Pageviews past week

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

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 Link below.

Sabertooth-Neve combo on a pair of Spantik dbl boots


inferno said...


have you ever played with making the front bails swappable between the plastic basket style and wire-bail. I am thinking of the BD models Serac or Sabretooth.

Eg. I am considering purchasing the Plastic front bail style, and drilling out the rivets to clear the holes, then maybe some slight reshaping to oval with a small tool so I can install a wire bail. But then could also use just a simple bolt+locknut to reinstall the baskets for summer use on boots with no front welt like trango S or Scarpa triolet etc. or tennies for that matter.

I am just trying to figure out a modular system. My old Sabretooths are done in but the bails could be salvaged. But at the same time I don't have any poons that work on welt-less summer boots...



Dane said...

Hi Inferno,

I have not tried your idea. But after your suggestion looks like the idea would work to me.

You could do it even easier by just using the standard bail and the normal bail holes for them that are on the BD 'pons and bolt and unbolt the basket style fronts as required.

It is going to be a little different for the boot position when you change back and forth but I'd bet your idea would work just fine once you get it squared away. Great idea! Let me know if you get it done. If you are looking for new 'pons I think the Sabertooth is a slightly better over all crampon for 4 season use because they are a bit easier to walk in.

James said...

Hey Dane, thinking about buying some crampons, but I know nothing about them really. Used some Petzl Vasaks for winter mountaineering in the states, but nothing technical. The boots I have are Scarpa Charmoz. I know I need Newmatic attachment, but that's it. Only thing REI stocks in that are some BDs (which you don't seem to trust), and Grivel G12s. What is your opinion of the G12s, seeing as you own them? Good all-around mountaineering crampons? Can they climb ice/mixed? Thanks.

Dane said...

Hi James,
I have done a ton of climbing in the G12s. Good for anything really as they will climb steep Grade 5 ice to reasonably difficult mixed or the local volcano slogs. Hard to go wrong with them. If I had to own just one crampon they would be at the top of the list currently.

Blerger said...

Hi Dane

Looks like you're really liking both BD offerings. I'm looking for a do-it-all (like everyone else) that I will primarily use for indoor ice and general mountaineering (Scotland). I currently use Camp Magix 10s, but they are not a climber, and I'm not over confident with them on neve tbh either - very common freeze/thaw here means quite often very (very!) hard ice forming on otherwise straightforward slopes.

I'm edging towards the Seracs as they can be had very cheaply on sale near me, would you say they are the equal of the Sabertooths?

Blerger said...

Hi Dane

After reading a lot (on your blog and the original complaint by Rafal on gravsports forum) I have decided not to go with BD stainless crampons. I won't push mine hard, but I also don't want to be worrying about my gear, especially as I often go into the mountains alone.

Think I'd better find some G12s. How do Petzl Vasaks compare to them?

Dane said...

Hi Blerger,
Vasak is a good general use crampon. I like them a lot. Grivel makes several that will work as well.

Anonymous said...

Dane, are there crampons available now that are similar to the neve/sabertooth combo you had above? The lighter weight is appealing, and it would be surprising if this was not made yet...

Dane said...

Last I checked you can buy the parts from BD to make the lwt crampons combo.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dane. I checked with BD and they said they don't sell those parts separately, minus warranty repairs, etc. So it looks like having to buy two pairs of crampons. Just to make sure, you used the Pro version of the Neve, and just removed the strap that goes to the toe bail, correct? Also, any further comments on how this hybrid pair performs, after you've been using it longer?

Dane said...

Turned out for me the BD stainless was not reliable enough to keep using. Try a search here and else where as how BD dropped the ball on that issue.

I liked the idea a lot...performance was OK but not worth the extra effort in the long run for me.