The is a repost from early April 2011. But as we roll into the fall ice season and the winter of 2011/2012 I thought it worth revisting for those looking to buying new tools. I'll have a new Nomic/Fusion comparison up soon as well. And a new Cobra/Quark comparison. And finally, since so few have gotten to use the newest Ergo another set of comments on that tool as well from some recent alpine climbing with it.
New Quark buried in Neve with a lwt C-T adze.
Hardly new now as the first tools showed up here in the States back in Oct/Nov. of 2010. The issues with the new Nomic and Ergo appeared and for one reason or another even the unaffected Quarks weren't available in large numbers again until mid Feb. 2011. I played with a pair at the Bozeman Icefest. But wasn't able to get my own pair until the week before I left for Chamonix in late March. For may folks in the warmer parts of the US the ice season was winding down by that time.the tools were available again. Hard to justify new tools at full price at the tail end of your season not knowing what will be available next year.
(I don't know of anything new coming along for 2011-2012)
More than a few waiting for the new Nomic. The Nomic may be worth the wait for some but easy to over look the more durable and likely a better all around tool, the Quark. Many will have a the option of even more/better choices for their own use by having the new all around Quark and the even more technical (than the Nomic) new Ergo available.
The new Quark is certainly built in the Nomic's image. The handle contours are very close and most importantly the aluminum heads are exactly the same profiles.
You have to look back at the original Quark to make a good comparison. Petzl has changed more than just the head of the tool. But changing the head made a new hammer and a new adze required on the newest tool. Even the picks were changed. Making them now T rated instead of B rated in both versions, the new ICE and New DRY. Add to that you get a slightly deeper pick angle on the newest Quark.
Below: pictured is the new pick angle on the top over lay. The new pick is slightly steeper, may be 2 degrees.. Middle is the newest ICE pick tip profile. The DRY version is the same tip profile. The bottom picture is the older Cascade Nomic pick profile.
So as you can see, it aint your old Quark. The new Quark with a hammer weights in at 588g or 528g with no hammmer. The old Quark with a hammer installed is 682g.
With the new Quark that includes a second higher grip in both over all weights. With after market hammers and adzes available for the new Quark and the additional factory movable second grip the new Quark has a lot of options.
The newest Petzl factory hammer on the left on a new Quark. The C-T hammer on a original style Nomic right. Weights vary from 30g for the low profile C-T hamemr to 60g for the Petzl hammer.
The other improvement that Petzl made on the new tool is a full size carabiner hole in the spike to clip umbilicals into. Big improvement.
This one of my personal Quarks, with fixed trigger for high daggering, a rubber grip wrap and a C-T hammer installed. Lots of options on how you set this tool up. And an incredibly versatile tool on any terrain. The Adze in the opening photo is its mate.
Used here to good effect on hard technical dry tooling. Jack Roberts on a bolted M7+ @ a dry tooling area in France.
I have climbed with the Nomic almost exclusively since it became available. The Quark before that. Abandoning every other tool in my quiver sometimes to my detriment. Only the new Ergo has swayed me until now. The new Quark has taken the majority of technical advantages of the Nomic and added them to a more vestal shaft of the older Quark. All the while giving you a majority of the Nomic's advantages in one form or another (the moving slider grip) while offering some additional advantages on less technical ground. The new Quark is one of the few tools imo that rivals and generally betters the original Nomic as a truly all around tool. Seems I am not the only one who thinks so. I suspect this guy at any given moment has a choice of ANY tool that Petzl makes. You think?
Hard not to be pleased with the newest Quark. For many the Quark will be a better (and more appreciated) all around tool.
As the rush from the summer OR show slows down I am getting product into review. Right now I am a little over whelmed with projects. 6 boots alone that need photos, played with and finally reviews written. This is something I do for fun so I may be a bit over my head at the moment. Thankfully it is at my pace.
But I have to comment on these two boots again before the reviews are done. Full reviews coming for both. The new Batura 2.0 is going to get an exceptionally long comment, simple because it is required to update you on the newest Batura 2.0.
I have barely gotten started on the Salewa Gaiter Pro review. For anyone unaware I am a big fan of the Dynafit TLT ski boot series. For those that don't follow the ski industry, the TLT is a game changer there.
And I think the term "game changer" is way over used. Just not when discussing the TLT. Think cell phones, electric cars and light bulbs...as game changers. Then you'll get the idea I am trying to convey.
The design team that worked on the TLT series of boots is also heavily involved in the Salewa Pro Series. No one told me that up front but putting my foot in the new Gaiter Pro it seemed obvious enough. A closer look at the boot's profile and I had to call Hende and ask. Sure enough...there is major brain synergy going on between Dynafit and Salewa these days. And it shows in the Pro Series. Being able to jump right in with the big boys in the mtn boot game, first effort, is impressive.
I'm really looking forward to sharing the details and info on both boots. You are looking at two of the current state of the art in mountain boots.
Mine won't be the last comparison between these two.
I must first start this with an apology and an excuse. And I really don't like excuses. Last winter while living in Chamonix I had every intention of visiting the Simond factory. I failed to accomplish that errand after being told Simond had been sold and would no longer be producing hardware.
I'm not privy to the ownership but no question that Simond is still in the Chamonix valley and producing hardware.
Pity I didn't bother looking into it further as the factory was with in easy reach via public transport of my flat. My fault for not following up on the idea and checking the facts. Hopefully I will get a visit and tour of the factory next winter.
I was wrong and my sincere apology to Simond for any misinformation I published on the cc.com forum, which has now been corrected.
The topic of Simond might not have come up if not for the recent discussion of stainless steel in crampons.
But if you are an ice climber, you would have to have been born under a rock to not know that Simond changed our world with the Simond Chacal and the first reversed curve pick. In my opinion Simond was for many years THE ice climbing brain trust of the world. The history of Simond in the mountains around Chamonix and the men who climbed on their tools is likely unequaled. A tour of the Chamonix cemetery will just reinforce that impression.
I can't really do Simond justice in a short blog post but I might attempt that project at another time in the future. I can say these two Simond tools, the Chacal and the latter adze version, the Barracuda, offered as much tecnical advancement as the sport has ever seen before or since.
Simond is run by a small, close-knit and enthusiastic team. We share a common background, enjoy the same activities and have a shared attitude to our work. We take a craftsman’s approach to production of our equipment within the rigorous controls of the company framework, which has ISO 9001 certification.
