Climbing vertical ice is a challenging task that requires skill, patience and precision. It also requires the right gear. Choosing the right pair of crampons to keep your grip and traction on ice flows and waterfalls is essential – for both total safety and completing the climb with the agility and speed you expect. Here’s what you need to know about the best crampons for vertical ice climbing.
How to Choose Crampons for Vertical Ice
Crampons generally come in rigid, semi-rigid and flexible (hinged) models.
Flexible/hinged crampons are best for general mountaineering, walking and climbing on snow and crossing glaciers. Rigid crampons, on the other hand, have no flex and are difficult to walk in, but provide excellent grip and stability for ice climbing.
Semi-rigid crampons are relatively new compared to rigid and flexible crampons. They offer a good balance between the two; better stability on ice climbs, but also enough flexibility for the approach. They’re more adjustable and work with a wider range of boots, and sometimes even have a linking bar that lets them convert from semi-rigid to flexible.
For vertical ice climbing, you want rigid or at least semi-rigid. Our list below contains some of each.
The Right Binding Types for Crampons
Crampon bindings come in three types: step-in, strap-on and hybrid.
Strap-on bindings are the most common and the most versatile. They have a toe strap and a heel strap and can be easily worn and fastened on virtually any boot. This versatility means they work well for both ice climbing and mountaineering.
Step-in bindings are more specialized; they’re stiffer, and thus better for climbing vertical ice and mixed climbs. The front has a wire toe bail for placing the boot, while the back has a tensioned lever to get a tight clamp on the heel. They will only work with stiff mountaineering boots (leather or plastic).
Hybrid bindings are – like semi-rigid crampons – becoming very popular. They feature a heel lever – like step-in bindings – along with the toe strap found on strap-on bindings. Hybrid bindings are very quick and easy to put on and off while still providing both the stability of step-ins and flexibility of strap-ons.
For vertical ice climbing, you’ll want the stability and rigidity of either strap-ons or hybrids. But you’ll want to remember that many stiff plastic or leather mountaineering boots are designed for particular crampon bindings and won’t work with others. Double-check what your boots are designed for before purchasing one.
Front Point Design
Front points are critical to performance on ice. Most crampons have dual front points, but monopoints are also popular.
Horizontal front points have dual points ready to sink straight into the ice. They’re good for all-around alpine mountaineering and can handle themselves well on ice.
Vertical ice points, on the other hand, are designed for mixed and vertical climbing, up waterfalls, etc. They are even better at sinking deeply into ice and holding on tightly and are sometimes serrated for foolproof grip.
Monopoints are excellent for very technical and challenging ice climbs – like up waterfalls. They can fit into cracks and crevices more easily than dual frontpoints but aren’t as stable – and not a good choice for general mountaineering.
Either dual or monopoints will work for vertical ice climbing, provided you choose a stiff pair that fits your stiff boots well.
Best Crampons For Vertical Ice
Winner: Petzl Lynx
The Lynx have a reputation in the climbing world – one of versatility and pure performance. They are some of the most versatile technical ice climbing crampons in existence; the dual front points can be quickly modified into 4 different configurations: a long mono-point for vertical ice, a long dual-point, an asymmetrical dual-point for mixed terrain, and a short dual-point.
This versatility extends to the bindings, too; these step-in hybrids are called LEVERLOCK Universals, and they’re designed to work with virtually any hiking or mountaineering booth with a rear welt. But they can be modified to work with any boot with a toe welt, too, by switching out the toe piece; the rubber FIL FLEX toepiece works for boots without a toe welt, while the wire FIL toepiece goes on boots with the toe welt.
There’s almost nowhere these crampons don’t perform. For versatility and options, the Lynx can’t be beat.
Runner-Up: Grivel Rambo 4
If you want pure, unadulterated grip and performance on aggressive ice, opt for the Rambo Evolution 4. They have a serrated monopoint that digs deeply and firmly into vertical ice, paired with a much shorter second point for added stability. The rigid frame and step-in binding mean they are cut out for the steepest, most technical ice climbs. It has an anti-balling plate to prevent snow buildup, and the Cramp-o-Matic binding includes a stainless-steel safety strap in the crampon is knocked off your feet. All that and they still work well on mixed terrain, too.
Weight: 41 ounces.
Runner-Up: Grivel G14
Grivel’s G14 and G12 crampons have been ultra-popular for a long time. The G14 takes the collapsible frame from the all-around popular G12’s and pairs them with two vertical frontpoints that sink and grab deep into ice. The result? A versatile crampon that’s ready for both tough-as-nails technical and vertical climbs – and the occasional mixed ice route. The dual front points are forged, making them harder and tougher than stamped points, so they’ll penetrate ice just as reliably after heavy use as on day one.
If you prefer a mono point for some climbs, you can easily configure the G14 to suit, too. And there’s the same Cramp-o-Matic binding and anti-balling plate as found on the Rambo 4.
Weight: 34 ounces.
Runner-Up: C.A.M.P Cassin Alpinist Pro
Another go-to ice crampon, the Alpinist Pro packs C.A.M.P’s climbing passion and expertise into what they call the “most advanced alpine ice crampons ever.” They’re built on – and improved upon – the Blade Runner, made for technical, vertical ice, with eight asymmetrical front points made of serrated steel that dig deep and sturdy into thick ice for supreme grip. They also have interchangeable toe bails, so they’ll work with both plastic mountaineering boots and leather boots without a toe welt.
Further features include a micro-adjustable linking bar, so you can fine-tune the length to your boots’ ideal fit; an auto heel clip which tightens firmly around heel welts; and excellent anti-balling plates that use elastic to reliably shed snow. You can also set the front bail can be set in three different positions to find the optimal position for the front points.
When it comes to tackling serious technical challenges, few crampons will hold up to varied terrain and vertical ice like the Alpinist Pro’s. C.A.M.P has been around for 130 years and you can feel the history and precision craftsmanship in every single one of their pieces.
Weight: 33.9 ounces.