Crampons are an essential part of any serious mountaineer’s kit. On steep slopes, they make it possible to climb ice and snow with relative ease. But getting them fitted takes patience and practice. Here are some straightforward guidelines for getting the best fit with these tricky climbing tools. And remember, as with any piece of kit you’re unaccustomed to using, it’s always a good idea to practice at home, and not wait until you’re in the middle of a blizzard.
When purchasing your boots and crampons check with an experienced climber, as not all boots are suitable for crampons, and some combinations of boot and crampons don’t make for a comfortable, or even a secure, fit.
Rigid-soled boots are the expert’s preference. It isn’t recommended to use non-rigid shoes with any crampons, even Bobcats. And whatever type you choose, be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions.
It’s far easier to fit a crampon standing up. This also ensures a more secure fastening as the sole of the boot can sit correctly into the crampon.
So, find a firm, flat surface to lay out each crampon. Crampons are asymmetrical and there is usually a ‘Right’ or ‘Left’ printed on the centre bar. If your crampon doesn’t have this, pair the correct crampon and boot by checking the buckle at the end of the strap will end up on the outside of your foot.
Next, you’ll need to adjust your centre bar to the correct length to suit the size of your boot. And before stepping into the crampon, tap your boot with your ice axe, to check no snow is clinging to the sole. Then place your boot solidly into the crampon, ensuring the heel is secure between the two prongs at the back of crampon. If they’re not secure the crampons won't work properly and could even come off.
If your crampons are the clip-on sort, put the boot’s toe between the front posts, or under the toe bale. To attach it to your boot, simply pull up the heel lever and fasten the buckle of your safety strap to the outside of your foot.
Using the buckle and strap variety, lay each crampon out on the flat area with the rings and straps lying outside the frame – this way they won’t catch or snag.
The key point to remember is you want the tightest fit possible. So once the toe of your boot is firmly in the front of the crampon, then the heel piece should fit likewise.
Now lift your foot - if you’ve attached your heel and toe securely the crampon will hold to the boot without the strap. This is also the perfect time to ensure everything feels right.
Take the long end of the strap and pull it forward through the toe-strap hole. Then run it back to the D-rings on the outside of your boot.
Work all the twists out before pulling the strap as tight as you can without restricting blood circulation. Then tie off the excess, or tuck it away so you don’t trip over it, but also be sure you can get at it easily later.
This is the most common variety, but the exact method to fasten will depend on the type of system your crampon uses.
For the crampon to be most effective, do a final check to make certain you have the best fit.
And finally, the experts say: ‘If you think you need your crampons, you should already have them on.’ So heed advice hard earned.
Now you’re set to take on the steepest ice and snow… All that’s left is learning to walk in the things.