There are two very important questions when picking out crampons to use in NZ: what are you going to be doing, and what boots do you have?
What boots do you have?
Different crampons work with different types of boots, so let’s start by seeing how stiff the soles of your boots are. The British came out with a really useful system for gauging boots back in the day, this is the B boot scale. If you’re not sure where your boots sit, go put your shoes on and stand on a step, then read the guide below to see where they sit.
B0 Super Flexible Boots
Did you stand on the step and you just found yourself doing calf raises? These shoes should be really comfortable and flex with your foot, ideal for smoother terrain or moving quickly, see the Salewa Alpenviolet or La Sportiva Tx4. These boots are unsuitable for traditional crampons, but perhaps something in the “Ski, Run, & Super Light Weight” category will work for you?
B1 Flexible Boots
Maybe you didn’t need to put your whole foot on the step, just most of it. These boots are comfortable and sturdy. Ideal for tough terrain when there’s no snow around, built for the scree slides of Arthurs Pass. They’re a bit burlier and more supportive than a B0 boot, check out the Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid for a comparison. These boots aren’t designed for technical or rigid crampons and they have no toe or heel weld. However, there are some softer, “walking” crampons that can safely be used with these for glacier travel or winter walking.
B2 Half and ¾ Shank Boots
If you stood on the step with the ball of your foot and it still more or less held its shape, then you probably have a B2 boot. If you want to get technical about it, these are boots with a half or ¾ shank.[i] In the real world this means that the boots have got a wee bit of flex to them in the front when you’re walking, but they’re pretty rigid overall. B2 boots will often have a heel weld designed specifically for crampons and are rigid enough for many traditional crampons. These boots cover the range from winter tramping boots like the Salewa Rapace, to light alpine boots like the Salewa Raven or La Sportiva Trango Tower, we have womens and mens available in the range.
B3 Full Shank Boots
These boots are a real beast of a boot, if you put your toe on the edge of your step, it’ll feel like a ledge. They’re hard work to walk long flat distances in, but for those days where you’re getting up close and personal with the socked in summit couloir or an ice cliff make sure you are in these types of boots. The La Sportiva Nepal Evo and Cube are brilliant examples of a full shank B3 boot.
If you want a more in-depth blow-by-blow of your boots or you want to get some recommendations, come and see us in store in Christchurch!
Which crampon for which sport?
If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all crampon for winter tramping to light mountaineering to glacier travel, then an all-rounder crampon is for you. These crampons have horizontal front points that are a bit smaller than a technical crampon, which makes it easier to walk across flatter terrain without catching your foot in the snow. Some all-round crampons are a steel alloy, these are fantastic and strong, like the Grivel G10, but heavier than their aluminium counterparts. If you’re expecting to be on your front points, steel is more suitable because it is less prone to flexing. If you have a really flexible boot you may need a long flexible bar, to get the best fit.
New Zealand Mountaineering
For New Zealand mountaineering, a steel crampon tends to work better though. Outdoor adventures in New Zealand often involve walking over rock and moraine, with mixed climbing being a staple of most alpine routes. The sturdiness of steel makes it more appropriate for these rougher conditions. All-round crampons can suitably be worn with B2 or B3 boots, depending on their attachment system and personal preference.
Technical Ice Climbing
If you’re hunting for an ice climbing crampon, looking at some gnarlier South Faces or you think you’ll be spending a fair bit of time front pointing you might want to consider something a bit more aggressive. Technical crampons have longer (and often modular) vertical front points with aggressive serrated edges designed to bite into the ice. Their rigidity and vertical front points make them perfect for technical ice climbing. But if you’re spending much time walking in them or climbing in snow/soft ice as well, then a steel all-round crampon would be more suitable. Technical crampons can be more rigid than an all-rounder, so you’ll definitely need a solid B3 boot if you’re eyeing up crampons in this category.
Ski, Run, & Super Light Weight
There are some crampons that are a bit more niche and don’t really fit into either category. There are ski boot specific crampons for a lightweight ski touring option. Kahtoola has Microspikes and Nanospikes for runners and fast packers who need something to use in a pinch, but they have shoes/boots that are too light or soft for a traditional crampon. There are also softer crampons and crampons without the traditional bar like the Petzl Leopard for another lightweight option still designed for boots.
How do I fit a crampon to my boot?
Even once you’ve decided on the model of crampon there is still a choice as to how they attach. There are strap-on crampons, hybrid crampons and fully automatic crampons.
Strap on Crampons
Strap on crampons do exactly that, they strap onto the boot. They take a bit longer to put on but for boots that are softer or have no heel and toe weld they are perfect. Fantastic for walking crampons but if your boots allow you to, a hybrid crampon might serve you better…
Hybrid or semi-automatic crampons can go on most B2 and all B3 boots, they’re designed for pretty rigid boots with a heel weld. They clip on at the back and then they strap on at the front. They’re faster to put on than a strap-on crampon and nice and secure on your feet. This is a favourite for all-rounder crampons and even some technical crampons.
Fully Automatic Crampon
If your boot has a heel and toe weld it can take a fully automatic crampon that clips on at the front and the back. They’re fast and easy to put on, but if your boot has any flexibility this crampon can pop off. Only for those with rigid beasts of a boot (B3).
Whether you’re looking for something light weight to throw in the pack for ski touring or fast packing missions, an all-round mountain adventuring crampon or looking at super technical ice climbing, there will be a crampon that’s just right for you. If you’ve got any questions you can message us online, give us a call, or better yet come and have a yarn with us in store.
[i] A shank is the extra supportive part of the midsole made of nylon, carbon or steel, not just a delicious part of a lamb.