Our key objectives in the product development process are to ensure product reliability, ergonomic design and the highest quality. The whole team, from the managing director and R&D department to our sales representatives and technical advisors, tests all our equipment. Our products are specifically developed for your sporting activities; they meet with the highest safety requirements and give you maximum comfort and pleasure in use.
We select the best materials and use our own machinery to manufacture our products. Our highly skilled personnel then assemble them by hand, which means we can inspect our products at every stage of the manufacturing process, from the arrival of the raw materials in the factory right up to their packaging prior to delivery.
We listen to the users of our equipment and invite feedback from a diverse team of climbers and mountain professionals. They work with us so that we can integrate developments into our future products that meet our users’ expectations.
Simond has been striving for the past 150 years to preserve these values, which when combined with the very latest trends, have contributed to the continued reputation of the company as a major player among manufacturers of mountaineering and climbing equipment."
Back to the original discussion of stainless in crampons. Simond was the first to use stainless in a crampons. Mind you they have never built an entire crampon of stainless but they have been a smart user of the stainless in their product the Vampire crampon and its differing models.
The Simond Vampire uses "hot-forged 17-4PH, structurally hardened martensitic stainless steel" for the front points in this crampons which should work just fine for what Simond has intended. Simond also uses chromoly in the frame of the Vampire not stainless. Might ask yourself why no stainlesss on the other 97% of the crampon. My comments were directed at BD's choice in materials and manufacturing techniques, and Chouinard/Salewa previous to that. Not Simond's or Camp's. Of the three using stainless today likely Simond is doing the best job of the choices in material and manufacturing when you look specifically at the stainless steel topic.
The point in reference to my previous stainlees/chromoly comparison? High quality forged stainless steel is not the same as stainless plate that is cut and cold formed. The hot-forged 17-4PH is time proven for durability in the Simond Vampire. To imply other wise would simply be in error.
We don't see much of the Simond gear in the USA these days but it is still widely popular in Europe. Which should make an impression because likely more hard alpine climbing done every weekend in Chamonix and the surrounding Mt Blanc area than gets done in a full year in the USA.
Simond gear in action on tvmountain :) Look around and you'll see more of it there.
This from a forum I contribute to I thought worth repeating. Taken in the right context it adds to the crampon steel conversation so I pasted it in here.
"Easy to get side tracked on the real issues here, which is failures in design and durability, with comments thrown at you like, "it is your soft or large boot, your lack of skill, your excess body weight, your poor technique" or now even "the rock is too hard". My take is you are rolling over like a puppy if you actually believe any of that nonsense as a reason for your crampon to fail.
This was one attempted justification given for the lack of durability in SS. "I've never encountered anything as abrasive as Chamonix alpine granite"
Ya, now about that Chamonix granite? I bought a new pair of Dartwins while in Chamonix. I used them on every mixed climb I did there last winter but the two laps mentioned on the Cosmic with SS. The climbing amounted to several 1000' feet including, you guessed it, two additional laps on the Cosmic.
Dartwins below are never sharpened and left untouched since I got home in April. Judge for yourself how much life is still in these forged, chromoly front points. For me at least, another full winter season (2+ months) in Chamonix again. But not likely two additional winters. I'll keep you posted.
No question Chamonix is hard on gear but I suspect it is because you get to climb mixed any given day if you chose, not that the rock is any harder or more abrasive than granite in Alaska or the Tetons for example. It is just easier to get to and get on with long routes.
If you keep track (and I obviously do) I also find it interesting that the companies based around Chamonix don't have recent issues breaking picks or the more recent issue of crampon failures. I could have included these Dartwins in my "crampon metal" comments. I didn't because of several reasons. First, the design is totally different as is the surface area contacting the rock. But if you look closely and actually examine the surface area between the two crampon styles there is a stark difference on what is really available for material to prolong the life of your crampons. The last picture reminds me of a razor blade and an axe in profile. Which is why I didn't add the Dartwin to the original conversation.
In these photos are fairly new Dartwins and brand new Sabers
This is a review/comparison I have wanted to make for some time. I'm finally collected four (and may be more) different garments that I think will make a good write up. And thanks to the member's encouragement Arc'teryx, Mountain Hardware, Outdoor Reasearch and Westcomb and several other manufactures have promised to join us. Big plans for the field tests and comparisons . Written review to come in late September or early October.
I am only interested in the stretch versions of a water proof shell. If there are others you think should be in this comparison please let me know.
Here are what I have so far thanks to the reader's suggestion. Hopefully the reviews and comparisons will answer all your questions. We'll have a couple of very experienced climbers joining me for this one. This will be the first review of its kind on Cold Thistle.
Gore-Tex’s new stretch version of its highly breathable Active Shell fabric. This one from OR.
Polartec has developed its own waterproof, breathable fabric NeoShell. This one from Westcomb
Marmot lightweight waterproof / breathable technology, MemBrain® Strata™ 100% Nylon Stretch. This one from Marmot obviously.
The new Dry.Q™ Elite from Monuntain Hardware
I'll add to the list once I know what we are really testing.
Does it exist? Or is it just that your available terrain and skiing is limited?
If it does exist what is the single ski ?
Or is it simply the Indian and not the arrow?
I generally owned several pairs of alpine skis when I worked at a ski area. But also generally only skied one pair the majority of the time. Rock skis maybe early season. Beaters they you didn't mind trashing and a decent pair of skis for the rest of the time. When I got a chance to do some heli skiing it didn't take long to figure out most of the guides were on shorter Euro mountaineering skis. Easier to ski in the always changing conditions. But they were hard to obtain in the early '80s here in the US. That was my introduction into a 2nd pair of skis or the start of a quiver. I thought it more the "right tool" for the job.
I started using the short mountaineering skis for early morning bomb runs and avi control work. They made the work a lot easier. By mid morning I would usually change back to my long boards and enjoy the groomers.
Today on any given day in the winter or spring I might ski groomed, face shot powder off piste, 10K vertical gain by foot for a 11K drop or a steep corn gully I have to hike into and maybe hike out of as well when I am done.
To be honest I ski much more terrain and different snow conditions now than I did guiding and skiing 12 months of the year in the distant past. Strange as that might sound.
Different skis for every occasion seems like a good thing :)
I have one or two that are good for most things. But nothing I would like to be on every where I am willing to ski now.
But if you have that magical ski you take every where I would love to hear about it!!
