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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, January 31, 2011

Preview of the Fall 2011 Black Diamond "Stinger Crampon"

I will focused on a Cyborg/Stinger comparison but might as well get this out of the way first.

Most obvious comparison for similar performance is the Petzl Dart at 840g per pair.   The BD Stinger is 910g per pair on my scale.

For the 70g (2.5 oz) you get a easy replaceable and inexpensive front point, (likely the best improvement over the Dart) a pair of mini secondary front points (that are suppose to grow in the production version),  full antibots front and back, mid sole traction of sorts for hard ice and stainless.  The foot print is very close in size (virtually the same) on the Dart and Stinger.  And I have accused  the Dart and Dartwin as being "roller skates" on moderate ice.   I don't like either there and would expect the Stinger to be just as dismal on that kind of terrain.  The Stinger seems to "cut" a little better from my own use.  The secondary points will allow me to use them on more ice routes than limiting them to just mixed where I would use the Darts now.   None of these are a "beginner crampons" or something I'd suggest as your only crampon..   It is the right direction, but still a generation or two to go before I'll be totally happy :)  

Before you read any further this pair of pre-production BD Stingers are the 1st piece of gear to be reviewed here on Cold Thistle that I have been loaned. So YMMV, but by all means, "Caveat emptor".

I don't write about kit that I don't like so obviously I like these new Black Diamond crampons.  And again no matter who's blog...if they are given the sheet...beware of the review...even mine.  Caveat emptor!

It should be obvious if you read the blog that I am none to happy with the state of modern boots and crampons.  Twight says and rightfully so, "you can't get around in the mountains without crampons".
And I say in the last 30 years the boots and crampons haven't improved much.   That might be a little over stated as both crampons and boots have improved a lot...but I bitch and push for even better gear where it is so easy to improve.  Crampons are easy to improve.

I'd bet it is no surprise that in my spare time I write what I hope are constructive comments to folks at Petzl,  BD or La Sportiva for example hoping that small things might get changed.   I suspect the company receiving them round files the comments and just might refer to them as "nasty grams".   Even though I am always  polite.

I figure why not...I have nothing to loose from a suggestion. 

I am an equal opportunity crampon guy.  I like them all.  Darts, Dartwins, G12s, M10s, Sabertooth or Cyborg, they all climb well.  Just that few of them climb pure ice as good as the last version of the Chouinard/Salewa or SMC rigid.   Kind of an old and sad secret really.

Only thing still resembling a Footfang is the current Grivel Rambo.

1978 Haderer single leather boots, Chouinard Zero, a Terrordactyl an SMC rigids...Canadian Rockies ice.

1980 North Buttress of Mt Hunter, Kolfach Ultras and SMC rigids again.

And more recent Dartwins, on Curtain Call, Feb 2010

Grivel G12s on a WI5+

BD Serac on WI4, in the Ghost, Nov 2010

Just an idea of how impressed I am with any one crampon or brand of crampons.   They all seem to work.
But all of them could also be better.

This is a want list I recently sent to BD after spending a few days climbing on Cyborgs again.  And I think the BD Cyborgs is a very good crampon although on the heavy side of what is available.

"I figure somewhere there @ BD you have a plan to update the Cyborg. My thoughts on the Cyborg if so. I'd tighten up the connecting bar interface as you have the Sabertooth and the Serac. I'd go even tighter and make it a .0005" +/- over. Hard to move and adjust but added rigidity to the crampons worth while I think and you still have the option of a spring bar if they aren't using rigid boots..easy to cover in the brochures. Since you are already doing a second connecting'll have some options. But I wouldn't go to a thinner stock on your new bail. I've been rethinking that. Problem with the thin Petzl bail is reliability and  work hardening in the stainless as we suspect. I would not go to a thinner bail but a much "thinner width" bail on a thinner width crampon forefoot. A more narrow bail would solve many of the actual fit problems. I know you haven't missed what Grivel has done on the G20 and G22 bails and forefoot. It won't take much in width. Then you can use the weight savings there to add a bit of length to the forfoot piece. As much as you think you can get away with and still fit tiny boots. But the size of the forefoot *foot print* seems way too small currently. I think it needs to be longer. But that is going to take a new computer drawing of the forefoot. It won't take much to make a big difference. The older wider bails will still fit the dbl boots like the Spantik and over boots as required. The one thing that really shows on the Cyborg trying to fit the newer boots (classic example is the Spantik's rocker and I'd bet the Nepals as well) is the lack of rocker on the Cyborg. You could easily dbl the amount of rocker in the Serac and Sabertooth which is good and really helps the over all fit and be fine on most any boot I suspect.  And they would fit so much better over all on others. I think you would be better off on a technical crampon to reduce the size of the first two verticals and move the second pair back a bit more like a Sabertooth front than what you are running now on the Cyborg. Equal length points are easier to mix climb in. And you aren't going to loose anything on technical ice with your forged front points. Just mate the first pair of points up and have them hit a the surface when sitting on a flat. I am not explaining this well. Easy to see if you set a Serac, Saber and Cyborg front piece on a flat. Take a Serac, add the 3rd set of full size teeth from the saber (1st vertical pair supporting the front) narrow up the forefoot a bit and add Cyborg fronts. Then build a narrow forefoot bail of the same material you are using now. Then just do a aggressive lightening job with aggressive profiling on the teeth sides. Easy enough when you cut them out of the plate. I'd bet from looking at it you could do all that and drop some significant weight on the Cyborg."

