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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vertical front point crampons?

I have a gear room wall full of crampons.  Several versions of each.   Black Diamond, Petzl and Grivel are all represented.

Until recently I have been a big fan of the Black Diamond horizontal crampons for most conditions.  Sabertooth to be exact.  But I have also used the Serac.  They both climb exceptionally well.   Positive blogs on both can be found here on Cold Thistle.   Big fan until they started breaking.  BD has yet to acknowledge they have a problem.  To the opposite in fact, they have publically denied any problems.   Despite continuing to quietly replace production crampons as they crack or break and are returned to BD.


Since the breakage issue was made public on a Canadian blog in Feb of 2010 when horizonatals seemed required, I have been climbing in a heavier, but still outstanding, Grivel  G12s.   Chromoly is proven technology I trust.  Easier for me to simply change brands than to be required to physically check and then have to still worry about my crampon's reliability everytime out.  I do check my gear...and like the Sabertooth a lot.  This one seems an overly obvious failure just too easy to avoid.

With an exceptionally cold winter in Western NA and a mid winter trip to the Alps I ended up using vertical front point crampons more this winter than I normally would.  Given a choice I really don't like climbing a lot of hard, cold ice.  This winter I had little choice.  So I climbed in the BD Cyborg, the new Grivel G22 and my old stand by, the Dartwin.

None of the previous mentioned vertical front point 'pons are what I would consider "amazing".  Something about each I don't like and somethings about each I do like.

My first complaint is none of them fit well on my boots, the Spantik or Ultra very well.  Surprizing the G22 is the worst of the bunch.  BD Cyborg second "best".  Both need new front bails for my boots and my standards..  Easily done.  I use Petzl bails on both the other brand crampons.  How long is it going to take these guys to figure the bail thing out?    The Dartwin has a good front bail obviously.  But the back heel lever could be better on the Petzl.  The leverage is all wrong on the keeper strap.  And  the bottom of the heel piece shape (Grivel and Petzl) will collapse the Spantik sole if tighened very much.    So the Petzl heel lever I replace with a BD heel lever, which offers more surface area and a tight crampon.  Problems solved on the Dartwin  for the most part.

Of the three the Grivel has the best front points imo.  The Cyborgs 2nd there as well.  In comparison the Dartwin is the worst performance of the three.  But not by much.   Only the Cyborg is replaceable and hard to tell the difference in performance of the G22, Dartwin and the Cyborg.   But you can if the conditions are bad enough and the ice hard enough.    A few bucks to replace the fronts on a Cyborg.  The Dartwin and G22 you buy a new front crampon.  Expensive that and unnecessary by today's engineering standards.  The Dartwin wears better than the G22 simply because of front point surface volume.

The Cyborg will climb easy ground better than the G22 or the Dartwin. Try walking on smooth 30 degree water ice as an example.   The term ice skates will get a whole new definition there.   But what you pay for that kind of performance in additional weight.  Too much extra weight imo.  Cyborg is a dated design.   But then all three are really if you look at what is possible in crampons today.   Dartwin is a little better on easy ground than the G22 imo.  All three crampons could go back to the drawing board and easily eliminate their down sides with little effort.

Big advantage to the Grivel G22 though  on the out of box fit for the TLT5 Dyanafit ski mountaineering boots.  Almost like the G22 was purposely designed to fit this boot :)   Not perfect but it is a good out of the box fit.   You'll likely see a lot of that combo on technical ground next winter.  I'll certainly be using them.

weight listed per pair:

Petzl Dartwin 1/2 bot 30.5oz / 865g
Grivel G 22 w/full bot 900g
Black Diamond Stainless Cyborg full bot 39.4oz / 1116g

Dartwin has eight down points working for you on moderate ground.  The Grivel 22 just six!  The Cyborg ten.  No wonder the Cyborg is more secure on moderate ground!  Not everyone's choice but when all said, the fit and performance is good enough on the Dartwin.  Which makes the Dartwin my choice in vertical front point crampons. Although it is an expensive one if you are climbing a lot of mixed when compared to the M10, G14 or the Cyborg.
Strip a set of Cyborgs down and you have this:
Black Diamond Stainless Cyborg, mono, no bot, 28.6oz / 811g

No stainless Cyborg bodies broken yet that I have heard about.  And Cyborgs get used a lot around the world.   Something to be said for a dual point that can be converted to a mono and easily replacable, CHEAP to replace, front points.  I won't be getting rid of my Cyborgs anytime soon.

