Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Walk in the Park

I hiked up to Chasm Lake below Longs Peak's East Face this morning, hoping to find some ice. Not much there. My camera is in for repairs, unfortunately, but here's the verbal report. The Smear of Fear is probably 50 to 75 feet or so from being climbable by the 5.10 rock start. Alexander's Chimney was climbed a couple of days ago, but it looks very, very thin. Martha is nonexistent. There's nothing visible on Meeker. There are some mixed lines forming on Ship's Prow, but they seem a ways off, and there's decent slabby ice above Peacock Pool, so I guess if you were desperate....

I started up the Flying Dutchman, a nice snow gully that sort of parallels Lamb's Slide, with a short wall of ice near the top. But I had some problems with my crampons. I bought La Sportiva Trango S Evo GTX boots this summer, and although I've only hiked and scrambled in them so far, I think they're fantastic. (I'll do a real review once I've done more climbing.) However, the boots have no welt for a toe bail, so they require so-called "new-matic" or "semi-automatic" crampons, and most of my crampons are full step-in, with toe and heel bails. For today, I thought, I could just use my old SMC strap-on crampons. Although they have obvious disadvantages (the straps are fiddly and can make your feet cold), they also are very light and never ball up with snow. They seemed to fit well on my new boots when I adjusted them at home, but as I started plunging up the unconsolidated snow at the base of the route, I discovered a real problem: The heels of my new boots are so narrow that they eventually worked backwards past the heel posts on the crampons, loosening the crampon in front. I tried tightening the straps a couple of times, but the setup was so dangerous that I eventually bailed. (Just as well: Some wind slab had formed in the gully.) Most crampons now come with a heel bail or a strap/cup assembly , but if you're buying modern boots with narrow heels, double-check to make sure they fit securely in your old crampons as well as on your feet.

I noticed on SMC's website that these crampons (still in production, 26 years after I bought mine!) now come with a stainless-steel heel wire to prevent just the problem I'm describing. This would be an easy retrofit, but I'm going to spring for some modern crampons!

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