I'm looking at getting my first set of crampons, for winter Wales/Scotland trekking, with a view of working my way up into the Alps (during summer) eventually.

I've been reading that a 10 point C2/B2 configuration would be a good option for a first set. any opinions? The C/B terminology is explained here.

I originally thought that C1/B1 would be better (lower grade) but I got told that these are actually aimed at more advanced users.

Just to clarify, these won't be used for ice climbing, simply winter trekking, likely on mixed ground.

  • I too would love to know this :D although my use of crampons are only for the himalayan treks/climbs (once a year) Dec 27 '13 at 13:04

Whoever told you C1 are aimed at 'more advanced users' than C2 is plain wrong. Crampon grades are really about where and how you plan to use them, rather than how good you are.

Here's a typically thorough and useful article by Andy Kirkpatrick.

Also, the BMC have some good articles, for instance this.

C1:B1 Strap fixing, with toe 'cage'. Will typically fit on any stiffish 3-4 season boot. Check the specific crampon fits the specific boot well. Ideal for winter walking. OKish on lower grade gullies, Unsuitable for steep ice. Typically 10 point.

C2:B2: Typically heel clip fixing, so need a boot with a purpose designed heel welt. Boot and crampon are stiffer than C1, typically 12 point design. Good for winter walking, but less comfortable than C1 dues to stiffness. Ideal on graded gully climbs.

Many UK "grade 1" scrambles can become graded climbs in winter, where you'd find C2 crampons gave you an advantage.

And last, if you're new to winter hills, a couple of days looking at the basics with a good instructor is highly recommended. There's a lot to learn.

  • It was actually that Andy Kirkpatrick link that gave me the impression that C1 would not be suitable "only the most experienced climbers will take the risk as they will eventually break"
    – user2766
    Dec 30 '13 at 8:41
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    @Liam - Ah! I understand the confusion: Andy writers about C1, "C2-", C2 and "C2+" crampons: The +/- grades are his own invention, and I think the crampons he lists as "C2-" (eg Grivel G10) are rated as C1 by the manufacturers. Also the "only the most experienced climbers" bit is about climbing in (what he describes as) C1 crampons. If you plan to climb, or want to be able to climb in an emergency, then C2 makes sense.
    – Roddy
    Dec 30 '13 at 13:41
  • Thats a really useful clarification. Cheers @Roddy
    – user2766
    Dec 30 '13 at 13:43
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    Could you elaborate on "there is a lot to learn" or link an inspiring YouTube video. I have used crampons several times for walking, and can't imagine a single technical thing, that one can learn about them. They just make my boots stick to the ice.
    – Vorac
    Jan 9 '14 at 13:43
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    I recommend summarizing some of the points from the Andy Kirkpatrick article and including them here to make this more of a stand-alone answer.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Feb 5 '14 at 13:36

It's good for a question on SE to be focused. However, there is a broader context here, which is that you want your activities to be (a) safe and (b) comfortable and enjoyable, so that you'll want to continue doing winter mountaineering rather than letting your crampons gather dust in a closet. In this context, the exact choice of crampons is a relatively minor issue. More important issues are getting good self-arrest training, practicing self-arrest often enough so that you're likely to succeed in real conditions, getting boots that are comfortable, and figuring out clothing layers that keep you comfortable.

So anyway, in the terminology used in the question (which I think is probably UK-specific or European?), the standard setup is a pair of 12-point C2 crampons such as Grivel G-12's, which are what I own. This is a versatile setup that will also work on low-angle terrain or on higher-angle ice. Any other setup is extremely specialized and is not really what you want as the only pair you own. Most people who own this type of setup never feel the need to buy any other type of crampons. Because crampons and crampon-compatible boots are expensive, it doesn't really make sense to buy more than one setup unless you get into something really specialized, like ice sport climbing. There is no real concept of buying starter crampons or buying a "first crampon grade."

If I'm understanding correctly what C1 refers to, then those things suck. I've seen people using them, and they're horrible. The crampons keep falling off the boots.

For boots, you probably want the most comfortable lightweight goretex boot you can possibly find that is compatible with your C2 bindings -- I guess this would fall in the B2 category. It's true that, e.g., double plastic boots will keep your feet warmer and drier on a long trip at high altitude -- but they will also probably cover your feet with blisters and make you miserable, and the extra weight will make you extremely inefficient. If you get started with winter mountaineering, enjoy it, and eventually start to feel that you're expending too much physical effort front-pointing, or if you want to go to altitudes above about 5000 m, then it might be time to think about getting a stiffer pair of boots (B3) or boots with more insulation.

Besides ice ax and crampons, the other thing I find really helpful is a pair of microspikes, which are a brand of rubber elastic booties with little crampon-like spikes built in. You can put them over any shoes or boots. They're compact and lightweight, and they're extremely helpful for conditions where you have to walk across some mixture of snow, ice, dirt, and rocks (conditions where crampons would be a total pain at best). Depending on conditions, my setup may consist of ice ax+crampons, ice ax+microspikes, or ice ax+crampons+microspikes (or any of the above along with snowshoes).

While you're out buying crampons, don't forget to stop at a hardware store and buy an appropriate file, and learn how to sharpen them.

  • 1
    There's nothing basically wrong with C1 crampons, and they certainly shouldn't fall off: Grivel G10 is a classic C1 crampon. Not suitable for steep ice, but perfect for winter hillwalking.
    – Roddy
    Dec 29 '13 at 22:03

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