When I made plans to head out to Bolivia I knew I’d be hitting some of the amazing views and peaks. They’d take me up over 18000 feet and onto some glaciers with crevasses and all of the other fun stuff and I wanted to be prepared.
I talked to Alex from Hillsound about the trip and he was kind enough to send me a couple pieces of gear to try out in the Bolivian mountains. Amongst the gear were their Trail Crampon Pros. They’re a heavier duty trail crampon meant for snow and glacier work that isn’t too technical. They attach to most hiking shoes or boots, flex with your boots or shoes and are easy to put on when you hit the snow fields.
When the first 12 pairs of these were made, they were sent to a team of sherpa in the himalayas. I figured I should do something similar and so took them to Bolivia, to their equivalent where 5400 meter (17000 foot) peaks are the norm. The video is shot on the Huayna Potosí glacier at over 17000 feet, but below the summit of 20000 feet as there was an ice climbing section I didn’t feel comfortable attempting in them. The glacier offers a good variety of conditions, including up to 45 degree slopes.
Facts from the trail… or glacier
The Trail Crampon Pro is designed to be a hard working and versatile crampon that offers a lot more traction than your typical stretch crampons, but are a step down from technical ice climbing crampons. They offer the advantage of a secure, 10 spike crampon with 3/4 to 1 inch spikes or points, while having a lighter weight, and greater flexibility than technical crampons.
Because you can slip them onto your hiking boots, you don’t have to carry heavier mountaineering boots in your pack if all you’re planning to do is cross some ice or snow, and not scale a waterfall! The fact that your regular boots work just fine means you don’t have to change how you walk either. The crampons flex with your boots, and give you that extra traction you need through the entire step.
I’m one of those guys who prefers to try it first without the instructions, sometimes with consequences, but dumping them out of the carrying case it really was straight forward. You have two crampons and an allen key to adjust the length. The allen key is probably the only thing I’ll loose, but I have more in my tool box. I adjusted my crampons to size at home so I didn’t need to make changes on the trail.
They are locked to a maximum length, not a minimum with the allen key so you can still shrink them down to store in the included bag. The bag itself is medium duty. I tend to be hard on gear so I already have a rip in the bag, but I had to try hard to get it.
One of the benefits of the Trail Crampon Pros over the Hillsound’s stretch Trail Crampons is the Anti-snow or anti-balling plates. You probably remember as a kid having your snowboots fill up with snow and making them no better than the slippery sled you were dragging uphill. Well, these soft plastic pads shed the snow that would otherwise get packed up under the ball of your foot and between the spikes, ensuring traction all the time. I have used these in packed dry, packed wet, and loose wet and dry snow and never had a problem with snow balling up underneath my foot.
The attachment system is really easy to use. There are both heel and toe cups that hinge over your shoes or boots and ratchet straps that go on either side of the footwear. The ratchet system pulls them together around your foot and allows for a super secure fit. The ratchet feature (think about snowboard bindings) is really slick. It doesn’t take more than a second or two to get them adjusted correctly and even less time to take them off. There’s a quick release feature that allows the strap to slide out of the buckle immediately.
Included in the kit is a set of 4 “alpine stoppers” that can be added if you’re worried about accidentally kicking the quick release on the buckle. I haven’t had any problem yet, but it’s nice to know they’re there in case they were to slip.
The trail crampons do everything they’re meant to do. Being more ridgid than stretch crampons and having longer spikes, you can do a lot heavier duty winter hiking, and can hit summits that don’t require ice climbing, but that do require an agressive crampon. Although it has forward facing points like ice climbing crampons, I’ve found them a bit shorter than I’d like them to be. I know they’re not Ice climbing crampons, but a 1/4 inch longer on the front spikes and I’d feel comfortable taking them up mountains that have short technical sections that require a bit of climbing.
The harness is really well made and gives a very secure and comfortable fit that slides on and off really quickly when you need it to. The rachet system is really easy to use both for attaching and removing the crampons. The quick release is one of the simplest and most effective I’ve used.
I’ve been really happy with these crampons and I’ve really enjoyed testing them out here in Bolivia. They’re a great non-technical set of crampons for everything from light duty glacier crossing to summit attempts on snow and ice covered, but non-technical mountains.
Without a doubt, the Trail Crampon Pros by Hillsound have hit a niche for that intermediate mountaineer who wants to get up on the snow but doesn’t want or need mountaineering boots and crampons. In the Pacific Northwest the snow can stick around well into July even on the lower slopes and to get access to the alpine areas in Spring or fall some sort of crampon is required. If I’m going to be heading out into the mountains in fall to early spring these are going in my pack.
Here are the stats:
Date available: On the market
Manufacturer’s Website: Hillsound
MSRP: US $79
Listed Weight: 668g (1.47 lb) a pair for size R
Actual Weight: same
Materials: Heat Treated Carbon steel points, Polycarbonate harness
Dimensions: Adjusts to shoe
Size/Model tested: Medium
Requirements: Regular (up to size 12), XL (size 12 to 15)
Warranty info: 1-year guarantee
Colors Available: black, with red anti-snow plates
Hillsound is a Canadian company based out of my home province of BC. I’ve chatted with them over email and they’ve always been helpful, inviting me to stop by when I’ve in the area. If you’re in BC and want to do some climbing, stop by their retail store Alpine Start Outfitters in Vancouver, BC I’m sure they’d be happy to point you in the right direction.