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Thread: MSR Lightning Ascents, R.I.P.

  1. #1
    Senior Member JoeCedar's Avatar
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    MSR Lightning Ascents, R.I.P.

    I bought my MSR Lightning Ascents four years ago when I started climbing the ADK 46W. The first pair lasted about three weeks--OK, I was a little hard on them, but according to MSR, that's what these snowshoes were intended for. "Our premier snowshoes, the Lightning Ascent™ snowshoes are prepared for anything" (from MSR website). The second pair lasted a little longer but broke at the same place; the rivets attaching the crampon to the binding pull out and then the crampon breaks across the rivet hole. Later I determined that the rivets were aluminum and obviously not suited for the intended use. I told MSR that, but they didn't seem to be interested.

    Overall, I think I got two new pairs of snowshoes and then two new sets of bindings, before the MSR representative told me it was "time to move on, and get another type of snowshoe". They supported their product warranty, but they seemed not to have any interest in listening to what the problem was or trying to improve the product. Relatively simple changes are all that are needed to make this a robust and dependable snowshoe.

    Last spring I put a pair of Denali evo bindings on my Lightnings after the rivets pulled out again. This hybrid combination, the stronger evo binding paired with the excellent frame of the Lightnings, seemed to work very well. I probably put 100 miles on them till I noticed a funny sound when I was between Colden and Avalanche lakes on Jan. 7. This time the tab on the frame, into which the bindings are pinned, was broken. The other side held and I was able to walk back to the Loj.

    I should assure the casual reader that this is not an isolated problem with an aggressive hiker--just do your own search on this forum or adkhighpeaks.com to read all about it. If you buy or own these snowshoes, I recommend that you check the rivets after every use. It is not a question of if the problem will occur with active use, it is when.

    I considered the final breakage to be the result of normal wear and tear, not poor design or materials. The steel tab broke across another rivet. Actually, it was a relief to be done with them, and now I can now move forward with my MSR evo ascents which are a great product.

    If anyone wants some spare parts to extend the life of your snowshoes, I can send you one 25" orange snowshoe with unbroken binding. Seriously, send me a PM if you are interested; otherwise they are going into the recycling bin. UPDATE: the spare parts have been claimed and will be going to a good home.
    Last edited by JoeCedar; 01-11-2010 at 03:39 PM. Reason: update

  2. #2
    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
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    I was never impressed with the design. They're not backcountry snowshoes, IMO. The contrast with my Denali Ascents, which have taken a lot of hard use but have never left me feeling anxious, is clear. What is MSR thinking, and when will they stop thinking it?
    sardog1

    "Å! kjære Bymann gakk ei stjur og stiv,
    men kom her up og kjenn eit annat Liv!
    kom hit, kom hit, og ver ei daud og lat!
    kom kjenn, hot d'er, som heiter Svevn og Mat,
    og Drykk og Tørste og det heile, som
    er Liv og Helse i ein Hovedsum."

    -- Aasmund O. Vinje, "Til Fjells!"

  3. #3
    Senior Member MadRiver's Avatar
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    My Ascents are on their way back to Seattle to be repaired. Both crompons broke while hiking up Cannon two weeks ago. I too will be shopping around for something a little more dependable. It is a shame because I do like the shoes.
    What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Ok, I'll do lamb.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    I own both the Lightnings and the Evos and have beat the living crap out of 2 pairs of Denalis, (which were then refunded at full purchase price in spite of the price having dropped 40 bucks in the interim).

    IMO, Evo ascents are the best on-trail/off-trail snowshoe that I have used so far.

    I wish I had never bought the Lightnings but someday, somehow, I'll get over it.


    Joe, my Lightnings are in perfect condition still. You probably have these problems because you give off bad psychic energy.

  5. #5
    Senior Member JoeCedar's Avatar
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    Below is a picture of the broken binding. On the left, see the break across the rivet hole and the sheared off shiny aluminum rivet stub. On the right, the rivet has pulled out but the crampon has not broken.


  6. #6
    Senior Member bubba's Avatar
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    Joe, Neil, Sardog1--
    Good info, thanks for sharing (I'm in the market... someday!) I'm a bit confused. Is the Evo a shoe or binding and who makes them? And... in that I'm not planning to be a power user such as Joe/Neil, would an investment in MSR Denali's be prudent?
    You only live once... but, if you do it right, once is enough!
    animus non integritatem sed facinus cupit
    "The heart wills not purity but adventure" (R J Waller, A Thousand Country Miles)

  7. #7
    Senior Member JoeCedar's Avatar
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    MSR has two snowshoes with the Denali name:

    * The original Denali, also in 'ascent' model with televator heel-lift

    *The Denali evo ascent, which has a different shape and better binding than the Denali.

