The Bright Angel trailhead, 23 December 2009, the morning after a winter storm passed through.
The sign recommends crampons, and I actually brought mine with me on the trip from Nevada, knowing ahead of time about the storm and the condition in which the trail would be for my hike. I was the only one I saw on the trail that actually had crampons. Being a snowy and icy trail (not a glacier!), other types of traction devices worked and were being used by others. I just prefer crampons because of how well they work, and crampons are what I happen to own.
Really, the descent is when they're needed most. Later that evening, on my way back up from the Colorado River, I managed to hike all the way back up to the trailhead in running shoes (and mountaineering socks), and I kept my boots and crampons in and on my pack.
About the top 3 miles (2100 vertical feet) of trail were icy or snowy, but, between the time of my descent and ascent, the amount of foot traffic on the trail was enough to trample the snow and make a reasonably clean path for my mountaineering sock and running shoe combination later that evening.
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