Denali Ascent


Page Type Gear Review
Object Title Denali Ascent
Manufacturer MSR
Page By Luidger
Page Type Apr 21, 2002 / Apr 21, 2002
Object ID 220
Hits 8706
Demanding winter ascents require equipment as tough as you are, which is why we created the Denali Ascent snowshoes. These lightweight, technically superior snowshoes offer incredible performance on ice and snow-covered landscapes.

Deck Platform Expedition proven, nonstick deck sheds

snow and ice. Modular 4- and 8-inch flotation tails make MSR snowshoes a 3-in-1 package, eliminating the need for multiple pairs of snowshoes. Steel Traction Bars Serrated edges run the length of the shoe on both sides and grip the snow for unmatched traction while traversing. Televator Heel Lifter When needed, they support the heel to reduce calf fatigue on long ascents. Durable Steel Crampons Hardened steel crampons with four aggressive front teeth and three rear teeth offer unrivaled traction. Steel Saber Teeth Provide extra grip in hard-packed snow. Braking Bars Quad-point braking bars work in conjunction with the steel crampons to stop you in your tracks. Heel Stabilizer Crampon extension eliminates heel drift while traversing. Flexible Binding Packs flat; stays moisture-free and adjustable in freezing conditions.

*Not a substitute for crampons

Weight: 3 lbs. 12oz/1692g

Size: 8" x 22"


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Luidger - Apr 21, 2002 3:57 am - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
I am using the MSR Denali Ascent since Dec. 2001. I used it for lots of snowshoe trips in the Eastern Alps during the winter season 2000/2001 in different conditions. In well consolidated snow (European snow is usually heavier, wetter than American, less powdry and more able to support weights) it provides enough flotation even without extensions (my weight is about 85 kg). It has excellent grip in hard snow. The heel elevator is excellent for steeper terrain. It is the relatively best snowshoe for traversing slopes (which is a problem with any snowshow as compared with skis).
The bindung is very easy to use (also with gloves).

During the season, I lost one strap and two saber teeth (I don't know when and why, noticed it only later).

I tried and compared with TSL Rando and Tubbs Altitude 30. In my opinion the MSR provides the best ratio of quality and price. Price for Ascent in Munich around 180 to 200 Euro. The Denali classic is cheaper (no heel elevator, no saber teeth). TSL is a little cheaper, but not as good. Tubbs is much more expensive, but in my opinion not better (it does especially not provide much protection against lateral slipping in traversing slopes due to its frame construction).

John - Apr 21, 2002 8:10 pm - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
I picked up a pair of these in early 2002 and have used them for winter approaches to Mount Shasta (2x), Castle Dome, Round Top, and Donner Peak as well as a late winter Rainier attempt. Overall, I'm very pleased. These are good snowshoes because they are:
  • Relatively cheap: Many other snowshoes go for $200+. I was considering these and a pair of Atlas snowshoes going for $225+. One deciding factor was that these were cheaper ;-)
  • Work well: The serrated edges give good traction and means you can lean on them more than you can with other snowshoes on traverses. The televator heel is a neat design and does reduce fatigue while going uphill. The serrated edges do mean that you will not be able to slide as easily going downhill vis a vis other snowshoes. I also like the added pair of spikes these have over the regular Denali's though I think it would be cool if you could add more spikes if you wanted to ;-) Also the straps are easy to grasp and tighten with your gloves on.
  • Pack well: They stack well and easily. The bottoms are also not so sharp that they will puncture your pack material so you don't have to worry about covering the "crampons" while you strap them on your pack. I've found that I can pack these very easily on the Dana Designs Bomb Pack (1997) and the TNF Patrol Pack (2001) if I stack them with the bottoms out and with the tips toward the top placing the curve of the tips under the top lid on both packs. Fits like a charm. On my TNF Patrol Pack, it's also very easy to carry a snowshoe per side since the 3 compression straps per side all have quick-release buckles - just slip them through the various holes in the snowshoes.
  • Take abuse well: Don't expect these things to look new, especially if you are taking them over mixed terrain as the plastic gets scratched very easily. I've worn these over rocks and dirt when there's intermittent patches of snow on the trail. These work fine under mixed conditions, however, make loud scraping sounds over rock.
  • Optional, removeable tails: I think these are the only modular snowshoe which comes with optional tails to provide more floatation. The tails are great when extra floation is needed going uphill and the option to remove them is great for downhill. Another great thing about the tails is that usually you can rent the tails only (e.g. SummitHaus) if the place rents any MSR snowshoes.
  • Boot straps can fall off: The "attached" ends of the boot straps are not attached to the snowshoe all that securely (not doubled-backed) so be sure that they don't slip out. Usually the tip will slip out first and not all the way so be vigilent. I've lost four of these already, the front strap on each foot twice, but I've found that it's manageable to hike without the front strap - just don't lose too many more on the same trip! MSR sells replacement straps so losing one (or a few) isn't a big deal unless you're high up on the mountain. Just be diligent and it probably wouldn't be a bad thing to leave more of a tail on the end that's attached.
  • Incredible performance on ice??: The main product description above says "incredible performance on ice" however, given that the "crampons" are not that sharp and very thin, I would not trust these on ice with any angle to it. You're really just depending on the spikes at that point. Give me real crampons for solid ice.
I've also carried the Tubbs Mountain 25 snowshoes (with the RCS binding) on my pack twice and I found them to be very hard to pack. Both times, snow conditions meant I didn't need to use them. My Mom is using these now ;-) I would definately recommend getting the Denali Ascents over the regular Denali's. The televator heel is worth it by itself and the extra spikes don't hurt either.