    Both are great climbers, easy to walk in, and very serviceable on packed trails. Their surface area is rather small, so depending on your weight & pack, you may also want to buy the tails which extend their length.

    Both are not 'unbreakable' but very durable and reasonable breakage is covered by MSR's warranty.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Paradox's Avatar
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    My Tubbs Mountaineer broke this past weekend. This is the second time the binding has broken in the dame place. Less than 20 miles on them both times. Last time it cost me $25 to ship them to Tubbs.

    I have over 100 miles on my MSR Evo Ascents and they appear in very good shape. The only thing I have done for them is smooth off the metal burs on the bindings with a chainsaw file. I have the field repair kit but never have had to use it.
    WNH4K:48/48, SLAT50:50/50, NEHH:100/100, NE115:115/115,
    TW72:60/72, WADK46: 18/46, 52WAV:16/52, Cat35:9/35(39)

  9. #9
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paradox View Post
    I have over 100 miles on my MSR Evo Ascents and they appear in very good shape. The only thing I have done for them is smooth off the metal burs on the bindings with a chainsaw file. I have the field repair kit but never have had to use it.
    This is getting a little thread drifty, but yesterday was the first time I ever had a binding break on an MSR product, in over 150 winter hikes (not the same bindings, but...). The temps were pretty low (around 0F), but I've used them in lower than that before. It was the EVO binding, FWIW, but I suspect they are all the same product (?).

    And yes, I do have the MSR field repair kit!
    Tom Rankin
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    Past President Catskill 3500 Club
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  10. #10
    Senior Member JoeCedar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Rankin View Post
    This is getting a little thread drifty, but yesterday was the first time I ever had a binding break on an MSR product, in over 150 winter hikes (not the same bindings, but...). The temps were pretty low (around 0F), but I've used them in lower than that before. It was the EVO binding, FWIW, but I suspect they are all the same product (?).

    And yes, I do have the MSR field repair kit!
    Tom, don't keep us in suspense. Where was the break? So this is in the polymer part, not the steel?

    All products have a useful life; sounds like yours may be within the reasonable design limits. On the Lightnings (and Paradox's Tubbs Mountaineers, their top of the line), we talking about products where the useful life is inconsistent with the durability claims of the manufacturer, and could be possibly interpreted as illegal false and misleading advertising.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeCedar View Post
    Tom, don't keep us in suspense. Where was the break? So this is in the polymer part, not the steel?
    This is the 2nd year for the binding. It was the one closest to the toes. If I was not clear, this is the rubber strap.
    Tom Rankin
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  12. #12
    Senior Member JoeCedar's Avatar
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    The first strap shears off on the little toe side because it repetitively hits the inner side of the rail. If you need a new gray strap, let me know. I have several spares "harvested" from the Lightnings.

  13. #13
    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeCedar View Post
    MSR has two snowshoes with the Denali name:

    * The original Denali, also in 'ascent' model with televator heel-lift

    *The Denali evo ascent, which has a different shape and better binding than the Denali.

    Both are great climbers, easy to walk in, and very serviceable on packed trails. Their surface area is rather small, so depending on your weight & pack, you may also want to buy the tails which extend their length.

    Both are not 'unbreakable' but very durable and reasonable breakage is covered by MSR's warranty.
    A couple of grace notes to this excellent parsing. The Evo line (Denali Evo and Denali Evo Ascent) has its own tail, six inches in length. It is only compatible with the Evo line.

    The non-Evo line of Denali and Denali Ascent has its own tail options, four inches and eight inches in length. These are only compatible with the non-Evo 'shoes.

    Regardless of whether you view yourself as hardcore, the Evo and the non-Evo Denali/Denali Ascent are known among their users for superior traction, long durability, and good value. And you can work the bindings with mittens when you turn hardcore.
    sardog1

    "Å! kjære Bymann gakk ei stjur og stiv,
    men kom her up og kjenn eit annat Liv!
    kom hit, kom hit, og ver ei daud og lat!
    kom kjenn, hot d'er, som heiter Svevn og Mat,
    og Drykk og Tørste og det heile, som
    er Liv og Helse i ein Hovedsum."

    -- Aasmund O. Vinje, "Til Fjells!"

  14. #14
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    MSR field repair kit?

    What do you carry for field repair?

    I've used my Lightnings without problems for maybe 50 miles, but I'm getting nervous reading about failures.
    Dennis

  15. #15
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dclynch View Post
    What do you carry for field repair?

    I've used my Lightnings without problems for maybe 50 miles, but I'm getting nervous reading about failures.
    Check their web page, they sell a kit.
    Tom Rankin
    Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
    Past President Catskill 3500 Club
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