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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

CAMP RACE 290 skimo race crampon





By Jerry Johnson Ph.D.

Headed out the other day for a quick run up Hyalite Peak and thought I’d try the new ultralight CAMP RACE 290 skimo race crampon. I’ve used regular crampons on my TLTs for some ice pitches but had never seen the need for bootpacks. If the snow is that hard I usually have an axe along. My initial impression is that a small crampon can save a lot of energy especially when combined with a whippet. I didn’t really worry about slipping out of small steps and basically just went straight up the 40 degree gully. Ten ounces for crampons seemed like a good tradeoff for an axe. If I needed both I’d want to have a different set of points though.

The 290 is marketed as a race crampon, light and ten points - minimal. The heel attachment fits the tech binding heel in any race boot. It’s supposed to be faster but it isn’t always easier. In fact, it’s a bit fiddly. Overall fit on my TLTs was pathetic. Using the included bar I could never get them to fit so I tried the Dyneema linking strap. First thing I noticed was that a little bit of metal on the heel that is supposed to align the back of the boot prevented me from tightening the binding so I took it off. After a lot of trial and error I got the linking straps just right. The sideways fit is too wide for my boots so back to the linking strap and by making so tight I could barely get the thing on, I finally managed to minimize side to side movement at the toe – sort of. For my boot size the toe bail needs some major bending but I’m afraid it might break so will live with it. On one, I wrapped some rubber tape on the toe bail to make spacers so will try that next time.



With the Dyneema strap the crampons fold up super small package, they are so light I just clipped the ankle straps together and hung them around my neck for a short rock section – if you are interested in having these for the long term keep them out of the rock. The soft aluminum will wear, bend and break.

Like ski crampons, a lightweight aluminum crampon for the boot is not something you are going to use all that often. They will come in handy occasionally though and could be a useful bit of kit. For my money, I would probably opt for some other model that weighs a couple ounces more but has twelve points and fits my boots better. For racers, this is likely all you need as most sections will be relatively short. For the sort of things I do here in Montana and in Idaho, a light crampon and whippet would replace both ski crampons and an axe; I can leave the heavy crampons at home – not a bad trade.
                                                      Jerry in his own back yard

Postscript: On a tour today I became a true convert. My whippet in one hand and crampons on my feet, down climbing a spunky mixed gully was possible and saved me an hour of sketchy scrambling on typically loose Hyalite rock. The crampons have found a permanent place in my spring skiing kit.

Editor's note:

This from a buddy of mine after playing with them mid climb/transition and a little less patience than normal :)

"Yeah, I'm not a big fan of those. It was an interesting idea but I
practically had a stroke trying to get them on and off when they were tight
enough. Fucking pissed me off. Never bothered with a review because they
sucked so bad. I'm a huge fan of the Grivel Haute Routes, though. Just
wished the points were a half inch longer."

I also tried the CAMP 290.  I was jonesing over this crampon from the first day I saw it at Summer OR a few years ago.  Brilliant idea IMO on the heel attachment point.  Turned out while brilliant I simply couldn't get the damn things to work on my size 29 boots.  In frustration I finally gave them to Jerry.  And watched him fit them to his own size 27 TLTs with a lot less issue.  A bit of bending on the front bail and they looked good to me and GAWD only knows how anal I can be about crampon fit.  Turns out a few of us with bigger feet have had the same problem.  The fit sucks.  Now CAMP will be the first to tell you that if you are bigger than a 28 shell size don't bother.  I'd lower that suggestion to a 27 shell...and TLT size 27 at that.  And I suspect still takes snapping off the center heel support to get right.   Try before you buy on these guys is my suggestion.  I love the idea and I know what needs ot be fixed for my TLTs, the front bail and back heel support spacing.  No clue what boots these are suppose to work on.  But if you have THAT boot, I suspect these little guys will really rock for the intended purpose.

For the rest of us the CAMP XLC Series has been my go to LWT crampon for the last half dozen years anyway on both mountain boots and most recently my AT boots.  Way less fiddling around with fit and security.   One thing I would disagree with Jerry on from my use of the XLC 390.  They are way tougher and more durable than they look or have any right to be.

http://www.camp-usa.com/products/crampons/xlc-390.asp



I'll do a short blurb on these later amid a LWT crampon comparison .  But if you can get away with a LWT *ALL* aluminum crampon for your own use...buy the 390.  It is an exceptionally solid and well received all around crampon with a hard earned reputation for reliability and no worries.




