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crampons for non technical people - choices
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Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/26/2012 12:03:31 MST Print View

Starting with a short tale:
Just came back from te Spanish Sierra Nevada. Basically 3 season stuff. Climbed the highest peak in Iberian peninsula (Mulhacen - circa 3500m) its a non technical grade which in summer is just a winding walk and with soft snow would have been posthole affair - but snow was packed/icy and we could not move w/o crampons. Luckily the local Refugio rented them we ended up using a semi rigid 10/12 point Grivel crampons. That got me thinking about all the times i got lucky with climbing snowy tops where the snow was soft enough or the icy bit was short enough that i managed to wrangle through.

Long story short I am thinking of getting myself a light pair of traction devices.
Assuming my usage is non technical - but as described could be in quite icy and/or mixed conditions and sometimes could be steep (but non technical) what is your view and experience on
LW crampons (Kahtoola KTS, Hillsound trail pro)
micro spikes (Kahtoola micro, hillsound trail)
small traction devices (hillsound cypress, Suluk Ti, Grivel spider)

Since i have little experience with ice I'm not sure what the demarcation lines are between the LW and Micro stuff and how to decide on the suitability to my needs.


Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/26/2012 12:15:18 MST Print View

Here is a link from a mountain village town's small news paper.

When the trails are frozen and town is covered in black ice, you need something to keep you in the full upright position. The progression from walking around town to mountaineering goes like this — Yaktrax, microspikes, instep crampons, ultralight aluminum crampons, strap on hybrid and step-in crampons.

Yaktrax are flexible rubber with coiled metal “springs” along the bottom that you stretch over the sole of your shoes. They come in sizes so they fit almost any boot or shoe. They are great for walking around town and for light snow conditions. They do not do well on steep terrain. You can wear them indoors and while driving so they are perfect protection for around town. I would recommend the Pro model with the Velcro strap over the toe which secures them to the shoe.

Microspikes and the newer Extreme Yaktrax model are more aggressive than the Yaktrax Pro. Both have metal spikes so they are good on the road or for lighter snow and ice days on the trail. Unless you are planning to go up to the peaks in winter or the snow is over a foot deep, either of these make good choices. They are also much more durable than the Yaktrax Pro.

Instep crampons used to be the lightweight “go to” item back when everyone wore heavy boots. They have four heavy spikes and some models used the most confusing strapping method ever invented. It took me almost a year before I was able to put them on for the customers at the shop without fumbling around for half an hour. They do however work with heavy boots and they are relatively inexpensive when you want something for trail use only.

For heavier use, full crampons with 10 or 12 points are the ticket for winter hiking and mountaineering. Some of the lighter aluminum crampons will work for local mountains, but be advised that they are not as sharp as steel crampons and they can not be sharpened.

In very icy conditions you will want steel. Strapon crampons are only held on by straps so they are the least secure and are more for hiking.

The hybrids strap on the toe of your boot and clip onto the heel and the step-in crampons are designed for boots that have a groove in the toe and heel so that they are held on both ends with metal and straps as well. Hybrids are an excellent choice for winter use in our mountains.

If you are going to San Jacinto Peak in the dead of winter or are planning on doing higher elevation mountaineering, you will want the extra security of the step-in model.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Huh? on 11/26/2012 12:37:06 MST Print View

@roger - thanks for that....

so im still not sure what a good strategy would be. Reason has it that i dont need to buy full on steel 12 point crampons cause i dont have the skillset to go to places that require them...
Lets assume $$ is not the issue here.i am trying to figure out if a reasonable LW strategy would be -do most people carry micro's or AL 10 spikes as their "backup" for routes that are not winter routes?

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/26/2012 12:42:38 MST Print View

My personal gear:

I tried the Yaktrax, they were fine for a day trip with crunchy ice, but my terrain switchbacks gets intermittent sun, so long patches of ice mixed with dry gravel. The dry gravel destroys the rubber band holding up the wire springs. $20 set good for 10 mountain miles, then its almost torn and cannot be trusted. Yaktrax are good for walking outside the cabin on flat frozen ground, for short distance.

For mountaineering and steep ice hiking, I have:
Black Diamond Contact Strap, old 2005 model.
Black Diamond Crampons contract strap

instant confidence, when worried that you will fall backwards and fracture your skull on ice glazed rocks.

Con #1: (minor issue) requires some finger details to thread the strap and tighten, which in 25F degrees weather, you are probably wearing giant gloves. so you gotta take off your gloves to work the gear. I wear (fingerless) bicycle gloves underneath the big gloves. I also carry a tiny pocket multi-tool plyers to adjust, because the finger will get numb quickly.

Con #2: you get geared up, tighten the crampons on your boots, zip up your jacket and haul your pack... walk 20 steps and notice that the crampon straps are a bit loose again. You're friends are waiting on you, and now you need to drop you winter pack, take off your gloves again, unzip your puffy coat, and re-tighten the straps one more time. At first it's annoying, but when you plan for a second adjustment, budget time for it, it's not frustrating.

My old set came with a yellow center bar, after the first season, the yellow paint started to chip, so I spray painted it black during the off season.

I think current models are silvery stainless steel. possibly better.

I bought mine at the end of the summer on REI clearance sale, so I paid a quarter of the regular price.

After you buy them, you will need to think about how you will pack them on your back when not in use. There are spike protectors like little rubber condoms, as well as crampon bag. Not UL but durable. you don't want it to puncture your expensive backpack.

Also depends on your terrain, consider an ice axe, for self-arrest during freefall as well as a walking stick. I usually would take 1 trekking pole and 1 ice axe. Know your terrain.

Edited by RogerDodger on 11/26/2012 12:57:35 MST.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re: crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/26/2012 12:43:03 MST Print View

Roger just gave a pretty good review of your options.