Jerry L - Jul 1, 2002 4:50 pm - Voted 5/5

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I bought a pair to use to climb Mount Adams when it was covered with deep, compacted snow. They worked perfect on steep slopes while ascending the mountain. I was going to use crampons but my climbing partner had these and it was obvious he could cover more ground much easier. They are light weight and easy to put on and remove. They are also fairly small and easy to carry. Make sure to put on properly or they won't work near as well.

Addition to my first review: I found the heel lifter to be very helpful when climbing steep inclines. These really do save the calves. I was amazed at the difference. It was worth the time and effort to adjust when going up and down slopes. I also used these on a limited amount of ice and they worked fine, although I was very nervous. I thought for sure that I was going to slip but it didn't happen.

Archangl - Jul 9, 2002 12:57 pm - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
Not only are these one of the best snowshoes on the market today, when something does go wrong MSR stands behind them. I bought a used pair and used them virtually every day last winter here in the Maine mountains. When one of the metal binding pieces broke I called MSR to find out where I could get a replacement. Their response was simple...send them back and we'll replace problem, no questions. In a world of medocrity, MSR no only builds an outstanding product, they really stand behind it.

Glencoe - Oct 3, 2002 1:37 pm - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
If you want a snow shoe for mountianeering approaches you want these.

They are tought and easy to walk in. The integrated crampon obviously helps. They have more flex than frame style snow shoes, so they are better on variable terrain. The heel lifter is a matter of taste, sometimes it is in the way, sometimes it is a calf-saver.

The rubber strap binding is far superior to fancy snow board bindings which are bulkier, harder to pack, don't fit as well and aren't practical for field repair.

They are light and easy to pack. I pack them on the sides of the pack with the teeth facing out and the tips curving under the pack. The flat packing binding makes this easy.

The modular design means you can have a pair of trail shoes and extend them to make a pair of expedition/heavy approach shoes. It also means that you have four parts to make anchors. The small extension parts do a pretty good impersonation of a dead man for belays in a pinch or for pegging out a tent in a gale.

They are very, very durable and last for a long, long time. The rubber strap binding is a wonderful, simple design and it also makes them easy to repair in the field, but I have never had to, despite abuse (see above).

Worth noting:

(1) Take away the heel lifter (which is of questionable value anyway) and you pretty much have a pair of MSR Denali Classic snow shoes. The Classic has been made for a long time so you can pick them up cheap second hand. Last year I got two used pairs from an rental place for $25 each, including the extensions. Since these are practically unbreakable it was a good deal.

(2) Don't know about the claims of ice perfomance. I wouldn't wear snow shoes on ice. Switch to crampons.

43moon - May 25, 2003 6:00 pm - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
I used mine on about 4 or 5 trips this past winter. They are very easy to put on in the cold. Most of the time, I didn't have to remove my gloves.

I wore them across the Devil's Backbone and felt very sure-footed through some of the narrower stretches. It didn't take very long, and I was able to foget that I was wearing them.

They are a great set of snowshoes at a decent price.

pksander - May 28, 2003 4:15 pm - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
I bought a pair of MSR Denali Ascents this past winter... They were not only the first pair of snowshoes I've owned, but the only ones I've ever used. Nevertheless, I feel confident I made the right decision: as the above reviews suggest, the virtues of these snowshoes go more or less unchallenged. Not only are they pretty much the least expensive on the market, they are also widely recognized as being very high quality. In fact, to date, I've yet to meet anyone that has anything less than stellar things to say about this product.

To summarize what I think the best aspects:

*Cost (low)

*Size & Weight: small enough to fit onto pack, light enough to carry w/o a problem.

*Nice heel bar feature for steep ascents (just saw this in action on Saint Helens)

*Versatility of extensions (although I can't speak to the quality or usability of these).

kovarpa - Feb 10, 2004 12:58 am - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
I have been using Denali Ascent for about a year now and I am soooo happy with them.

