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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, February 17, 2012

It is a dead horse... (more on stainless crampons)

but do you really want to be riding it?

OK, this got my attention.  In less than 10 days counting back from today I got reports of 3 pairs of bent, broken or cracked Black Diamond Stainless crampons.

Call me cynical but it was exactly this time last year that the same thing happened...actually within days of each other one year apart.   Over a dozen cracked or broken pairs of Black Diamond stainless crampons popped up over the last year.  But 3 in a row, in mid Feb 2012!  Again?! 

edit for an update:  Same scenario again in Feb. of 2013.  More reported BD stainless failures.
It is mid season for ice climbing world wide.  Check your crampons.  If you are on stainless, check them twice!  

This one bent while climbing ice.  It isn't trick photography.  The front point simply straightened out under body weight,

"The one front point flattened out when he was 5' off the deck. He fell to snow."

cracked  using a rigid soled boot

Crack here is circled in red.

And these are crampons I really liked initially, BD's Sabertooth and Serac.  Crampons I climbed and soloed in.  And the most recent faulty crampons are all the reinforced 2nd gen. versions.

I could care less about Black Diamond.  They made it clear last winter that they have little concern about your safety while using this product.  The sales samples and prototypes excuses are really long in tooth a full year later.  These cracks and failures are all in the same place.  Make damn sure you inspect yours closely prior to EVERY use.  The front point collapsing under body weight is a new one for me. 

Check your gear, be attentive and pay ATTENTION if you are still climbing in any of the BD stainless horizontal front point crampons.  When these do come apart, make no mistake, it is a catastrophic failure.  Falling off an ice climb because of gear failure can very easily get you dead.

So one more time...

Since Black Diamond won't tell you this, I will.

You all be careful out there on Black Diamond stainless 'pons!  Friends don't let their friends climb on stainless horizontals. 

More here if you want the enterainment:


James said...

I just picked up a pair of Stingers and honestly this worried me prior to laying down the cash. I love them - they climb great, fit great and just generally have a much better design than either G20s or Darts in my mind - but it's not ideal if you're always wondering if they're about to crack...

Luke said...

I had a pair of Sabertooths that looked identical to that first picture that i returned this summer after about three months of Alpine and Ice climbing after I bought them brand new. Used with the Silver Trangos. So add another one to the tally from last year.

marcello said...

I really can't believe that a company such as black diamond has such ignorance of safety.the whole point of black diamond was to replace chounard, the only reason they dont replace them is probably because they are pretty stainless steel, who cares. dane, do u think their ice tools are unsafe.i am considering buying a pair of cobras, my new job allows me to get bd 60%off, alas I am worried, is it a safe purchase?

Dane said...

Cobras have a long history of durability. At 60% off I'd say they are worth the risk :)

Ian said...

The Vertical point BD crampons do not have the same stress as the horizontal point Sabertooths. I would have no problem climbing on Cyborgs or Stingers. Sabertooths on the other hand...

Luke said...

James, I have a pair of Stingers as well, which I bought even after my experience with the Sabers.

I think people have been very quick to damn the stainless steel in general and not the crampon design itself. Everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that the ONLY crampons affected so far are the horizontal frontpoint ones, and the only problem seems to be with the frontpoint No other part of the crampon has had any problems. If stainless is so bad, why are no Cyborgs breaking, or people bending downpoints all over the place? I think this suggests quite clearly that the issue is with the design of the Saber and Serac fronts, not the material in general. All the discussion about stainless is just distracting from the real problem, which is that the front points are falling off. Give me a pair of Sabers with bomber frontpoints and I don't care whether their made of stainless steel or diamonds.

All of which is to say that I love my Stingers and share your opinion of them entirely. I check them, but no more than any other piece of gear and I have no problem trusting them until I see evidence to the contrary.

fulton said...

I dodged a bullet last year when I almost sold my all steel Sabretooths to get a pair of stainless ones. Still great pons and for me worth hanging on to. None the less, I have a pair of stainless Cyborgs I got last season and have had no issues with them.

Frank said...

My Serac Pro crampons bent the very first time I used them and I took a fall while soloing some easy stuff. Lucky for me I was uninjured and stoped after 5 meters or so.
I was pretty new to climbing with crampons and I thought I used them wrongly at that time. I also think it is messed up that BD doesn't infrom people on this, even if it were just to sort out the legal situation in the case of something bad happening.
Do you think it is an issue with BD crampons like the Cyborg and Stinger? Are the secondary points also at risk? Or even the forged frontpoints?

Anonymous said...

Just some questions:
How do you test these crampons?
Do you have a force testing machine?
Do you think your "research" is objective?
How much do you get from Grivel, Petzl or whomever?!

John said...

Any reports of cracks on Cyborgs?
I just bought the Sabertooths, any distinguishing production codes to help discern which one may be affected?

John said...

I meant Stinger not Sabertooth. Can you edit before posting?

John said...

To clarify,
I guess this does not apply to Stingers or Cyborgs?

Dane said...

I'm out climbing at the moment..back next week. So more later. I don't "test" crampons. I just report the broken ones in this case, stainless Black Diamond Horizontals.

