Last weekend I cooked up the idea to go climb The Tooth’s south face. I say cooked up the idea because the weather didn’t cooperate sufficiently to actually do any climbing. This outing though provided me with my first experience with snowshoes and I have to say I feel silly for not owning a pair yet.
The snow on the hike to The Tooth was all around manky. It was wet, heavy and deep enough to post-hole to mid-thigh. To combat this mankiness I rented a pair of MSR EVO snowshoes from REI. The snowshoes were only 22″ and with a pack I was pushing 200 lbs. REI gave me a pair of tails that added 6″ but even with those I was a little worried about sinking into the mush.
My worries proved to be unfounded. In general I sank only a few inches and when the snow really gave out, and I sunk deep, the EVO’s didn’t bind up and get caught in the snow. I was very impressed that the wet heavy snow didn’t ball up and stick to the snowshoe. I don’t know how MSR did it but I expected to be carrying a few extra pounds of snow on the bottom of the snowshoe and I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.
There were a few places that the snow got steep on the hike to The Tooth. The toe crampon did its job fairly well and the snowshoe felt solid enough when I had to kick steps. It wasn’t the most natural thing to kick steps in snowshoes but it wasn’t that awkward either. The simple system of two rails of metal teeth on the bottom gave me sufficient bite when the snow was icier but I couldn’t really evaluate how well they’d do going up something steep and icy.
I wan’t particularly impressed with the EVO’s ability to transverse steeper slopes or their ability to go downhill. In both situations the snowshoe would slip right out from under me. I don’t know if this is problematic of all snowshoes or just these but for a little over $100 retail I don’t expect perfection. In general the EVO’s seem to be at a sweet spot between performance and price.
I feel silly for not having a pair of snowshoes now. They made the hike so much more energy efficient and really make climbing in the winter feasible. Without them I would have been post-holing with every step and I wouldn’t have had the energy to climb if I was able to get there at all.
Despite being all around good performers I think I am going to buy a pair of the MSR Lightning Ascent’s. I like the idea of having crampon like teeth all around the snowshoe. I think the teeth all around would dramatically improve traversing and downhill performance. They also have heel risers which seem like they would be amazing on sustained steep terrain. While they are more expensive the extra features seem worth it to me.