Crampons are among the essential parts of ice climbing or mountain hiking winter equipment. They provide you security and help you with climbing or crossing a snowfield. In this article, we’ll show you how to use crampons and some of the basic crampon techniques.
Make Sure They Fit
The first and most likely the most important thing is to learn how well do they fit your boots. To ensure this, check if there is any firm contact between your boot’s bottom and the crampon frame.
Putting Crampons On
With every crampon, you’ll get the instruction manual so all you have to do is to follow it and it should work absolutely fine. However, there are some tips and tricks to help you do it as easy as possible:
- Do it wearing gloves. At first, learn how to put the crampons on with your bare hands, but after you manage to do it put the gloves on and practice. This will help you when you find yourself in a situation where you have to do it outside, in the cold, without the need to take off your gloves and freezing your hands.
- Make sure no loose ends or fabrics are hanging around the ankles or anywhere near the feet.
- All straps and shoelaces should be tucked in nicely and firmly.
- Make straps tight enough to provide nice and solid contact between the bottom of the boot and the crampon frame.
- Check if there is any change frequently.
When And Where To Use Crampons
Of course, if you hike during spring or summer and there is no snow, then you won’t need crampons, but as soon as the snow starts to fall, you may fall into the temptation to put them on. Here is when you should do it:
- When you feel the snow has become firm. This most often happens when it gets warm during the day and the temperature drops below the freezing point during the night.
- The angle of the slope is higher.
- You want to keep your energy by lowering the need to kick the steps.
- During glacier hiking.
It is always a good idea to scan the environment and the terrain and if you see a place where it looks like you’ll be needing them, find a non-slippery, flat spot and put them on. Again, when you reach the area where the chance of slipping is really low or it is more dangerous to wear them than not, take them off.
There are basically three different ways how to use crampons:
- Flat foot, aka French technique
- Front pointing, aka German technique
- Hybrid, aka American technique
1. Flat Foot Technique
In this crampon technique, the goal is to make as many sharp tines contact the snow, and you’ll do it by landing your foot flat on the snow. If the angle of the sole matches the angle of the slope, you’re doing it right. Focus on your feet no matter how you move and keep them flat.
2. Front Pointing
Developed by German hikers, this technique is a great option when you climb steep slopes or during ice climbing. It is done by kicking with the front part of your foot to get the front two points into the snow.
As you can probably guess, this technique is a combination of the two techniques described above. The reason to try it lays in the fact that flat foot is not so secure, while front-pointing tends to wear you off rather quickly. So, by kicking one foot straight into the slope to use the front four tines, then placing the other foot flat on the surface you’ll both get security and the chance to rest for a second.
4. Snow On Crampons
The newest crampons will have anti-balling plates so the snow doesn’t stick to the bottom, but it still may be stuck underfoot and prevent your points from thrusting into the snow. Here is how to remove that snow:
- Move your feet up on the surface and scrape it. The friction will do the trick and remove the snow.
- Reverse the ice ax and hit your feet with the shaft part to shake the snow off.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to use crampons and crampon techniques:
Q: How do crampons work?
Crampons use their points to provide you security as you walk by reaching through the surface, deep into the snow. This way they’ll provide you with more traction and give you additional stability, so the chance of slipping will be way lower than usual.
Q: When should you use crampons?
Crampons should be used anytime when:
- Anytime when the chance of slipping on the snow or ice is high.
- When the snow is firm – this means it is well established, or it started to melt before the temperature dropped again and made it firmer.
- When you reach a steep slope, most likely with an angle above 45 degrees.
- When you want to maximize the efficiency and minimize the force used to kick a step.
- Every time you go over a glacier or any surface with firm ice.
Q: How do you put on crampons?
The easiest way to put on crampons is to follow the instruction guide provided by the manufacturer, but there are also some additional things to do:
- Check for any loose ends or hanging fabrics.
- Tuck the straps and shoelaces in nicely and firmly.
- Tighten the straps up to achieve as good contact between the boot and the crampon frame as possible.
- Check frequently if everything is OK.
- Practice doing it with your gloves on.
Globo Surf Overview
Using crampons is one of the most important aspects of climbing or winter hiking safety and this article will provide you with enough knowledge to find the best one for you and your activity. And if you have doubts between crampons and microspikes, check out our Microspikes VS Crampons article.