I have a hard time editing with videos already online. So it was easier for me to do the video links and then list the skis I use. This is the follow up on those videos.
The list isn't a definitive by any means and lots of skis out there that could easily replace any of the skis listed, dozens likely in each catagory, for every ski I listed. Just what I happen to use right now. But none were random picks either.
Everything here is new this spring..after my skiing "disaster" in Cham last winter. I use to take skiing seriously. I hadn't for a decade or two. I am serious about my skiing now.
Like many things ski gear works in conjunction. The ski is one of three parts, boots, skis and bindings. The wrong combo can be like having track race rubber on your 4x4. It might work but it will suck for the intended purpose.
I'm 6''1" and 205# and past 50. Very light on my feet (with skis anyway) and can ski a very low DIN setting in difficult conditions. But often as not now I ski a super light and toe locked rando race binding. I generally try to never get my skis off the snow. I like steep skiing, powder and terrible snow conditions. Groomed snow I find boring. But I learned what ever skills I do have skiing inbounds on groomed snow. Most have.
There is some cross over in all of these. The list is just how I look at them which isn't set in stone.
Climbing/ Spring Mtn skiing
(I want short, light and stiff )
Dynafit Se7en Summit 161cm
Dynafit Broad Peak 167cm
(I want light and something that skis very well in all snow conditions)
La Sportiva Hi5 188cm
Dynafit Stoke 173cm
BD Aspect 178cm
Lift skiing on and off piste
(here it must ski well on hard pack, groomed and soft snow)
BD Aspect 178cm
DP Wailer 112 190cm
La Sportiva Hi5 188cm
Big Mtn., lift served.
(soft snow, breakable crust and terrible conditions)
La Sportiva Hi5 188cm
DP Wailer 112 190cm
DP Lotus 134 192cm
My last pair of new traditional skis were a pair of Rossignal 4G, 207cm. Bindings were set at a DIN of 10.
I have used Marker, Salomon and Look bindings. I now use various versions of Tech bindings from Dynafit, Plum and RT. That use is defined by the boot I want to use, Dynafit TLT. I'm happy with both decisions.
From my perspective the 161cm 7 Summit is an extreme ski. As are the 192cm Lotus. The rest are pretty interchangeable for me really, depending on the snow conditions and the duration of the time outdoors. I obviously have a few favorites in there that see more use than the rest. Three here, I could live with as a single quiver ski. Better yet the same ski in two lengths which I have not yet done.
Your list may be even more specialised or just a single pair of skis. The more diverse the terrain you ski the more likely you want more than one pair. Hope this helps a bit with your own choices.
I've had a lot of people ask lately. Here is how I split up my own skiing. I have a lot of hammers around the house and shop. Everyone different and best used for a specific task. They are how ever just tools. I look at skis the same way, they are just tools. I like to use the best tool for the job.
Any hammer will do in a pinch as will any ski. Much of it is the skill of the user, right? But having the right tool at the right time can make work into play and even play much more fun.
In Part Two I'll show the ski I use and tell you where I use them.
Up front, I currently own and use crampons from Camp, Black Diamond, Petzl, and Grivel. I still own Salewa and Chouinard crampons that I have pulled out a few times in the last decade or so and even older Chouinards and SMCs that I haven't used in this century.
The point is I have no loyalty to any crampon maker. I just want them to fit my boots and then stay on the boots while I am climbing on them. As you might imagine with crampons in my gear room that I used 30 years ago I look for reliability and at long term durability as well.
These days with the emphasis on mixed climbing (read rock climbing) in crampons you can easily go through a set of crampon front points in a season or less, if you choose to participate.
So a crampon with an easily replaceable front point makes economical sense. But I have yet to see a crampon with easily replaceable front points that I really like...for a number of reasons.
So if you like fixed front points, as I do, you'll likely look for crampons that are the most durable and just as important the most reliable. The reason behind this particular blog and its information/opinions offered is simple, losing a crampon on route or having a crampon failure while in use can be serious. Fatally serious. That reality bought me to the obvious...a closer look at the quality of the steel used and different manufacturing techniques.
OK lets talk steel? But what does a guy writing a climbing blog know about steel? In this case enough to make an educated comment from the quality and durability of steels and the manufacturing processes currently being used to make crampons. As a professional I've designed and built literally hundreds of extremely high quality and very expensive small arms, small arm parts and custom knives from plate, bar stock and from forged, stainless and chromoly steels. One requirement that each has is they must last generations of hard use, not just a season or two.
Call me an well educated consumer for climbing hard goods.. My background in the small arms industry gives me some insight to recognise the differences between actual forged parts or parts cut from plate or bar stock, the heat treat, hardness and the differences in chromoly and stainless steel alloys. It isn't difficult to apply that knowledge to climbing gear at a basic level. Several decades of ice climbing and the use of virtually every high performance crampon in that time frame lends me an idea or two that might not be obvious at first glance by a casual climber or one simply not "into" the gear. This is a detailed gear commentary I think needs to be heard again in the climbing community. As you will see I am a not the first one to have raised the issue of using chromoly and stainless in crampons
*Some materials and finishing perspective that needs to be considered first*
Working with a bare metal finish is a challenge for anyone, including skilled craftsmen. There is nothing to hide a flaw. Doesn't matter if it is a small arm or a crampon, bare metal is always tough to work with. There is some obvious protective value to most metal finishes. But most protective finishes, especially "black" finishes will hide some pretty glaring faults/flaws as well. Faults you could never get by with on a bare metal finish like stainless.
Bottom line here? BD is allowing you to easily see every flaw in their stainless. Almost everyone else is using some type of paint finish to protect their chromoly and just as importantly...look good cosmetically.
On the sells room floor cosmetics are king. In the real word cosmetics mean ZIP. Nothing! Function and durability mean everything. That goes for crampons and small arms. Who has complained they were shot with an ugly gun? Does the mtn care about the color of your crampon?
It is easy to find flaws in metal work if you look hard enough. Just easier to see them in bare metal, that is in "the white". The photo below is is an example of four different bare metal, "in the white" finishes on stainless.
Four finishes on chromoly steel that was then final finished with Carbona Blue for cosmetics and a low level of base metal protection.
The issue of flaws, in finish work or how you produce a product, can easily be over come. You just need to use a material that structural or cosmetic flaws won't have a negative effect in the market place. Problems result when your base material can't live up to your design work, for the use intended and the product fails in use. Or your marketing department gets carried away with unrealistic claims.
