Bummer on 19 Mile Brook Trail

It’s taken me a bit to write this. Mostly, I’ve been dealing with the practical aspects, but there’s been a small amount of “is this post-worthy?” But the short of it is that the bindings on one of my snowshoes failed on the trail. Those who know metallurgy will understand metal fatigue, which is almost certainly the culprit. For everyone else, the metal hinge took enough of a beating on the various rocks and whatnot on the trail. Over time, microscopic cracks became embiggened, leading to outright failure. Metal breaks if stressed long and hard enough; although in fatigue, the stresses are much smaller than what’s needed to cause something to break from a single blow. Think of it as “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

I’ve written to MSR about this. In the ideal, I’ll replace the bindings on both snowshoes, and they’ll hang out in my gear closet as spares. For the near term, I’ve exhumed my “ancient” Tubbs Katahdin ‘shoes, which I haven’t worn on the trail in about five or so years. As long as I don’t need edges (like when traversing) then I should be fine. Judiciously picking trails, I can put off buying new ones until next season. The way this winter has played out, it’s entirely likely we’ll be back on bare earth in the next twelve hours or so, and a pair of battered Tevas will be all that’s needed.

Unfortunately, MSR’s customer support website says it should be a relatively quick eight weeks or so before I get an answer, “due to unusually high demand.” Eight weeks from now is just about springtime.

For those counting steps, I was just under two miles up the trail when I figured out why my left ‘shoe was shimmying in a very strange manner. I managed to tread lightly, and squeak out the remaining distance to the junction of 19 Mile Brook and Carter Dome trails, just to say I didn’t turn around at an arbitrary point. From there, it was more gentle hiking back to the car. Given the conditions and the forecasted upcoming new snow, I might have been well within reason to have swapped into spikes, but silly me, my crampons were back in the car. D’oh!

So there was a lot of frustration. A lot of driving, not a lot of hiking. On the flip side of the coin, the brook looked magnificent. Clear, almost certainly ice-cold water rushing down. Pleasant, meditative sounds of rushing water. Clear, crisp, cold air. And a trail that was nicely tramped down. I don’t regret turning around. Not the least, but a broken snowshoe is a fairly major gear failure, and I’m glad it didn’t happen higher up. No question, I’d have gotten off the mountain one way or another, but it wasn’t worth pushing it. Taking the broader view, any day out on the trail is much better than one in the office. So I had that going for me.

As far as how things are going to turn out with MSR’s customer service? Stay tuned.

As always, stay safe out there.

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