I would seldom ever leave the ice axe at home. (On a flat hike sure, but never when climbing a peak.) No...the ADK's don't require ice axes, but they can come in handy on many over-treeline summits, not to mention slides. My crampons and snowshoes both accompany me on almost all my winter trips. I've switched many times depending on conditions. I like having both for that extra safety/comfort margin.

And...of course, I echo all the above comments and especially peakbagr's list!

10-22-2004, 07:25 PM
Because people have never carried an axe in the winter, or have never felt they needed one themselves, doesn't mean they aren't a terrific hiking, climbing and bushwacking tool. The great thing about the internet is that so many folks can talk to each other. The worst thing about the internet is that you never know whether the people posting to boards like this know anything about what they're posting (myself included).
I've been winter hiking and camping for coming on 30 years and while I can certainly get by without my ice axe, I really wouldn't be without one one much of the time. For every argument that can be made for their lack of necessity, I can come up with 2 reasons why they are indispensible. Borrow one for a season and decide for yourself.

10-22-2004, 09:20 PM
I have found crampons to be occasionally very useful indeed in some cases an important safety tool. The ice axe I use much less and is most often used to help cut steps or clear ice for partners that do not have crampons. I have never used an ice axe in the classic alpine way in the east but always carry crampons and ice axe in winter season because its not a season to skimp on safety equipment. One further pint my ice axe is more of a technical axe and so rather short a longer walking one would be more useful and replace poles.

10-27-2004, 02:58 PM
almost always bring my crampons and snow shoes. More often then not I don't use the crampons. But when I do use them, I am happy that I had them along. :D

Personally, I have found the ice axe pretty useless and I prefer poles. Unless, that is, you are doing a technical route. The main use of the ice axe for general winter outings (with the advent of crampons) is self arrest. Will you need to self arrest on a trail? Will you even carry the ice axe in you hands so that it can be implemented at the instant that it is needed? On the back of your pack it is useless. Do you even know how to self arrest.

Anatoli B., guide from Scott Fishers 1996 Everest expedition used an ice axe and one pole. This seems like a worthy use of equipment. But, then we are not in the himalayas. ;)

I did, however, take my ice axe (and crampons) with me this summer when I went out to do Granite in Montana. So it is not just the weird and menancing object on the wall that scares my dates. :D Otherwise I use it to open that pesky can of sardines when the little key breaks off ;) .

Happy Trails

03-04-2007, 10:15 AM
Should be lots of icy conditions in late winter and early spring.