What To Look For
Ice climbing boots and crampons (spikes on a platform attached to mountaineering boots) are integral parts of the sport. If glacier travel is the focus, look for hinged crampons and soft boots. Vertical ice climbing requires stiff-soled, hard-shelled boots (often plastic or synthetic material uppers) and front-pointed flat crampons. The crampon and boot is your lifeline when climbing--do not attempt to skimp. Look for high quality metals like high-tensile steel, titanium or stainless for the crampons and solid rands (soles) and support for boots.
Newcomers to ice climbing and mountaineering often make the mistake of buying too much crampon or boot, or the improper type of crampon for the focus of their climbing. A flat crampon is near useless for glacier travel, while hinged crampons are hard to maintain as solid platforms on vertical ice. Vertical ice climbers need a boot with a hard and near inflexible sole or rand. Glacier travelers need boots with supportive uppers and flex in the rand/sole.
Where To Buy
Online retailers Trails, REI or Mountain Tools are resources for ice climbing boots and crampons. REO offers brick-and-mortar stores throughout the United States and are staffed with professionals who work with you to achieve the best fit and gear based on your needs. Mountain Tools is a specialty climbing store with professionals who help you at their store or by phone with their online store. Trails, REI and Mountain Tools provide inexpensive and reliable shipping and guaranties.
Crampons range between $100 and $300. Attachment systems and straps, adjustable foot-plates and quality of metal dictate prices. Entry level ice climbers or mountaineers should expect to pay around $200 for crampons.
Boots range in price between $200 to $600. Brands like La Sportiva and Raichle are considered some of the best boots in ice climbing and mountaineering. La Sportiva boots average $400 to $500 per pair. Raichle boots range between $300 to $500. Entry level climbers need to get the best boot they can afford. Do not skimp.
Hinged (semi-rigid) crampons are available from several makers. Black Diamond makes semi-rigid crampons in their Cyborg line. Black Diamond uses a toe-bail and ankle strap system to attach to boots. Straps make for longer attachment times but give added stability on the glacier or mountain. Grivel makes semi-rigid and platform crampons. The Grivel G10 is a semi-rigid crampon with a plastic toe cup and ankle strap. The plastic toe cup saves weight, making it a good choice for long mountain and ice trips where every ounce counts. Using plastic in extreme cold weather may lead to cracks in the toe cup.
It is advisable to bring an extra toe bail or cup with at least one extra strap on long mountain or ice-climbing trips should one break. Mountaineering gaiters (calf-high gauntlets that go over climbing pants and boots) are recommended to provide extra heat retention and abrasion resistance to boots and climbing pants. Bring a fine metal file to sharpen crampon points during the trip.
Never tuck pants or long underwear into mountaineering and ice climbing boots. This leads to constriction of the blood flow to the foot and frostbite to the feet and toes.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.