Monday, November 15, 2010
The Black Diamond Serac Crampon
Serac-Neve combo on a pair of the super light Scarpa Phantom Ultras. Total weight of 'pon and boot in a size 45 is an incredible 3lb. 1 oz.
If you have followed the blog it is quickly obvious that I really like the Black Diamond Sabertooth for my own climbing. But in the recent past I have spent a lot of time climbing in the Grivel G12.
I had for the most part ignored the Black Diamond Serac. Couple of reasons for that. The biggest was Black Diamond's advertising program. The Serac is generally $10 to $20 cheaper at retail than the Sabertooth and from first impression I thought intended for and limited as a general purpose "snow" crampon.
It really isn't, although it will certainly work in that role. Most any crampon will. The differences are really subtle between the newest stainless versions of the Sabertooth and the Serac. The most obvious is the first set of down points. The Sabertooth has as "normal" length set of down points which gives them an abnormal 12 points down. The Serac has the more traditional, bigger style front down points that are angled to support the fronts on soft ice or just as likely snow covered ice. The Serac and most every other crampon will give you 10 points down to work with. The Serac is more like the G12 or other similar Euro designs that came out of France and Italy in the early '70s with 8 points down on moderate terrain. It is a simple design that works anywhere.
On the Serac both the rear two sets of points on the heel and foot section are wider than the Sabertooth. It was described to me as a 4x4 option for descending in snow conditions. Those 4 rear points (2 back of heel and 2 back of foot) offer more support and are less likely to skate out in soft snow conditions than say a Sabertooth heel. But it is subtle. Very subtle.
Weight wise the Serac is .6oz heavier, as in 6/10ths of an ounce heavier per crampon. Or 1.2 .oz per pair heavier. The Serac is also carrying a little extra untrimmed "fat" on the crampon under the bots. If BD was thinking ahead it they would reprogram that computer a tiny bit and trim the 4x4 down to Baja race weight with no loss of strength or durability, then add a Neve heel. Put me down for a pair of those will you BD? 'cuz after climbing some early water fall ice in that combo I can say they rock! You'll loose some durability and security over time while walking on hard ice with aluminum crampon heels but little of either on steep terrain. It is easy to get the Serac or Sabertooth under 13oz per side if you strip them down and add a Neve heel.
As the word gets out and climbers rig that crampon combo themselves, the usefulness of a light weight traditional crampon will already have been proven.
Depending on where and what kind of snow and ice conditions you might encounter I find the option of crampon point design at the very least entertaining. It is nice to have options but in use there really isn't much of a difference in performance between the two designs. The only place the Sabertooth will always excel is with its 12 points down as opposed to any other crampon that has 10 full size "working" points.
Like every other 'pon in the world the Serac has 10...which beats the slow bus with 8 on some of the most popular technical 'pons. The rear points have some added width on the Serac that are likely worth that extra .6oz if you are as klutzy as me walking down hill.
Both the new Sabertooth and the Serac have a another new design feature that turned up in these two particular crampons that is not in the current Cyborg or any of the past Black Diamond models. The very best technical ice crampons are rigid. It is the better design. You can argue that point but it will still be fact. Not many rigid designs are still available. To add some rigidity to the Serac and Sabertooth, BD tightened up the connecting bar interface so there is less play between forefoot and heel piece. Once I noticed the added rigidity on the Sabertooth I suspected the redesign on the connecting bar was one reason the Sabertooth climbed so well on vertical ice. Same advantage on the Serac. I noticed it. The 'pons felt more like rigid crampons than previous version I have used.
For pure ice I have always found the stiffest boot and the most rigid crampons are the easiest to climb in. Terrible to walk in though. Go to the extreme on either and you can loose some rigidity and still have a good technical combo. Stiff boot, semi rigid crampon (say Spantik and Dartwin) or soft boot and a rigid crampon (say Batura and a Rambo). There are reasons to go both ways.
Stiff boots are great on 50/60 degree endurance alpine ice. Soft cuffed boots are easier to walk in and generally better on hard mixed.
BD had made the Sabertooth and the Serac slightly more rigid. Both climb steep water ice very well. I'd use either on water ice, alpine ice, neve or snow of any difficulty anywhere on the planet.
A edited version of this review was posted on rockandice.com. Link below.
Sabertooth-Neve combo on a pair of Spantik dbl boots