OK!  What am I asking for...short version?  Bails that fit the new boots, a bigger foot print on the bottom of your boot, and more rocker in the forefoot.  A more rigid inner face between front and rear crampon parts..more rigid.  Smaller main points on the crampon, easier to climb mixed and easier to walk in.   What I wasn't interested in was a technical crampon that was mono point specific.

Hopefull ythe back ground will all make more sense in a minute.  Dare to read on. 

The new Black Diamond Stinger

The one thing that I really miss on the newest crampons is a "cutting edge".  By that I mean a set of side points  (front to back) that easily allow you to kick a step on hard ice to splay your feet out and get off your calves.  In the old days with a straight shafted tool you could do it with one or two swings, pick or adze.  Even the original carbon fiber Cobra could handle that job adroitly.  Current Cobra will do it if you don't stick the pick...but an adze is pretty useless in a reversed grip.   Quark is OK.  Nomic?Fusion ?  Not so much.   Ergo...ha, ha,  hhhaaaaa!  And I like my Ergos :)

Here is what I mean by a good "cutting edge".   The last generation Chouinard/Salewa clip on crampons.  You can do some serious step cutting with the point design on these guys. Nothing I would have thought to ask for but gotta say I am more than pleased to see this change in forefoot design on the new Stingers.

New Stinger goes a little retro on the third set of down points and you get a slightly bigger foot print from what the Cyborg has done previous as the comparison shows.  Count the lugs on the sole and look where the yellow mid sole meets up with the down points as a reference.

Stinger and Cyborg side by side.  The Stinger mono point is slightly off set of center to the inside of the foot intentionally closer to the big toe.  The Stinger is a mono specific crampon, andno question the design is specifically intended for hard, modern mixed climbing.  BD  offers other less technical crampons for pure ice that climb very well.   As a "more general" crampon, if you can put a any mono specific crampon in that catagory,  these have some advantages over the usual suspects imo.

Cyborg forefoot shown below.   Stinger is giving almost a full lug more of coverage on my 45.5 size Spantiks shown here. A good thing I think.   The new design  (really not new at all) might be a little sketchy on the down hill though with the loss of  2 "braking" points on the forefoot.   I am more worried about getting up than getting down so I like the change.  Never seemed to have a problem before on the older gear and no bots at that!

It gets better.  As the heel piece is just a tiny bit longer as well.  Again more over all foot print.  At this point I am thinking BD is staffed by brilliant engineers and we were thinking along the exact same lines.  Just that they were 2 years ahead of me and my "round file" letter.

Heels.  Check out the heel lever placement.  The longer set is the Stinger.

 Cyborg..again check the position of the boot sole lugs.   Stinger has the longer foot print.
One of the things that has really bugged me on two piece crampon design.  If you are going to fook up a perfectly good crampon design by cutting it in half and making it semi rigid...which generally just means flexible, why not at least add some working bits to the empty space between your 2 parts?    If you have ever stepped up on a piece of cauliflower ice to find nothing under your foot is biting, you'll know why this one can really irk a climber.

Grivel is doing something similar on the G20 and G 22......but have to say I think the BD version is a better solution for that issue.

This is the current Cyborg, kinda half assed into the idea

Grivel G22 a totally different way to address the same problem of traction mid foot.

This is the new Stinger which is the best solution I  have seen to date on a two piece 'pon..

