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Crampons

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Crampons

Postby climbing_rob » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:28 am

Microspikes are great, but they weigh 12.5 ounces. Aluminum crampons only weigh 15 ounces, very little more for quite a bit more stability. Still, microspikes will cover 80% of the terrain on standard 14er routes when (hard) snow conditions are still present. But: there are some where I would not be comfortable in microspikes; Little Bear springs to mind. I've climbed LB in August, not too bad just as long as you don't get taken out by rockfall. But I've also climbed it twice now in May; what a comparative lark, and practically zero rockfall danger. LB is a joy to climb on hard snow in crampons, but Microspikes wouldn't do it for me there.

I'd also be leary of the following in merely microspikes: Wetterhorn, Longs, Sunlight (red couloir), Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak, even Challenger is fairly steep. North Maroon, Pyramid. Probably plenty of others. Basically, once you exceed about 25 degrees, I'd feel much better in substantial crampons.

Mongrel Snot (strongmelon), with his god-like skill level and decades of mountaineering experience all over the world, of course, would have no need for such things on mere CO mountains, hence his sage remarks that crampons aren't needed in Colorado.

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Re: Crampons

Postby CO Native » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:56 am

It is wise to have crampons for spring climbs. Even if the trail itself is not steep you may find the need to occasionally traverse a steep snow slope where crampons would allow you to do so safely (anytime you put on crampons you should have an ice axe as well).

Micro-spikes are a far cry from crampons. They do add traction but they are not designed to penetrate ice and snow, they don't have front points, and they don't actually attach to footwear. They are great for providing a little extra traction on low angle slopes but if you will be ascending or traversing anything of an reasonable slope you're going to want crampons.

I wouldn't even consider micro-spikes as an entry level crampon. If you're going to spend some money you'd be better off to buy a basic pair of strap-on crampons. Get used to them on more gentle terrain and then as you gain skill and confidence they'll still work for you on steeper more challenging terrain. Then if you start getting really serious about it you can start to consider mountaineering boots and clip-on crampons.

Make sure your first time out with crampons you have a pair of gaiters on that you don't mind shredding. You will catch your crampons on them occasionally and open up some nice holes.

To say you won't need crampons in Colorado in spring is just plain bad advice. You can work hard to avoid terrain where you will need them and succeed but you'll also find yourself turning back and greatly limiting yourself on the mountains you can climb. They're a good purchase and as Rob pointed out they are lightweight addition to your pack. I almost always carry crampons and an ice axe on spring and early summer climbs.
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Re: Crampons

Postby kaiman » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:11 am

strongmelon wrote:On a serious note kaiman, can you say where you used crampons? I've never needed them on a standard 14er route in June.


Like Barry Raven, I've used them on ascents of Castle, Snowmass, and the Wilson Group. I have also used them while climbing Fletcher and Drift Peaks, early season climbs of the standard route and the Monte Cristo route on Quandary, Buckskin Benchmark, Mount Sopris, East Beckwith in the West Elks, and a few other peaks in Colorado that I may not have successfully completed climbs of if I had not had them. Last summer I forgot them when I attempted to do the North Apostle to Ice Mountain traverse in June and had to turn back at the crux due to dirt covered ice.

My climbing advice to the OP is this - always come prepared and put safety first. I would suggest you pick up a pair of BD crampons and take them with you on climbs early in the year. They don't weigh that much and if you need them, you'll have them. Then you'll also have a pair if you decide to venture out beyond Colorado and climb peaks in other ranges which require them year round...

Cheers,

kaiman
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Re: Crampons

Postby rking007 » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:21 am

Thanks for the info! I just checked them out on Amazon.com (microspikes) they have a few sizes in red on sale for $44.95 if anyone is interested! Buying mine now...

I'll get crampons when I'm in that league and can also afford to buy them... oh and boots as well... :D


EDIT: Just read your post CO Native... seriously good advice. I'll play with the microspikes and do the research on crampons. From what I can see though, my boots might not work with crampons? Are there crampons out there that can be used with any boot?
- Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

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Re: Crampons

Postby strongmelon » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:31 am

Good points. Those are certainly routes where crampons are highly recommended, as well as an ice axe and possibly a rope and pro. I guess I had a mental block not thinking these routes would be recommended to a rank beginner.

I would argue that unless you have experience with a piece of technical climbing equipment that it is unsafe to start using it on such routes.

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Re: Crampons

Postby climbing_rob » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:33 am

rking007 wrote: Are there crampons out there that can be used with any boot?
"Strap Ons" (tehehee..) like the BD contact strap work with virtually any boot/shoe. I've used them in running shoes and big plastic boots. The new ones are now stainless steel and only weigh 1lb-14 oz, lighter than most of the fancier ones. Then there's the aluminum versions, even lighter but I'd get steels for your first pair.

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Re: Crampons

Postby devo » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:39 am

Get the BD Contact strap ons. You can put them on any boot and they work great. They only weigh a couple of pounds and I always throw them in my pack. You'll be able to climb most anything with them and an ice axe. The only downside is on something really steep and hard you'll want a mountaineering boot with a stiff sole. I used my BD's on a hiking boot to climb the Bell Cord on S. Maroon and before the snow softened I had a little issue with the toe slipping off and I had to readjust a couple of times. I don't think I've ever run into any terrain that I would use microspikes. You'll be amazed what you can go up with crampons.

Good Luck.

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Re: Crampons

Postby CO Native » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:44 am

Yes, strap on crampons work with pretty much any footwear, except maybe the five finger shoes. Tennis shoes, some sandals, moon boots, cowboy boots. Clip-on (aka automatic) only work with certain boots, but pretty much all mountaineering crampons come in strap-on, hybrid, and clip on versions.

Here is a pair of strap-on crampons for $100 that will fit any boot from size 5 to size 13. They're certainly not the best ones you could buy, but are plenty good for someone just getting started with crampons. http://www.rei.com/product/798361 If you're willing to drop $130 I'd go with these: http://www.rei.com/product/798354. Most people find this second option to be all they ever need in a crampon. I own a pair similar to them. I also own mountaineering boots with clip-on crampons, but I usually just use my hiking boots with strap-on crampons. Boots that can take clip-on crampons are very stiff and aren't good for long approaches, so you really want a reason to need them before you choose to go with that option. I did the Y-couloir in regular hiking boots with strap-on crampons and had no need of anything more. (Trip Report).

Another good piece of advice is when you first get them go walk around a paved parking lot for a little while to dull them down. They'll come sharper than you need them as a beginner. Later on as you take on steeper and icier terrain you can sharpen them back up.
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Re: Crampons

Postby bigmac » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:45 am

Any advice on neumatic (step in) vs strap in? I like neumatic, but am curious about other thoughts...
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Re: Crampons

Postby rking007 » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:49 am

Nice! Those BDs do look nice. I swear though, trying to up the gear is like doing drugs... you check out one thing and then, well, you just have to start looking at ice axes, and then of course I need to learn on Youtube glissade and self arrest techniques, but then there's gaitors an OR's website has other sweet stuff on it too, and... oh crap I'm late picking up my son from school!

Oh, and I'm not a drug addict so I'm just guessing...
- Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

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Re: Crampons

Postby CO Native » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:52 am

strongmelon wrote:I would argue that unless you have experience with a piece of technical climbing equipment that it is unsafe to start using it on such routes.

Exactly which is why he should buy them and use them on some of the easier mountains first.
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Re: Crampons

Postby CO Native » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:52 am

Buy an ice axe before crampons for sure.
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