Scarpa North America Blog

Steep skin tracks: Hate ’em? Andrew McLean says don’t

Dec. 16th 2010

If there’s anyone qualified to riff on skin tracks, it’s Andrew McLean. The guy’s logged more time on climbing skins than most.

And if there’s one topic that some folks love to bash on in the backcountry (other than dog poop on route), it’s steep skin tracks. Andrew’s take: Dealing with steep tracks is a matter of technique and tools, as well as a way to keep things interesting.

Chris Figenshau shows how it's done.

Whether you love steep skinning or hate it and don’t foresee changing that view, this is good beta, because you know you’re going to be dealing with steep skin tracks sometimes.

On his entertaining and informative blog StraightChuter, Andrew suggests a few simple tips: Have the right heel lifters (tall ones), shorten your poles so you can get on top of them and push on the way up, use nylon skins if you’re trying to set or get up a steeper track, and, in terms of body technique, avoid bending at the waist, keep your back straight, and push through your heels. The way he sees it, it’s a challenge to see what you can get up.

And, as he points out, there’s also a limit to a skin track’s longevity in general; sometimes they get blown out after a number of travelers use them. If it’s not working or you just don’t like the steepness, feel free to put in a new one.

Good beta from a guy who knows. Anyone else out there got any tips to share? Or rants?

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  1. RC
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    we were just talking about this today on berthoud…of COURSE mclean thinks steep tracks are chill…..a) he’s strong as @#$% b) he tours in the Wasatch, where the world’s worst skin tracks are routinely laid down.


  2. Posted December 28, 2010 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    Have to say as a guide that steep skin tracks are the best way to burn people out, the art appears to me in being able to judge the contours of the terrain and find the effective line that allows you to climb efficiently and if possible make round corners instead of kick turns, have often found that you can go up at about the same speed, but with less effort, ,, however of course it depends apon your experiance and willingness to suffer..

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