BB and Grivel versions come with botts.  The Petzl version you have to buy the heel piece.  Still nothing up front on the Dartwin.

                                                     left to right:  Cyborg, Dartwin and G22

There is much more to a crampon than the front points.  I start with relaibility and how the crampons fit my boots and move on from there.  For me once trust in the design is established,  fit is the most important issue for picking the right crampon.

For those that wonder why I worry so much about crampons fit?

UIAGM Guide Dylan Taylor has a great blog post about climbing the Ginat that is worth reading.

"We crossed the Argentiere and simu-climbed most of the route in about four pitches. I found another screw and one broken black diamond crampon stuck in the snow midway up the first pitch. Hmmm..."

I asked Dylan what kind of crampon he found and its condition from the Ginat, "I am pretty sure the crampon I saw at the base of the route was a newer BD cyborg or something Ike that. It was definetly the shiny new stainless steel design, and I think it had modular vertical front points, and orange antibot plates. Did you drop a crampon? Hope not! The heel bale was missing completely...Cheers, Dylan"

I've found single crampons in the middle of the Eiger and on other big north faces in NA and Europe.  Dropped a crampon myself mid pitch.    You have to wonder what the stories are behind any lost crampon,  but can't imagine any of them being pretty.



JJ said...

How many Sabertooth crampons have broken that you have heard about?

Dane said...

I've been made aware of half dozen since Feb. Those failures are split between Serac and Sabertooth both Pro and Clip versions. All from earlier production. But all failures have been in the same area with the end result (if not caught before total failure) would be the front points shearing off.

Crampons have always failed. No big deal as long as the community is aware of the issue. A specific and repeated failure with the result of loosing the crampon totally and the frontpoints specifically could easily be a safety issue for the climber involved.

sdizzle said...

Just to clarify-the 2nd gen sabretooths HAVE NOT had the same breakage issues? Please excuse me if I am simply restating what has been posted on the coldthistle, gravsports-ice blog and cascade climbers, but I spend a lot of time soloing WI 2ish terrain in the Cascades, and this.....concerns me, as I have no desire to become Bergshrunde food. Whatever the answer, I will start inspecting my sabretooths before every climb. I do appreciate getting this information out to the climbing community at large. Keep it up!

Dane said...

sdizzle? Only the earlier version so far that I am aware of. I have been trying to follow along as more (broken crampons) info has surfaced in the community. BD has been mute, past denying any problem. But have added their own spin to the story. So they have been of little use imo for us (climbers on BD gear) to get the facts straight.

More here on what I know currently about the issue..which isn't a lot. I am concerned as well. Enough concern to generally keep me off my stainless BD Sabertooths and Seracs of any generation. Simply not worth the risk for me of lost time out (not enough of it as is) or an epic caused from a crampon failure.

Travis said...

I was wondering what your thoughts were on the fit of a g22 to a trango extreme. Just wondering if you had put that combo together and how it looked.


Dane said...

Travis, I like the G22 but the front bail is a little funky on my mountain boots. Simple answer to that for me was just use a Petzl bail. I used my 22s on everything but my I can't give you a better answer, sorry.

Bradley said...


I am interested in purchasing a pair of BD Sabertooth's.

I notice that this thread is a couple of years old now and I cant seem to find any information on BD SS crampons failing after 2011 - do you have any information on whether BD have resolved the issue?

Thanks in advance, Brad.

Dane said...

I simply got tired of keeping track.

"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."

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