I climb on every ones' gear including Grivel, Petzl and Black Diamond. Black Diamond has been the only hardware company to give me free gear.

Me reporting the stainless BD breakages ended that relationship. So yes I think my comments on gear are objective.

I don't care one way or the other what you use. Just my opinion here based on actual use and reader's feed back. Take that info for what it is worth if it is helpful to you.

Lots of info here on stainless being used in crampons and why the material is suspect. Cyborgs and Stingers have not had a problem simply because both are a totally different design that the BD horizontals.

nick said...

FWIW i have seen side points on the ss cyborgs bend in the heel...
also add another 2 pair of ss saber to the tally w broke front points
love the site Dane
(gear shop employee in the Adirondacks)

Dane said...

Luke sez:

"I think this suggests quite clearly that the issue is with the design of the Saber and Serac fronts, not the material in general. All the discussion about stainless is just distracting from the real problem, which is that the front points are falling off."

I have to comment that you seem unaware and uneducated on the issues of stainless in this application or the methods of manufacturing. It is "the material in general" tha tsi a problem. Poor design just makes it worse. said...

Thanks for this excellent article (and site).

We had a failure report on the new Petzl Lynx crampons. It was during an ice climbing course. During a normal climbing move on an ice fall, one of the points broke...

see this picture

Crampons foot said...

Your crampon are very impressionant

Anonymous said...

Dane - curious on your opinion of other stainless crampons considering your low opinion of BD's. Are you still convinced it's the wrong material for the application? Or is this "Nanoflex" stuff outside of the scope of this "stainless" discussion?

I'm no metalurgist...just curious.

And ... I need a ridiculously light weight pair of crampons capable of sketching their way through easy-to-moderate alpine ice. Some tough lessons way down south of here have me on the hunt... any ideas/thoughts appreciated.

"The lightest steel crampons in the world! Sandvik Nanoflex® Steel uses nanotechnology to create a superior metal that is 30% stronger and 30% harder than traditional chromoly steel thereby allowing us to use a thinner cross section (1.8mm) that results in a crampon that is not only lighter, but stronger, more durable and stainless by design. The thinner cross section also creates sharper, thinner points that penetrate hard snow with ease. The universal binding is compatible with most mountaineering and hiking boots."

Dane said...

Stainless used correctly for the application is a reasonable choice in materials. The issue is knowing how and where to use it. BD has missed the mark IMO. Their continued horizontal failures seem to prove my point. Nanoflex is a totally different stainless. But it is only "light" because they use less of it. Same "trick" BD tried at first. Pays to know Camp discontinied their technical crampon made from the "Nanoflex stainless". The Nanoflex offered now is a non technical crampon. If there is real ice involved I want a steel crampon. If you are really only looking at moderate terrain on neve and not ice the aluminum and nano crampons will work fine. Between aluminum and Nano...I'd take the Nano if I had a choice. Steel is always the better choice in the mtns. That way you don't get surprised by the snow/ice conditions. Your MMV of course. Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the thoughts dane.

a second (knowledgeable) opinion is always nice to stick in the back pocket.

always a tough call on exactly how light is light enough ... and not too light.

win some, lose some.

Anonymous said...

Real stainless doesn't rust!

Anonymous said...

Regarding those wondering about downpoints breaking on sabertooths...I snapped one off a week ago on my sabertoothes...not sure how it happened as I only noticed when I hung them to dry at home.

Alain said...

Very much share your opinion of BD. Have had similar 'lack' of a response from BD on crampon issues and also when reslinging cams. I avoid BD at all costs as they just appear to be on a profit tear and QA is not a priority and their support team is either ignorant or simply not concerned about the safety of customers.

Swapped out my BD tools for Grivel and have never looked back. Back on Petzl crampons and happier than ever.

The questions shouldn't be are my tools/crampons safe right now but rather is this the kind of company I want to support. For me, if safety isn't priority one, you don't deserve the support of the climbing community.

Dane said...

Agreed, I vote with my wallet. Interesting to see Patagonia make the same decision as we have re: BD.

Unknown said...

I know this is an old post but I wanted to add my recent BD Sabertooth failure to the log.

I just purcahsed the BD Saber Clips and used them on the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains. No ice climbing, just mixed terrain, snow, patches of rock and lot's of ground ice.
Yesterday I'm getting gear ready for a trip to the Cascades and I noticed the front point on one of my crampons is bent downward by about 1/4" or more, similar to your pic.

I don't remember getting jammed up or pouncing around like a wildman on the route, but nevertheless, my crampon is FUBAR. I haven't contacted BD yet, but I will because I'm curious to see their response. In any event, I'm going to give another pair a try and see what happens.

Unknown said...

Funny, Jeremy - we were up on Mt. Washington this weekend and stayed at Hermit Lake. While laying down sleeping pads we found a stainless Sabretooth (or similar) front point laying on the lean-to floor. Be careful out there with your SS 'pons, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Just to dig up a relatively dead topic, Stingers do break. On the frame
Very disappointed, was really hoping it was limited to the horizontal crampons. That said my sabertooths are still fine!