Beginners Guide to Crampons
Posted by David | January 13, 2012
Gear-Zone Beginners’ Guide to Crampons
Crampons are designed for serious snow- and ice-climbing, where they are used to give extra traction and improve mobility.
From the first prototype over 100 years ago, commercialised a short time later by the founder of the Grivel brand, crampons have dramatically reduced the need for step-cutting on snow- and ice-bound mountain terrain.
Made of hardened steel, lightweight aluminium or a combination of the two, crampons come in different styles suitable for different types of boot.
Graded C1, C2 and C3, the specifications are relative to their flexibility and general compatibility with your chosen footwear.
C1 crampons are compatible with B1 boots, designed for sturdy hill-walking.
C2 crampons go with B2 boots, a stiffer climbing boot.
C3 crampons are designed to be used with a B3 boot, a fully rigid climbing and mountaineering boot.
There are many types of crampons on the market today, a far cry from Henry Grivel’s early pioneering efforts in the early 1900s.
When choosing a crampon, the rule is that boot and crampon must work together to support one another.
C1 and B1: Hill-walking boots - need flexible crampons, usually a metal strip with strap-on binding.
Left to right, Grivel G14 Cramp-o-Matic, Grivel G10 New Classic, Grivel Air Tech
Use: Short periods crossing snowfields
C2 and B2: Stiff boots with full or three-quarter shank and rigid uppers - need articulated or hinged crampons with clip-on heel and strap-style front toe binding.
Use: All-day activity
C3 and B3: Fully-stiffened climbing boot with totally rigid sole and thick upper - needs an articulated or totally rigid crampon with a full step-in binding comprising of toe and heel clip.
Use: Serious mountaineering, as undertaken in the Himalayas or Andes
Now, here comes the confusing bit…B3 can be used with any crampon (C1, C2 and C3;) B2 can be used with C1 and C2, for example in the Alps and Scotland, and B1 crampons are suitable for occasional use with C1 crampons.
As you can see, to a certain degree the rules can be just as flexible as some types of crampons themselves!
How To Fit Crampons
- Line the boot up with the crampon to judge the size.
- Adjust the length of the crampon on the centre bar; it needs to fit snugly on the boot without the heel overhanging at the back, and with as much of the forward points protruding from the front of the boot as possible.
- For individual crampons, consult your manual for precise fitting instructions for different C1, C2 and C3 models.
- Once the crampon is the correct length, and the bales have been adjusted, the crampon should sit on the boot when it is lifted in the air, without the straps being attached.
- Do up the straps by passing them across the front of the boot and through the toe bale, then slip through the two metal rings and back through one.
- Trim all excess length from the strap to avoid it becoming a safety hazard - but not too much or it will be difficult to do them back up. Trim a little at a time and keep checking you still have enough to pull through when doing up the crampon. Don't forget you will often be doing this while wearing gloves, so leave just enough to be able to manipulate with gloved fingers.
- Use a naked flame to carefully melt the end of the strap to stop it fraying
- Tuck the remaining strap out of the way.
Top to Bottom - Grivel G20 Cramp-o-Matic | Grivel G12 New-Matic
Crampons: A Few Golden Rules
- Where possible, crampon straps should be wrapped once around the ankle, with a binding strap to hold it in place in case it falls off - that way it will not be lost
- Ensure the buckles are on the outer facing side of the boot to minimize trip hazard
- Remember to remove - or safely secure - any surplus strap length to minimize trip hazard
- Remember that when properly adjusted, the crampon should stay on the foot without using the strap
- Always carry crampons in a rip-proof bag, to minimize the danger to clothing - your own and other people's. Spiking protectors help reduce the risk of damage
- Always check crampons at the start of every season; ensure all bolts and screws are tight, straps are not damaged, and that there are no visible cracks anywhere.