Ice Climbing Crampons Review

The better you can use your feet, the easier it is to climb ice. Having sharp and appropriate crampons definitely aid in this task. Modern crampons are generally lighter weight and have more aggressive points than older models. A light crampon on your foot allows easier manipulation for both kicking into the ice, and for feature style climbing (think rock climbing). Aggressive, serrated points give you more options for sticking to the ice.

 

Many crampons are now designed with rake points which point backwards, and these are good for hooking the backside of a pillar or hooking a high edge on rock–all of which can lead to more stable body positions. Most technical ice crampons have vertical front points that look like the pick of an ice tool rather than the front points of a mountaineering crampon. The teeth on the bottom edge of the front point give a reassuring bite once engaged, and have become quite popular for both ice and rock. Often these models have configurable and replaceable front points which allows you to choose between a monopoint or a dualpoint setup. Flat front points are also very popular for climbing on pure ice because their stable and wide platform puts less stress on the calves.

Various Water Ice & Mixed Climbing Crampons


Petzl Dart Black Diamond Cyborg Grivel Rambos

Stainless Steel

Both Black Diamond and CAMP are now producing crampons made from stainless steel alloys. Stainless steel does offer some advantages over the more typically used chromoly steel, including very high corrosion resistance (they will not rust) and, due to the specific alloys that CAMP and BD are using, slightly higher resistance to wear. Both manufactures have modified their stainless crampon designs to be lighter than their chromoly predecessors. This does not imply that the actual steel is lighter than chomoly, but simply that the crampon design has improved to become lighter. It is also worth noting that stainless steel crampons do not need a paint coat, which saves some weight (however small) and manufacturing expense.

Mono-point vs. Dual-point

Monopoints excel in the rigors of mixed climbing, where you may be required to place all of your weight onto a narrow dime-edge. They also excel on funky technical ice where two points might hinder adequate penetration. However, in chandelier or aerated ice, two points are advantageous because they make more contact and give the climber more purchase. Many people also like extra stability of dualpoints on thunker ice. As with all gear, whether you choose mono or dual points really boils down to personal preference. Try out different models and see what works best for you.

Fruit Boots & Heel spurs

Modern heel spurs, usually an upside down frontpoint, began showing up with Fruit Boots on hard mixed climbs. Fruit Boots are some sort of boot or shoe that has a simple crampon bolted through the sole of the shoe. Fruit boots should fit tight and be light weight for maximum precision. Using heel spurs often removes the need for taxing figure-4 moves and thus makes it easier to climb overhanging terrain. As a result of this, their ethics have been called into question and many major mixed climbing competitions do not allow them.

Some applications for heel spurs on pure ice include hooking your heel on the back of pillars and bracing airy traverses. It should be noted that rake points can accomplish these tasks almost as well as heel spurs, but carry less danger of poking you somewhere scandalous.

Examples


Fruit Boot with crampon bolted to the sole. Fruit Boot crampons with
heel spur.
A heel spur for a regular style crampon.

Waterfall vs. Alpine

Many waterfall ice crampons are un-suited for use in the mountains. Vertical front points that have little horizontal cross section tend to shear easily through snow, neve and the like. Luckily, there are plenty of crampon options that are designed with aggressive points and are well suited for both snow and pure ice.

Various Snow & Water Ice Crampons


Grivel G14 Black Diamond
Sabertooth Pro
Petzl Sarken

Sharpening

Keep your crampons sharp. It can not be emphasized enough. This means every point from the front to the secondary to the back. Repeated filing will eventually wear down your crampons and you will either need to buy replacement front points or new crampons. It is worth it.You will climb more efficiently and more confidently with sharp points. To sharpen them, start with the front points. If they are vertical points, you should sharpen them like you would sharpen the pick of an ice tool make sure to keep the original angles and file towards the back. Get the tip to an actual sharp point. For the rest of the points, and for horizontal front points (like the Sabertooths pictured above), file the left and right edges until you have a sharp point. You should not file on the wide side of the point. A vise can be helpful to hold the crampons still while working on them.




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