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What are Rock Spikes?

What are Rock Spikes?

Rock Spikes are Kahtoola Microspikes, Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras, and any other lightweight (chain-based) winter traction aids with dull spikes that have been worn down from heavy use. Rather than throw them away, hikers and peakbaggers use them during the early winter and in late spring when the trails are icy but there’s a lot of bare rock and gravel still showing. While you could use a pair of new spikes in these conditions, they’ll get worn down quickly by the exposed rocks, so you might as well use a pair that’s already beaten up, namely your rock spikes.

Rock spikes are good for soulder season weather when there’s a mix of rock and ice.
Rock spikes are good for soulder season weather when there’s a mix of rock and ice.

The spikes on a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes or Hillsound Trail Crampons will get pretty dull after a season or two of frequent use. You can try to sharpen them with a file, but the metal pretty is low quality, and they won’t stay sharp for long. When dull, they can still provide traction although you won’t get the same degree of penetration into ice that you would if they were new. I liken them to the tire chains used on car and truck tires, providing traction even if the tires’ tread or studs are worn down.

If want to try and sharpen the spikes, use a Mill Bastard File. Stroke the file along the long side of each crampon point, from the base to the tip, and only in that one direction. This is easier to do when the spikes are attached to a boot. Be careful not to sharpen the crampon teeth to a sharp point: they should remain slightly rounded at the tip like a ballpoint pen for maximum strength. Once sharpened they will get blunt again more quickly though, since there’s now less metal in each tooth.

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  1. It’s amazing how those microspikes grip slippery rock. A game-changer for me!

  2. I sharpen mine with a Dremel.

  3. There are many inexpensive Microspikes on the market now, It is cheaper to purchase two or three pairs of these and use one pair until they are worn out. I use uelfbaby spikes and always carry a second pair in case the elastomer breaks. Sharpening Microspikes is a great way to go as well.

  4. A friend recommended nanospikes for non-icy, wet rock conditions. Have seen a few reports of folks using them but not sure if they would have any advantage over a good boot sole designed for wet rock (soft rubber, high contact surface area, with smaller lugs having texture).

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