MSR’s Lightning Ascent Snowshoes are lightweight, durable snowshoes that are ideal for winter hiking and backpacking in mountainous terrain. They have three different crampon types: a conventional hinged crampon under the ball of the foot, 360 degrees of teeth built into the outer frame, and two horizontal bars behind the ball of the foot and under the heel that have teeth and add rigidity.
When compared to other snowshoes, it might seem like there is less crampon for your buck here: other makers tend to put a toothed crampon under the heel. The problem, I’ve found with the heel crampon is that it ices up and ceases to add any traction.
This happens on any kind of toothed traction device, including step-in or strap-on crampons. The crampon base plate has teeth on both sides and snow/ice gets stuck between the three surfaces, a condition referred to as balling up.
To combat this, some snowshoe makers add plastic anti-balling plates to the underside of the metal base to prevent the snow from sticking, but it still does, and it’s a problem on ascents when you need heel traction. But since the horizontal rear crampons on the Ascents are not box shaped, balling can’t occur. It also heightens the impact of another unique feature on the Ascents, called a Televator, shown below in the up position.
The Televator is a wire loop that can be flipped up when you are ascending a steep slope and locks into the tread of your boots so it won’t slip. It raises your heel so that you feel like you are walking on a level surface, while you are climbing, and prevents your calves from burning out. It also exerts direct pressure on the horizontal crampon under your heel and it works particularly well on the Ascent since the heel crampon actually bites and isn’t balled up with snow or ice.
Although using the Televator feels like you’re walking in high heels, you quickly adapt to it. It doesn’t feel wobbly or anything, probably because the pressure downward force of your weight is distributed laterally across the shoe and not on a single tiny point. Plus, you have trekking poles for balance. When you’re done climbing, simple stand on your toes and use your poles to flick the Televator down flush with the plastic flotation layer.
There’s not much else to the mention about these snow shoes except the bindings, which are very sturdy and can be cranked down tightly.Plus all of the binding straps have clips to hold down any excess length so they don’t flap around when you’re walking. The back binding is a little tricky to lock in, but you only have to set it once, the first time you put on the snowshoes. After that, you can leave it locked in at that length and just secure the top straps when you put the snowshoe on.
Comparable Winter Hiking Snowshoes
|Make / Model||Heel Bar||Binding||Weight (25")||Price|
|Atlas Serrate||Yes||Strap||4 lbs||$290|
|Atlas Spindrift||Yes||Strap||3 lbs 13 oz||$270|
|Crescent Moon Gold 10||Yes||Rachet Strap||4 lbs 10.1 oz||$269|
|Louis Garneu Blizzard II||Yes||Boa||4 lbs 11 oz||$200|
|Louis Garneau Versant||Yes||Boa||4 lbs 11 oz||$265|
|MSR Lightning Ascent||Yes||Strap||4 lbs 3 oz||$300|
|MSR Evo Ascent||Yes||Strap||4 lbs 1 oz||$200|
|TSL Symbioz Elite||Yes||Boa||4 lbs 5 oz||$299|
|Tubbs Flex VRT||Yes||Boa||4 lbs 8 oz||$260|
|Tubbs Mountaineer||Yes||Pull Webbing||4 lbs 11 oz||$270|
I’ve used the MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes in a variety of terrain and I’ve also done quite a bit of trail breaking in them on fresh powder. The shorter length does help significantly with maneuverability, and the Televator has to be experienced to make you a believer.
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