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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stainless steel crampons?

The last time I mentioned this subject it caused a minor shit storm. So much so the head of hard goods from BD joined the thread on an Internet web site where I made the original post.

Bill Belcourt's comment:

"I am not going to get into what type of stainless BD uses because it took a long time to figure out. There are differences that add up to more than just corrosion resistance but it was not obvious from just looking at the numbers (as they are very close). You never truly understand a material until you make the product you want to make out of it, and start testing it. Sometimes you get lucky and get performance beyond expectations, and then spend the rest of your time trying to figure out why it happened. Turns out there are many factors that contribute to wear. Here is a small clue but I'm saying no more.....

Someone please fix that link for me.....thanks


For the record I like and climb in BD stainless crampons. I actually think the new Sabertooth is the best all around crampon currently available. That is not something I say lightly and it has *almost* nothing to do with being made of stainless.

But the most recent BD ad just drives me crazy. Part of it is highlighted below.

huge weight savings: up to 226g (8oz) per pair"

Excuse me? Steels (stainless or chromoly) in general weigh the same. The BD designs have changed for the better and by using LESS material, BD has been able to cut weight on their crampons.

I have seen so many misquotes and misinformation on stainless steel used in crampons...including the newest published BD crampon reviews I thought it time to get the real info down in print.

Stainless is not lighter than chromoly. If you use the right steel and heat treat, the only advantage of stainless is corrosion resistance, and lack of final coatings required for field use.

Stainless steel is more expensive as a raw material. Substantially so.

Back to crampons. Bill Belcourt says in his BD crampon video..."the new stainless crampons are lighter by DESIGN". That means that the design of the BD crampons has changed. Lighter heel levers, no paint, slightly shorter stainless spikes or the loss of a set of screws on the bots. It all adds up to a better "design" but it has nothing to do with stainless being lighter than chromoly or being able to use less of, or a thinner material (they didn't) because of the change to stainless.

As an easy example the old (2008) Cyborgs weigh 42.2 oz. The new stainless (2010) Cyborg weights 39.4 oz. That is a 2.8 oz difference. .6 oz of that weight loss is in the new rear levers.
All the stainless points are shorter (3 to 5mm shorter) which is the majority of the 2oz left per pair on the Cyborg's weight loss but paint is some of that as well.

I really like the new stainless BD 'pons. Some good improvements in design and a big improvement by going stainless I hope. But for the end user the majority of that is simply cosmetics.

But lets give the credit where it is wasn't stainless that made a lighter crampon, it was the design team at BD. Just more flash and more at stake in the stainless commitment.


"I'm not trying to say that SS is better or worse. I'm just looking for a fair comparison of material properties"

My first post was simply an attempt to clarify that stainless wasn't any better or worse than chromoly as a base steel. It shouldn't be a point of discussion let alone argument between us or Grivel and BD. Obviously some rivalry and market share wars going on there to get the spew of propaganda and media misinformation. The alloys and heat treats you choose are what is important within the definitions of stainless and chromoly. I posted the 2 generations of detailed Cyborg weights to make that point.

If you want the discussion to go farther than that it is easy to fine any manner of alloys, stainless or chromoly, that can be made into an incredible (however you want to define that) crampon. Just pick a super alloy, stainless or non.

The problem with the "super alloys" is the price of the steel, the difficulty working/machining it and getting it to market at a price point the consumer base can bear. But with the right choice in alloy there really can be some magic happening.

No one is making a "super alloy" crampon with the possible exception, if you believe their hype, of Camp's Nanotech @ $255. retail. Using the term "super alloy" for Camp's 'pon as we would in my industry would be faulty labeling. It is simply another stainless. Might be a good choice in alloys but no magic to be had there. When you make weight comparisons between models make sure you understand comparing cookie cutter frames (very strong for their weight) to solid frame crampons. Each manufacturing style has distinct end user advantages and disadvantages.

more here:

Good reading here:

Source of much of the steel I use

For the price point and the advantages of stainless, plus the advantages of durability in the SPECIFIC stainless ALLOY BD chose I think they have an exceptional product at a great price point.

