Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Gear review - Snowshoes - TSL 305 Approach Easy

"Just leave me here to die". Those words were uttered by my hillwalking friend Graham many years ago as he lay in the snow on a hillside above Blair Atholl. They've become a bit of a standing joke over the years. We were traversing open terrain in deep snow to get to the bothy below Beinn Dearg and were plunging with every step into snow up to our thighs, losing precious time and energy. When Graham eventually fell completely into the snow, he refused to move and out came those immortal words.

If we'd had snowshoes back then, that miserable plod would have become a fun adventure. I've since used snowshoes in Finland and the Alps but it's taken until now for me to get my own pair for using in Scotland. I think it's because it's only in the last few years that they've become cheaper and more available here.

I bought the TSL 305 Approach Easy snowshoes and used them for the first time in the last blog. I got the women's version which fits smaller shoe sizes and body weights. Those are two of the things that you need to check when buying snowshoes - that they adjust to your shoe size and are suitable for your body weight. The other thing to check is the weight of the snowshoes themselves. Remember they'll be strapped to your feet or your pack and either way you'll notice the extra weight. So try to choose ones that are as light as possible. The TSL 305s weigh 1.6kg for the pair. They are made of lightweight plastic and fitted onto my regular walking boots quickly and easily with a plastic binding that was easily adjusted. Needless to say they did the job I bought them for and saved me from sinking into soft snow.

The snowshoes have a front crampon for biting into hard snow and six points on the bottom for grip. I crossed one section of relatively steep ground on hard snow and the grip felt very secure. There's also a climbing bar under the heel which you flip up during steep ascents. l found this was an excellent energy saver and very comfortable as it keeps your heel from going all the way back down with each step on a long climb.

l got the snowshoes on sale from Elite Mountain Supplies. They are currently priced at £105. You can get cheaper ones at Decathlon but they are heavier and I'm not sure I'd like to go too cheap on an item like this. 

Now ... back to that snow-covered hillside many years ago. Of course, I didn't leave Graham there to die and we did eventually make it to the bothy just as darkness was descending. We pushed open the door to find the bothy full of thirty out-of-control, prepubescent boy scouts and dying in the snow was suddenly a more appealing option.

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