Gear > Glacier Travel > Crampons

Once the slope gets too steep, around 35 degrees, climbing with skis or snowshoes becomes impossible. At this point skis or snowboard can be strapped to a suitably equipped rucksack. Climbing steep slopes, even where the snow is soft, is a lot safer when wearing crampons. They may also be useful when abseiling over obstacles and for crevasse rescue. They can even be useful for traversing streams over logs. Crampons can be used alone or with a pair of ski poles or an ice axe on steeper terrain to help with balance and as an additional safety aid.

Crampon technique is not hard. On flatter terrain avoid snagging your trousers or damaging the ski boots. When the terrain gets steep traverse upwards keeping the boots flat on the surface with all points engaged. On slopes above 40 degrees it is easier to climb vertically making sure front points are properly engaged if it is impossible to kick steps. You can buy inserts that go under the crampon to stop snow balling - this is the build up of humid snow beneath the crampon that can cause loss of grip.

It is worth remembering that, except for certain known routes, skiers and snowboarders will not be using crampons extensively. A good pair of autofix lightweight aluminium crampons are ideal for hard ski touring type boots. Snowboard users with soft boots will have to use strap on crampons adapted for the boot. These are slower to fit and will not be quite so secure if the going gets technical. For extensive climbing, especially over mixed terrain and on hard ice, steel crampons should be favoured.

Two of the best crampons for ski or snowboard touring are the Stubai Trek Pro and the Camp XLC 390. Both a semi rigid and maide of 7075 aluminium and weigh around 500 grams. You will want to buy a spike protector for safe storage in your sack. A fall onto crampon points is not pleasant. Make sure the crampons are properly adjusted for your boots before setting off on a trip and it is a good idea to use threadlock on the adjustment nut.

Facewest, located in the UK, can supply the Stubai Treklite and the Camp XLC 390 can be found in our store.

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