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SnowClaw FR (Cora)

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  • Cora
    Hey Shane, I m back for a bit. I m still healing, but since I had this written I figured I d sneak it in under the wire. It is also in test TESTS
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6, 2004
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      Hey Shane,

      I'm back for a bit. I'm still healing, but since I
      had this written I figured I'd sneak it in under the
      wire. It is also in test > TESTS > SnowClaw FR -
      Cora for your HTML viewing pleasure. Thank you in
      advance for your editing efforts.



      SnowClaw Aluminum Pro-Series
      Field Report

      Reviewer Information

      * Name: Cora Hussey
      * Age: 24
      * Gender: Female
      * Height: 5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
      * Weight: 150 lb (70 kg)
      * Email address: cahhmc "at" yahoo "dot" com
      * Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
      * Date: July 6, 2004

      Backpacking Background: I began backpacking in 1997. I
      enjoy weekend and longer trips to the Sierras, but I
      also travel to Washington, Colorado, and elsewhere. I
      love backpacking in spring and winter snow more than
      anything (especially on skis) but I am also very happy
      scrambling off-trail in the Sierras or glacier-hiking
      in the Cascades. My enjoyment of backpacking also
      provides a basis for my additional pursuits in
      climbing and mountaineering.

      Basic Product Information

      * Year of Manufacture: 2004
      * URL: http://www.snowclaw.com/
      * Listed weight: 13 oz (368 g) (on hangtag) 11.8
      oz (335 g) (on website)
      * Weight as delivered: 11.8 oz (335 g)
      * Measured dimensions: 11 in (28 cm) at widest
      point, 12 in (30 cm) at longest point

      This report covers the field testing performed from
      April to June, 2004. For more general product
      information, more visual details, and more reporting
      on appearance and structure, please see my Initial
      Report. For more varied use and long term
      care/maintenance comments, please see my Long Term

      Field Testing

      Here are two demonstrative trips. For each trip I
      provide a description of the location, conditions, and
      use below. I then provide a description of how I used
      the SnowClaw on the trip, and comments on what I
      thought about the SnowClaw while testing it.

      * Trip One: Backpacking in the Mount Whitney area
      o Dates: April 23-26, 2004
      o Location: Mount Whitney, California
      o Weather: Sunny and slushy, 80 to 25 F (27
      to -4 C)
      o Elevation: 8,000 - 14,000 ft (2400 to 4300
      On this trip, I carried the SnowClaw in lieu of
      my normal shovel. We used it to dig up snow for water,
      and to level out snow in a few areas and dig a pit. I
      also carried it in my daypack (which was super nice)
      for the route we were climbing.

      The SnowClaw packed nicely in both of my packs.
      First, in my larger pack, I used it around my water
      bladder to shelter the bladder from being poked and
      pressurized by the items around it. That worked
      fantastically well. I then packed the shovel along in
      my daypack. I have also never had a shovel fit so well
      in a daypack, and it again found the function of
      protecting my water there. The SnowClaw has been quite

      Unfortunately, I pretty much only had one type
      of snow to use the SnowClaw on: corn and slush. By
      feel, the snow had high density and reasonable liquid
      water content, and it also had enough cohesion for me
      to feel safe on the climb. However, such snow acts
      much like mashed potatoes: dense, wet, sticky, and
      quite easy to cut through. What I really wanted to
      test was the ability of the SnowClaw to carve through
      hard debris (since using the SnowClaw as my avalanche
      shovel would be really cool), but I did not get the

      Regardless, the SnowClaw performed quite well in
      the heavy wet stuff. I had to figure what (small) size
      of chunk to take when bending over so as not to strain
      my arms from the wet snow load on each scoop, but when
      shoveling into the side of a hill (like in the video
      on their web site) the snow moved quickly and easily
      because I could remain upright and just fling the snow
      behind me.

      * Trip Two: Backpacking in Mount Dade area
      o Dates: April 30 - May 1, 2004
      o Location: Treasure Lakes, California
      o Weather: Variable snow, 80 to 20 F (27 to
      -7 C)
      o Elevation: 8,000 - 14,000 ft (2400 to 4300
      I used the SnowClaw on similar functions as
      above. It packed well, and got used to level sleeping
      platforms. I also took it to various hills to test in
      more variable snow conditions, including on the harder
      snow conditions which I had been looking forward to
      digging in.

