I had to do a lot of rock walking with my spikes on during a recent hike and I noticed on the way down the steep, icy trail at the end that they weren’t gripping as well as they used to. I thought about how long I’ve had them, and it’s been maybe six years, but really only two and a half seasons of regular use. That doesn’t seem like enough use to replace spikes to me, and aside from the hike I was currently on, I didn’t remember walking on rocks on them too much.
I didn’t think any more about it until the following week, when I was about to go on a short local hike and my friend mentioned it would be icy. I actually looked at my spikes while I was putting them on and was surprised to see just how rounded they’d become. No wonder it felt like I was slipping all the time! Stepping on round bits of metal on ice was probably worse than just my boot soles!
For reference, here’s a stock photo to show how sharp they should be:
I’ve been generally very happy with my Kahtoola MICROspikes until now, although I have wanted to switch to the Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultra since I saw them in 2014. While the current Kahtoolas have 12 spikes per foot, my older version only has 10. But the Hillsounds have 18 spikes per foot, and they’re longer – 1/2″ to 2/3″ long compared to only 3/8″.
This could be a good opportunity to upgrade, but I hate to put more things in the garbage unnecessarily so I did a little googling to see if microspikes could be sharpened. Most people agreed that they could be sharpened, although it wasn’t necessarily worth it. I found that I did have a metal file in my toolbox, although I’m not quite sure how it got there, so I figured I’d give sharpening my spikes a try in the hopes that they’d at least make it through the end of this winter. There doesn’t seem to be enough metal to sharpen them more than once so we’ll see how much more life this gets out of them.
I read a tip that said to keep the spikes on your boots while sharpening them, to keep tension on the chains, but I found that they still moved around quite a bit with the rubber. Instead, I put some leather gloves on and just held each piece tightly as I sharpened the spikes one by one. The gloves helped me keep a firmer hold on the spikes and kept me from filing my fingers.
It was a little awkward depending on the placement of the spike I was holding, but overall it worked quite well. Each spike took me up to five minutes to sharpen, but I did this while watching tv so it wasn’t much of a chore.
It’s important to always move the file up the edge of the spike, then lift it off to bring it back down. Files work in one direction only so moving back and forth doesn’t work. See this video from REI about sharpening crampons for the correct motion. It’s also a good idea to put a towel or other cloth down to catch the metal filings.
Here, a comparison of freshly sharpened on the left versus still quite dull on the right.
I expect that my renewed spikes will get me at least through this winter, if not a few more seasons. I’ll be careful to walk on rocks less in the future now that I see just how much it dulls the points, but that can be hard to avoid sometimes in New England.