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I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

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I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby aran » Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:49 am

Hi,

I'm just beginning the winter climbing world. I've climbed, backpacked, and scrambled backcountry for years, but never in the winter. I got a little taste recently and now I'm hooked. I have sufficient clothes/tent, but need an axe, crampons. I recently found a pair of brand new Trango Extreme Evo Lights at the REI used sale for a super price and grabbed them. I'm trying to figure what the most appropriate crampons to get with them should be to get me started. One person I met recommended I buy the cheapest pair of crampons and cheapest ice axe I could find and just get started- with time I would come to know what I would prefer. So i could take that route. Or since the boots will accept it, should I go immediately to a nicer style because they're less of a hassle? Likewise with the axe (though it's easier to find previous discussions about axes).

Thanks in advance for helping someone with a lot of ignorance. While I'll start with simpler routes, I suspect I will move pretty quickly to more advanced terrain. Cheers.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:25 am

Well I always like going straight to the good stuff when I can. No sense in buying something semi good quality to then find out you want to buy the nicer one. With ice axes it depends on your style. Mine is pretty modern and light weight but did ok on Mount Hood, but ironically if I had my friends heavy ice axe that is 30 years or so old it would have been even better because the spike was sharper and the planting was powerful. But most the time lighter weight is better. Winter personally is my favorite season (except when avalanche danger is so high I cannot enjoy it). Getting to use an ice axe I found was one of the biggest steps in mountaineering, easy to learn but super important. Once I knew how to use that axe, man I had my desires for peaks go though the roof, and the doors of opportunity opened up.

Anyways as for crampons, I played the cheap route and ended up with crampons so dull that on ice it becomes a bit sketchy because the crampons did not go in (they were rounded and very short). They still work great like micro spikes, but bad on blue ice. So if you become a winter lover like me, get a decent pair. And if your trying to save money, buy them used. A lot of my climbing gear is used, and heck it's very good quality. Now I just need to get better gloves. 8)
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby seano » Sat Jan 15, 2011 2:04 pm

aran wrote:One person I met recommended I buy the cheapest pair of crampons and cheapest ice axe I could find and just get started- with time I would come to know what I would prefer.

Good advice. Any modern axe is just fine for any terrain -- getting a pricey one will save you maybe 1/2 lb., and you'll need a pair of tools anyways if you want to get into ice climbing. As for crampons, pretty much anything will work on snow and low-angle ice; get strap-ons if you want them to work with almost any shoes. If I were buying, I'd get Grivel G-12s or Petzl Sarkens, but the 10-points I found on a snowfield have served me well so far.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby mfox79 » Sat Jan 15, 2011 3:22 pm

I would start off with a decent set that is versitile in case you want to take up ice climbing down the road. BD Sabertooths loook like a good option. I started off with a pair of Grivel G-12's and have not needed another pair. they seem to work well for snow slogs to WI4. as other posters have said buy it nice or buy it twice.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:31 pm

I would definitely buy a modern pair of crampons. I'm sure you could pick up a pair of SMC Super Blue crampons on Craigslist for a song, but the new crampons are much easier to put on and tacke off. Grivel G12, Petzl Vasak, and Black Diamond Sabertooths are all good choices. If you can take your boots with you when you are crampon shopping to get the best boot - crampon fit. I had a pair of La Sportiva Trango Extremes and my Grivel crampons were a better fit than my Petzl crampons.

If you are planning on doing technical ice and mixed routes in the future the Petzl Sarken or Grivel G14 might be a better choice but also a little more expensive.

As for axes, Grivel makes a really nice axe at a great price point, the Brenva. They sell the axe to various retailors who put their own name on the axe e.g. REI, Whitaker Mountaineering. I bought one for my wife. Make sure you get an appropriate length. Many new climbers buy axes that are too long. I am 5'9" and use a 58 cm piolet. If you are taller you might be more comfortable with a 65 cm axe. If you are a former basketball player a 70 cm axe might be more suitable.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:06 pm

I forgot to mention I think my crampons where 50 years old and had a bit of rust on them. :lol: So not nearly as good as the ones mentioned above. I guess my point was don't buy the lousiest of the lousy crampons. :)
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby drpw » Sat Jan 15, 2011 8:09 pm

The cheapest cramps and axe are also usually the most versatile. BD Contact cramps are strap ons, so when you upgrade to better cramps you'll have the Contacts to loan to friends, use in summer with approach shoes, and have as backup in case something happens to your new ones. Same thing with the axe.

