Crampons are required for safe travel on snow and ice. You can use them to cross glaciers, climb snow slopes, climb frozen waterfalls, and scale ice-smeared rock.
Because the majority of alpinists and ice climbers now wear leather or synthetic leather boots (rather than plastic mountaineering boats), semi-rigid construction with horizontal frames is the norm. Crampons have become lighter and more comfortable as a result of advances in design and manufacturing techniques.
The Ideal Crampons for You
Crampons are becoming more specialized as time goes on. For everyday winter walking, ultra-lightweight traction devices are designed. Traditional crampons are suitable for snow and glacier travel, technical hiking (when accompanied by an ice axe), and mountaineering. Crampons for frozen waterfalls or mixed ice/rock routes are becoming more technical.
Steel crampons are best for general mountaineering. Because of their durability, they are essential for technical, steep, and icy terrain.
Stainless steel crampons provide corrosion resistance in addition to the other advantages of steel crampons.
Aluminum crampons are great for ski mountaineering and approaches. Although their lighter weight makes them better for alpine climbing, they will wear out much faster than steel if used on rocky terrain.
Crampons with a vertically oriented frame were once purchased to be used with double plastic boots. Crampons are no longer required to be as rigid as they once were because climbers have generally switched from plastic boots to insulated leather boots. Frames that are horizontally oriented are now the norm. Horizontal frames flex to allow for walking, and because the steel or aluminum lays flat, your feet are closer to the ground than with vertical frames, providing greater stability. The flat bars also effectively repel snow.
Aluminum crampons are the lightest, but saving weight generally means sacrificing durability and strength. Aluminum crampons are a good choice for non-technical climbing; just avoid mixed rock and snow climbing in aluminum crampons.
Types of Bindings
Crampons are typically attached to most boots via one of the three binding types described below. If you wear overboots (for high-altitude or extremely cold conditions), make sure to try on crampons with these boots on, as the extra rubber and fabric in the boots can affect the crampon fit. Bail wires that are compatible with telemark boots are also available from some manufacturers.
Hybrid crampons, also known as mixed or semi-step crampons, have a heel lever and a toe strap. They require boots with a stiff sole and a heel groove or welt to hold the heel lever. The toe strap, on the other hand, does not require a welt to fit securely. Because you don’t have to clean out the toe welt and line it up, you can just pull on the toe strap and throw the heel lever with gloves.
A wire bail holds the toe in place in this system, while a heel cable with a tension lever secures the crampon to the heel. This results in a very secure system if the boot/crampon fit is correct. This is also the most convenient style to wear with gloves and in snowy conditions. Boots with rigid soles and at least a 3/8″ welt or groove on the heel and toe are required for a step-in binding. An ankle strap is also a common component of the system. A step-in system also has the advantage of allowing the front bail to be moved to adjust the length of the front points depending on the type of terrain. For use with ski mountaineering and telemark boots, step-in crampons are recommended.
Each crampon is typically equipped with a pair of nylon webbing straps. The beauty of this system is that it can be used with almost any boot or shoe (just make sure the center bar is compatible with the flex of your boot or shoe). While they require more time to attach than other styles, they can be fitted tightly enough for moderate ice routes. They are an excellent choice if you intend to use multiple boots with the same crampon. Strap-on bindings, on the other hand, aren’t as precise as step-ins—there is some movement between the boot and the crampon.
Number of Points
The majority of crampons have 10 or 12 points. You want the points to be in the correct order (under your instep and following the shape of the boot). To achieve the proper point extension, you may need to adjust the crampon’s front bails. A few high-tech models now have points with serrated sides, allowing crampons to grab even when the point does not penetrate the snow or ice.
This refers to the crampons’ forward-facing points (or points):
Horizontal: These dual points can be used for almost any alpine or ice/snow climbing.
Vertical: For steep waterfall and mixed climbs, these dual points are preferred. These front points are easily inserted into cracks, and they are adjustable and replaceable. Secondary front points are available on some technical-ice crampons for added support and traction.
Monopoint: This solitary point is well-known for technical waterfall and mixed climbing. The specific demands of a technical waterfall or mixed alpine route (along with the conditions) frequently dictate the type of crampon that is best suited for the task.
Modular vs. Non-Modular
The points can be modular (adjustable) or non-modular (fixed).
You can replace or reconfigure the teeth on modular front points to support the type of walking or climbing you intend to do. Get modular crampons if you do a lot of mixed rock and ice climbing and think you’ll need to replace your points eventually.
Non-modular points can be sharpened, but they become shorter with wear. These one-piece forged marvels are typically lighter than their non-modular counterparts. You also don’t have to worry about screws coming loose because there aren’t any moving parts.