Crampons, helmet & Ice axe...

Info on gear, conditioning, and preparation for hiking/climbing.
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Postby sudnstop » Tue Jun 20, 2006 2:48 pm

Just like anything else you have to go w/ what works for you. Find the boots that fit you, mountaineering boots can take sometime to break in. I have made the mistake of buying boots that the salesperson said were perfect, only to have them pack out becoming loose and painful. Be realistic about what you are going to use the equipment for. Snow climbs are different from bullet ice cols. Ice Axes are stamped for use T and B ratings in the head, if there is none then assume it is B. T is stronger and will withstand being used for belaying and technical use (t rating), it is also the heavier one. B (basic rating) is lighter weight and should be able to handle belaying but may not withstand heavy use. Using a B rated axe a few times a year on 14ers should be fine and last for quited awhile. If you were a professional climber or guide then I would say go w/ a T axe because you are responsible for others and may be put in rescue positions where you are stressing your equipment. I know people that carry a mountaineering piolet and a technical axe as a backup and for use on steeper ice. There are also superlight aluminium crampons out there that dull quickly when climbing on mixed terrain or hard ice. Helmets are a personal preference in my book, go w/ what fits your head w/ a hat and without.

I agree w/ the idea of renting gear and trying it out. I also recommend taking mountaineering classes..

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Postby TalusMonkey » Tue Jun 20, 2006 4:50 pm

My suggestion is to check out local selection but also do online shopping. in Utah has a great selection and often has the most competitive prices. Typical shipping to CO is 2-3 days.

Compare the specifications of ice axes, crampons, and helmets. Compare materials, weight, size, ease of attachment, etc? You can also Google reviews of many items.
"When hiking in bear country one doesn't need to be the fastest runner in the party - just not the slowest."
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Postby zacob » Tue Jun 20, 2006 8:39 pm

This will be rather long because: a. you’re talking about expensive gear and it is buyers beware, so I am going to try to fully answer your questions.

When buying crampons the first thing that you have to do is determine what type you need. I am assuming that you are looking for mountaineering crampons as opposed to ice climbing. Mountaineering crampons have a flexible frame, as opposed to ice climbing ones which have a fixed frame. Also Ice Climbing crampons have vertical front points as opposed to a mountaineering crampon which is horizontal. Mountaineering crampons can be used for ice climbing similar to a good hiking boot being used for rock climbing. Ice climbing crampons work about as well for mountaineering as rock shoes work for hiking.

Now you need to evaluate the boots you intend to use your crampons with. Take your boots with you to ensure that your crampons will fit.

There are three basic types of mountaineering crampons
Full step-in (I believe also call neumatic) these have a toe bail and heel bail. These require fully crampon compatible boots like a scarpa inverno, or one of the coflax plastics. There are also leather boots that are fully crampon compatible like the scarpa ferney. What this means is that the front toe bail is a metal bar that sits on specifically made ledge on the front of the boot. The heel bail is also specifically designed to sit on a ledge on the heel of the boot. ... d/0/N/1035

The next type the technical name escapes me, has a heel bail which requires a compatible boot. However the front is some variance of rubber or nylon that fits over top of the boot ... d/0/N/1035

The final type is the fully strap on. These will fit on pretty much any shoe. ... d/0/N/1035

There are pros and cons to each type: the fully step in are more secure, but that security comes at the cost of requiring boots made for crampons which tend to be expensive and heavy. The partial step-ins are secure but not as much so as the fully and also require a special made boot. They will work with fully step in compatible boots and those made with only a heel bail. The strap-on are less secure but don't require special boots I have even known guys to strap them on running shoes.