If you're itching to spend more money, I'd drop it on the CAMP Corsa axe and the lightweight strap on cramps they make, together you save a good amount of weight and they'll get you up anything you'll probably be doing your first winter and more, and come summer when you hike in 9 miles just to get to a glacier or steep snow field you'll be happy you didn't have to carry a heavy ax and crampons just for 45 minutes of snow climbing. This is the route I wish I had gone.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby Mountainjeff » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:02 pm

Make sure you do not get the lightweight aluminum crampons. They will bend and get dull if you step on rock, which tends to happen quite a bit in spring and summer climbing. I use Petzl Vasak strap on crampons, which work great on anything but technical water ice (which they could probably do, just not very well). Strap on crampons are the most fail proof.

As for ice axes, get something like the BD raven. It is around $80 and will get you up most anything. I have had mine for 4 years and have no desire to replace it. For steeper alpine climbs I will pair it with a Petzl Azatar tool.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby Josh Lewis » Sat Jan 15, 2011 10:46 pm

Petzl Aztars, I have those too which I love. Makes travel a little nicer when down climbing steeper stuff.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby Pallando » Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:09 am

If you go cheap on one of the two, let it be the axe. My first axe was a BD Raven I got at a scratch and dent, and my first crampons were some duller G10s. Since then I have spent money for new crampons, but I still have my first axe.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby dan2see » Sun Jan 16, 2011 5:37 am

I love my BD Raven, and carry it on every outing. Usually it's hitched on the back of my backpack until I'm in steep snow. I tie a leash that I improvised from a piece of sling.

I have the Camp "Stalker" strap-on crampons. These things are made for regular hiking boots. They're perfect for 45-degree ice, but on a vertical waterfall, the system flexes so WI-3 is too hard. Because they flex, I can wear them when hiking on snow, or snow-ice mix.

My gear is not suitable for technical ice-climbing, but in Canada, MEC rents stuff that's better than I can afford to buy.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby aran » Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:40 am

Thanks for all the advice and council! Sounds like a a good plan with general consensus would be to buy some decent crampons (a la g12s or similar with good fit) and pick up any steel head axe I can get my hands on. Thanks for tip on length, I'm barely 5'7", so 55-59 is probably where I'll look for length.

One other beginner question (and if there's already too much on here with better searching to answer it, feel free to ignore): there seems to be a balance between the lightest axe possible, I'm assuming the benefit being for when it's on your pack, vs. something that feels solid when in use. I don't suspect that I'm going to get into waterfalls, but at what point in mixed climbing would a slightly curved, heavier axe (air tech, bd venom) be more beneficial than the simplest, lightest axe I can get?
Thanks!
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby Diego Sahagún » Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:57 am

Charlet Moser Super 12 RFL, but it's not easy to find them. They are not in stores because of the CM Vasak
Last edited by Diego Sahagún on Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby ExcitableBoy » Tue Jan 18, 2011 12:58 am

aran wrote:at what point in mixed climbing would a slightly curved, heavier axe (air tech, bd venom) be more beneficial than the simplest, lightest axe I can get?


If you think you are going to be climbing steeper objectives then you might want to spring for the heavier axe with a curve at the head. Grivel Air Tech, BD Venom, Petzl Sum'Tec are all good choices. Any of these can be paired with a hammer for a very versatile combination which can get you up a lot of routes. I have personally done big alpine routes up to WI 4, M6 with the original Grivel Air Tech Racing axe and a Charlet Moser Blackbird hammer.
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Re: I need some advice on crampons for getting started....

Postby Brad Marshall » Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:27 am

aran wrote:...there seems to be a balance between the lightest axe possible, I'm assuming the benefit being for when it's on your pack, vs. something that feels solid when in use.


Choice of ax weight is a personal thing. If you do a lot of summer mountaineering you might prefer a lightweight ax if you don't expect to encounter any really hard stuff. On the other hand a heavier ax is usually easier to place and works better when digging in the snow during crevasse rescue practice and for smoothing out tent platforms. Lighter weight axes tend to bounce off harder surfaces so it takes a longer time to do what you want. Whatever you choose just make sure you get out there and practice with it.
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