2. Crampon Selection & Use

In this video we discuss crampon selection and crampon use, specifically for alpine climbing and mountaineering. This video also touches on selecting crampons for ice climbing. First we will discuss the different types of crampons, and then what to consider when selecting appropriate spikes for your alpine objectives.

The main differences are:

  • Construction: Aluminum vs. Steel
  • Front-Points: Horizontal vs. Vertical
  • Front-Points: Mono vs. Dual Point
  • Binding Styles: Strap-on vs. Heel lever and toe bail

Considerations for crampon selection, specifically for alpine climbing and mountaineering:

1. Construction

Aluminum – These weigh less and typically only come in strap-on binding styles, which can be strapped onto approach shoes or alpine rock boots. These are ideal for routes involving softer snow travel, for small snowfields where crampons are minimally used, and for rock routes with steep snow descents.  

Steel – These are heavier than aluminum. However, if you will encounter longer sections of firm snow, or any ice or mixed climbing, then steel is your only option. Aluminum crampons do not perform on ice. With steel crampons, the front points make the biggest difference in modern crampons.

2. Front-Points: Horizontal vs. Vertical

Horizontal – Crampons with horizontal front-points may be best for snow climbing and glacier travel, whereas…

Vertical – Crampons with vertical front-points are best for alpine and water ice, as well as for mixed climbing.

3. Front-Points: Mono vs. Dual Point

Dual Point – Crampons with dual, vertical front-points tend to be best for water ice, especially for fat water ice in warmer temperatures, or on wet ice. Dual front points that are flat provide more surface area for travel on firm snow.

Mono-point – Crampons with single front-points are best for mixed rock and ice climbing, as well as for brittle, delicate, or steep ice climbing.  

There are models that allow you to interchange between dual and mono points, though these models tend to be a little heavier.

Be sure your crampons have plastic anti-balling plates underfoot. Crampons can accumulate snow in the spikes and frame in certain snow conditions. Most modern crampons come with anti-balling plates to help minimize this issue.

Key Considerations for crampon use:

1. Try and walk with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. This prevents your crampon spikes from catching your pant legs, and helps you avoid tripping on your crampons’ front bail.

2. For low angle terrain, engage all crampon points in the snow or ice under your feet. When traversing angled slopes, most people tend to engage only the uphill row of spikes, like you would with a ski edge. This is dangerous with crampons, because this can cause those spikes to shear out. Stamp down hard on ice and roll your ankles, so you can engage all the bottom spikes.

3. This ankle-rolling on steeper terrain is called “French technique”, and was the only cramponing method in early alpinism, prior to the development of front points.

4. Once the terrain becomes too steep for French technique, it is time to “front-point.” Front pointing can be very tiring on your calves, so remember to drop your heels to minimize calf strain. This also engages your secondary (lower) front points, which creates a more stable tripod on the ice.

5. Use the weight of your boot to swing into the ice, this helps your front points penetrate the ice.

Practice your cramponing on a variety of terrain before venturing into the bigger mountains. We also encourage seeking professional training on cramponing skills from a certified Guide.

We hope you found this video helpful. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!


Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk.