Crampons are some of the most effective tools for moving around the UK’s mountains in winter – because how often do we get deep coatings of soft powder? Windblown snow is the norm, often with a hard, icy top layer. Sometimes you can get away with using the edges of your winter boots, but you’re unlikely to get far without a pair of crampons. Especially as terrain gets higher, steeper and more technical.
You will also find crampons come in useful across the world – whether for crossing glaciers or climbing snowy peaks big and small. This guide is aimed at walkers and mountaineers, but we have also included a suggested pair of crampons for runners – or anyone keen enough to take to the snow in trainers.
What To Look For When Buying Crampons
Now then, the key thing you’re going to want to know about your crampons is whether they fit your winter boots. (If you haven’t bought your boots yet, then hold that thought.) But we’ll go into that in detail in the next section. Briefly, you care a lot about the crampon rating (C1 – C3) and the type of binding to make sure the crampons stay attached to your boots.
Other things to look for are fairly simple, like do they have anti-balling plates? Most crampons do. They stop the snow from building up under your feet at you walk. Also look to see whether your purchase comes with a crampon bag. If not you can buy bags separately, improvise or make your own. Although it is just easier to buy them all in one if you’re starting out.
Finally, the other thing to consider is the number of points and how these are arranged. Usually crampons will have 10 or 12 points. Some will go up to 14 points for ice climbing. The more points the more traction you’ve got, so typically 10 points are for gentler gradients. Most crampons have 2 front points (a single point is only really an advantage in ice climbing).
A Crampon Fitting Guide
There are three types of crampon bindings: automatic (sometimes called step-in), semi-automatic (sometimes called hybrid) and strap-on crampons. Strap-on crampons fit the widest range of boots. With a basket type binding on the front and back you can strap them onto pretty much anything as long as they’re tight enough. Of course, if the boot is designed for summer it probably won’t attach well at all. Semi-automatics are the most common type you’ll see in the UK, as they’re the solid middle ground. They have a basket at the toe, but a lever at the back which fits into a hard ledge on the heel of the boot. It’s mainly only B2 and B3 boots that have this ridge. The automatics have the same lever on the back and a metal toe bail. These only fit well on B3 boots because you need a rigid boot to get them tight.