RACE 290
• New for 2011
• Competitive Ski Mountaineering
• 7075 T6 aluminum alloy construction
• 10 points for a solid hold on steep terrain
• Different colors for the left and right for fast and easy identification
• Dyneema linking strap reduces weight and allows the crampons to fold onto themselves for packability
• Patented heel attachment designed for rapid attachment to modern A/T boots
The new lightest crampons in the world and the new go-to crampons for competitive ski mountaineering. The patented heel is designed for rapid attachment with the fastest A/T boot models typically made for Dynafit or similar style lightweight backcountry bindings. The Dyneema linking strap reduces weight even further and allows the crampons to be folded onto themselves for packability. Solid aluminium linking bars are also included for a more rigid fit if desired. Anti-balling Plates optional. Carrying bag included.
SPECS
ID: 318
Material: 7075 T6 Aluminum Alloy
Points: 10
Binding: Rapid (Dynafit)
Anti-Balling Plates: Optional
Crampon Case: Yes
Size: 36 - 44 cm, 14 - 17.5 in
Weight: 290 g, 10.2 oz
$179.95 USD

11 comments:

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

“[...] the new ultralight CAMP RACE 290 skimo race crampon.”
- Almost two years old = “new”?

“First thing I noticed was that a little bit of metal on the heel that is supposed to align the back of the boot prevented me from tightening the binding so I took it off.”
- That is Step #1. Step #2 though (as I wrote about in 2011) is slicing off ~4mm of the heel pins. Finally, Step #3 adjusting the Dyneema strap length just right so that the tension is very tight but so that you can still pull them onto your boots in the field. Then the fit is excellent (or at least as tight as a 10-pt alu crampon needs to be).

“Turned out while brilliant I simply couldn't get the damn things to work on my size 29 boots. [...] Now CAMP will be the first to tell you that if you are bigger than a 28 shell size don't bother. I'd lower that suggestion to a 27 shell...and TLT size 27 at that.”
- I don’t see how bsl should be relevant at all? When fit to my 279mm boots (whether DyNA EVO or Alien 1.0 - the latter with an identical bsl yet shorter length in the binding, although slightly longer length in the crampon) I have ~75mm excess Dyneema, so that would allow for a very long max bsl. And even if the boot sole of a longer boot is also wider (is it?), the 290 platform could definitely be made far narrower on my boots, so if anything a longer & wider boot sole would fit better.

“No clue what boots these are suppose to work on. But if you have THAT boot, I suspect these little guys will really rock for the intended purpose.”
- TLT5, EVO, Alien: they all work very well with the 290. But only with the very simple mods that I wrote about in 2011.

jbo said...

For what it's worth, the 2013 CAMP dealer workbook states the Race 290 should be used only with boots up to size US 10.5, otherwise go with the XLC. It's a little unclear what BSL this translates to, but probably somewhere near 307mm (TLT5 size 28).

Here is similar 290 review using the same boots (TLT5 size 27), although in this case enough room was available to twist the Dyneema strap for a snug fit.

Note this same size restriction (<= US 10.5) also applies to the Tour 350 and Tour Nanotech series of crampons.

Anonymous said...

My camp tour 350s r only a bit heavier than the r290 and still lighter than the 12 point Alu camp cramp. They r 10 point like the 290 but have a solid connecting bar and traditional toe bail and heel lever like 12 point cramp. No problem with fit on my 27 tlt5s. I read on wildsnow about the hassle of getting the 290s to work securely with a 26.0 tlt5.

My 350s r all I need to get up anything I want to ski down, ymmv. They hold up up great to crossing patches of rock in the middle of a mostly snow climb.

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

“For what it's worth, the 2013 CAMP dealer workbook states the Race 290 should be used only with boots up to size US 10.5, otherwise go with the XLC. It's a little unclear what BSL this translates to, but probably somewhere near 307mm (TLT5 size 28).”
- That is indeed a weird way of listing the max size! (Although BDL also used to do that with length ranges for different Diamir sizes.)
- So in a more traditional boot like, say, the old Zzero 4 series, U.S. 10.5 would be 326mm. Extrapolating from my own boots, that would yield a Dyneema strap excess of ~28mm, so maybe that’s the limiting factor in the max size (just like the bar length is a limiting factor with any other crampon).

“I read on wildsnow about the hassle of getting the 290s to work securely with a 26.0 tlt5.”
- That was my review. The initial setup does require cutting off the little stopper knob and ~4mm of each heel prong, then careful adjustment of the Dyneema strap length. After that though, no more hassle.

Poncho said...

Hey Jonathon, thanks for the feed back. Just to clarify, nothing new here as we both know. But also some pretty shaky technology on the 290s binding and fit issues. Not sure where you are using this crampon but I would make two comments from my own use. Better have your chite together fitting crampons with this one and had better be VERY squared away using them on any sort of technical ground. Much as I liked the technology they were better left to Jerry's much smaller boots than my 29s TLTs or Evos.