I would add ... first determine the footware you will be using, then pick a crampon specifically for them.

full step ins require a pretty stiff boot with a specific type of toe and heal.

for serious (non vertical) winter stuff I prefer full step ins to strap ons (and the boots to go with them).

I am not familiar with the strap on toe - step in heal type Roger mentioned, but would feel a bit nervous about them staying on.

for casual summer stuff I use the Katoola KTS steel (10 point) with my trail runners.
the aluminum version is lighter weight but points are shorter and they are not as durable.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
so no micro on 11/26/2012 13:06:55 MST Print View

so what you guys are saying is that the micro spikes are pretty useless for anything that is mixed, not flat and longish and my real choice is steel/AL 10 point stuff....

RE boots - I have keen mids for warmer stuff and my heavier boot just died on me...was contemplating if i need to get a B2 or B3 boot (ie just normal mountain/backpack or the ones that have crampon slits) i dont really do that much super cold stuff so was leaning towards keeping the keen and a slightly heavier sturdier pair but not full on winter boots

are the AL crampons that much less durable? (assuming if i PLAN to go on a full winter trip i'll get/rent new kit)

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: so no micro on 11/26/2012 13:30:53 MST Print View

I have never used micro spikes,
but it is my impression they are mainly for on trail, on sidewalk stuff, like winter trail running.
I would not use them for anything resembling mountains.

Regarding the Aluminum v.s Steel Kahtoola KTS ...
I went with the steel mainly because the spikes are a 1/4 inch longer, closer to real crampons.
in mountain travel you may sometimes travel over a mix of ice, snow, and rock.
the travel over rock will destroy the aluminum much quicker then the steel, so you are faced with removing the crampons each time you come to some short rock travel.
but if you are only going to use them a few times, the weight saving of aluminum may be a factor.

Edited by asandh on 11/26/2012 13:37:17 MST.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Re: so no micro on 11/26/2012 13:47:40 MST Print View

For what you describe Microspikes would be fine. There's a pretty massive difference between Microspikes and something like Yaktrax.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/26/2012 14:06:06 MST Print View

I've used YakTrax and have been happy with them. My friends carry Microspikes, which obviously have better traction, but I've never felt like I needed them. I'm pretty snow savvy, though, so you may feel otherwise. Yaktrax are lighter and easier to throw in a pack (less likely to cut something). I think Yaktrax are easier to put on and take off. I've walked on bare ground with them, and they are comfortable, but obviously get worn down quicker. Either one will work and be much better than plain boots. It is just a matter of trade-offs. Yaktrax are lighter, easier to stow, easier to take on or off (I think). Microspikes provide better traction and will last a lot longer.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
non-technical crampons on 11/26/2012 14:18:16 MST Print View

The advice to first pick your footwear is good. Only a fairly narrow range of spikes will work well with each shoe type, and this will also tell you how non-technical you intend to get.

Yaktrax are good for getting the mail. I've seen lots of them break on simple hikes. Not appropriate backcountry gear.

Microspikes are comfy with even the most flexible trail runners. Durability is excellent. On hard ice they provide great traction. The short spikes limit their grip in neve and the like. Skilled climbers use them for some pretty serious alpine stuff in summer conditions.

Only the most flexible of strap on crampons will work with trail runners, and even then it's less than ideal. If you need full spikes, you probably want a boot stiff enough for step kicking. The crampon must fit the boot very well, if it does this the method of strapment doesn't matter that much. Folks climb very hard ice and mixed with the strap front, click back models because they fit their boots.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/26/2012 14:35:25 MST Print View

Things to take into consideration:

The incline angle, steady steep climb or not.

Your total body weight with pack and gear. Low total weight, short distance, no major elevation gain and you might be ok with new boots only.

The depth and thickness of the frozen ice.

What is below the frozen ice (granite, sand, gravel, lake?)

For snow only - perhaps snow shoes, not crampons.

Future use. Before I got crampons, the mountains were off limits to me in deep Winter, or somewhat high risk with only micro-spikes and Yaktrax, had to leverage my trekking poles a lot, and I still had the rare but painful fall, feet in the air and the coconut barely missing a granite rock on the ground. Now I hike year round. It's even better solitude in deep freeze when the boot-only crowds can't go.

How many miles do you need them to last long term.

For me, my investment in steel crampons was for long term, frequent and heavy weight demanding use.

Think of it this way, you are stabbing the frozen ice to stabilize your footing on dangerous slippery surface. What is the best tool for the task?

FYI: not all boots are ideal with (strap-on) crampons. The toes and the heel of the boot need to be reinforced with extra rubber, otherwise the crampon tension will tear up and peel the rubber off the heel and the toe cover. Usually good boots that are advertised for extreme low temps have the heel/toe rubber fortified for crampon use.

Edited by RogerDodger on 11/26/2012 14:38:57 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/26/2012 14:45:45 MST Print View

I tried using microspikes with my vivobarefoot aquas. The traction worked fine, but the front strap just rolled the excess material in the toe box and jammed into my front toes. Very uncomfortable for extened wearing. I have seen people use micropsikes more effectively with 5 fingers because they can put the tiny metal bar in between their toes. I used them for hiking up very steep, dry and hard slopes where my shoe would just slip off. I will be getting some vivobarefoot neo trails for better traction, but it would be nice if I could find some way for the microspikes to work.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
microspikes on 11/26/2012 23:34:40 MST Print View

if you dont need an axe then microspikes or their copies should work fine ...

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
crampons for non technical people - choices on 11/27/2012 17:09:36 MST Print View

You might want to take a look at the Hillsound line, previously posted about at:

They have several models, one of which is reported to be a little more effective than MicroSpikes, but not as heavy as a crampon. It should not be confused with the heavier ones they make for technical climbing.