"I'm just looking for a fair comparison of material properties"

Good luck with any company (manufacturing from steel) telling you the actual alloy and heat treat they are using so we could all look it up and make a side by side comparison from the steel charts.

"correct me if I am wrong but if you are going through crampons fast due to wearing the teeth're either doing something wrong or are one badass mofo who has earned the right to bitch about the difference between metals"


Clyde said...

Where was the original discussion?

For the record, here is what CAMP says about their steel choice:

"SANDVIK NANOFLEX® is an innovative stainless steel that is much stronger and tougher than normal steel or titanium. In the patented heat treatment process, extremely hard nanoparticles (1 to 10 nm) form within the metal matrix. This creates a steel that is very hard yet not brittle.

The specific Sandvik Nanoflex® stock used by CAMP boasts an impressive yield tensile strength of 1800 N/mm2 and an ultimate strength of 2000 N/mm2 with a hardness of HRC 52. By comparison, our traditional chromoly steel has a 785 N/mm2 yield and an 1180 N/mm2 ultimate with a hardness of HRC 43. Thus Nanoflex® offers an incredible130% increase in yield strength and 70% increase in ultimate strength with 20% greater hardness!

These properties allow a significant reduction in the amount of steel—saving weight while increasing performance because thinner metal penetrates ice with less fracturing. And the superior hardness means points stay sharper longer and resist the wear and tear of abrasion. As a side benefit, Nanoflex® also resists corrosion better than standard steel."

And this is what they say about the Vector Nanotech Crampon, which weighs 31.0 oz (per the catalog):

"• World’s lightest interchangeable point technical crampons
• World’s first stainless steel crampons
• Sandvik Nanoflex® stainless steel for superior performance and durability
• Sophisticated point geometry assures secure foot placements
• Fully adjustable automatic binding fits most technical boots
• Optional heel spurs and Vibram® anti-balling plates

The lightest, most technologically advanced ice-climbing crampons in the world! Constructed primarily from innovative Sandvik Nanoflex® steel, which is significantly stronger than chromoly steel. This stainless alloy permits reducing the thickness from 2.75mm to 1.8mm. The slimmer sidewalls reduce weight and improve penetration and grip of the side points. The position of the replaceable, forged steel front points can be customized. The front bail has three positions and the rear bail has two positions plus micro-adjustment for a custom fit to any boot. Low-profile heel lever prevents snagging yet is easy to operate. Easy size adjustment requires no tools."

I haven't tried these crampons yet but will this season.

Dane said...

Clyde, thanks for adding that. Companies claim all sorts of things in their press. After you have climbed on the Camp 'pons and made a direct comparison to something similar in a cookie cutter framed chromoly crampon (Grivel or Petzl)get back to us.

It is possible to make a crampon too light weight.

I don't write up every thing I climb in...for good reason.

Ken said...

Hi Dane, just discovered this blog & post... interesting stuff, glad you are putting it out there.

Strictly coming from a materials perspective, I can't help but comment on the apparent overkill here in using Sandvik's nanoflex for crampons! This stuff is suited to applications like lightweight precision springs at high temperatures (or the lightest tent poles on earth made from actual steel for under $1000). Dynamic loading fatigue (kicking rocks) however is much worse than normal stainless steel. They will probably break before they wear out.
Crampon design etc is another issue.
In general we have such good gear options these days that it makes me wonder how much we are overpaying for this stuff.

Anyways, thanks for the good climbing related offerings.


Marty said...

I appreciate seeing all of the banter on the various high tech materials of todays crampons, but does anyone know of a manufacturer who is making crampons for us guys with big feet? I wear a size 13.5Scarpa Inverno, and cannot for the life of me find a crampon that will fit the footprint, width or length. Simply putting a longer bar between the front and rear sections of crampons that are fundamentally too small in every way does not solve the problem. I suspect that there are a lot of guys out there with an even bigger problem than me! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Unknown said...

This is great! Thanks for the information sir!

Sanyo Seiki

Trafitec said...

Simply putting a longer bar between the front and rear sections of crampons that are fundamentally too small in every way does not solve the problem.

Unknown said...

This is best, thanks for sharing this information sir.