The choice of material is critical when you have complex shapes, as you do with modern crampons.
Flaws cutting and bending in the manufacturing process that have long been accepted with chromoly, and no ill effects, simply may not work with in the same process with stainless. Durability for stainless alloys and the heat treat being used seems barely in the same ball game as time proven chromoly.
Petzl's handiwork in chromoly and a black painted finish
dbl click to get more details
Grivel's handiwork in chromoly and a black painted finish
dbl click to get more details
My perspective on gear breakage
If you have climbed ice long you have likely seen gear break. The gear that does break in our sport is commonly known these days, or should be. It is true that crampons, tools and picks have broken in the past (for decades) from every brand. Anyone that tells you the failure of current production gear is the fault of your climbing style, boot sole rigidity, or climbing ability is simply ignoring the real issue. The real issue is more likely one or more of the following, poor quality materials, lack of quality control and or bad design work by the manufacture.
Sure you can still break things ice climbing, but trust me, you will have to work at it for any of the quality gear available today..
I personally haven't broken any ice gear in the last decade. But I am also very critical on my choices in gear and I visually inspect them often.
I have worn out 3 pairs of crampons. An early pair of Chouinard rigids by over sharpening. My mistake which I have not repeated. The other two pair were Darts. Worn out simply by using them on modern mixed (read mostly rock) and having to sharpen them enough to keep them working on ice. Fair enough in all three cases. All were chromoly and all were forged front points. Totally different designs or course but that isn't relevant to this conversation.
So here is what I know and what is generally accepted common knowledge in the small arms (guns and knives) manufacturing industry.
High quality stainless steel alloys are "soft and sticky" in comparison to chromoly used for similar applications in both plate and forged form. And no, before you ask, the "sticky" part isn't going to make a difference climbing rock.
Take any quality knife for example. If you want a durable and sharp edge you don't use stainless, you use chromoly. If you want inexpensive weather resistance, say from salt exposure, stainless might be an option. A table knife you want to toss in the dishwasher? Perfect. Stainless is one of the most common and least expensive steels. Much of it recycled.. It is also the cosmetic winner and the lowest common denominator for actual performance every where else. If you require a sharp edge that is durable, and long term weather resistance, you use chromoly. Depending on the level of protection required one of several coating options for the base metal.
The edge and the durability required can be a crampon point, a knife edge the professional requires or a hammer that has to cycle a million rounds of ammo.
Bottom line...if you want it to last, you use chromoly and if required, a protective coating.
I would have to be convinced otherwise that a chromoly crampon would need a protective coating past cosmetics. I know from experience that even simple powder coating is beyond the end use requirements to protect the steel on a crampon. The "normal* coatings we use in my industry are way beyond what will ever be required in climbing gear. As a side note. The one instance of a climbing manufacture using a *normal* industrial level coating that I know of ended in a complete disaster. Simply because the manufacture had no idea of the down sides of the actual coating being used. Down sides? Lubricity and brittleness in a fastener. Their reason for the coating process? Cosmetics!
Forging? Forging is expensive. The basic idea is to align the molecules in the metal to add strength and durability to your product. You can forge stainless and chromoly. Forging will add to the durability and service life of both stainless and chromoly alloys if done correctly (hot forged ) and with the addition of a proper heat treat.
"Forging can produce a piece that is stronger than an equivalent cast or machined part. As the metal is shaped during the forging process, its internal grain deforms to follow the general shape of the part. As a result, the grain is continuous throughout the part, giving rise to a piece with improved strength characteristics. Some metals may be forged cold, but iron and steel are almost always hot forged. Hot forging prevents the work hardening that would result from cold forging, which would increase the difficulty of performing secondary machining operations on the piece."
Cutting from plate? It is a less expensive method of manufacture compared to forged. Basically cookie cutting by some method from flat steel plate and then you cold bend and finally heat treat as required. General observation....durability compared to a forged product...will be less. Again,,general observation..price point in manufacturing is the objective here. You can use both stainless or chromoly as a material in this process. Either will cold form, both will crack if not done correctly prior to heat treat. Flaws from the cutting or bending process, stress risers, become points of failure if the cycle rate of the design isn't high enough. (see the detail pictures below)
Cutting or forging....two totally different methods of manufacture and two totally different price points for the manufacturer. But may be not the consumer. You may not get what you pay for. There are always choices in any manufacturing process. The trick is to know what choices to make, what can be combined in the manufacturing process and most importantly, why.
Everything I have stated is really basic info to anyone working metal. Not all the details are there, and to be honest as a climber the details are trivial. Gear either works as intended or it doesn't. A simple Google search will give you more info than you will ever require on steels and manufacturing processes.
So what is the bottom line? Who cares about stainless or chromoly, forged or cut from plate?
There are some easy comparison to make given enough time. But there are other issues as well. Does size matter? It certainly does in raw materials and production costs. How much the crampon covers on your boot sole and does it make a difference climbing? That I'll leave that up to your imagination.
A '80s vintage forged Chouinard/Salewa on the left with 6 down points. A plate cut stainless BD on the right with 6 down points for the *same size* boot sole. It should be obvious which pattern offers the most traction on snow and ice. How much is enough?
Below Chouinard/ Salewa Hnged, hot forged, chromoly crampons. Bought in 1979 and used all over the world on ice and mixed. Notable..mixed climbing...the Chouinard/Beckey/Doody route on Edith Cavell, Canadian Rockies. And literally 1000s of feet of water ice and easy mixed. I've never heard of a pair of these failing in any manner. But no Internet for much of their life span either.. Weight 204g for one front half.
Chouinard /Salewa's front points after years of use.
Black Diamond Stainless Sabertooth. stainless, cut from plate and cold formed. Known catastrophic failures with this crampon technology on complicated designs. Total use on this pair? Two trips up the Cosmic Arete, early March 2011. Maybe 10% of what the Chouinard/Salewa Hinged above did on just the North face of Cavell. Weight 142g for one front half (stripped w/no bail)
Current production BD Stainless Sabertooth Crampons after only a few hours of climbing on moderate mixed terrain. Dbl click the photos for a close up view.
Two sides to every story. And admittedly I only see a small part of even my side on this one. I admire innovation and on first impression you might be able to make a case for stainless as a reasonal base material for crampon manufacture. Misleading infomercials aside the manufacturing techniques and alloy chosen would have to be up to the task as well to reap the real benefits of stainless in a crampon.