Things I like:

- the straps (bindings) are easy to deal with, you can easily put them on with gloves/mitts on or with your pack on

- easy to attach to a pack

- just about the right size, with a pack I might weigh about 200 pounds and the regular size (without the extensions) was OK everytime I used them

- they seem to be easy to fix in the field (I didn't have to try this yet)

- good price for the value

There is nothing I dislike about them, if I was really trying then maybe that the plastic is noisy on hard snow/ice but that's really nothing...

Matt K - Aug 1, 2004 8:18 pm - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
I agree with the others, they are great snowshoes. I especially like the fact that they can be tailored to your activity and snow conditions by using the detachable tails. If you have ever watched anyone struggle uphill in moderate powder or on the occasional ice patch, you will certainly appreciate the integrated crampons.

rhyang - Oct 17, 2004 11:55 pm - Voted 4/5

Untitled Review
I'm contemplating my third season with these puppies, and have found that they traverse a lot better than Atlas 1030's, are cheaper, and lighter. Bolt on some tails and you have good flotation for heavy loads, though I prefer to strap in a little farther back when doing that. Taking them on rocks is a bad idea, though.

I've managed to thrash mine pretty well. The straps can loosen in wet sloppy afternoon snow if they are not done up tight, and after two seasons some started to show cracks. Replacements straps are available if you call up MSR.

Near the end of the first season with them I also had one of the rivets break that holds one of the posts for fastening on the tails, but just stuck a stove bolt in place and that's worked well.

The 'televator' thingy is nice on long uphill slogs. Snapping it back down can be a pain, though.

Completebum - Dec 9, 2004 4:32 pm - Voted 5/5

Untitled Review
Definately worth the money, though look around and you won't have to pay the full price. I've had mine for 2+ years now and they show a little wear on the decks from thrasing around on rocks. The heel lifts are great on steep uphills but putting them down with a full load on your back is a pain. I also appreciate the crampons and the side rails as they grip low angled ice well. I watched my friend fall on his butt several times crossing an iced over trail with his Atlas'. The binding straps are awesome, I'd recommend anyone planning on extended b-country trips to avoid the male-female buckles as the can be a bitch to lock if some snow has frozen in them.

Corax - Nov 17, 2005 9:02 pm - Voted 2/5

Not up to MSR standard
Most models I have tried are better than the Denali Ascent.

  • This model is too square. There's a reason why most models are racket-shaped. The latter design makes it easier to walk without risking putting one snow shoe on top of the other, when the goign gets tricky.
  • The shoe is not rigid enough. Ok, you walk fine on soft snow, but if you have to pass some harder or a bit mixed stretches, the shoe flex way too much.
  • Needless to say, the shoe should not be used as a substitute for crampons, but if the claws had been just a little bit longer, the Denali Ascent would work much better on shorter icy parts. They are absolutely useless on ice!
  • The thin and flimsy metal bar construction at the heel is nothing but a joke.
  • The price is way to high for what you get.

    The good aspects are all mentioned by other reviewers.

    I think there are many other models around which both have a better overall performance.

    2 stars plus.
  • Johan Heersink - Dec 15, 2005 6:18 am - Voted 3/5

    Untitled Review
    Neither really bad, nor really good, so a surprise that this model is so popular. To start with I do not really like the strapping system. True its easily adjustable even with very cold hands, but I have experienced several times that it pries itself loose. Second there is the issue of the price: Over here in China we have several similar, locally produced, models at less than half the price and in practice it proves, that the quality does not differ significantly. Lastly I agree with was said here by other that the form is to square: When it comes to climbing slopes, I greatly prefer the drop form, escpecially in very deep powder snow like that so often found on peaks like Muztagata, (where everybody seems to plough around with Denali ascents or very similar produce. So I will stick to my favorite Dynastars instead and will be all to willing to sell you the pair of Denali's I still own.

    rasgoat - Jan 27, 2007 2:12 pm - Voted 5/5

    I used these snow shoes on Mt. Marcy in January and I couldn't be happier. They pack extremely well, are light and very functional. On snow, they have great traction. On ice they have excellent traction compared to any other brand. My buddy had to switch to crampons near the summit, but I just put up my heel lifters (wich work amazingly) and kept on to the summit! These shoes eliminate the need to switch back and forth to crampons in all but the most steep conditions.



    davebobk47 - Aug 1, 2008 4:10 pm - Voted 5/5

    Good Shoes
    Good snowshoes that I picked up at a very reasonable price. Used them on 14ers in winter and never had any problems. The televator can be a life saver for going up steeper slopes.

    EastcoastMike - Dec 31, 2008 6:22 pm - Hasn't voted

    Like them
    So far so good for me. I really like these snowshoes. They are excellent on ice and I didn't have to switch to crampons near the summit of Algonquin in the Adirondacks last winter. I just purchased the flotation tails for trail breaking but haven't used them yet. I also really like the elevator bar, it really does help on the uphills.

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