      The most fun thing I did with the SnowClaw on
      this trip was use it as a butt sled. When glissading
      the couloir we had climbed, our butts kept getting
      stuck partway down because of the corn snow, and my
      partners had to plunge step and skate the rest of the
      way. I, however, dug out my trusty SnowClaw butt
      armor, and re-commenced whizzing down the slope in no
      time. It took a couple of short-lived tries to realize
      that the proper way to orient the SnowClaw is with the
      handles pointing toward my head and feet, rather than
      to either side of my hips. But once that was settled,
      I was off! The SnowClaw stayed nicely on my nether
      regions, and was quite a comfortable ride -- often,
      snow has the ability to somehow still abrade my butt
      through my pants (...osmosis, perhaps?) but not so
      with the SnowClaw.

      As for shoveling... well, I was impressed by the
      shoveling ability, until I got to the hard snow. I am
      not sure what to say, since the web site has such
      fantastic reviews of how the SnowClaw can move snow in
      an emergency (which, presumably, would be in a
      hard-packed avalanche debris field). But, simply said,
      after my experience on this trip, I will probably not
      use the SnowClaw as my only snow shovel in avalanche
      terrain. I tried it on tough snow, and it wobbled, got
      deflected, could not scoop well, and generally, well,

      The snow was evening crust, and though it was
      good hard snow it was not ice. It was similar in
      density to the chunks and settled facets in avalanche
      debris that I've seen and practised shoveling in, so I
      considered it to be a good place to test. I took a few
      practice swings to get used to how leverage would
      work, and then started chopping away. The first chops
      were terrible. The SnowClaw, when digging with either
      end, penetrated at most 2 or 3 inches (5 or 8 cm) with
      each swing. I tried swinging this way, that way, with
      both ends, and still nothing. Confused, I went back to
      grab a traditional shovel from one of my friends --
      perhaps I had indeed chosen an area full of snow that
      was much harder than I thought.

      When I returned and used the handled and bladed
      shovel, I realized that this was not the case. The
      traditional handled and bladed shovel plowed through
      the snow quite effectively. Easily, almost. The snow
      was crusty, but not even tough or styrofoamy like some
      big avalanche chunks are. Thus, I tried the SnowClaw
      again, and tried all sorts of angles, positions, and
      hand holding methods. I tried using my boots to kick
      it on each swing, I tried different angles of
      chopping, and I tried chopping in triangles (such as
      how one would use an axe to chop down a tree). Some
      methods worked better than others (the better ones
      were those using more force) but no matter what I
      tried I could not shovel the crusty snow with the
      SnowClaw with any speed or effectiveness even close to
      my traditional shovel. So then I began looking at what
      was causing such hardship. I came up with a list of
      four things.

      Hard Snow Problems
      1. I cannot effectively get my body weight
      behind the SnowClaw. This is the most serious problem
      I have found with the SnowClaw. I don't mind bending
      over, and I don't mind dragging my knuckles through
      snow. But, I do miss the ability to position a shovel
      handle near my shoulder, get a firm grip on a shovel
      shaft, brace the handle on my skeletal frame, and thus
      have the ability to throw probably around 50 lb (23
      kg) or more of force down the handle and onto the
      blade. The SnowClaw, on the other hand, does not have
      an extended handle. Thus, I cannot find any way to
      drive the SnowClaw with such force. All methods I
      found of driving the SnowClaw primarily involved arm

      2. The SnowClaw pivots when hitting hard
      snow, reducing its force. With a shovel with handle
      and shaft, I have between 2 and 3.5 ft (61 and 107 cm)
      of separation (and thus leverage) between my hands
      along the shaft to keep the blade straight and solid.
      With my hands right along the pivot axis of the
      SnowClaw, however, I have no leverage at all and any
      wobble must be directly controlled muscularly. I do
      not have the strength for effectively keeping the
      SnowClaw straight on impact after more than about a
      minute of chopping at hard snow, and I consider myself
      to be a relatively strong person.

      3. My knuckles get in the way when carving
      hard snow. I tried turning the SnowClaw at an almost
      horizontal angle, and carving off the snow from the
      top since penetration seemed not to be an option.
      However, my knuckles stick out 0.4 in (1 cm) beyond
      the back curve in the SnowClaw. Which means that at
      such horizontal carving angles, my knuckles hit the
      snow before the back of the SnowClaw does. In soft
      snow, this was not a problem. But in hard snow, I
      received a knuckle bashing equal to a terrible ice
      climbing day, and quickly turned the SnowClaw more

      4. Hard snow does not stick well to the
      slippery SnowClaw. More cohesive corn and semi-powder
      stuck pretty well, or at least long enough to move the
      recently dug snow away from the digging area. Hard and
      crusty snow quickly slid right off, and sometimes
      ended up right back in the hole I was digging.

