To set the scene, I consider myself to be a reasonably enthusiastic hill walker, from school days in the Cadets to my current renaissance of Wainwright bagging. However, I don't have any experience of "serious" winter climbing, and I'm not intending to go wandering about on Sharp Edge in the snow and ice any time soon. What I do want to achieve is a level of safety where I can feel confident on most routes; albeit accepting that I'll ease off on any scrambling until springtime. And, I don't think I'm alone. There is definitely a group of walkers who want this security in mild wintry conditions, but for whom technical crampons and Alpine boots would be massive overkill.
That said, I hope this review is still useful to anyone in a similar position to me. Expert reviews are great, but it sometimes might also be interesting to see whether a non-expert can cope! ;-)
Before stepping into a full crampon, there are a variety of options available for intermediate conditions, such as Kahtoola Microspikes, Yaktrax, and Grivel Spiders. Having looked at all these, I discovered another option: Pogu Spikes. (Thanks go to Steven Horner for pointing them out!) At first glance they closely resemble the Kahtoolas, but the spikes seem slightly more aggressive and they make use of a pair of crampon-like foot plates. The addition of the velcro strap across the foot looked like it would firm up its grip on your foot.
I walk in a mid-height trail shoe (Merrell Moab Mid GTX) and take a UK size 10. One quick email to Pogu, and one very quick response later, the advice was a "medium" would be the best choice for this style of shoe. I placed the order and they arrived a couple of days later. Perfect fit, and a great looking product. Inevitably it was at least a week before I caught sight of another snowflake, but then had a good couple of weeks of ice right outside our house to give them some initial test runs.
It was December 15th when I finally got to try them out as nature intended, on the Dovedale Round. This confirmed my initial views - they are exactly what I was looking for.
Purchased from https://www.pogu.co.uk. Cost was £38.50 including VAT and postage. Arrived within a couple of days.
They come in a cloth zip pouch, which is fairly tough, but I found I managed to get a spike through the side of it. Since then, I pack them facing together, spikes-to-spikes, as it were. I added a small carabiner to the net compartment on the back of my OMM Classic 32, and for a bit of extra reassurance, I hooked that through the pouch handle while in transit.
The Pogu website describes them as a "lightweight pocket sized mini crampon for use on most slippery surfaces such as ice and snow" and I can't disagree with that. For me they more than satisfied my expectations and I found I could cross ground where I wouldn't have had a hope of staying upright without them.
They also go on in seconds. I found the method that suited me was to crouch down (heel on the ground and toe up) then once the toe section is in place, lean forward onto your toe and pull the heel into place. No need to lean against anything, or sit in the snow anyway! (An additional safety tip: the velcro toe-strap has a metal buckle and it's a good idea to keep the buckle to the outside of your foot, reducing the opportunity for it to snag on a spike from your other foot, a gaiter buckle, or any other gear. Thanks again to Steven for noting this in the comments below!)
Pogu tracks, left behind in frozen snow and ice...
It probably goes without saying, but I did find that it was quite important to keep your foot flat on the ground. Attempting to traverse sideways across an icy slope didn't feel very reassuring. Also, this combination of soft shoes and spikes doesn't lend itself to kicking steps into frozen snow. To be fair, I can't complain about that, but probably worth keeping in mind if conditions dictate you might actually need crampons and an axe when you're setting out to the hills - or personally, whether to chose a lower level route! For the conditions I'm likely to find myself in, these are perfect.
All in all, an excellent product, very helpful advice from Pogu, and they will definitely be living in my pack throughout the winter!
Buy them here > https://www.pogu.co.uk
"All going great... until you break through the frozen surface and sink to your thigh...!"
16 Feb 2020