Develop - what's new from the Alpkit Design Team
By Kenny Stocker | 10, Jan, 2007
Arriving a couple of days early for ICE we headed up into the 'Haute Alps' and took the chance to get some fresh air and try out some snowshoeing. These snowshoes had been kicking around the office for over a year and we thought it was about time to give them a chance to shine. I had used the plastic TSL and Grivel style snowshoes, the TSL model being my shoe of choice for the past couple of years, so I was interested to see how these tubular aluminium creatures would measure up.
First impressions were good, carrying them from the car to the snow they were light and they stacked together neatly which also allows them to be attached easily to a rucksack.
Slipping these puppies onto your feet looked a breeze. Slide your boot into two snowboard style bindings, wrap a securing strap around the back of your heel and tighten the bindings. It is here the the problems started. The straps were not long enough to fit comfortably over a pair of size 42 plastic boots, there would have been no chance with my snowboarding boots. Also the buckle that held the heal in place popped out when tightened.
After a few minutes of Tom Buddgery I was on my way, the bindings didn't look the most secure but they were staying on my feet. They felt light, they didn't clunk together and since they didn't have the heel adjustment like my TSLs they were quiet when walking.
The one thing I was most dubious about was the way the binding was fixed to the snowshoe frame. A thick layer of hyperlon, which is common with snowshoes of this type, is tensioned around the tubular frame. This provides the surface area and acts as the pivot. This is fine when on the flat but if you have to traverse a slope there is an obvious twisting action. The actual surface area is large and works effectively on soft snow, on icier snow the tubular frame has no sharp edges and has a tendency to slide.
The agressive looking teeth soon started to clog up with snow to the point I thought I was wearing high heels. The teeth are close together which encourages sticky snow to accumulate, an irritation but also uncomfortable and dangerous when decending.
In summary this style of shoe is fine for a leisurly tramp on the flat in fluffy snow, but for mountineering and ice climb approaches you will need a more stable platform. I am unconvinced by the hyperlon attachment as it twists to much traversing a slope and you do really need an adjustable heel step for ascending steep slopes. On the positive note this style of shoe has the potential to be fixable in the field.