Ordino Arcalís Blog

How to use crampons

If you’re going away on a winter holiday and planning to try out ice climbing, you’ll need to ensure that you have the right ice climbing equipment and that you know how to use it. The main pieces of ice climbing equipment include ice axes, support ropes and crampons. But, what are crampons used for and what must you know about how to use crampons? That’s what we’ll discuss below in this guide to when to use crampons and how to use crampons.

Ordino Arcalís Blog

When to use crampons

Let’s discuss what are crampons in the context of ice climbing, which is a popular winter activity in Andorra. Crampons are a sort of traction device that can be strapped on to mountaineering boots to improve grip and mobility on snow and ice. Most have 10 or 12 points and there are three main kinds of crampons: strap-on, step-in and hybrid. The strap-on crampons can go over and function with most boots, whereas the other two require your boots to be crampon-compatible.

As for when to use crampons, you should use them when the slope angle increases or when you feel your boots don’t have sufficient grip on their own and you feel like you’re about to start slipping. The best conditions for when to use crampons are when the snow is hard and compact, as this way the point can bite in. If the snow is too soft then you can experience balling, which is when soft and sticky snow builds up amongst your crampons.

Tips for putting on crampons

If you’re not sure about how to use crampons, a big tip is to practice putting them on and walking with crampons while you’re still at home. You should also practice putting them on while wearing the same gloves you’ll wear when out on the snow or ice. Another tip is to avoid wearing baggy trousers, which could snag on the crampons. 

Are crampons easy to use?

In terms of how easy crampons are to use, the experience is quite simple and comfortable once you get used to it. At first, as with any new piece of equipment, the sensation might feel a little strange. But, with practice and with experience, you’ll understand exactly how to put crampons on in an easy way.

At what point do you need crampons?

As mentioned above, the point at which you’ll need crampons is when you start to feel that the snow or ice you’re walking on or scaling is becoming too slippery. That’s the answer for when to use crampons, but it is recommended you put your crampons on before you reach this point. Knowing when you’re about to reach conditions that would require crampons is a skill that only comes with experience.

How do you practice with crampons?

The best way to gain experience and to perfectly understand the nuances, such as when to use crampons, is to get several hours of ice climbing under your belt. But, you can also practice before taking to the ice, so that you have some idea of how to put crampons on before you get there.

As mentioned above, it is a good idea to practice putting your crampons on at home, but that only really helps in terms of how to put crampons on. The experience of ice climbing with crampons can only really be replicated on the ice, so it’s worth looking online to see if there are any indoor ice climbing centres near you before you embark on an ice climbing experience while on holiday. You might even be able to book lessons at a ski resort, to learn some tips from an expert once you arrive.