To follow the next part of the discussion please view the BD product video linked below.
Making a *direct comparison to the best chromoly technology* used in crampon manufacture here are my observations and comments to the BD the video.
BD claims these benefits (in bold print below) to their stainless in their video and my answrs to those claims.
More "green" manufacturing. yes, better than adding a coating, check.
No rust. stainless will still rust, better than Chromoly for rust? Sure.
Wears better in use. Sadly not what I have found in use and not the consistant history of stainless.
Extremely hard. Not even close to chromoly.
More durable. Again not even close to chromoly.
Stronger. No, chromoly is generally stronger in use
Lighter. chromoly and stainless weigh the same..the same.
Of course you could argue the point with different variations of stainless and chromoly alloys and the terms, "extremely hard", "more durable" and "stronger". Just my opinions, based on my own experience, that are expressed here.
Below is a production (not a sales sample) Sabertooth Pro failure from last winter. And not the only pair with similar stainless steel failures I documented in the 2010/2011 winter climbing season. BTW all of the failures I am aware of have been either in the the EU or Canada.
To be fair likely the biggest retailer in the USA has no problem with the durability of the BD stainless crampons. I was made privy to the BD returns at REI for 2010/11 and the % was extremely low. Returns of BD crampons at REI for any reason are well below anything to raise their corporate concerns.
Comments below are from the owner of the broken crampons pictured above:
"The boot is/was a Nepal Evo bought in 2010. Size 42.5. The crampons only really had 10-15 days on them (I originally posted 20 but I was being overly conservative). I do weigh in at 200lbs but am not aggressive with my kicks. The majority of the days climbing were on tame WI3 as a seconder with a few days leading. By no means am I an expert but I would not say that they were seriously abused in such a short time and with relatively low impact climbing. In total, there were three days walking up grotto falls. Three days at Chantilly, climbing no walking. 4 days at King Creek, only climbing and two days on THOS. Not a lot of mileage...
Hope that helps,
FWIW the Grivel G12s I'm climbing on in the picture below have been on much more modern mixed than a couple of laps on the Cosmic Arete and show virtually no significant wear on the front points. They are still going strong with a second owner.
You don't have to be a materials engineer or a rocket scientist to see what is happening here. Similar wear patterns on both sets of crampons. Just a lot more wear in a short amount of time on the stainless version. You have to be extremely naive to believe the marketing pitch of better manufacturing techniques and the use of a higher quality of material. I was originally. I have been aware of the issues in manufacturing and production on this subject for several climbing seasons. But I hadn't had the time to field test the stainless long term to my satisfaction until now.
Photos below are the micro flaws (stress risers) in plate cut stainless crampons. The most recent pair are coded *1069* (69th day of 2011) the oldest *0168*. Given enough use/time, IMO, these will eventually fail. See if you identify the manufacturing flaws in these photos.
The next three pictures are close ups of the front points.
And small cracks starting on the outside edge of two different frames that will likely end as a catastrophic failure if you continued using it.
The lesson here is to be sure you visually check ALL your gear at the time of purchase and prior to every use!
Petzl, Grivel and DMM have a choice and are still using chromoly. Camp beat BD to market with a stainless crampon. That is the Camp •"Sandvik Nanoflex® stainless steel for superior performance and durability."
Black Diamond has a very good marketing department.here in the US. Claiming among other things "stainless is lighter than chromoly". Which is of course is an incorrect statement.
Facts I do agree with?
Nice that Grivel has written them all down :) When I first saw this info on Grivel's web site a few years ago I put much of it off to childish bickering between two companies fighting over market share. After all didn't everyone want some pretty new crampons? I certainly did! But no doubt some truth to Grivel's published info. Now? I am more concerned about what I strap on to my own boots. And I worry less about who originally pointed out the down sides of stainless.
If you bother with a search of this blog you will find a few positive commentaries on BD stainless crampons. Specifically the newest stainless Sabertooth and Serac crampons. I like those model's overall weight and climbing on them even more so. I still think the Sabertooth is one of the best all around crampon designs we have seen to date. But good design work will seldom overcome a bad choice in materials and poor manufacturing techniques if the tool is pushed to the extreme. And crampons are always pushed to the limit.
Mark Twight and Will Gadd have both, at one time or another commented in print, on just how well the Sabertooth (the previous chromoly version anyway) climbed.
More on my thoughts of how well the Serac and Sabertooth designs climb.
Earlier that month I had soloed the same gully. I made the decision not to use stainless there because I was concerned about reliability. It is not a difficult climb but not one I want to have a crampon failure on either, roped or unroped..
Stainless steel might be an upgrade for your kitchen appliances but it is not an upgrade when it comes to a sharp kitchen knife or ice climbing equipment. There are simply too many trade offs to not question the use of stainless in crampons.
It is all a matter of trust. Spend your money wisely.
My money (and boots) are now on Chromoly.
And a follow up..... that adds to this conversation
I have heard all sorts of stuff on early rise and rockered skis. Which are not the same thing. More comments as well on fat skis. Not all of them informative. Found the article below and thought it worth pasting in and repeating.
Rockered, fat skis have changed the game completely. That isn't hype just a new act of life.
The new technology has opened up an immense amount of new terrain to skiers all the while making it easier to ski what use to be terrible conditions. I know that all sounds like wishful thinking. It's not.
I still have Rando and Mtneering skis that aren't going anywhere. But I'll guarantee you will see and hear more on this subject if you spend any time on skis during the winter months.
If you think fat and rocker are "out there" check these puppies out!
The Case for Fatter, Rockered Skis
by Jonathan Ellsworth
I spend a lot of days skiing on some fairly long (185-192cm), pretty wide (100-120mm) planks, and almost every time out these skis tend to draw responses from other skiers. Typically, the comments run something like: "man, those skis are huge, you must be a good skier to handle those things."
My reply: "Actually, these make skiing easier. And safer...."
After countless conversations like this, usually carried out on the chairlift, it appears that the case for wider, rockered skis still needs to be made. So here goes:
(1) In many conditions, fatter, rockered skis are easier to ski than conventionally shaped, skinnier skis (think waist widths of 65-85mm). This fact leads directly to the second point.
(2) Because these skis are easier to ski, they are easier to control, and improved control means safer skiing.
