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How and When To Use Crampons

18 December 2020 No comments
How and When To Use Crampons

Along with an ice axe, crampons are an essential piece of winter walking kit if you're out on the hills and looking to go above the snow line. Although crampons are vital for your safety in snowy and icy mountain conditions, it requires some practice to learn how to use them properly. We thought we'd cover the basics to help you get started.

Are Your Boots Crampon Compatible?

Crampons strap to mountaineering boots that are stiff enough to support them and have certain features to keep them attached. They are not designed to work with standard walking boots, which are too flexible. All crampons carry a 'C rating' that matches the 'B' rating of a mountaineering boot.

The rating of a boot must match or be higher than the rating of the crampon. i.e. a B1 or B2 boot can be used with a C1 crampon, but not the other way round. You should never try to use a higher rated crampon than your boot as it may lead to failure with catastrophic results, so make sure both your boots and crampons are compatible before using them.

Check out our Crampon Buying Guide as well as Mountaineering Boot Buying Guide, covering all the details you need to know before choosing the right boots and crampons for you.

Mountaineering Boots and Crampons

When to Use Crampons

Crampons require specific conditions underfoot to be effective, and knowing when to use them comes with experience.

"Use crampons when you might slip on snow or ice. If your tread won't grip then you need crampons", says Ellis Brigham Mountaineering Expert Pete. "You should always aim to put crampons on before you need them, but this is easier said than done, so if you ever feel uncertain then stop and get them on as soon as possible".

"The best kind of snow is hard névé (established, hard-packed snow, also known as 'firn' snow) and solid ice where the points bite in and you don’t have the danger of balling (soft sticky snow building up between the points). Balling can be very dangerous, and if it's happening, take the crampons off. Rock is the worst surface for crampons as your weight is on small points at the edges of your boots. If you aren't confident, it's easy to turn an ankle."

Mountaineer preparing crampons

How to Walk in Crampons

Walking in crampons requires some practice as it's quite different from walking in hiking boots. It's important to keep your feet slightly wider apart because otherwise, it's easy to catch them on your trousers. That doesn't only destroy your clothing, but it can also be dangerous if you stumble and fall.

Don't be afraid to take it slow and steady until you're used to the technique. Once you're comfortable walking with sharp points on the bottom of your boots, crampons can open up a huge range of areas to get to with more confidence and safety in winter.

Remember you should always stay within your limits, accompanied by an experienced winter climber.

Find our full range of crampons here. If you're unsure which ones to go for, don't hesitate to get in touch with our expert staff either in shops or customer services, they'll be able to help you make an informed decision.

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