Seems that you are gearing up for ice climbing. Or is it mountaineering? Whatever you are eyeing, choosing the right pair of crampons is paramount.
Crampons fall on the list of basic necessities if you are looking for more technical winter hiking. Crampons help daring climbers to secure their travel on ice and snow. With these, cramped underneath, they can cross any limit when it comes to glaciers, climbing frozen waterfalls, ascending snow slopes and scaling ice-smeared rocks.
Why Crampons Are A Basic Necessity?
To this day, the approach or rule for most ice climbers and alpinists is semi-rigid construction with horizontal frames. This is because most new-age climbers wear synthetic leather or leather boots instead of plastic mountaineering boots. Thanks to modern manufacturing techniques and boot designs, crampons today are a lot lighter and ensure better fitting.
Choosing A Crampon
Choosing the best crampons is essential as it saves you from fatal accidents not only when you’re ice climbing. There are different types of winter traction devices available that can handle all-day ice and snow traverse, but climbers need to find more technical features that are distinctive to crampons as it helps to safely cross glaciers, and ice climbs and hike high-altitude mountains.
Day by day, crampons are becoming more specialized based on their activity. Traction devices that are superlight are designed for everyday winter hiking or walking. Also, there are crampons available that are specifically designed for mixed ice-rock routes or frozen waterfalls. These are increasingly becoming more technical.
There are two types of materials used for crampons. These are:
Stainless Steel Crampons
These are good for general mountaineering as their durability makes them perfect for icy terrain, technical terrain and steep terrain. These are designed to resist corrosion and provide great support for technical ice climbing
These are ideal for ski mountaineering and approaches. As they are lighter in weight, they make themselves perfect for alpine climbs. These crampons have the risk of wearing out faster than steel materials.
This is the forward-facing point made on the crampons.
Dual horizontal points are perfect for alpine climbing or ice/snow climbing.
Dual vertical points are suitable when you’re planning mixed or steep waterfall climbing. They easily slip into the cracks and can be replaced and adjusted. Some climbing crampons that are designed for technical ice climbing have secondary frontpoints to ensure added traction and support.
Single monopoint are chosen for mixed and technical waterfall climbing.
Modular or Non-Modular
Frontpoints either come as modular or non-modular. Modular are those which are adjustable and non-modular are fixed.
Modular frontpoint teeth can be replaced or reconfigured based on the type of walking or climbing. If your route includes lots of mixed ice-and-rock climbing, then modular crampons are the best choice.
Non-modular frontpoints can be sharpened but they keep getting shorter. These are lighter and as they don’t have moving parts, so, there’s no chance of loosened screws.
Frame Orientation or Alignment
There are two types of frame orientation available. These are vertical and horizontal.
Vertically oriented frames used to be a choice for orthodox climbers as double plastic boots were used. However, new-age modular vertical frames are available for mixed and waterfall ice climbing.
Due to the fact that modern climbers choose insulated leather boots, crampons are not generally required to be rigid. Horizontally-oriented frames are widely chosen as they are perfect for walking. Moreover, as the aluminum or steel lays flat, the feet stay closer to the ground, ensuring greater stability.
Construction is a significant part of crampons. Hinged and rigid crampons are still available in the market but most professional climbers opt for semi-rigid construction.
Semi-rigid construction provides better performance in most conditions. This type is known for providing sufficient flex when it comes to winter walking.
Some models of climbing crampons are designed to make adjustments with the linking bar (between the heel and toe piece). This changes the crampon to a flexible mode from semi-rigid. Such adjustments make the crampons more comfortable and keep off snow accumulation.
Crampons with semi-rigid construction are easy to adjust. They make themselves compatible with various types of boot shapes. If your boot is highly curved, simply get an asymmetrical centre bar in the form of an accessory to ensure better fittings. Also, a spring steel flex or longer centre bar will work depending on the type and size of the boot.
Crampons are attached to the boot with the help of a binding. There are 3 types of bindings available. These are hybrid, step-in and strap-on.
Strap-On is the most common type and they feature a webbing nylon strap for each crampon. The best part of this system is it can be used for all types of boots. Attaching a strap-on crampon takes a bit longer than other styles but provides a tighter fit for moderate ice routes. Strap-on bindings are not as precise as step-in and thus, you will get a lesser amount of movement between crampon and boot.
Step-in bindings come with a wire bail to hold the toe and heel cable with a tension lever. It is certainly a secured system and the easiest style when wearing gloves in snowy conditions. If you choose step-in binding, ensure that the boot has rigid soles and a minimum of 3/8” welt on both heel and toe. This type of binding also comes with an ankle strap. The best part is, that the front bails can be adjusted to the level of frontpoints based on the type of terrain.
The hybrid style features a toe strap and heel lever. It requires boots with a stiff sole and a welt to hold the heel lever. However, the toe strap does not require a welt. These are easy to attach even with gloves on as you don’t need to clean the toe welt.
Most climbing crampons come with 10-12 points. Sometimes, the front bails need to be adjusted to achieve the appropriate point extension. These days, very few technical models come with serrated points that allow the crampons to provide grip in places where a point doesn’t have the chance to penetrate the ice or snow.
The rigidity and number of points increase with a crampon’s transition from mountaineering or winter walking to mixed routes or overhanging.
Crampon Based On Your Activity
For Snow Walking
You can use aluminum or steel crampons with a fixed horizontal frontpoint. Construction should be flexible which means spring centre bars. A strap-on type binding with 8-10 points is a good choice for snow walking
Foe General Mountaineering
You should only use steel materials with a fixed horizontal frontpoint. Construction should be semi-rigid. Binding can be a typical strap-on, hybrid or step-in. It is necessary to have 10 points on the crampon.
For Technical Mountaineering
Climbing crampons made of steel are recommended for technical mountaineering. Crampons must be fixed horizontal with semi-rigid construction. Binding can be anything between strap-on, step-in or hybrid. 12 points crampons are generally used for technical mountaineering.
For Mixed & Waterfall Ice Climbing
For this type of climbing, use crampons made of steel. The frontpoint should be modular vertical with semi-rigid construction. Strap-on binding is not recommended and hence, hybrid or step-in is the best choice. Make sure the crampon points are 14 or more.
Whether you’re wending your way to a frosty winter gully or planning glacier travel, a well-chosen crampon can be your best friend on the way. Boost the spirit of adventurous climbs with safety and security in mind!