Having owned various pairs I would say one of the better companies is DMM they offer quality crampons in each style as. They are extremely stout and aggressive, (almost scary to have on your feet) the one draw back is cookie cutter frames. Black Diamond makes some excellent crampons as well. Stubi, Kong and SMC offer price point crampons that are also fair in quality. As to Petzl (formerly Moser) I would say if you get older Moser brands good, however I wouldn't want to spend money on Petzl crampons. As a company they tend to charge high take their profits and invest little in R&D as a result they typically find a style or set up that works and stay with it till it becomes obsolete then and only then do they upgrade their gear. One of the reasons I no longer work for Petzl too much of my rack had the name Black Diamond on it, and the owners didn’t like it when I told them the BD stuff worked better. ( but that’s another story.)

okay Now to the ice axe: first thing you need to determine is what type: once again I assume you are looking at a mountaineering axe, as opposed to an Ice Tool. A mountaineering axe typically has a one piece head consisting of a curved pick and an adze while an ice climbing tool has a reversed curved pick and either a hammer head or an adze. They also come in various shaft shapes. Since I assume you are looking for a mountaineering axe I won't waste time discussing the merits of various ice tool designs.
ice tool : ... d/0/N/1039
notice the strange almost s like shape to the pick that is a reverse curve
mountain axe: ... d/0/N/1038 notice the smoth curve

now the first thing you need to determine when picking a mountain axe is the length they typically range from 50 cm to 80 cm you want to get one that is appropriate for your height, if you chose too tall the axe becomes more like a trekking pole and difficult to use in a self arrest. Too short and you spend too much time bending over to use it. If you are around 5-9 to 6-0 look at a 60-65cm axe (a local shop can help you get the exact fit)

After you determine length you need to evaluate what type of weight you want. As an Ice climber I have an aversion to the ultra light axes. While they are great in spring snow they often lack the heft to be effective in colder conditions when you might encounter some ice. So if you are only going to be using it for spring snow and that surprise snow field that hung around till July a light weight axe is ideal. If you are going to be climbing the more difficult couloirs and climbing in winter I would suggest you consider a slightly heavier axe.
Also to be considered is the material used to manufacture the pick. A mountaineering axe does not need to be razor sharp but it is nice to be able to put a bit of an edge back on it.

Lastly I would suggest that you avoid axes with a rubber grip. While this is common and necessary in an Ice Tool it is useless and detrimental in a mountain axe. You will typically use your mountain axe for thrusting and pulling against as opposed to swinging it like an ice tool. A rubber grip will prevent the axe from cleanly penetrating snow.

Also look at the point that you will thrust into the snow. I personally prefer a triangle point to a cookie cutter design (just preference)

I am looking to replace my BD alpamyo (solid but heavy I have no complaints I just want a new one) I plan to buy one of the two following axes: the Black Diamond Raven, NOT THE raven pro(i feel it is too light having used my partners) or the DMM curiqe (however I will cut the rubber off)

Finally the Helmet: there are two basic styles either a harness system ... id/0/N/0or
foam helmet ... 2_id/0/N/0[/url] The foam helmets tend to look cooler and are lighter however one good blow and the helmet should be retired as the foam is designed to absorb the blow and spread it out over the entire helmet. Thus one good blow and the helmet looses much of its effectiveness. A harness design tends to look dorky but it can absorb more blows before you need retire it. As much as I hate to say this the Petzl Ecrin Rock is a good helmet, as well as various models of BD, HB and SMC also make cheaper but typically as effective helmets also.

BUT most important with a helmet is buy for fit! Not looks. Not price. If it doesn't fit chances are you will leave it at home because it gets in the way or it’s uncomfortable. So get one that fits your head no matter how dorky you look. You are in the mountains to climb not look good you can always take it off for your summit pose.

Sorry for the long okay more like a thesis on the topic I hope I helped...
Last edited by zacob on Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby jfox » Wed Jun 21, 2006 8:22 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! ALL! Clear as mud now! But that is good. I have plenty to think about and it's better than going into the shop and buying crap that I think looks good or that the sales-dude/dudette says is 'rad'.
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Postby zacob » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:44 am

I went back and added a few links to pictures of the various types of items. I selected the link not based on particuarl brand but rather vaule of the picture is showing you the differences hope that helps sorry if I muddy the issue for you.
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Snow Gear