Skinny skis certainly have their place, it's just that this place is primarily in the Olympic games, for skiers wearing those skin tight body suits. To be fair, it can be fun to pull out a pair of 68mm bump skis and spend an afternoon running zipperlines. And I know a few skiers around New Mexico who enjoy their thin slalom skis on groomed runs when fresh snow hasn't been seen for days. (Personally, on days when I know I'll only be skiing bumps, I take out a non-rockered, 78mm ski.)
The problem, however, is that these skis work well only for their designated purposes - mogul runs and groomers - and often become terrible tools when used for other applications, like skiing powder, tracked powder, or chopped up heavy crud.
Skinny skis sink. Since they lack the surface area to float and to allow the tips to rise above or near the top of the snow, the skier is left with one of two options: ski fast, or ski in the backseat.
First option: Ski very fast. You'll need to ski fast enough to get the tips to plane above the snow (just as a water skier needs enough speed to get up out of the water). The problem is that a tool like this (skinny skis) that only works when it is skied really fast should only be used by advanced or expert skiers who are skilled enough and confident enough to shred terrain at mach-looney speeds. The irony, however, is that most of the skiers who are good enough to pull this off have already embraced the wider, rockered skis that are easier to ski, while many intermediate and beginner skiers are still struggling on their skinnier, outdated setups, unaware that their skis are making the sport very, very, difficult for them.
Second option: Get in the backseat. If you lack the confidence or the experience to ski fast, the only way to make it down the mountain is to lean back on your skis to prevent the tips from diving under the snow and catapulting you over the front of your skis. (Sounds like fun!) Of course, the problem here is that leaning back makes it very difficult to turn, since skis are designed to turn by applying forward pressure to the front edges of the ski. Even worse, weighting the tails of the ski forces the skis to rocket out from beneath you, pushing you even farther into the backseat and causing you to go even faster. (Super fun!) So now you are leaning way back, picking up more and more speed, and becoming less and less able to turn. (Gaining speed while losing control = Good times for sure!)
It seems pretty obvious that there is nothing especially fun or safe about the above scenario.
Wider skis provide the additional surface area to keep you from getting bogged down in deeper or heavier snow, allowing you to ski - and turn - at speeds within your comfort range. Rockered skis - skis with shovels, tips, and sometimes tails that begin to rise earlier than traditional skis (picture the legs of a rocking chair) - also diminish the likelihood of tip dive, allowing you to ski in a more centered or slightly forward position, still weighting the front of your skis and maintaining your ability to turn. These skis tend to get their tips caught or "hooked" less by grabby snow, further increasing your ability to turn when you want, and not when you don't - no more sudden crashes or face plants due to "catching an edge." (This is all starting to sound pretty good, no?)
If you have been a bit puzzled or intimidated by wider, rockered skis, don't be. These ski shapes are not just some passing trend, they are key design improvements that have taken ski engineering to the next level. If you like to ski, you owe it to yourself to try some out. Snow conditions that you previously struggled through will become much less tricky. You will be able to ski faster and turn quicker, with more control and more confidence. And this is when skiing really gets fun."
Jonathan Ellsworth does a great gear blog (along the lines of Cold Thistle reviews) @ Blister Gear Reviews and retail ski sales and demo outlet, Whiteroom, where I found this article.
In 1976...not like there were many options, Chouinard or curved gear and the lone Terrordactyl. Ice climbing alone would bend or break them. Hit a rock? Minor disaster the majority of the time!
Most give the credit of "modern" ice climbing to Yvon Chouinard and curved gear. Chouinard may have marketed it and made it popular in North America. I don't think he influenced the sport long term as much as many of us might have thought originally.
No question there was a modern ice climbing movement that could easily be defined world wide as the free ascent of Bridalveil Falls as the defining effort in 1973 by Lowe and Weiss.
Jeff Lowe writes of seeing torquing and hooking picks as a logical extension of climbing with tools. He was doing it back in the '70s by his own admission. His routes are clear testimony to his skills and less obviously the techniques he was adapting to during those early years.
Tobin Sorenson and Gordon Smith did a major new route on the Grand Jorasses in 1977.
"Tobin Sorenson and I did the first free ascent back in late October 1977 and we didn't use Desmaison's fixed stuff at all... we found plenty of ice and snow on the lower section, including a beautiful narrow ice gully about 1/4 of the way up reminiscent of Scotland at its best. We took a variation on the right and did not find any of Desmaison's fixed stuff until the top of that beautiful gully - where a rope came in from the left. That was pretty much all we saw. (NOTE: The right hand is definitely the most logical start to the route). We bivied a few pitches above this on a ledge to the right of the route proper just above a large roof which we turned on the right. A lot of mixed climbing up a series of ramps and a notable 'shark's fin' of granite sticking out of very hard blue water ice took us to the headwall. We bivied again on the headwall behind a flake of rock in a horrendous blizzard - Tobin used my padded overpants (courtesy Desmaison found on a broken footed retreat from a previous attempt with Black Nicky Colton) while I was wrapped up in a bivi tent (also courtesy of Mons. D). Tobin joined me in the bivi tent eventually and we sat there until it got sort of light. Then we went out for a wild Scottish day of howling snow and gale and gripping climbing ... Tobin led the crux headwall pitch (thank goodness) with 2 falls and much wailing about the need of a sky hook. He was brilliant! Note: we didn't have a sky hook for him to use ... he didn't even have a terror for 'dry hooking' - only a curved Chouinard axe - we had a pair of terrors for me and a chouinard axe and hammer for him and we both had bendy grivel 12 pointers. In fact all Tobin's gear was borrowed as his only ice climbing experience was the first ascent of the Smith-Sorenson ice groove on the West Face of the Plan a couple of day's earlier. I got rather nervous as our ropes were 2 x 200 foot 8MM laid ropes ... very thin looking!! I knew the descent from the Walker and Croz so we almost beat nightfall to the Italian hut ... There I found I had two frostbitten feet which were hard to hitch home to Blairgowrie with and Tobin went on to do the Eiger Direct with Dirty Alex (GRRRR - and they used those 8MM laid ropes of mine)... It was a great mixed route and very sustained with not a lot of resting spots and quite the feeling of seriousness (especially given the empty rucksack we found behind our bivi flake ...). The Smith-Sorenson ice groove was very nice and would have fitted in well on the Ben - it's just to the right (facing the cliff) of the Gabbarrou Picard-Deyme couloir and quite similar to that climb for difficulty."
