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Balling up is when the snow starts sticking to the bottom of your crampons to the point that the crampon points are no longer touching the surface. As one can imagine this is a rather dangerous situation.

They do make anti-balling plates that are supposed to keep this from happening, but I have still had problems even with the plates.

Are there any recommended techniques in addition to using anti-balling plates to keep this from happening?

  • Is this when walking or climbing? How quickly does it happen? Quickly enough that if you stopped to knock the snow off (with an ice axe) when it reached that stage you'd make much slower progress? – Chris H Apr 24 '17 at 7:29
  • I find the condition of the snow one of the things that can make it better or worse. My crampons have the plate but every now and again I find them collecting snow and becoming snow rollerbladers. I usually stop and hit them lightly with the side of my ice axes to remove the snow. – Desorder Apr 24 '17 at 9:05
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    Really the only thing you can do is knock it off periodically. – user2766 Apr 24 '17 at 10:23
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    A spray of dry-lube, hair spray or WD40 helps prevent it, for a time. – user5330 Apr 25 '17 at 3:55
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    The proper answer is "Start earlier", but that is not much help once it happens... – Guran Apr 26 '17 at 13:21
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I usually dislodge snow by kicking something: a rock, tree, some ice, or by stomping on a patch of hard ground. Kicking toe first into the snow can dislodge it as well, but often it depends on the type of snow. Using your tool to smack your crampons may work, but it can do damage to both your tool and your crampons, so it's not the best thing to do.

Anti-balling plates are still the best solution. If you're still balling up with your plates on, then you may need new ones, or you may need to treat them to be smooth and slippery again.

I made myself a pair of anti-balling plates that I cut out of a crazy carpet, and they work pretty well:

enter image description here

At first I was just being cheap, but then I discovered that one of the merits of using crazy carpet plates is that they aren't rigid, so the snow can't get packed up inside your crampons as well because the "plate" deforms slightly with each step, dislodging the snow.

enter image description here

The carpet plastic isn't as durable as a solid anti-balling plate, but considering you can get about a dozen pairs out of one $5 carpet, I think you can afford to cycle through a few pairs. I'm still using the first pair I made, and I've been climbing with them a couple of winters now.

  • Old bicycle inner-tube also works well, flexing enough to dislodge most snow buildup. – Toby Speight Jun 5 '18 at 13:45
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The warning sign of balling up is that your boots will be noticeably heavier due to the snow sticking to them. Once that happens your options include

  • Lift up one boot at a time and knock the side of the boot with your ice axe or trekking pole.
  • Knock your boots together every so often to dislodge the snow being careful not to get the crampons tangled
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    The first step is what I have been taught. What I don't like about this is that in steep terrain it will put you into a very precarious situation where you have only one point of contact with the ground. – Lagerbaer Apr 24 '17 at 18:57
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    Flicking usually won't work and has a serious risk of throwing you off balance. Knocking boots together wearing crampons is a really bad idea, pointy things get caught in strappy things leading to fallie things. – user5330 Apr 25 '17 at 3:50
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    I also would only recommend the first option. I think I remember some manufacturer not recommending to do it, but it still is the least bad option. The second one is very dangerous as you might easily catch with a point of one crampon and stumble. The third seems ineffective and as mattnz said, dangerous for stability. – imsodin Apr 26 '17 at 13:12
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One tip I’ve found helpful is to make sure you leave your crampons out of your tent overnight, so starting out they’re the same temperature as the snow.

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    At best, that would work for the first few minutes until the crampons stabilize at the ambient temperature. Balling snow has much more to do with the wetness, composition, and temperature of the snow. – Olin Lathrop Jun 4 '18 at 11:40
  • This also is a good option for snow shovels. Mine stays outside all winter. – James Jenkins Jun 4 '18 at 12:26

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