Crampons are ancient tools that were originally worn by early inhabitants of the Caucasus more than 2,000 years ago. Over the years, crampon design has gone from simple iron spiked plates to a four-point crampon in the 19th century to 10-point crampon in the early 1900s to 12-point crampons in the mid 1930s. Today, many crampons still carry the 12-point design that was modified by Laurent Grivel, but some lightweight ones have only 10. There are three main types of crampons used for mountaineering and technical ice climbing.
Hinged crampons are used for general mountaineering and glacier travel. These crampons are the most flexible because they are not designed for technical ice climbing pitches but for walking. They have horizontal front points. These can be attached to a variety of boots and may attach via a strap-on or step-in system or combination with both straps and a heel clip, depending on their design.
If you are looking for one crampon that does it all, then a semi-rigid design is the way to go. These work well for general mountaineering and technical ice climbing when worn with stiff boots, though they do have a small amount of flex. These may be designed with either horizontal or vertical front points.
Crampons designed for the sole purpose of technical ice climbing and kicking into vertical ice are rigid crampons. These vibrate the least of all types because of their nonhinged design and have the least flexibility, so they offer more support on the vertical. These have vertical front points and a step-in system and are the heaviest of all types.
Instep and Approach Crampons
These are designed with no toe or heel points and a small instep. They have only four to six points and are designed for the occasional snowfield crossing or ice path. Approach crampons have eight points and are used only on the occasional snowfield. Neither of these types should be used for mountaineering and wouldn't allow for ice climbing.
Article Written By Naomi Judd
Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.