Crampons! A piece of kit that can be so simple, but so frustratingly complex if you don't have the right ones! Unfortunately, one size does not fit all, but have no fear! We are here to guide you through the choice, and ensure you end up with the right kit for you.
There are so many Types...
There you go, striding confidently into Joe Brown's or V12. Today is the day ! You're getting some new 'poons and, as such, are becoming a real mountaineer. That confidence often lasts as far as the crampon wall, where your world implodes a little when you realise the choice... and what are all those numbers and letters???
The first bit of knowledge required about crampons is that they are (very) broadly divided into three categories; C1, C2 and C3
C1 Crampons tend to have a full "Strap System' for attaching them to your boots such as the Petzl Irvis (Above). C1 Crampons can be used with B1, B2 or B3 boots. Normally with 10 points, they are flexible crampons that are best suited to level walking, such as snowed and iced tracks and paths. This category of crampon becomes less and less effective the steeper the ground gets. These are generally not suited to mountaineering or climbing.
C2 Crampons generally have 12 points and are designed for all round mountaineering and climbing. They usually have an attachment system with a "Clip" on the back and a Plastic Toe Bail on the front.
A good pair of C2 Crampons, such as the Black Diamond Sabretooth above can be used for all general mountaineering and climbing. Most climbers will want to move to a technical (C3) pair of crampons as they move towards higher grades, but a pair of C2 Crampons will happily climb up to Grade V Ice.
C3 Crampons are technical climbing crampons, designed for steep ground and hard ice. C3 Crampons tend to have vertical front points, such as on the Grivel G14 above. These provide better penetration on hard ice, and when set to monopoint, make for very accurate footwork when mixed climbing.
Note that many C3 crampons have a wire bail at the front, as above. If this is the case then your boots need to be B3 rated and have a "Step" on the from of the toe, as shown below.
Note that this is where it gets a little confusing...
Both C2 and C3 crampons can come with a plastic Toe Bail or a Wire Bail. If they have have a plastic toe bail, then they can be used with either B2 or B3 boots. If they have a wire Toe Bail, they must be fitted to boots with a "Front Step" which is usually only found on B3 boots.
So what do you need?
The easy answer is... If you are just starting out, buy C2. If you are more of a mountaineer than a climber, buy C2. If you are climbing up to and including Scottish Grade III, buy C2. If you are heading to the Alps to do lots of classics, buy C2. See the theme? A good, solid pair of C2 mountaineering crampons will get you up most things and will last a long time, as long as you look after them.
If, on the other hand you are regularly climbing above Grade III, and want a pair of Crampons for lots of climbing, then buy C3. A pair of climbing crampons will suit you much better and you will notice the difference on steep ground.
So.... What is Monopoint?
Monopoint crampons have one front point (usually with 12 points behind). These are brilliant when mixed climbing, as they make more very accurate and precise footwork. They can also be inserted and torqued into vertical cracks, when dual points would not allow for this. Monopoints can also provide better penetration on hard ice.
Generally, you can buy two types of monopoint crampons, ones the can be converted into either dual or mono point, such as the Black Diamond Cyborg or Grivel G14, or Crampons that are permanently Mono, such as the Black Diamond Stinger (above).
Yes... It is worth noting that you can buy C3 crampons with removable front points, such as those above. These allow for you to replace the front points at a relatively low cost. You can also by C3 Crampons where the front pints are part of the crampon, shown below:
Crampons such as the Petzl Dart and Darwin above have an "all in one" front piece. These are considerably lighter, but will eventually require you to replace the whole front section when the points wear down.
So... For the vast majority of Winter Hill Users, a pair of C2 Crampons will be the right choice. If you already own a pair of C2s, and want a more technical crampon for harder climbing, then C3 is the way to go. It is VERY IMPORTANT to ensure that your crampons actually fit your boots, ALWAYS take your boots to the shop when buying crampons, as all crampons do not fit all boots!
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