There are a number of climbing accessories everyone needs to safely and securely go on a hike. None of them are more important than crampons. A majority of ice climbers wear leather leather boots which has increased the popularity of horizontal frames and semi rigid construction for crampons. Due to new designs and manufacturing techniques, crampons and other climbing accessories are now lighter and better fitting.
Crampons are the spikes that you attach to your boots to help you walk on snow and ice. With them you will have no fear of slipping across the terrain and you will even be able to climb frozen surfaces. You will need 12-point adjustable crampons designed for technical mountaineering. You may use either steel or aluminum (metal works best for icy conditions). It’s important that you bring the right crampons to suit the kind of boots that you’re wearing.
The History of Crampons
Several of years ago, Crampons were used by the early paleo mountaineers in the parts of Europe, who were in need of traction so that they can cross the steep mountain slopes so that they can pursuit of game. 3,000 years ago, miners in Celtic used iron spikes that were put on their feet. Also hunters in Russian Caucasus made sandals from leather with the spiked plates for snow travel.
The Arch Constantine that was built back in the 315 A.D. by Romans, also shows a crampon-like device that were used for the ice traction. Around the 1500s many hunters and the mountain travelers in many parts of the world wore 4-point forefoot crampon in the mountains. The full-foot crampons mainly originated in late nineteenth century in parts of Europe as the climbers fanned out all over the Alps mountains, attempting to climb the steeper mountains as compared to previous gentleman climbers.
Crampons are accessories you can attach to your hiking boots for traction on ice and snow. They are usually metal spikes, sometimes plastic, in a frame that fits under the sole of your hiking boots, attached by adjustable straps or clamps. There are heavy-duty crampons designed for ice climbing. These are beyond the scope of this article. Just be aware that they exist, and when you see the giant bear-trap spikes sticking out of the bottom and front of the crampons, move along and choose a less aggressive pair.
Light crampons can attach to your hiking boots even if your hiking boots do not have purpose-made crampon attachment points. Just make sure your hiking boots have a distinct lip at the top of the sole that the crampons can attach to
There are traction accessories designed for walking on icy pavement, but these are not appropriate for hiking. They simply can not stand up to the stress of walking on a steep slope, and they can not stand up to much wear. Make sure you choose a pair of crampons that are purpose-made for hiking.
Conventional crampons extend the full length of your hiking boots. You can also find crampons that fit only into the instep and do not extend to the heel or toe. I have used these, and they work better than you might expect. You have to remember not to walk on your toes when you cross icy patches, but I found that this comes pretty naturally anyway. Your natural reaction to an icy slope is to walk with your feet sideways to the slope and dig in with the edges of your boots, and that’s where the spikes of these half-length crampons are.
Factors to Consider When Buying Crampons
The first factor to consider is the frame material. They offer a high level of durability which makes them the ideal choice for steep terrain. Stainless steel is another option. It offers the same benefits as steel crampons but is also corrosion resistant. The final option for frame materials is aluminum. Aluminum is typically the choice for ski mountaineering because they are lighter. The primary drawback is that they wear out significantly faster if used on rockier terrain.
The next factor to consider when choosing crampons is the type of bindings or how they attach to the boots. This is because the extra fabric and rubber will affect the crampons fit. A popular binding is the hybrid or semi-step approach. They feature a tow strap and a heel lever. In general, they are best when used with stiff sole boots with a heel groove that hold the heel lever. A benefit of the hybrid binding is that you can put on together with gloves as the toe welt does not need to be cleaned out
Fitted well and tied securely to the boots, crampons, when properly used with an ice ax, will hold on exceedingly steep ice slopes (80 degrees is claimed!) without requiring that steps be cut. It follows that crampons will increase safety in steps on less severe angles.
A crampon should be rugged, and the ski mountaineer should beware of rejected army crampons that may be on the market for some time, and that have received the well-deserved nickname of “folding crampons” for their utter lack of necessary sturdiness. Single articulation of the crampon is adequate. The points should be 1 – 1 1/2inches long to permit resharpening – frequently needed if the climber wears them often on rock islands in the ice. The number of points varies from 2 to 19.
The 12-point model, which has two points protruding at an angle in front of the foot, is most versatile. A 4-point crampon may serve for the skier who wishes only to wear something on his ski boots for short and infrequent pitches of ice that are not difficult. The binding when wet will tighten if of webbing and stretch if of leather, but leather is easy to tighten again and can be more easily worked at subfreezing temperatures.
The final option is strap on crampons. They are one of the most versatile options because they are used with any type of boot or shoe. Unfortunately, they typically takes time to attach because of the versatile design means some adjustments will be made in order to get the right fit. Additionally, they are quite as precise which results in a small movement between the boots and the crampons.
Where should I get my crampons?
Choosing the best crampons for safety and durability may be the most important choice made when shopping for climbing accessories. The key is balancing versatility with precision and wait with durability. he main thing to remember about accessories for your hiking boots is to think about them first. Choose your socks and insoles first, and bring them and any orthopedic inserts you need with you when you shop for hiking boots so you can be sure to get the right fit. Think about whether you will need crampons, and make sure your hiking boots can accommodate them.
Major Crampon Brands
G10 Lux New Classic Crampon
The Grivel G10 Crampons are C1 rated classic universal crampons. They are ideal for the general walking use in winter . Designed to be streamlined, with a semi-rigid and torsional design for holding, the crampons are ideal for trekking, ski touring or for children and women, whose small boots not require many points underneath them. The Classic binding system is reliable, simple, quick and easy which makes it ideal for the first time users.
These are one of the best mini-crampons. They have a full Vibram sole with replaceable steel cleats. These perform best in icy, hard conditions because of the full sole. The Velcro hook and loop strap system works well but seems to fray after serious use They work well on slippery rocks when fly fishing too.
Kahtoola means “directly” in Tibetan. These mini-crampons are the most aggressive . They have 3/8″ stainless steel spikes with a steel flex chain anchored by tough elastomer webbing. A toe bar keeps footwear securely in place. This product is comfortable and works well in all conditions, but I would not want to walk around town with them.
Air Tech Cramp-O-Matic Crampon
A new generation of the crampons. It features 10 points in contact with the ice as you walk. The model also has a third pair of points that are shorter and wide apart. The last 2 front points features a double angulation so as to maintain bite when traversing or descending. The Air Tech’s points are also short and well-designed for alternating ice and rock.
Boots are graded as follows:
– B0: Boots that are unsuitable for use with crampons.
– B1: Partially stiffened four-season walking boots, which can be used for occasional crampon use
– B2: A boot with stiffness about equivalent to one with a three quarter shank. It can be used for winter mountaineering.
– B3: A fully stiffened (full shank) mountaineering / ice climbing boot.
Crampons are graded in a parallel as follows:
– C1: A flexible walking crampon with straps
– C2: A flexible crampon (with toe and heel piece). It usually attached with straps.
– C3: A fully rigid technical ice climbing crampon with toe bale and heel clip.
The system is as follows: the boot number must be higher or equal to the crampon number, but the ideal is that the numbers match.
Crampons are becoming a necessity to travel securely on ice and snow. With them, you will be able to cross glaciers, climb frozen waterfalls, scale ice-smeared rock and even ascend snow slopes. Be sure that your crampons are dried before storing. If you’re storing them for the season, ensure that you coat them using a water-displacement or light oil spray like WD-40.