by Brad

October 27, 2021

How to Use Crampons

The crampons are a critically essential walking kit for the winter. So, if you are out mountaineering and intend to go beyond the snow line, then you need this piece.

Though crampons are important to save you during icy mountain and snowy conditions, you need to learn how to use crampons accordingly. 

They are a foolproof approach to traverse hard or ice, slippery snow. Let’s dive into something more fundamental in regards to crampons.

Tips for Wearing Crampons

Boots + Crampons Visualization
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The kind of models available varies on how to put on the crampons. Therefore, how you attach the crampons to the boots will depend on the model you have. Here are the tips on correctly putting the crampons on:

  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • Ensure to tuck away any extra strap material to prevent snagging. Also, the gaiter straps should be on the outside of the boot. 
  • Before heading out for hiking, you should practice attaching your crampon while in the house until you can hastily do so, wear gloves as you learn the skill. 

When to Use Crampons

When to Use Crampons

You can use crampons if/when:

  • 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. 

Three 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. 

Three Techniques for Using Crampons

1) 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) 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) 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.

Managing Snow on the Crampons

Lately, the market has availed crampons with 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. Ways to manage the snow:

  • 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. 

Tips for Descending in Crampons

Tips for Descending in Crampons

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.                     

When to Take off Crampons

It would be best if you only took 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. 

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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