YMMV....but I aint swallowing the suggestion that the 290 will ever work on my 29 size shells (@317mm bsl)

brian p. harder said...

I find myself in the "these crampons are a pain in the ass" camp. I, too, was excited about them a couple of years ago. I went straight to JS's mods. I love cutting on gear, anyway. I did NOT bother to re-bend the bail, which is sloppy on Dynafit boots. That might help. But the main beef I have is that I nearly have a stroke getting them on and off when they are tight enough to make me feel comfortable using them. In fact, I thought I was going to have to remove my boot at the top of one peak in order to dislodge them from the soles of my boots. I ended up using my ski pole top to pry them off. I vowed right then to never consider them again.

For my money, the Grivel Haute Route fits perfectly and the steel front half is worth the extra weight as there's no issues with rock climbing.

Why anyone would so vehemently defend such a fiddly piece of equipment as JS does here is beyond me. The guy's persistent, for sure, but I guess I just don't want to work that hard in the end.

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

Some more clarifications and comments as follows:
1. The Race 290 crampon without any modifications might indeed have a loose fit, but I don’t know since I didn’t use my pair on any “real” terrain before my modifications.
2. With those two simple quick & easy modifications (i.e., grind off the little heel stopper/nub protruding from the otherwise flat platform, and slice off ~4mm from each heel prong) – which neither reviewer here has performed – fit (once the strap length is dialed in exactly right) is just as secure (and quick to affix) as with any other fully automatic CAMP alu crampon.
3. Any crampon has a sizing limitation based on the length of the connecting bar (or Dyneema strap, for the Race 290). With ~75mm of excess length on my Race 290 when fit to a 279mm Alien 1.0, that leaves plenty of length for a 38mm longer 317mm bsl. Running the Pythagorean Theorem, the bsl increase might lead to a lateral slop increase of about 25% – probably fine given my setup, although with an unmodified crampon, yes, that’s probably insufficiently secure.
4. Overall, for any potential purchaser who wants: a) easy adjustability for swapping between different boots; b) compatibility with non-Tech boots; c) 12 points instead of 10; d) more aggressive front points with steel inserts; and/or, e) a good fit right out of the box (instead of having to perform those two mods) ... then look at the three other alu models from CAMP, plus an all-steel model that is lighter than alu crampons from some other companies. But if “a” through “e” don’t apply, then the 290 saves weight, packs down small, and is fine for the kind of climbing <=50-degree firm snow that I want to ski down.

Jonathan S. Shefftz said...

“Why anyone would so vehemently defend such a fiddly piece of equipment as JS does here is beyond me. The guy's persistent, for sure, but I guess I just don't want to work that hard in the end.”
- Because they have worked perfectly for me over the course of two seasons now (and on three different pairs of boots). And yes, the flex in the metal band at the heel is sufficient for my wimpy upper body to get them on and off in the field yet still keep them tight enough to limit lateral slop to an acceptable level for alu crampons.
- But it is beyond me why anyone would cast aspersions when I share the details of a modification for a piece of gear that has worked so well for me. (And for any potential conspiracy theorists out there, I paid for them with my own money.)

Poncho said...

The difference in BSL is the fit issue from what I have seen. Simple...small boots fit. Large boots even with the mods don't in my experience. I'd suggest some bending of the bail as well to help out. Not some thing I really like to do on steel bales even less so on aluminum.

"But it is beyond me why anyone would cast aspersions when I share the details of a modification for a piece of gear that has worked so well for me. "

Can't speak for Brain :) The "aspersions" are on the gear...because this particualr pair of crampons hasn't worked for very many end users that I know of.

I think we forget just how easy it is to get seriously hurt if a ski or boot crampon fails in use. The comments I made are directly related to the end result if that were to happen.

I don't mind being cautious when suggesting crampons. I also think it is a deservice if we fail to point out the flaws is a good design, that just needs some obvious tweaking to be a much more user friendly piece of mountaineering gear. I REALLY want the 290 2.0 version!

SLC sherpa said...

I like em. But, they mostly stay in the pack and provide a little mental security. If I'm on anything actually technical, I'll take a real pair. I've had no issues using them with a size 27 Alien when adjusted right. Easy on, easy off. But, I think their real application is for racing when crampons are required...mostly in Europe.

Anonymous said...

I use the 290's on my 320mm boots. (I'm at the end of the strap) It was a little bit of a leap buying knowing I'd be taking a dremel to them right away, but after doing Jonathan's mods the crampon fit is dialed in and VERY snug. I've had not one issue since the initial setup.. although it might be time to retighten the dyneema strap a tiny bit.

These are always in my pack and get used more often than I thought because they're just so easy.