Crampons, frames of spikes on the soles of climbing boots, must be securely attached to your boots when you’re climbing. If they’re not properly attached, the crampons can shift, slip, or even fall off, which can create all kinds of dangerous situations, including falling.
Crampon Attachment Systems
There are three different methods to attach crampons to your boots: step-in, strap-on, and hybrid. The type of attachment system that you use depends on the boots the crampons are attached to as well as whether the crampons are rigid or hinged. It’s important to pair your crampons with your boots so that the crampons don’t loosen or fall off while you’re climbing. If your crampons and boots are incompatible, you can have serious consequences including loss or damage to the crampons.
Crampons Attach to Your Boots
Before buying crampons, consider your boots and if you don’t have a good mountaineering boot, buy a new pair. Boots with heel and toe welts offer the most versatility for crampon attachment and accept almost all kinds of crampons. Boots without welts tend to be light, flexible, and are often unintended for snow and ice climbing. These boots usually require crampons with a strap-on attachment system.
Step-in Attachment System
The step-in attachment system, similar to a ski binding, is the fastest and easiest method to attach crampons to boots. Your boots must have front and rear welts which can support a metal bar. After the crampons are attached to the boots, a rear lever locks the crampon in place. A safety strap attaches the crampon to your boot so if it comes loose, you won’t lose it if it falls off. Rigid crampons often use the step-in attachment system. The step-in system eliminates fumbling with crampons and straps in the cold.
Strap-on Attachment System
The strap-on attachment system is the most common and best method to attach hinged crampons to your boots. Crampons with buckled attachment straps are not only versatile but can be attached to almost any kind of boots, although a stiff boot offers the best crampon performance and is easiest to attach and tighten crampons with the straps. The strap-on system uses either one, two, or four straps that are threaded through rings on the crampon frame and then tightened down. The strap-on system is best for general mountaineering since the crampons can be easily taken off or put on depending on conditions. They often loosen up on hard ice or if you’re front-pointing up steep terrain since there is wiggle room. Use specialty nylon crampon straps which are strong, don’t stretch, don’t absorb moisture, and can be used on different crampons. Old-style leather straps are not recommended since they stretch, absorb water, and wear out.
Hybrid Attachment System
The hybrid attachment system utilizes the best of both the step-in and strap-on systems. Hybrid crampons require a boot with a rear welt but not a front welt. The crampon is fitted against the boot’s rear welt and then attached to the boot with straps, creating a platform for ice climbing. The hybrid crampons and attachment system fit more boots than step-in crampons. Most ice climbers prefer the rigid crampon and step-in attachment system rather than using hybrids.