"What do you do with one of the new tools when you go over the top of a bulge of hard (or crappy) ice into deep powder snow? That was one of the main reasons I loved my terror axe and would have considered climbing with 2 axes and a peg hammer, except that the axe was too light for hard, brittle ice. I never had a 'Barracuda' to go with my Chacal...I gave up alpinism before it came out (even before the Chacal was available commercially). What was the adze on that like? Judging by your photo I think I would have really liked to climb with a chacal and a barracuda.
I refer you to the article on the Croz posted above ... Kingy (Terry King) (and I) considered 'hooking' and 'torquing' etc as pure cheating (near the end of the article). Clearly ethics change!"
1981 Stump and Aubrey on the N. Butt of Hunter? Stump used a short Curver axe, a Roosterhead hammer (US copy of the Terrordactyl) and SMC rigid crampons. And similar gear on the East face of Moose Tooth with Bridwell. But Bridwell used a pair of Forrest Serac Saber tools. The Saber is easily compared to an over grown Peck Terrodactyl. And a key piece of gear for that climb by Bridwell's account. The first written account of ice tools being used to climb rock that I have seen.
Jim Bridwell specifically mentions hooking stone and "nuting" with a pick of a Forrest Serac Saber (over grown Terro) on the 1st ascent of the Moose Tooth with Stump in '81. "A desperate struggle ensued at these overhangs. ice axes and hammers became useless weapons against these fortifications. Forced onto tiny edges for crampons and shaky pitons for handholds, I often used my ice tool picks as cliff hangers on rock edges or wedged in cracks, nut fashion." "Dance of the Woo Li Masters"
Duncan Ferguson on "modern mixed" :
.…” But it was only after reading about Scottish climbing, “that I sorted out what I wanted to do with my ice climbing--forget the ‘thick ice’ part of it and see how far I could go with a pair of Terrors and a new attitude and vision. A redefinition of what ‘ice climbing’ was…. Spent the entire rest of the season wandering around by myself and bouldering and traversing and soloing short mixed climbs. Rock climbs really, with a set of Terrors and crampons. Thin ice, snowed up rock, rock moves between patches of ice and pure rock.…”
Ferguson's word, "redefinition". And I think rightfully gives credit to the McInnes and his Terro for our current "mixed climbing". The Terro is also the basis for the tools we now climb ice with. In my mind there is not question it wasn't Chouinard who "invented" modern ice climbing but the Scots and the Terro.
“Without the Terrordactyl, we’d still all be swinging.”--Duncan Ferguson, 2001.
Duncan Ferguson again: “even though credit for much of the impetus for modern ice climbing has gone to Chouinard and his curved tools, I strongly feel that it is the Scots and MacInnes in particular and [his Terrordactyls] that ushered in the birth of modern mixed climbing.”
Mick Fowler and Chris Watts might have called it aid in 1982 on the South East Buttress ace of Taulliraju in Peru. But a few pictures of the Chacal and its mate the Barracuda adze in action on that ascent in MOUNTAIN MAGAZINE at the time made me aware of the potential of the new tools on mixed.
I was climbing on both the Forest Lifetimes and the new Simond tools by the winter of '80 and '81. No question they upped my game on pure ice. But it would be years before I would take full advantage of the technology on mixed with a Nomic.
Today? It is not the same sport. Gyms, bolts and most importantly tools that are designed for and able to take dry tooling and full body weight torques are the norm. Climbers are stronger and smarter. But the tools and what we accept as the ethical norm today allows us to pull on any wall. M5/M6 (5.9/5.10) is now a trivial M-grade in the mtns when you consider current technical standards. Modern leashless tools not only allow you to use the tool as a "sky hook" but correctly fitted, it is a TCU through a medium size cam, a good thin hand to full hand jam, and works as a decent nut to pull up on from 1/4" to over an inch, all usable for BOTH hands on one tool.
Raphael Slawinski said, "Dry tooling where a few years earlier climbers would have tried rock climbing and, failing that, resorted to aid, has also helped turn some alpine test pieces, like the Andromeda Strain, into trade routes. To some extent, a new generation of mixed climbs in the Canadian Rockies is blurring the distinction between M- and alpine climbing."
"To some extent?" Raphael's article is 10 years old and already out of date. Just as ice climbing changed radically in the mid '70s mixed has as well in the first decade of this century.
A-Strain is now regularly done as "crag" climb, car to car @ M5/6 AI4 with great pro. This rating is from a recent winter ascent in terrible, dry conditions.
A-strain was originally rated as a V 5.9 A2 WI4, as a 2 day summer climb and state of the art in '83 after years of attempts.
Most of the great Canadian North faces have fallen to similar tactics, time and grade changes as techniques and tools changed.
We are all using the M-grades now for mixed. I think we should acknowledge that beyond a new grading system, somewhere along the line the mixed climbing game changed. My take is that change occurred the moment we had picks that you could torque in a crack with full body weight or do a stein pull on.
How about "REinvented hard mixed climbing"...simply 'cuz it aint anything like mixed climbing has been up until even just a few years ago.
Hooking and using tools while aid climbing on "M routes" is obviously the norm today, with the tools, boots and crampons all developed specifically for modern mixed climbing. In '81 it was seen as a desperate set of circumstances to get yourself out of a bad spot. There were few replaceable pic tools (Chacal and Forest Lifetime) then. None were 100% on ice, putting any of them on rock was a sure way to break a pick. Imagine using a fixed pick axe like the "Serac" in the same circumstances with no spare tools handy.
Great stuff but let's not try to pass it off as any type of climbing that was done as the norm in the past.
From John Bouchard of Wild Things among many things:
"When I did the Eiger in 1978 with Rick Sylvester, we took the wrong exit crack--I had to climb a rock wall to get out. Since it was snowing and cold, there was no question of taking mittens off. My recollection is that there were small in cut holds that begged for a tool placement. The downward angled blade of the Simond Chacal prototype I was using did not skid off the holds and the crampon front points felt more secure that boots. But of course, on the belay ledge, there was a rotting canvas backpack containing rotting wool mittens and 10 pt crampons whose leather straps were half decomposed. That fact may have influenced my thinking."