And a classic example why the new cuts under neath the forefoot is a good thing imo.  It makes a difference

So what do I think over all?  The Stinger is going to ship from the factory with a flex connecting bar.  I have tried both the flex and the rigid bar.  No surprise what I think works better.  I like the rigid bars but I also like options.    The connecting bar slot is cut very tight...almost but not quite a rigid crampon with the solid bar in place.  Will they be reliable?...who knows at this point but I suspect they will.  BD typically over builds everything for durability.  Fit?  Remember these a pre-production crampons..proto types really.  A third or forth round of new bails are in the works.  I've seen that bail and fit it to my Ultras.   I believe they will be just as good of fit as I have now, with Petzl bails clicked in.  With my Petzl bails in the crampons these are the first pair of crampons to fit my Scarpa Ultras (which a super thin bitch to fit) and my La Sportiva Spantiks (which are about as big as I will get in boot soles).   The added rocker on the forefoot of the crampon makes a huge difference on fit.  Any crampon that actually fits my boots I am THRILLED spitless to climb in, free or not!

Weight?  BD has dropped 6.5 oz per pair compared to the Cyborg with the lighter weight Stinger.  Stinger is 900g or 32oz even per pair with the bot and heel strap.  Good bit of that loss is just in loosing the one front point though.  But we have also gained a bigger foot print and a better ability to cut a step with a bigger "cutting edge" and better placed down points to accomplish it.

Not a big mono fan myself,  but the two secondary front points are being enlarged on the production model which gives me hope.  More coining is being added to make the forefoot even more rigid.  The down points may be shortened a tiny bit more to make them even more rigid.  No question I like having the chance to replace a worn set of front points with forged replacement parts that are cheap to replace.   Over all I like the Stinger crampon a lot.   Things I really like...more rocker in the crampon, more rigid crampon by design and a much, much better fit on all my boots.   Down side is they are monos (which may be OK if the production version's secondary front points  are long enough to give some real additional support)  This is a pair of crampons I will likely buy next fall when they become available in final form.

Gotta say, " thank you" to Black Diamond for allowing me to introduce the Stinger to the world on Cold Thistle.

WI5, SLC, Jan 2011


Rafal said...

Gotta say if they're as good as described this is my next pair...

On Rambo 4's now but finding the anitbot a pain in the ass. Wtf came up with a rigid anitbot design?? Awesome crampons otherwise!

These look like what I've been looking for: low profile, good sole coverage, secondary and tertiary points for hooking, monos for hard ice, and most importantly fit my damn boots!!

Thanks for the preview Dane.

Anton said...

Good review / preview.

Seems that BD is again doing well by copying Grivel and Petzl inginuity. In this case they have made one logical change (changeable frontpoint), but are still 100g more than the G20s.

I have to disagree that the itsy bitsy "teeth" on the bottom/middle of the foot are somehow better than the G20's... there is barely anything there to grip! However, on an icy approach/descent, the BDs will likely be more stable, but as you noted - the primary concern is going up.

I look forward to seeing how well the front bails work with my boots. I've primarily used BD gear over the years, but lately have been appreciating the qualities of Grivel gear. (e.g. G20s, Rambo 4s, Quantum Techs)

It would be great to see more reviews of Grivel gear (even if they don't send it to you free). I think you'll be pleasantly surprised in many cases.


Dane said...

Anton, I climb on some Grivel gear..Rambo IV and G12s for example. I only have so much coin and time. The stuff I like and use a lot gets reviewed, not the few things I might get for free.

Unless of course I like them and use them a lot :)

Grivel is good at copying as is BD. G20 and G22 are the classic examples. Petzl was the real game changer here on crampons and tools.
Shouldn't be any surprise I like the Petzl gear.

Mid teeth...I haven't used the G22 but might get teh chance soon. We'll see how well they work. I was impressed how well the BD mid teeth version works. No question anything there works better than nothing at all!

As I said I have no brand loyality. If I have the access and the time I'll generally climb in it.

Jacon said...

I have a lot of brand loyalty to Grivel, at least their crampons, and I'm pissed that BD sold out.

Still, a G20-esque crampon with a replaceable front point? Finally.

Eric Dacus said...

Looking the details of the secondary points between the short serrated (M10, Sabertooth, Dart, Dartwin and these Stingers) versus longer larger (the G12, G14 and Cyborgs) there seems to be a fundamental design difference. I don't know if this would warrant a full post from you, but I would be very curious what conditions you know or think they were designed for. As a design engineer myself, these little things are what define a product.

