October 27, 2021

How to Use Crampons: Step-By-Step Instructions

by Brad

Table of Contents

The crampons are a critically essential walking kit for the winter. If you are out mountaineering and intend to go beyond the snow line, then you will have to use crampons for icy ground. Though crampons are important to save you during icy mountain and snowy conditions, you need to learn how to use crampons accordingly. 

Crampons are a foolproof approach to traverse hard ice and slippery snow. Some of the benefits of using crampons include protecting your feet from slipping, keeping you upright, and distributing weight more evenly on your feet. With the help of crampons, you can ascend snow slopes, cross glaciers, scale ice-smeared rock, climb frozen waterfalls.

What are Crampons?

A crampon is a traction device, attached to snow boots, designed for use in snowy and icy conditions. Crampons have a metal point at the toe, which is used to provide traction on snow and ice. Crampons have different characteristics and grades.

Boots + Crampons Visualization
Feel free to use this visualization. Please, add a proper link to credit this article.

When to Wear Crampons?

Crampons are also known as “spikes at the bottom” and they can be used in many ways depending on the type of terrain that you’re walking on. You can wear crampons in the following cases.

  • If the chances of slipping on the ice or snow are high.
  • If the snow is firm – it simply means it began to melt before the temperatures reduced, thus making it firmer.
  • When you get to a steep slope that has an angle beyond 45 degrees.
  • If you need to reduce the force used in kicking a step or maximize the company’s efficiency.
  • Each time you go to any place with ice or over a glacier. 

What are the Different Types of Crampons?

There are three main types of crampons – step-in crampons, hybrid crampons, and strap-on crampons.

1. Step-In Crampons

Step-in crampons are a type of crampons that can be used to climb steep slopes of ice and snow. They are designed to attach to the bottom of shoes with a single strap, and do not require any straps over the top of the foot.

2. Hybrid Crampons

Hybrid crampons are a type of crampons that combines features of both the front-pointing and the flat-pointing type. Hybrid crampons are designed to be used on steeper terrain, or where front-pointing is not possible. They are also useful in areas with significant snow accumulation, where the points may become buried under the snow.

3. Strap-On Crampons

The strap-on crampons attach to the snowshoe’s front binding and wrap around the shoe’s toe, attaching to a strap that wraps around the ankle. This allows the hiker to use their feet as they normally would, but with greater stability and grip on ice or hardpacked snow.

How to Use Crampons: Step-By-Step Instructions

How you use crampons with the boots will depend on the model you have. Here are the tips on how to use crampons correctly.

Step 1: Put and adjust the crampons

You should adjust the crampons linking bar; it’s the notched bar connecting the rear and front part of your crampon so that the heel and toes can rest snugly against your heel and toe binding bars, respectively.

Step 2: Tight the crampons

It would be best if you tightened the clip or strapped the bails while at it, ensuring the boot sole is firmly placed against its frame and leaves no gap at the back or front of the boot. 

Step 3: Prevent snagging

Ensure to tuck away any extra strap material to prevent snagging. Also, the gaiter straps should be on the outside of the boot. 

Step 3. Use different walking techniques for using crampons

Using crampons needs some practice and skills since it is different from using hiking boots. It keeps the feet slightly wide apart; otherwise, it can easily catch your trousers. It will not only destroy the clothing but also be dangerous and could make you stumble and slip. 

1) How to use Crampons with the German technique

It’s also referred to as front-pointing and is great for hard snow and ice. The German technique relies on several crampon points that should well support the snow or ice. 

Also, if you are traversing in soft snow that the hard ice layer covers, you can more easily use this technique than flat-footing; it plunges more easily via the upper soft layer. 

While front-pointing, mostly, you tend to use the calf muscles since they are smaller than the thigh muscles. Due to this, the front-pointing tends to be more tiring compared to flat-footing. 

2) How to use Crampons with the French technique

It’s a technique that uses the entire points on your crampons to have a good grip on the ice or snow surface. It’s also known as flat-footing. It is popularly known to be the most efficient and easiest for use in gentle to moderate slopes. 

Also, you can use it in hard snow and ice. In such conditions, you will need to use all points of the crampons for a much better grip on the surface. Note that for soft snow, your crampons will not have enough grip. When you are flat-footing, you will mostly use your thigh muscles. 

3) How to use Crampons with the American technique

It’s a combination of front-pointing and flat-footing. It brings together the two worlds whereby flat-footing is not tiring while front-pointing is easier and faster. 

With crampons, you can flat-foot using one foot and front-point using the other one. And when one foot that is doing front-pointing becomes worn out, you can swap to the flat-footing technique while the other foot changes to front-pointing.

While using these techniques, you should learn to take things steady and slow until you get used to them. The moment you are comfortable walking using sharp points at the bottom of the boots, the crampons can easily open up a big range of places to go confidently and safely during winter.

Keep in mind that you need to always be within limits and accompanied by an experienced climber. Also, read how to sharpen your crampons for a better grip between your crampons and the ice.

Step 4: Practice how to attach crampons

Before heading out for hiking, you should practice attaching your crampon while in the house until you can hastily do so, wear ice climbing gloves as you learn the skill. 

