ONEAbout 12 years ago, when hikers hiked on snow or ice in our country, slips and falls were very common.
“I saw a trekker slip on a snow bridge, hit his head on a rock, and fall unconscious before my eyes. We had to drop him off, ”recalls Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. This was her experience on the very first team to bring Indiahikes to the Rupin Pass in 2010.
Fast forward to today, go to every snowy slope, you will see trekkers comfortably walking on hard ice. It has become almost normal. Nobody slips anymore.
There is only one small piece of equipment that protects them – Microspikes.
Today I want to tell you the story of how microspikes were introduced into high altitude trekking in our country. You will be surprised because no one outside of Indiahikes knows this story and it’s the first time I’ve shared it.
Did you know Indiahikes introduced microspikes to high altitude trekking?
“When we just started with Indiahikes, we were walking with bare shoes on snow-covered and icy trails,” says Arjun Majumdar, founder of Indiahikes. In the early days of Indiahikes we took hikers to Roopkund, Rupin Pass, Stok Kangri and Kedarkantha.
“All of these paths were covered with a lot of snow and ice. Slips and falls were very common. Some hikers would also be injured, ”said Arjun.
“That got us pretty confused! High altitude trekking in our country could never progress if trekking on icy slopes were like this, ”he adds.
This made our founders think deeply.
Experiments that didn’t work
“Our instinctive approach was to look for mountain experts – these are mountain climbing institutes in our country,” says Sandhya. “They suggested we use crampons.”
If you don’t knowCrampons are what climbers use to scale icy slopes, often near vertical slopes. These have long metal teeth at the bottom and teeth at the front. These help with vertical climbs in the mountains.
Crampons used by mountaineers. Image by REI
But crampons didn’t cut it.
“Crampons were too expensive for the trekking world. You couldn’t hike with them. You could only climb with them. We needed something simpler, easier, something trekkers wouldn’t have a problem with, ”says Sandhya.
Their research took them to the IMF (Indian Mountaineering Foundation), but the IMF couldn’t give them an answer either.
Closer to a solution
“After a while we noticed what western countries were doing in their daily lives. Many countries in the Northern Hemisphere have had snow for over 7 months. They would have snow all over their driveways, sidewalks, streets. But they would also have to get out and go about their daily work. So we started researching what they used in their daily life, ”says Arjun.
It was then that the founders discovered that some Westerners wore studs to walk on snow. They would attach studs to their shoes.
Studs used in western countries during the snow season. Image from Amazon
But studs weren’t good enough either.
“Studs weren’t enough to give us traction on slopes on slopes. They were fine for flat surfaces. They wouldn’t work on the inclines we had on our Himalayan hikes, ”shares Sandhya.
Finally discovering microspikes
But discovering tunnels made her think. They wondered what hard work people in Western countries did. During further investigation, Arjun and Sandhya discovered microspikes.
“We saw that people use microspikes for jogging in the snow. We thought Impressive! If you can jog on snow then you can certainly walk on snow with these, ” Shares Arjun.
They discovered that Westerners use microspikes to jog in the snow. They wanted to test them out right away!
But they were skeptical. They wondered if this gear could withstand the rigors of a hike.
Sandhya immediately imported two of them to try on their upcoming winter hike.
“We were concerned about whether they would survive a full-fledged Himalayan hike,” recalls Sandhya.
Experimenting with microspikes on the Kedarkantha Trek
To test the effectiveness of the microspikes, Arjun and Sandhya took them on the Kedarkantha winter hike. They decided to test them on the frozen lake of Judah Ka Talab.
“I remember seeing Arjun putting it on and walking cautiously on the lake. We were so concerned at the time, ”says Sandhya. “All the hikers watched, they were also curious,” she says.
Arjun experiments with the first imported microspikes on the frozen Juda Ka Talab on the Kedarkantha migration. Image by Sandhya UC
Arjun stepped onto the lake, hesitant at first, then a little more confidently. The spines held. It didn’t slide on the icy surface. Then he made a short jump and a light sprint. The microspikes stood up beautifully!
“We were delighted that it worked!” he smiles.
A hardcore test of microspikes
But Arjun and Sandhya were still concerned. It was one thing to test them out on a relatively smaller area of Judah-Ka-Talab. But would microspikes survive a full winter hike?
Since they wanted to introduce this to trekking on a large scale for safety reasons, our founders wanted to be sure they were working on all types of terrain.
Then they decided to give the microspikes a hardcore test. They decided to test them out at the Chadar Trek Exploration (not many trekkers know that Indiahikes put the Chadar Trek on the map as it is today. Read the story here.)
“Chadar is a frozen river walk. They walk together for days on the icy surface of the river. On a 5-6 day hike, every trekker would have fallen at least 50-60 times, ”says Arjun. That was the norm on the Chadar Trek.
It was the first time anyone wore this equipment on the frozen Zanskar.
“When we did the hike with the microspikes, we didn’t fall once. Can you imagine that? We walked fearlessly, without falling, without injuries! “Exclaims Arjun.
Not only did they walk comfortably, they could walk a lot faster because it was safer. It has greatly improved the quality of trekking on the Chadar.
Sandhya hiking on the frozen Zanskar River was the final test for microspikes. Image by Arjun Majumdar
Introducing microspikes to Indian trekking
After the microspikes passed the Chadar test, there was no looking back.
“We immediately introduced them to Indian trekking and used them that same year for all of our high-altitude hikes this summer. Trekkers loved them! Slips and falls on ice disappeared almost overnight. Every other trekking organization recognized this brilliant feature and carried it over to their treks over the next year, ”concludes Arjun.
Today, Microspikes have become such a necessary piece of safety equipment that we cannot imagine trekking without them. It’s something as natural as a backpack or trekking shoes.
And that’s the story of how Indiahikes got into Indian trekking.
I will share something else with you. Outside of India, very few countries use microspikes for winter touring like we do. You still haven’t realized the benefits of using microspikes.
Hikers walking with microspikes on the Brahmatal winter hike. Image by Vishwas Krishnamurthy
This is just one of many stories. There are similar creation stories about how Indiahikes changed trekking in our country. It is not without reason that Indiahikes is the most popular and respected trekking organization in India.
Hope I can share all of these stories with you one day.
If you used microspikes let us know how you read this story. We are curious to know.