Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • olyclimber

      WELCOME TO THE CASCADECLIMBERS.COM FORUMS   02/03/18

      We have upgraded to new forum software as of late last year, and it makes everything here so much better!  It is now much easier to do pretty much anything, including write Trip Reports, sell gear, schedule climbing related events, and more. There is a new reputation system that allows for positive contributors to be recognized,  it is possible to tag content with identifiers, drag and drop in images, and it is much easier to embed multimedia content from Youtube, Vimeo, and more.  In all, the site is much more user friendly, bug free, and feature rich!   Whether you're a new user or a grizzled cascadeclimbers.com veteran, we think you'll love the new forums. Enjoy!
Sign in to follow this  
Clivus

Aluminum Crampons for the West Buttress?

Recommended Posts

I haven't climbed the West Butt but I've used aluminum cramps and I've climbed in Alaska. Even though west butt isn't very technical, I'd still go with steel b/c aluminum crampons suck on real hard snow or any type of ice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bad idea.

 

The Washburn face, if icy, would be very unfunny with anything but steel crampons. Even if it does have fixed ropes on it. Similarly on the traverse towards the 17k camp a patch of ice and Aluminium crampons could lead to a very close inspection of the Peters Glacier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This question leads me to wonder just what people are using aluminum crampons for these days. Personally I find them poor performers on anything but steep consolidated snow-ice approaches, yet I have seen people use them on pure snow/ice routes such as the headwall routes on Hood. There have been a few accidents in which Al crampons might have been a contributing cause.

 

They seem to be marketed heavily under the fast-n-light banner, perhaps to the disservice of aspiring climbers just getting into the game. I think they are really great for the "what if I hit some steep hard snow" situation like n. ridge of stuart, etc. but not so good for much else. Maybe others think differently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I'm asking; "Should I take crampons or not?", alluminum crampons are a great compromise. I know they won't get me up everything that steel pons would, but I think they have saved my bacon once or twice because I had them when I wouldn't have taken steel pons. Descending from dragontail last Aug/Sept across a very hard snowfield with big exposure for example.

 

Any time one is rock climbing but needs to carry pons for the descent or approach, I'd be likely to carry Al pons, except maybe girth pillar or something where you have steep ice to climb to get to the rock, then I'd go with steel. I also like Al pons on mellow snow slogs (SF Hood, SS Adams, Emmons on Rainier, etc).

 

And, I'm not the climber that Jim Nelson is, but he did the NW Coulior on Eldo in Al pons. thumbs_up.gif

 

Iain, I'm curious about the accidents in which you suspect Al pons being the cause. Could you elaborate? No names necessary of course. Just the facts man.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd rather not as it is pure speculation, but it was a fatality on Mt. Hood's west side.

 

I'm sure plenty has been climbed in aluminums. It just seems like if you know you are going to be on 50° or more snow/ice for extended distances you would not be reaching for the aluminum.

 

Obviously a lot has to do with the boots worn with aluminums. The garmont towers aren't exactly performers on the ice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Alpinfox. I've done the ICG on Stuart in Al crampons and can't say it made it more fun. For starters if you have lightweight crampons then you probably have lightweight boots and this makes for an uncomfortable front pointing experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Aluminum crampons, sneakers, and a third tool can get you lots of places. But, frequently, not very safely. Experts only.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutely. I would definitely take aluminums for the Washburn Route (WButt). 1. You will definitely not be climbing in sandals but rather in some sort of boot with actual structure lending to a more rigid platform to stand on. 2. They dont transmit the cold like steel crampons do allowing one to have a little toastier toes up high. 3. Insanely lighter. 4. I have summitted Denali several times with aluminum crampons and have never had any problems whatsoever while all my other partners have bi*ched at thier lead framed feet.

 

Aluminum crampons have gotten a bad rap for many reasons. Unfortunately they are usually irellevant or "old school" egotistic reasons (IMHO). Never had a problem with them dry tooling, climbing Yocum, or up high on Denali or Aconcagua. For general mountaineering they are more than enough, but you must consider your entire footwear system as a whole. This is technical footwear, and not just slapping a pair of whatever boots are here and whatever steel (thought as bombproof) crampons are there...

Ive seen far more steel crampon failures than aluminums.

I would have to ask who here giving you advice has actually climbed this route. BTW: Where the hell is the Washburn Face?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a very interesting discussion. My initial reaction to the question was, "hell ya, Al pons would be fine", so I was surprised to hear so many people say "bad idea".