Postby cgandy2003 » Sun Jun 25, 2006 2:19 pm

I know it is often shunned upon to buy used gear, but a lot of rental shops sell their gear at the end of each season, and you can get some amazing deals at some stores. I got a set of AT boots for 100$, as well as a set of Fritschi bindings for a 100$. Both look like they've never been used. The stroe where i got my stuff is in Ridgeway, (not sure the name) and he was also selling his crampons and a few axes. All were well below 50% of cost, and all of his stuff looks new. Now is the time to buy, because all winter stuff, where you can find it, is clearanced. I got a set of skins the other day (Lifelink) for 50$!!! Brand New!!!
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Postby Slow Moving Fun Seeker » Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:09 am

Does anyone know anything about Kahtoola KTS crampons (either aluminum or steel)? Would they be suitable for a beginner (i.e., a winter beginner) doing something like Bierstadt or Quandry in winter? I have Asolo Gore Tex hiking boots, Mountain Hardware gaiters, and Leki treking poles. Would I also need an axe?
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Postby MtHurd » Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:21 am

I'll also recommend the Black Diamond Raven and the Grivels. I have Grivel G-10's. I don't know if they make that model any more but that would probably be the least expensive Grivel selection as the G-12's and up are pricey at about $150+. The Raven is $69 at REI.
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Postby Doug Shaw » Sun Oct 15, 2006 1:12 pm

Slow Moving Fun Seeker wrote:Does anyone know anything about Kahtoola KTS crampons (either aluminum or steel)? Would they be suitable for a beginner (i.e., a winter beginner) doing something like Bierstadt or Quandry in winter? I have Asolo Gore Tex hiking boots, Mountain Hardware gaiters, and Leki treking poles. Would I also need an axe?

If you are talking about the "standard" routes on Bierstadt and Quandary, then if you *need* crampons on either one then you're seriously off-route. This is not so say that they would be useless - given the right conditions they could increase traction significantly, especially on the last 800 feet or so up the east ridge of Quandary, but even for that you would hardly need full-on crampons. Stabilicers, Yax Trax, or even instep crampons would suffice.
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Postby Slow Moving Fun Seeker » Sun Oct 15, 2006 2:37 pm

Gotcha. So something like this might work?: ... d=12500226
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Postby Geof3 » Sun Oct 15, 2006 6:34 pm

The comment about a light axe isn't quite correct, and is somewhat of an urban legend with regard to lightweight tools. The argument used to be the longevity of the tool VS a heavy one... When Carbon Fiber ice tools came out, the same arguments were made... I'm here to say, BD has proven THAT totally wrong... Anyway, a light axe would be fine in a arrest situation as the axe itself isn't "thrown" as much as DRIVEN in with your body. So it's kinda moot, and really personal preference. Any of the light options from the top manufacturers will be fine for any of the snow we have in CO. You will NEVER find boilerplate conditions in CO. Rarely will you find real ice in the couloirs... Also, rarely will you need crampons for most spring conditions snow climbs. In fact, they can sometimes be more trouble then they are worth regarding balling etc.

Zacob (I'm not one to argue with him) isn't quite right about compairing "ice climbing" crampons to "mountaineering" crampons. Overall, he is correct mentioning vertical points VS horizontal, but both can be used effectively in both situations. In fact, Petzl has a great crampon that is alpine mountaineering oriented with a vert front point with a wider top for better hold in snow.

My choice for best overall crampon when it comes to fit, adjustability, price, bombproof construction and choice of straps or bail system is the BD Sabertooth... I have climbed many snow climbs, WI 5, mixed alpine routes etc. in these and they ROCK everytime I wear them. They are reletively cheap and will last a LONG time. Look at the reviews... They have always been the top of the heap in the alpine world. One of the most secure crampons I have ever worn. They hike glaciers with ease as well as they are semi-rigid...

You will want to think about boots... This is a major consideration for serious mountaineering. Just MO... Buy the boots that fit you best. Cost is secondary...
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Postby runningstix » Fri Aug 17, 2007 7:49 am

jfox what were your decisions you ended up making? Im in the market for an axe, crampons, and so on. I am leaning to the grivel g12's but havent made up my mind on anything else? I would like to know your outcome and what you thought of your purchases.
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