For those of you following our trek up the west coast, or even if you are just from the west coast, you know what a snowy, snowy, year it has been. For the average person, that means using a little more salt in the driveway, skiing until the Fourth of July, and postponing the weekend activities in the mountains. However, for the thru-hiker, it means hell.
What most thru-hikers have done this year is skip the Sierras to do a "flip-flop" -- where one jumps up trail to do the section they skipped later. However, those who want to do a "true-thru" keep to the trail to do a linear trip up the crest of the Pacific (note: not COAST).
For those of us who did go through the Sierras, some sort of traction was needed, as the lugs in the soles of our boots just doesn't cut it. Through much research, Hillsound was found - and proven - to be the best.
Hillsound makes something called a Trail Crampon. For those of you familiar with Yak Trax, or Micro-Spikes, its a beefier, better version. The spikes are made of steel, where as the chains are made of aluminum to keep it lighter. The steel spikes allow you to walk on dirt and rock as well as snow without dulling the point. For us this was perfect as the snow had times where it was patchy, and we would be going on rocks.
They are attached to a boot or shoe by a big rubber-band. Super durable and thick, the rubber fits snuggly around the boot. Unlike other spikes, the Trail Crampon has a strap that goes over the toe to make sure it stays on -- a simple feature that makes all the difference.
Another feature that the brilliant folks at Hillsound though of, is a hinged toe piece. The spikes under the front part of the boot use the flex of your foot to prevent snow build up. This allows you to go further without a ball of snow messing up your gate.
The only problems we ever had with these guys is when the snow started to get wet and stick together (the hinge just couldn't prevent that), and when the conditions became slushy, and we didn't take our trail crampons off before we started post-holing 4 feet down! Andy's foot got stuck torso deep, and as I dug him out, the crampon was ripped off his foot, and lost. However, I doubt most people would be in these types of conditions with any type of crampon on -- we shouldn't have had them on!
All-in-all, these are by far the best option for any thru-hiker in the Sierras. Not only thru-hiker, but anyone who wants traction on snow. The beefier spike keeps you stable, while the design allows for easy on and off. These bad boys will be apart of my winter gear list. Period.