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Post details Post   (Contract pics)
weedavie
2009-12-03 13:24:38
"Ronnie dons his crampons" from weedavie Contract pics
Picture: Ronnie dons his crampons (Contract pics)

Crampons
Conor, if you're seriously using crampons, go on a course or find a friend who knows. Two hours talking and a half day practical will be worth 1000 written words.

Crampons help you deal with icy / hard packed snow. If the snow is deep you don't need them. Gordon and I were coming down Beinn Dubhcraig last winter in fantastic thigh deep snow doing giant steps. We passed two people struggling with crampons and ice-axes, tripping when they could have been flying. But when you're climbing a steepening slope on hard packed snow, a slope you've thought innocuous in summer, and you realise that a single slip and you'll be picking up speed till you start ricocheting round the boulders below, you bless their pointed little heads.

If you're doing serious climbing you need rigid boots with fitted crampons. If you're a walker who wants to be safe in winter, a reasonably stiff three season boot will take a flexible crampon and keep you safe. Don't listen to the outdoor shop people who tell you you must have four season boots. Equally don't be put off with "walking crampons". You need full 12 pointers with the sticky-out ones in front.

You hardly ever need your crampons - I walk in Scotland all winter and in recent years I've typically used them once or twice. When you do need them though, even if it's only for fifty metres of a ridge - it's worth the trouble to stop and put them on. They stick to anything - the security of standing fixed on ice is unbelievable. Make sure they're strapped on properly though. I've seen a couple of nasty moments when a crampon has come loose. That'll happen too if the boot's not stiff enough - I was serious about a solid 3 season boot.

The only exception I've run into to the hard snow and ice scenario is a steep slope with shallow spring snow. Again you can slide far and fast on this. I've a couple of times used crampons, ignoring the feeling of silliness as they bite into soil and heather. Always carry an ice axe in winter. It's your essential safety device.

Make sure your mate puts on his crampons when you do. One day on Beinn Laoigh, I was feeling smug after stopping to fit mine. I was rapidly overhauling Ronnie, who hadn't bothered. Suddenly I became aware that if he came unstuck he was going to be travelling fast when he came through me. Fortunately he clung on.

In deep snow you've more reason to worry about avalanches. It's worth knowing the conditions and slope types that increase the risk.
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