      When everything is said and done, this is
      terrible performance. Now, I agree that eventually the
      SnowClaw might be able to clear a decent swath of hard
      snow, but the most critical element in an avalanche
      rescue is time. And, with the four substantial
      problems above, there is no way I will be carrying the
      SnowClaw as my only shovel in avalanche terrain any
      time soon.

      Now, shoveling does take some talent and skill.
      I certainly did not think so before becoming a winter
      lover, but learning how to chop, swing, and leverage
      with a normal snow shovel took me a while. Perhaps I
      must go through the same learning curve with the
      SnowClaw, since it is an entirely different feel. But
      the point remains that I could not take it out of the
      box and shovel snow adequately for use in an
      emergency, much less shovel it better than my trusty
      handle and blade shovel. Additionally, I understood
      all the problems listed above, tried to find ways to
      solve them, and could not. All in all, I was quite
      disappointed given the amount of hype the SnowClaw web
      page provides.

      Comments by Attribute

      Comfort: Good
      Well, even though when using the SnowClaw I am (a)
      bending over, and (b) raking my knuckles through any
      snow I dig, the comfort of using the SnowClaw in
      average-to-soft snow was pretty good. The handles were
      large enough for the gloves and mittens I used, and
      yet were still small enough to allow good grip an
      maneuverability. I found I could lift most well-laden
      scoops with my knees even if I was working while bent
      over. Additionally, my arms (sticking up on either
      side of the SnowClaw) helped stabilize large chunks of
      lighter and softer sticky snow so I could move more
      snow more comfortably than my normal traditional
      shovel -- as long as the snow was light and sticky.

      Carving Ability: Great
      The SnowClaw has a lot of agility, I'll give it that.
      For shelves, sleeping platforms, and tight areas, it
      certainly outperformed my big scoop shovel, which I
      usually strip down to the blade for such fine tasks.
      The SnowClaw is easily maneuverable and can be
      switched quickly between different positions because
      my hands are so close to the pivot axis. And, since
      carving usually does not require a lot of force, the
      fact that the SnowClaw is mostly arm-muscle driven
      does not matter.

      Snow Moving Ability (Soft Snow): Great
      For flinging sheer amounts of snow behind me on an
      incline, the SnowClaw worked great. In soft snow, the
      scoop was wonderful because I had a fast
      fling-to-carve time, whereas with a scoop and handle
      type shovel I would need to carve, then turn, then
      fling, then turn again. This was nice for pit digging
      and sleeping platform carving. However, for more
      horizontal applications, the SnowClaw became more
      finicky. It takes a certain angle (about 20-25 degrees
      off of horizontal) of scooping to not have the
      SnowClaw wobble and pull away by driving further into
      the snow. I have found its digging nuances to be
      similar to the nuances in placing a snow fluke. At a
      certain angle in harder snow, all it does is drive
      deeper into the hill and I do not have the strength to
      pull the snow out with it. At too little an angle to
      the snow, not enough snow gets moved, and the snow
      usually slides off the end and back into the hole.
      When carving out a pit to look at the snow layers
      (requiring a short vertical wall of snow), I found
      that chiseling the slope away to a steeper angle
      first, and then digging down vertically worked best in
      the heavier soft slush and corn.

      Snow Digging Ability (Hard Snow): Poor
      I mentioned the problems I had with this above.
      However, this is the main reason why I am so
      disappointed with the SnowClaw. Sure, it might save me
      a pound or so (0.5 kg), but for me it's like saying I
      am going to leave the first aid kit at home to save
      that amount of weight. A shovel is a safety item as
      much as a utility item in winter, and improvising with
      a short wobbly scoop which I can't get my weight
      behind and can't scoop much when I do just doesn't cut
      it for me. Perhaps with more testing I will figure
      something out, and for now it is serving me well as a
      spring shovel where all I need it for is sleeping
      platform and kitchen carving, and all I really fear
      are wet slides.

      The SnowClaw has been a great shovel for moving lots
      of snow just as they show in the video on the website
      -- when the snow is easily penetrated, and when the
      shoveler is standing upright. Other than those
      specific conditions, I have serious reservations about
      using this as my only avalanche shovel. Its hard snow
      performance was tedious at best, and a
      knuckle-bashing, tiring, and fruitless endeavor at
      worst. Hopefully I will find a way to solve at least
      some of the problems mentioned above with further
      testing. For now, I personally would not trust it at
      all to move any hard snow in any reasonable amount of

      * Upsides for me so far:
      o Makes a great sled
      o Easily packable
      o Soft snow performance is great
      * Downsides for me so far:
      o Hard snow performance (where it counts for
      me) is terrible
      o Knuckles get a good bashing in anything
      harder than corn
      o I have to bend over for digging on
      horizontal slopes
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