There are some people who prefer to climb only in the warmer months when it’s not so much of a challenge, but for most serious climbers, they’ll be happy to scale some rock in any type of weather. If you’re one of those people and plan on heading out for a winter climb, you’ll need to know about using crampons for hiking.
Hiking crampons are an essential part of winter climbing gear and you won’t get very far without them. Their very first use dates back to shepherds and farmers who had to trek in the snow and work on steep slopes, and they were made quite crudely with horseshoe nails.
Today, they are a lot more sophisticated and what many consider an essential for winter hiking and climbing.
Whether you’re new to climbing altogether or just want to start using ice climbing crampons for winter expeditions, this simple guide will show you everything you need to know. You’ll learn what are crampons, when to use them, and how to make your first time in them a lot easier.
What Are Crampons?
A crampon is a special device that attaches to the footwear that gives you traction in colder conditions like ice and snow. Their purpose is to give wearers greater mobility in these cold conditions when the ground isn’t as stable and supportive as you might hope for.
Crampons for hiking boots are sold in a pair of two, with one for each foot. For those who like to hike or rock climb in winter, they’re a must-have piece of gear that will allow you to move through ice and snow and keep you safe in the extreme conditions.
When it comes to the microspikes vs crampons debate, they’re usually the clear winner for climbers.
When using your crampons correctly, they’ll dig into the snow or ice to keep you stable and you can use them for ice climbing, walking on snow and ice, and traveling on icefields, snowfields, and crossing glaciers.
Therefore, knowing when and how to use them is important if you plan on heading out for a winter climb, and they’re one piece of gear that could actually save your life.
When Should You Use Them?
Being a responsible climber or hiker means being prepared for all types of weather conditions. If you know it’s going to be snowing or there’ll be ice in the area, it’s ideal to pack your crampons and have them ready for use.
In order to work correctly, crampons required very specific conditions on the ground. Any time you think there’s a risk you might slip on the snow or ice, or you think that you don’t have a good grip, it’s time to equip your crampons.
Don’t wait until you’ve realized that you can’t walk to try and put them on, although sometimes this can’t be avoided. It’s best to keep abreast of the weather conditions and what’s happening up ahead so you can put your crampons on before the underfoot is unstable or slippery.
Like all other aspects of climbing, there are things that will take time to learn and you can’t be expected to master everything on your first expedition.
Know that it can take some time and experience to learn when you should equip your crampons and in what conditions they’ll be needed, so if you’re new to using the devices then don’t worry yourself too much.
How To See If Your Boots Are Crampon Compatible
Shopping for crampons is no easy feat and you’ll find that they come with their own confusing requirements and compatibility. You’ll need to ensure that the crampons you choose are the right fit for the mountaineering boots you’re wearing because they need to be strong enough to support them in all conditions.
Don’t try to attach crampons to your regular walking boots because they won’t stay and you don’t want them falling off in the middle of a climb. Shop from the mountaineering boot you have and match the crampons to it, which can be found with the ‘C rating’ of the crampon and ‘B rating’ of the boot.
When matching these up, you want a boot rating that’s either equal to or higher than your crampon. For example, if the boot is B2, you can use this with a C2 crampon or higher, but never a C1.
This is not something that you want to risk, especially while you’re on a slippery ice-capped mountain, so you should always be certain that they’re compatible before you head out.
Learning To Walk In Crampons
The most important thing to remember when using crampons, or with any part of climbing, is that you should never venture out of your own limits. Don’t expect that on first use you’ll be an expert, and understand that it’s a skill that you’ll have to learn over time.
Try to walk slowly and steadily with your crampons, and eventually, you’ll get used to the new motion of having them attached. Walk with your feet slightly wider than usual so you can avoid stepping on your pant bottoms, and don’t rush anything. When you feel more confident, you can explore new areas and open up a whole new world of climbing.
A Winter Climber’s Best Friend
Winter climbing is an experience like no other but there’s no point putting yourself out there with all of the added risks until you’re fully equipped. Crampons are an essential part of winter climbing gear and one thing you should never leave home without.
Learning how to walk in your crampons and knowing when the right time to attach them is something that you’ll get better at over time. All you need to know is that you have a compatible crampon for your boot and stay cautiously aware of when you might need to equip them, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable and stable climb in cold conditions.