Spikes and Boots
- Help and advice about crampons and
If your ambitions
in climbing or hillwalking stretch to
winter routes or high mountains you
are going to need a set of crampons,
even if you only aspire to tackle some
of the British hills in winter then
choosing the right gear is important.
Boots and crampons go together like
a horse and carriage so we've decided
to include some guidance on putting
the right set of 'spikes' on the right
pair of boots.
guide, Brian Hall has developed a system
to aid you in putting the right gear
together. Using one set of grades for
boots and another for crampons Brian's
system lets you cross reference accurately.
We are sure you will find the system
useful when choosing your winter footwear
B 0 :- Not suitable
for crampon use. Boots in this category
are general walking boots with too much
flex in the sole unit and with uppers
that too soft for comfortable crampon
B1 :- Heavier build
than boots in the B0 category, with
enough stiffness in the sole for use
in easy snow and ice conditions found
in the hills. (not mountains!) The uppers
should provide good ankle support and
have enough thickness of leather to
allow crampon straps to be securely
tightened without compressing the foot.
B2 :- A stiffened
sole, this normally means the sole is
reinforced with a shank of steel, plastic
or fibreglass. Thick leather upper,
2.8 mm to 3.5 mm leather allowing the
boot to accept crampons for all day
use. Usually designed with excellent
ankle support. This type of boot can
be used for both Alpine and Scottish
B3 :- Technical
mountaineering boots, usually 'double
boots'with a fully stiffened outer shell
and an insulated inner. Boots in this
category are invariably fitted with
a full length shank. Boots of this type
are capable of performing in high altitude
mountaineering and are designed with
extreme use in mind.
C1 :- Flexible crampon
for walking, with or without front points.
C2 :- Articulated
crampon with either straps front and
back, step-in heel and front straps
or newer style nylon 'bales' and straps.
C3 :- Articulated
climbing or fully rigid technical climbing
Here's How It
A B0 boot will not
accept any form of crampon, the sole
unit is too flexible and the straps
would compress the upper so much that
it would restrict blood circulation,
a sure way to encourage frostbite. Even
an instep crampon may be impossible
to use on boots of this type.
A B1 boot will accept
a C1 crampon but not C2 or C3 crampons.
A B2 boot will be
able to accept C1 and C2 type crampons.
A B3 boot will take
the lot, from C1 to C3 although they
will perform best with the C3 crampons.
If you are unsure
as to the suitability of your boots
take them to your retailer or e-mail
us and we will try to give the best
advice we can. Brian's system of grading
boots and crampons is being accepted
by more and more boot manufacturers,
hopefully it will become the standard
for judging whether a set of spikes
and your footwear are compatible.
out your first set of crampons normally
meant you were going to put them on
and climb some wintery outcrop. One
alternative was to get your crampons
and ice axes and climb the nearest big
tree, very unkind to the tree! One other
way is to find an indoor climbing wall
with an indoor ice climbing facility.
The only one I know in the UK is the
Rope Race at Marple. I know they've
got one, I came up with the idea! Made
from a hard, closed cell foam their
wall allows novices to practice front-pointing
in safety. More facilities of this type
would allow novice ice climbers to get
used to the equipment and feel of climbing
with axes and crampons. Although walls
of this type do not reproduce the real
conditions they do give the beginner
a chance to use the equipment in safety.
If winter hill walking
and climbing is for you then take note
of some advice from the organisations
who exist to help and train climbers.
The British mountains in winter have
been the training ground for many famous
mountaineers and alpinistes. They have
also witnessed some tragedies, winter
hillwalking and climbing demand some
refinement of your skills. The winter
hills need to treated with respect and
every aspect of your skills and abilities
will need to be refined. Much of this
can be done by yourself but booking
on to an approved skills course will
speed up your progress.
Take advantage of
the many courses that are available.
The M.L.T.B. can offer advice on their
approved centres offering winter skills
courses and both the A.M.I. and the
B.A.E.M.L. have instructors who will
tailor a course to suit your exact needs.
First, find out
if your footwear will accept crampons.
Then look at what is available from
the various manufacturers and start
trying some onto your boots. Some designs
will go straight on, others will need
a bit of re-engineering, often provided
via a few belts off a well aimed hammer!
Any crampon should
be a push fit onto your boots, it should
stay on without being strapped on and
should resist a bit of shaking. If the
crampon falls off, re-adjust it until
it is a good fit. Always ensure that
you know how to fasten the retaining
straps correctly, there is nothing worse
than losing a crampon half up a route.
Even with step-in bindings always use
the safety strap in case the crampon
Very useful, not only for staying
upright on frozen paths but also
for staying upright on steep grass,
professional gardeners often use
them when mowing steep slopes. Instep
crampons should not be considered
for anything other than low level
paths in winter.
(4 point instep illustrated)
Entry level crampons, designs offer
you the choice of with or without
front points. Front points will
allow you to be more secure when
ascending steep ground. 8 to 10
points give much more grip than
instep crampons and these lightweight
spikes will allow you to tackle
winter hills with confidence.
(8 point flexi's illustrated)
Heavier build than Flexi's and designed
to fit onto 3 and 4 season boots,
this range of crampons offers the
buyer the biggest choice of styles
and features. Some models now have
a step-in binding at the heel and
a choice of straps or nylon bindings
at the toe, other designs stick
to straps all round but with other
refinements such as no-tools adjustments.
You have the choice of very traditional
styles right up to the latest innovation
and every winter walker will eventually
end up with crampons from this classification.
(Articulated Step-in's ilustrated)
Step in bindings are now to be found
on a wide range of boots from the
heavier 4 season boots up to high
altitude shell boot. The boots must
be very stiff, usually containing
a steel, fibreglass or plastic 'shank'
which gives support in all directions.
The crampons have a binding similar
to that used on skis, an adjustable
clip engages at the heel and a metal
toe bale grips at the front. Boot
and crampon pairings will allow
climbers to tackle steep ice for
long periods. Highly technical crampons
are available with a choice of front
points from a single point to a
mixture of vertical and horizontal
(10 point technical crampon illustrated)
of TRAILWISE. UK distributors of Stubai
and AustriAlpin mountaineering equipment