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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Black Diamond Crampon report

"A piece of climbing gear you don't trust 100%  is probably best retired  or simply destroyed.  eBay is not a good answer here."

Dane Burns @ Cold Thistle

The full BD report is well worth the effort and the read imo.
QC LAB: Gear Doesn’t Last Forever – CRAMPONS

Bottom line from Black Diamond

• Vertically oriented front points are best for climbing water ice and/or heavy climbers, and tend to do better in cyclic fatigue.
• Horizontal front points are best used for the alpine.
• Flexible center bars can increase the lifespan of your crampons, but at a cost of performance.
• Boots aren’t as rigid as they used to be and break down/wear in quicker.
• Use flexible center bars with truly non-rigid boots.
• Gear doesn’t last forever. 

My take from the report is there is still a lot of guess work as to what is really reliable and what is not for boot and crampon combos at BD.  I tend to want my own gear to be 100% reliable without having to second guess every little decision.  And I'd like to enjoy what I consider the highest performance currently available from both boot and crampon.  That combo for my own needs would seem to be labeled as "unreliable" by BD.  Anecdotal evidence would seem to back up that conclusion.

A crampon and boot combination I really like on steep water ice.  But not a combo either I or BD recommends.

While I don't agree with every conclusion or all the numbers as they have been presented I think the newest BD report does go a long ways in telling us how Black Diamond has decided to answer the problems they have experienced with stainless crampons.  Any answer is a good answer imo when it comes to climbing gear.

From BD's own data:
Sabre Pro SS
Average Cycles to failure: 12,312 +/- 3,047

Sabre Pro CrMo
Average Cycles to failure: 15,079 +/- 2454

In summary, the CrMo fails after completing 23% more cycles than the SS.

A rather esoteric boot here in North America, the Scarpa Phantom Ultra.
Previuous masthead photo...dbl click for full effect
Because of this year long discussion, my current crampon choice, with a rigid center bar and this boot is obvious in the masthead photo and below, Petzl Dartwins.   While not perfect imo they and the Dart have no significant history of failure that I know of with any boot combo.

" Flexible center bars can increase the lifespan of your crampons, but at a cost of performance" BD QC 



Brad said...


As usual, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments on this issue.

Just to clarify, is it still only the 'second generation' of sabretooths that have this issue? (i.e., the second generation have more metal on them in critical areas, as you have observed).

So in a sense -- even though B.D. isn't really acknowledging the problem and continues to blame the internet rather than acknowledge their own responsibility in all this -- haven't they actually addressed the issue with the second generation design? I agree that it would be correct for them to take full responsibility and recall the first generation crampons....but am I missing something by assuming they have actually corrected the problem with their second generation version of the S.S. sabretooth?

Thanks so much,


Dane said...

The so called 2nd generation with the added material is breaking in the same places as well.

I haven't kept an accurate accounting because I thought it was a "dead" issue last year. These are what I know have broken and when.

I got an email from a Canadian last night who just had his bent and cracked Sabertooth crampons replaced. 10 last winter and 10 this winter that we know of.

Rafael broken ss 2/15/11 (sales samples)
AT Thomas broken ss 2/15/11
Farzad broken ss 2/11/12
Linderbach broken ss 2/23/12
Erirw @ the Taco 4/8/12

from Cold Thistle emails
5 broken ss in Europe last winter (10/11), 3 in the UK
bent SS 2/17/12
cracked ss 2/17/12
ss front bent 2/20/12
(3) Nick from shop 2 cracked one bent 2/25/12
Canadian Sabers bent and cracked 4/15/12

Ian said...

This sure has gotten BD riled up. Sure wish they were a little more forthcoming on their test data.

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of the internet drama. I don't recall ever seeing this out of Petzl.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a little late on this one, but I just put my sabertooths under the magnifying glass tonight and noticed they too are cracked in the same place. I think I bought mine Spring 2011.

After reading BD's response to all this, I must admit I'm pretty pissed off. If Petzl can afford to recall all their GriGri2s. Nomics and many of their ropes, the least BD can do is recall a few pairs of faulty crampons.

Dane said...

No worries, broken and cracked Black Diamond crampons have been showing up this time of year now for 3 years. I expect that trend to continue.

At least we all know now to look for the failures and where. No thanks to BD of course.

Simon said...

Hi Dane,

I came across your posts on this issue while literally just about to purchase some BD Seracs (for general mountaineering). Ironically one of the things that tipped me towards buying them was a google search that led me to your (positive) Nov 16, 2010 review before these problems came to light. At the time I didn't see your later posts outlining the problems.

I am just wondering whether there is any example of reporting bias here? Do other crampons fail in this area and just aren't being publicised, or are the BD stainless consistently failing more? Do you have an opinion on this?

At any rate, while I suspect Seracs would be quite suitable for what I want them for, enough of a seed of doubt has been sown in my mind that I'm going to buy G12s instead. There may be some reporting bias here, but it's not something I'm willing to risk. Hopefully BD can fix things up - they say the first step is admitting you have a problem!

Dane said...

Hi Simon,
I get reports from literally every corner of the alpine wide. I use to be pretty connected at BD. They were so bad IMO at not admitting to a problem I thought it scary for my own climbing. Always some bias in all of this.

This is every thing I know on the subject.