 

I climbed the west butt in crappy boots (old style everest one sports) with Grivel G10 pons (steel). The boots weren't very stiff so they didn't frontpoint well. This was no big deal except on the headwall (between 14K-16K) which was steep and icy because a windstorm the previous three days had blown all of the snow off. Fortunately this wasn't a big deal because of the fixed lines. Other than that section, there is nowhere on the WB that is steeper than 35 degrees and nothing was very icy and I think Al Pons would have done fine. Obviously, conditions change from year to year.

 

Erewhon makes a good case for the benefits of Al and I think if I did the WB again, I'd take Al pons.

 

My $.02.

 

p.s. Aren't the guide companies fixing the Denali Pass section these days? I think I heard something about that...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good discussion.

 

I think that it can be done in al pons. The headwall is steep, hard ice but has a fixed line and might already have steps in it. The sections from 16-17k can be hard and sometimes your walking over rock. I'd be afraid of something happening to a pon and ruining my trip. Maybe because I haven't used al pons that many times. I'm heading up this year and I plan on taking a steel set.

 

In 2003 there were pickets\biners on the way up to Denali Pass but no fixed lines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2. They dont transmit the cold like steel crampons do allowing one to have a little toastier toes up high.

 

Not really, aluminum has almost 4x the thermal conductivitiy of carbon steel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think Al crampons have a bad rap at all, old school, egotistical or otherwise. I have a pair and use them a lot in the Cascades and Coast Range for non technical snow routes and approaches and descents off rock routes. I think they're great for this. You can wear them over boots or approach shoes, which is uncomfortable, but either way drastically reduces weight carried while rock climbing. At a pinch you can climb reasonably technical routes with them.

 

My experience with Al crampons is they don't penetrate as well so on hard ice your footing isn't as good. I'd rather pay the 16oz weight penalty for added security.

 

We aclimatized to 17k on the W. Butt and I was quite glad to have steel crampons. The face above the 14k camp was ice and the ridge to 17k didn't seem to have much snow on it and what there was was very hard. We didn't really use the fixed lines. Although I guess in theory with fixed ropes you can climb pretty much anything with any sort of crampon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm with Alpinfox. I've done the ICG on Stuart in Al crampons and can't say it made it more fun. For starters if you have lightweight crampons then you probably have lightweight boots and this makes for an uncomfortable front pointing experience.

 

Climbing the ICG unroped with alum crampons, a whippet and a standard mountaineering axe may well be the stupidest things I have done since i started climbing. A fall would have seriously sucked and I had no security in my stance one bit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

West Butt Denali, yes if they fit over your overboots nicely.

Lots of snow, very little ice untill later season. Lots or others kicking nice steps. Also lots of fixed lines.

 

Stuart - only if all the rime is melted out/snowcovered. Thin ice and Al crampons don't mix well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pax, like you I would be really careful choosing aluminum crampons for alpine climbing. On Eldorado I expected there would be hard snow for the most part with only short sections of water ice. I also knew my two partners would do the leading and it would be an opportunity to test the idea out a little bit with a bit of a safety net. I also had good stiff boots.

 

One lightweight crampon that might be a Mckinley candidate is the Petzl/Charlet Irvis. The Irvis is a steel crampon with a smaller front section than the Sarken, but same heel piece. I was able to try them recently on water ice on Stuart and was impressed with the front pointing. Probably not the best choice for some one with big feet, but otherwise not bad. On the West Butt. The weight savings might not be worth the trouble, especially with the sled transport method. I’ve also seen a few freaks mate an aluminum heel piece with a steel front to save ounces.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re: Fixed anchors up Denali Pass: It depends! In 2003, there were a ton of fixed pickets you could clip into on the way up. That was late May and I loved having them there. Last year, my roomate summitted in early June after 7 days in a storm at 17k. No signs of any pickets, but they could have been buried after the storm. SO, go like they are not there and bring the gear necessary to protect this section and get lucky if the gear is there. My two cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's my $.02 -- Bad idea! Thre are definitely three icy section regardless of year -- Windy corner, the headwall, the the 16-17 ridge. The audobon can be ice (and no - it's not fixed - but there are some fixed pickets you can clip to) likewise the summit ridge can be ice. The ice in the 3 sections I mentioned is rock hard -- why risk it? My basic rule of thumb for alaskan expeditions is: if it's going to break - it will - and it will break where you need it most (one of my partners broke his crampon bolt on windy corner). Go with the standard and test your new gear on peaks you know. Furthermore - what's the weight difference? It can't be that big a difference - if the weight bothers you - eat out of your nalgene.

Edited by wfinley

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

×