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The GO Outdoors Guide To Crampons

Crampons are fixtures designed to attach onto your shoes as you walk or climb, and they are built specifically for use over snow and ice. Crampons prevent damage to either your feet or you walking boots, and also provide you with better traction on slippery surfaces. 

Crampons also provide substantial force to help you navigate through thick, compacted terrain. 
Some crampons are rigid and some are flexible, dependent on what classification of boots you are wearing. Some have specific snow repelling features, such as anti-balling plates made from ABS plastic that prevents snow from balling up in the crampon’s body, whilst other crampons are designed for use on specific climbs, with points that fit into small mountainside cracks, or front points that can disperse compacted ice.

Crampon and Boot Compatibility- What To Choose

Crampons come in varied amounts of rigidity and flexibility.  If you wear crampons with the wrong rigidity of shoes, such as shoes that are not technical, or too flexible, your crampon will simply fall apart. 

Similarly, if your crampons are too big for your boots they will upturn your feet in a way that could leave you at risk of an ankle injury. 
Do You Have Your Boots?

If not, and your set on buying crampons later if you need them, then the boot you need is a B2. This has the most flexibility in that a B2 rated boot ensures you can walk with both a C1 and a C2 crampon, allowing you to experiment with your climbing style, before considering moving up to a B3 boot later on. 

If you are in any doubt, see an instore GO Outdoors Expert who will be happy to advise you on the best crampon and boot for your route. 

Crampon Ratings

C1 Crampons

C1 refers to a flexible style of crampon that is able to fit a B1 Rated Boot.

C2 refers to a semi-rigid style of crampon that is able to fit a B2 Rated BootC2 Crampons

C3 Crampons

C3 refers to a very rigid style of crampon that is able to fit a B3 Rated Boot

How To Remember What Crampon You Need

  • Remember, Crampons and boots start Flexible C(1),B (1)  ...Get Less Flexible (C2)(B2)... and End Rigid (C3)(B3) - a bit like humans as they get older.
  • B0 boots are too flexible for crampons, try Yaktrax instead.
  • B1 Boots just want '1' crampon (C1)
  • B2  Boots can choose from '2'! (C1, C2)
  • B3 Have the pick of all 3! (C1, C2, C3)
B1 = C1
B2 = C1 or C2
B3 = C1, C2 or C3

Crampon Ratings

Crampon Fitted Boot Ratings

B0 Rated Boots

BO refers to boots that are not crampon compatible, such as very flexible, fabric based hiking or walking boots.

B1 Rated Boots

B1 refers to flexible boots that will fit C1, or flexible crampons only.

B2 Rated Boots

B2 refers to semi rigid boots that will fit C1 or C2 crampons (flexible or semi rigid.) These are ideal for summer routes and low level snow based routes but not ice climbs.

B3 Rated Boots

B3 refers to rigid boots that can fit C1, C2 or C3 crampons, and are suitable for highly technical Alpine climbing routes. Usually very stiff, these can be made from leather or plastic and are very heavy. They come with stiffer soles and supportive features for front pointing en route. Insulation is usually common in B3 boots, but they are far too heavy for simple summer routes.

Crampon Ratings

Points refer to the spikes of a crampon that run along the main area of your crampon and enter the terrain to allow you to move.

Front Points Of A Crampon

  • Front points are points in front of the tow that actively diserse debris and ice or rock. 
  • For aggressive climbing conditions and Alpine routes, you need prominent front points. 
  • Most crampons have two front points for general purpose climbing, although technical route climbs may benefit from just one main front point for less weight and more precision.

Points The Main Body of The Crampon

  • Typically crampons come with 10 or 12 main points but they can go as low as 6 points.
  • 10 point crampons are ideal for use when trekking and on general routes such as summer alpine routes. 
  • 12 Point crampons are designed for more specific routes, such as trad and ice climbs where you need a firmer grip on steep ice.
  • Lower level crampons such as 6 pointed crampons can be suitable for winter terrain, but they are less common than 10 or 12 pointed styles.

Adjusting Your Crampon Points

  • Most crampons come with adjustable points so you can alter the position of your points as required. 
  • Crampon points can be fixed or adjustable, know as Modular or Non-Modular repectivley. 
  • Fixed, or modular crampon points are welded into the shoe and are designed to be durable, with the option of having them sharpened as they naturally erode. 
  • Crampons with removable points or non modular points can be less durable, and more at risk of material dispertion, but allows you the option of replacing your crampons. 
  • For routes with hard underfoot terrain, removable crampon points may be the best option.

Crampons For Varying Routes - General Advice

Simply, the more flexible your boots, the less technical rated crampon you will be able to wear. This is in order to prevent injury to your feet, so you should never 'chance' the wrong style of crampon. 
This advice is general, because simply, an ice climb may contain elements of a snow walking route, and a mountain climb may incorporate features of a waterfall climb, so always check in store with a GO Outdoors expert if you are in any doubt. 
  • Ice climbs and specific routes such as waterfall climbs require rigid fitting technical crampons. 
  • Snow walking routes and general climbs require a flexible, slip on crampon made from a lightweight material such as aluminium.
  • Technical routes and mixed mountain climbs require a fixed and rigid crampon made out of a heavier yet more durable metal, such as steel.

Crampon Frame Materials- Steel VS Aluminium

Steel Crampons

These are durable and hardwearing on stiff fixed terrain and obstacles, making them ideal for general mountaineering and ice work. 
However steel crampons are heavy in weight.

Aluminium Crampons

Lighter in weight than steel framed crampons, these are ideal for use on alpine climbing routes and general approach climbs, but have less durability than steel, particularly on rocky terrain.

Attaching Your Crampons

  • Crampons are attached to your foot via a heel lever and toe strap. 
  • Boots with a heel groove hold the heel lever tight to avoid slipping, or if your boots are less technical and lack a heel grove, a slip on crampon can support your foot. 
  • An ankle strap can also be used in crampon construction to add in more strength. 
  • The less points you have to physically fix in, the easier a crampon is to slip off, so slip on crampon styles are by design weaker than a hybrid style of crampon, which encorporates both a heel lever and a toe strap.
  • Crampons clip to your boots, so you should place you boot in first, resting on a flat surface to avoid point damage. 
  • Ensure that your toe is at the front posts of the crampon, and then use the heel level to attach the crampon fully so it is secured on to the boot. 
  • To adjust the fit, use the strap and bickle system to tighten your foot in. 
  • It should be a blance between being too tight and too loose.