Thanks for keeping the blog going and interesting, the detailed look at these kinds of things are fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I Dane, i just bought a a used pair of DMM Terminator
but you did not mention it when you made somes comparaisons for your review, did it worth something ?

Thanks JP

Dane said...

DMM? Magazine comments here:

Anonymous said...


I currently climb with both the Petzl Dart and Dartwin. My choice for steep ice has been the Dartwin for the last three seasons. Similar to your observations, I find the Dartwins to peform best on steep ice (e.g. the steep ice at Lake Willoughby where I recently climbed). They are definitely not for lower angle ice, general mountaineering or too much walking. Overall, I like them over the G14s.

Thanks for the preview on the new BD crampons. (Just what I need; to starting thinking about buying new crampons!)

Also thanks for your blog. I really enjoy reading your comments on gear. (Are all ice climbers gear junkies?)


Ralph P. said...

Have you tried them with the Neve heel?

Dane said...

Neve heels? I have not climbed in that set up but easy enough to do.

Ralph P. said...

Ok. Also I may be out to lunch here but is that a new material on the antibotts? They look a different color/texture than the ones out now. Any idea if BD is changing their bott design across the range?

Dane said...

No change for production bots....they are just getting a new mold ready for the Stinger and it isn't polished yet...hence the color and texture change on the front piece. Good eye :) Rear is production already.

ericwright said...

Fantastic site! Thanks for all your hard work.
You are the unspoken voice of every climber.
"Damn this (whatever) why can't we make this better?"
Your blog will make things better.
Ok so here is my little idea. You mention that modern crampons often to not have anything right under the mid foot. I agree, I miss my rambos, though not the weight and that climbing on stilts feeling.
Any way as of late I have been short screws and heads right in the middle of the extension bar. Seems to work. Though I wonder if they are placing dangerous stress on the crampon system. Any thoughts on this?

Ian Armstrong said...

A very detailed review, very helpful with real world opinions, not influenced by sponsorship, advertising etc. Your blog is a breath of fresh air.

Wrt centre points for standing on cauliflowers etc, all is not lost if your crampons are failing here, just add a nut and bolt or two through the connecting bar. Just like the original heel spur bodges.

We should not have to bodge but bodges are how the technology moves on.

Dane, do you have access to a workshop? How about knocking up a pair of prototype "perfect pons"?

Dane said...

Thanks for the comments Ian. I do have a full metal shop at hand. But as the reliability of some of the manufactures kit has already shown, a good crampon is tough to manufacture, even as a one off.

Given the choice I would have taken the Sabertooth profile to a replaceable and forged mono/dual. And gone back to chrome moly. I still think the stainless is ill advised after using them in various forms for two seasons.

What I wanted sounds a lot like a new Petzl Lynx doesn't it? We'll have to wait and see how true that is. But imo BD dropped the ball on this one.

Nicolai said...

Why are these not so well suited to moderate ice?

Dane said...

Basically they are a copy of the Dart and not enough down points for moderate terrain imo.

Anonymous said...

Dane thanks for your hard work. My friends and I enjoy your blog very much.

My Cyborg pros(mono configuration) fit my Lowa Mountain Expert boots very sloppy in front. I will often look down and find my boot twisting towards one side or the other. This is probably due to the very wide front bail. Is there a better bail that I could purchase on the market? Is there a easy way to modify the front bail? Or is my best solution to return them and go with the new Stinger?

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Do the stingers and cyborgs have the same toe welt?

Unknown said...

Dane, some time ago I wrote to you about drilling holes in the handles of a pair original Ergos (!) so that they could accommodate a tether. I believe that you responded by saying that you had some experience with taking these handles apart and that you didn't see a problem with drilling a hole in them. Much to my surprise, (after drilling a 1/8" pilot hole which gave no indication that there would be a problem), I found that the handle was not cored with a single piece of aluminum which I had imagined would have extended down the full length of the tool thus adding to its torsional (?) strength. Instead what I found was an interlocking matrix of plastic and aluminum components which comprise the handle. This was after drilling a single 1/2" hole. One option now is to give up on the tethering project, fill the hole with an epoxy and save my pennies for a modern tool or to tie off this hole and to trust the "matrix" that I have apparently damaged. Even though this was an early radical tool, I am surprised that Petzl would seemingly compromised the handle strength by not coring it continuously via the shaft of the tool. Your thoughts would be appreciated, even though this is regarding an antique item!