Step 5: Descending in crampons safely

You have heard that 80% of mountaineering and hiking accidents happen as a result of descent. It might sound exaggerated, but there is no doubt that the most significant injuries are sustained while descending than ascending. Here is how to descend safely using crampons.

  • The feet should often point in the traveling direction. It means the toes should directly point downhill while descending. 
  • On the steeper slopes, you should ensure your weight is over the feet and firmly plant the heels in the snow with every step. 
  • The knees should be slightly bent and the feet more than the shoulder-width apart to reduce the center of gravity and improve balance. 

How to Manage Snow on the Crampons?

The best way to manage snow on the crampons is by using anti-balling plates that prevent the snow from sticking on the bottom. However, it might still stick and prevent the points from thrusting into the snow. Here are more efficient ways to manage the snow on the crampons.

  • Move the feet from the snow surface and scrape them out. Note that the friction will do the trick and remove the snow. 
  • Reverse your ice ax and hit the feet using the section to help shake off the snow. 

When You Should Take Off Crampons?

It is best to take off the crampons when you are in a terrain whereby the chance of falling is low or a place where wearing them is dangerous, for instance, shin-deep snow or sloppy wet snow. 

Do you need an ice ax with crampons?

No, you don’t need to use an ice ax with crampons unless the conditions require the usage of an ax with crampons. An ice ax allows you to stop yourself from falling if you slip while climbing up or descending. Ice ax and crampons are used together if there is an ice terrain.

Are crampons easy to use?

Yes, crampons are easy to use once you get used to them.

Are crampons for snow or ice?

The use of crampons is not limited to snow or ice. They can be used on any type of terrain, including dry ground. They are not recommended only when the ground is wet and slippery.

How do crampons attach to boots?

The crampon attaches to the boot by a clamping mechanism made of metal and plastic. These clamps are tightened by turning a knob that tightens the metal teeth against the plastic. To secure your crampon to your boot, place the toe of the boot under the toe bale or between the front posts of the crampon and tighten the heel lever.

How do you walk with crampons on?

The crampons are the spikes on the bottom of your boots that help you walk on ice or snow. You put them on by fastening them to the bottoms of your boots, and you walk with them while being attached to the bottom of your boots.

What are crampons used for in climbing?

Crampons are used for walking on snow and ice and may also be used in steep terrain to provide traction in climbing.

Why do climbers have to wear crampons on their feet?

Climbers wear crampons not only for ice climbing. Crampons can also be used for rock climbing, mountaineering, and glacier travel. Crampons have become more important because of climate change and melting ice. The changing climate has caused an increase in the number of days with snowy or icy conditions on mountains worldwide.

Are all boots crampon compatible?

No, not all boots crampons are compatible. The compatibility depends on the type of boot and the type of crampon. For example, a mountaineering boot is more likely to be compatible with a mountaineering crampon than a hiking boot.

How to use Dynafit ski crampons?

Dynafit ski crampons are used to keep your feet from slipping on ice or snow. They are attached to the bottom of your boots, and they provide grip. They come in different sizes and shapes, depending on the type of terrain you will be skiing on.

You should always make sure that the crampons fit your boots properly before using them. You can do this by measuring the length of your boot and making sure it is between 120 and 150 millimeters long. The width should be around 15 millimeters for a regular-sized boot. The thickness should be about 1 or 2 centimeters for a regular ski boot, but it can vary depending on the terrain you will be skiing on.

How to use ski crampons?

Here is a list of videos explaining how to use ski crampons.

  1. When To Use Ski Crampons, by Outdoor Research posted on Feb 11, 2016 on YouTube, duration 2:03 mins.
  2. How and why you should use ski crampons, by Uteguiden Activity Centre Stranda posted on Nov 18, 2020 on YouTube, duration 3:35 mins.
  3. How to Ski Tour | #6 Crampons | Tutorial | DYNAFIT, by DYNAFIT posted on Mar 5, 2021, on YouTube, duration 4:05 mins.

How to use splitboard crampons?

Here is a list of videos explaining how to use splitboard crampons.

  1. How to use splitboarding crampons, by EDZE WINTERSPORTS posted on Dec 13, 2021, on YouTube, duration 1:10 mins.
  2. Spark R&D Ibex Crampon User Guide, by Spark R&D, posted on Mar 21, 2016, on YouTube, duration 0.58 mins.
  3. Splitboard Crampon for Speed Rail, by voilemfg, posted on Jan 30, 2017, on YouTube, duration 1:05 mins.
  4. HOW TO USE CRAMPONS with Xavier De Le Rue | How To XV, by HOW TO XV, posted on, Mar 27, 2019, on Youtube, duration 5.42 mins.

Final Thoughts on How to Use Crampons

Using crampons is among the most vital aspects of winter hiking or climbing safety, as this guide has given adequate information on how useful crampons are in your hiking activities. Therefore, to safely walk in crampons, you need to use shorter steps, in flat feet, squatting slightly, and feet wide apart. It is also important to learn how to take care of crampons and how to choose crampons.

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About the author 

Brad

Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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