We’ve talked about snowshoeing in a previous post and how it’s an ubiquitous activity during the winter. This time, let’s talk about using crampons, which do typically go with snowshoes but are not necessarily always used in combination with the former equipment.

Some hikers new to winter walking may wonder about when to use crampons. As this equipment mainly provides better traction and grip, it’s typically used when the snow cover is thin or the terrain is covered with ice and also when climbing ice-covered rock or snowy inclines. When the snow is about a meter thick or more, snowshoes, which helps the hiker “float” on the snow, are the more appropriate equipment to use. A combination of both equipment may be used when the thick, snowy terrain is hilly or inclined.

Types

jungfrau
Photo taken at Jungfrau

Generally, there are three types of crampons, based on the stiffness of the said footwear. The more flexible ones are the C1 (flexible) and C2 (semi-rigid) types, making them suitable for hiking on hills in the winter. The C3 (rigid) types are rather stiff and are used for winter climbing.

However, when picking a crampon type, you also need to consider the type of boots you will use. If you haven’t got boots yet, you should get a pair first before selecting crampons. Basically, if your boots are rather rigid, you should also pair them with the rigid crampons. If your boots are not as stiff, you’ll do well to pick C1 or C2 crampons. You will know if the crampon fits you well if it sticks to your boot even before putting the straps in place.

Boot Dilemma

Perhaps you’re wondering about selecting the right boots for you. It all boils down to the fit and the feel. Try the boots on and walk about the shoe shop in them and determine which ones feel more natural or comfortable for you. If the ones you pick aren’t as stiff as you’d think they would be, don’t worry. Flexible footwear is rather better for winter walking.

Material and Spikes

Crampons may be made of stainless-steel, steel, or aluminum. While aluminum ones may be the lightest and thus easiest to manage on alpine ascents, they are likely to wear out quicker, especially when used on rough terrain. However, if your hiking route isn’t that technical and won’t involve a lot of rock-and-snow terrain, the aluminum option is recommended.

If you’re trekking on technical and rocky terrain, you will do well to pick the steel ones as these are the more durable ones. The stainless steel type are less likely to corrode, so these offer added gear longevity for users.

Basically, a ten-point crampon is a safe choice as these allow you more traction while not being too heavy. The more spikes crampons have, the heavier they are.

When to Strap On and Off

faulhorn-and-mannlichen
Photo taken at Faulhorn and Mannlichen

 

When the terrain starts to become difficult for your hiking boots to tread on, strap on your crampons in order to ensure your safety. One way to know when to put them on is when you’re unable to kick a small step in front of you as you walk in snow. That being said, you should practice taking them on and off before your hike to prevent lengthy delays, which may affect the quality of your trek and your ability to reach your destination on time. Your target time for putting on crampons should be three minutes maximum.

Also, you should keep your eyes out on the ground to ensure that you don’t end up stepping on crampon-unfavorable terrain and having to back up somewhere just to take off your gear.

Have memorable crampon experiences to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

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