"As far as the dry tooling thing; my recollection is that it was something that occurred naturally. I never enjoyed short, hard routes characterized mostly by difficulty or unusual moves--I preferred longer climbs, in the late 1980's when Gerry Handren described dry tooling to me I thought it was something artificial. A
couple of years later, when Mark Richey and I finally did the a winter ascent of Girdle Traverse of Cannon Cliff we wore crampons for the entire route. The Black Dike finish to the route was remarkably tenuous because we had worn out front points down to stubs and our hand tool picks were round."
From Doug Klewin,
who in 1983 with Todd Bibler did the first complete ascent of the North Butress of Mount Hunter:
"I don't think I was quite able then to think "out of the box" and realize to full potential of standing on those little points and hooking the tools like sky hooks. I can remember top roping on the vertical pillars that formed on the road cut on Stevens Pass and with a top rope trying it out. Actual on climb experience is foggy for me. I'm thinking kept the crampons on when Todd and I did Edith Cavell but no tools...pretty low angle. I also remember doing a few moves of pretty step rock with the gear at the top to the gully (French route?) when I was on Hunter with Todd & Pat the first time."
From Jim Nelson,
who did among his many winter ascents also did an early ascent of the Infinite Spur on Mt. Foraker:
I'll give this some more thought, but I don't think I've ever really done any true dry tooling. Rock only, with no ice. I think the dry tooling I've done has been on alpine climbs where it was mixed rock and ice, or snow over rock, thin ice, etc. A few climbs that come to mind are:
North Face of North Peak of Index. The pitch above the bowl leading to the ridge. Late 70's or early 80's I can't really remember. Before that, some climbs on Guye Peak and Chair Peak. Snow over rock type stuff, with very little if any ice.
A climb I did with Scott Fischer, East Face of the Tooth. 1st pitch not pure dry tooling, but mixed with very minimal ice. The last pitch started with steep rock with no ice. Scott started up the pitch, then backed off and I was able to lead it and pretty sure my tools on rock experience helped. I think Colin (Haley) repeated this climb with Dylan a few years ago. Early 80's, I think."
From Mark Westman:
Known Alaskan technical pioneer:
"I remember the moment clearly- I was climbing Triple Couloirs on Dragontail Peak in the Cascades with Joe Puryear in the ancient days of February, 1995. I had only owned ice tools for about 11 months and had used them three-times- Liberty Ridge, Mount Baker's north ridge, and Chair Peak. We were total ice/mixed newbies and probably over our head, but thankfully we were luckier than good. Anyway, we had bypassed the second couloir due to thin ice (in retrospect I think it was fat...) and finished on the north face into the third couloir. There's a steep pitch of rock that gains the third couloir and I had charged headlong up into the rock without placing any protection. Since rock was easier than ice to me at the time, I avoided an ice strip that breached the rock in favor of some rock steps that appeared moderate from below, and then I did what I usually did in the early days and holstered my tools and started climbing the rock with my gloved hands. Before I knew it I had run myself out into a bad situation, far, far, above my gear and suddenly the rock got steep, blank, and not climbable for me- up OR down. The thick strip of ice I had deliberately avoided (after all, ice was scary..!) 20' off to my right suddenly looked great. How could I get over there? The only way was a near vertical traverse across a rock face that was not going to be possible in gloved hands. However, a pair of tiny rails/edges existed, one just big enough for the crampon points on my feet, the other just at eye level and just big enough for the tips of my picks. Using my two mismatched ice tools- one with a "classically" drooped pick- I negotiated this traverse without incident aside from seeing god (later I discovered that I was hallucinating, god is not real, jeez...). It was also the first time I experienced the thrill of sinking a solid tool into fat ice once I arrived at the strip. I don't know if that was an "epiphany" of any sorts but I'll never forget it. Not long after, the lingo "M-Climbing" became popular and I realized that, hey I had done that! :)
In all seriousness, I think a more teachable moment for me was a few years later when I actually went "drytooling" for the sake of it, at the crags in the Rockies. The lesson was that M-climbing made ice climbing seem SO much easier, and when I took the skills I learned at the crags to the Alaska Range, I suddenly looked at rock sections much differently. I remember Barry's (Blanchard's) report from the Infinite Spur mentioning that the "great drytooling" the rock afforded allowed them to only use their hands about 10% of the time on the rock. Joe and I climbed the route a year later in 2001 and afterwards we joked that we only used our ice tools on the rock about 10% of the time. After I spent the winter of 2003 living in Canmore and climbing nearly every day, including lots of mixed, I climbed the south ridge of Mount Hunter, and when on the rock sections, everything in my perception of how to climb it in winter conditions had changed.
1985...ha. I was a sophomore in high school and still 7 years away from tying into my first rope. The term drytooling in those days for me would have spawned predictable sophomoric humor..... "
From my perspective the real change came from the newest tools of the late '70s and early '80s. Dry tooling at least as we know it now was being done by a few/some/many at the forefront of the sport by 1985. But it was not typically done style before 1977/1978. And not a fully accepted style for another few years yet. It seems the date and the tools are very specific once you start looking. Both the then new Forrest Lifetime and the Simond Chacal which proceeded it by a season or two allowed a climber to break a pick and replace it as required. The replaceable picks also allowed the metallurgy of the actual pick to make a big leap in durability. The Serac Saber might well have been the beginning because of the new manufacturing techniques used, cutting from flat plate first, forming and then heat treating. No question is was a stronger pick than the hammer forged curve gear that came before it.
My own experience? I distinctly remember climbing the last bit of mixed buttress and gully before breaking out onto the upper arete and snow field on Edith Cavell in crampons. The rock crux I had done in double boots but somewhere, some how I had changed over again and was now back in crampons. My feet on thin 65/70 degree ice. Tools intentionally holstered (yes we actually had tool holsters bitd ;) to keep from damaging or breaking them on the rock if I had dared to swing one again. But there were enough rocks protruding from the ice to offer balance and support. Wool finger gloves provided all the protection I required. They were shredded by the time I had climbed through the shale band, cut a small cornice and rolled on to the flat ridgeline just a few steps away from the summit cross. That was true hard mixed for me in 1980. I remember the terrain looking a lot like the picture taken on Dragontail almost 3 decades later.
Fast forward to 2008. Dragonatail in this condition, early December, was the first time I actually used a monopoint crampon on rock and intentionally stuck an ice tool's pick (a Nomic) into rock over and over again and pulled up on it. Old habits die hard. But the climbing has gotten easier and more secure from my perspective. Those same Nomics and their original picks, a bit shorter of course, are still going strong. After several more miles of rock climbing, the Darts I eventually sold as "worn out".