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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Microspike Trial

Microspike Trial


Postby Oldman » Fri Jan 21, 2011 5:36 pm

Route description: Grey Mare's Tail and Loch Skeen

Date walked: 06/01/2011

Time taken: 3 hours

Distance: 6 km

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Daughter and I gave each other microspikes for Christmas and decided to try them out on an easy walk which we both knew well but which we also knew would be made slippery and tricky in the snow and ice. We opted for Loch Skeen and on the chosen day the forecast was for clear blue skies - wrong, it was dull and threatening and the snow soon started. Although the snow was never very heavy it was enough to obscure our tracks fairly quickly. There was never more than 5-10cm but as we all know, on top of an icy surface that can be tricky.

Anyway we left the car park at about 9.30 and it was obvious that we would encounter a lot of ice. The first rock I put my foot on at the very start of the ascent was covered in black ice which we knew would make the climb difficult and the decent almost impossible. We donned our microspikes immediately and almost ran up to the top of the waterfall. We were ony a few metres up when we encountered lying snow on top of the ice and then it started snowing but these conditions gave us no trouble at all. Without the microspikes we would have called the whole thing off!!
Microspike trial 002.jpg
snow on top of ice patches now
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Grey Mare's Tail
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Mare's Tail looking very grey
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looking back down to car park area

Soon we reached the hanging valley which carries the Tail Burn from Loch Skeen and an easy picturesque walk soon took us suddenly to the Loch.
Microspike trial 010.jpg
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White Combe
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a frozen Loch Skeen
Having reached this point so easily and quickly we decided to head up to Mid Craig so we crossed the outflow from the Loch quite easily ( these spikes are terrific!!!)and off we went.
Microspike trial 087.jpg
It's deeper than it looks
The climb up to Mid Craig was virtually trackless in the snow but very easy going although the snow depth at this point was probably about 10-15cm. We made it quite easily and at the top decided that it was time for some hot soup and sandwiches - unfortunately some silly man forgot to pack the sandwiches and I got some abuse for that!!!
Microspike trial 033.jpg
Dad, where are the sandwiches???
Luckily the soup was there and so were all the chocolate bars. I thought the snow in her hair was quite interesting - trying to divert her mind from the butties.
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Looks cool!
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even cooler
We had thought that we could target White Combe from this point but, having eaten our emergency supplies, we decided just to go back down. After all we were only testing the microspikes which had been brilliant on the way up. How would they be on the way down? So down we came - superb! Usually I find my confidence wanes somewhat when decending in snow/ice conditions. Not this time - the spikes are brilliant and made coming down a stroll in the park. I can hardly believe how confident I felt - it was a revelation.
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This is great Oldman
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Easy walking
Needless to say we were down in jig time although, along the hanging valley conditions changed as the temperature rose. The snow was a bit wet on top and slushy below and this caused a bit of a build-up of snow on the spikes.
Microspike trial 132.jpg
Snow build-up on heels and soles
This was easily removed and caused no problem. The downward walk was a delight and we observed some interesting ice formations.
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interesting ice formations
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Back to the car park then!
We arrived back at the car at about 12.30PM having had an excellent walk. We both gave the microspikes top marks and wondered how we ever managed without them in the past - we certainly wont go without them in future. Must remember the sandwiches too!!

Cheers Y'all

Oldman
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby blanchie » Fri Jan 21, 2011 6:42 pm

They are certainly part of my winter gear. If the conditions are right I'll keep them on all day.

Deep snow and they get balled up too much, but once I hit the point when the crampons have to come off, they're ideal until I'm below the snow/ice line. They make such a difference on iced-up paths, and are well worth the extra weight in the backpack.
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby Merry-walker » Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:44 pm

I love'em Oldman

Best buy I ever made. Walked 12 miles in them the other week and apart from wacking them now and again with the poles to get rid of snow balls, they were just fab :D

I don't have crampons, I'll get them next winter, along with proper crampony boots; maybe these get balled up too, I dunnoo...

Brilliant report and pictures, by the way!!
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby fedupofuserids » Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:06 pm

Its a nice walk up by the waterfull, I done White Coomb by that route in the summer so its nice to see it in its winter coat.

Usually use crampons but may get my self a pair of micro spikes to add to my arsenal!
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby rockhopper » Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:01 am

Nice helpful report oldman and looks a great walk as well. I've only recently bought a set of microspikes and haven't tried them yet - I've always tended to use crampons but they're not so handy when there's a lot of rock with patchy ice and snow. :D
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby threya » Sat Jan 22, 2011 2:06 am

That's some steep trail up beside the waterfall! :shock: Love the hair pictures :lol: Microspikes are great aren't they - I'm really glad I bought some
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby Caberfeidh » Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:14 pm

Microspikes are the business for a long distance when crampons would simply be painful and awkward to wear. As well as wearing down the expensive crampons.
I tried out microspikes a year ago and was well pleased with them (see here: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2058&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=15#p17804 )
To prevent snow balling up under the feet try puting a plastic carrier bag onto the boot before you put on the microspikes (this works for crampons too). Simply cut off the excess plastic bag when it is held in place by the microspikes/crampons. The smooth surface of the plastic prevents wet snow sticking. As for the snow in Daughter's hair, perhaps you should get her a hat too. :D
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby threya » Sun Jan 23, 2011 1:00 am

that's a superb tip about the plastic bag - thanks Caberfeidh! :D
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Re: Microspike Trial

Postby Alastair S » Sun Jan 23, 2011 9:43 am

Excellent report there oldman - looks like a crackin' walk.
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