SAFETY Altschneefelder Andreas Wuertele 11 |

Safety in Alpine terrain

SAFETY Icespikes auf Altschneefeldern © Andreas Wuertele |

Slip hazard

One look at the annual accident figures quickly makes it clear that, next to cardiovascular emergencies, slipping and the resulting crash or even falls are particularly dangerous for mountain hikers. Good footwear, sturdy hiking poles and a healthy self-assessment when choosing the route are very useful for avoiding accidents. However, it is not always possible to avoid all alpine dangers in the mountains, which raises the question of how we can best deal with them.

SAFETY Altschneefeld 10 |

Many misconceptions

Over the years, many items of equipment have become established standards for mountain hiking. These include rain protection, bivouac bags and first aid kits, as well as smartphones and outdoor umbrellas. Snow spikes or "Grödel", as they are popularly known, are still considered to be exotic items of equipment for mountain hiking. Too much weight, a slender design and limited range of uses are often heard as arguments against using them on tour. These are quick prejudices that we would like to clear up at this point.

Querung von Altschneefeldern mit Snowlinespikes © Werner Niedermaye |

Standard equipment item

Winter hiking is experiencing a similar boom like mountain hiking and often leads over icy or slick hiking trails, which can be very slippery, especially in late winter when the thaw sets in. The lightest models on the market just weigh 170 grams . In comparison, a two-person bivouac bag weighs three times as much (525 grams). A comparison that is obviously flawed, but still seems interesting.

Spikes for shoes: RUN, Matt Sharman |

Installed in 2 moves

The sophisticated design of modern snowline Spikes allows for quick entry and exit, but still ensures a good grip if the size is right.

If stored properly (dark, dry and cool) they will be a faithful companion for many years. The elastic plastic ring, as with all synthetic parts in mountain sports, is the limiting factor in terms of lifespan. UV radiation, heavy use and sharp edges have a negative effect on lifespan. With a minimum of care, however, the alpine all-rounders will last for several years and stay a faithful tour companion, especially in early summer and in uncertain weather conditions.

Luke Helgeson 02 |

Recognizing the limits

If we are in a high mountains region and are out in snow and ice for a long time, the snow Spikes quickly reach the limits of their potential use. Shoe spikes are designed for hiking and should also be used for this purpose. Modern lightweight crampons with longer spikes are certainly better suited for use on high tours and especially in firn and are a better choice than shoe spikes due to their construction and stability.

Finally, for bare ice and combined tours, steel crampons with a stable rocker arm binding and pronounced front points are used.