Widebody Ski Crampons — Jonathan Gives His All


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Backcountry Skiing

Ski crampons

This guest blog was originally supposed to be a review of the new Dynafit DyNA “DNA” ultralight yet still totally skiable rando race boot, which Lou was supposed to steal – err, ahh, borrow for me during his Euro Dynafit press visit earlier this season.

Unfortunately, Lou got completely distracted by all those fancy European pastries (apparently Colorado has no good bakery shops?) and while on the subsequent sugar and fat high completely spaced out on this most important assignment.

Backcountry Skiing

The great comparo, Dynafit crampon to left, B&D to right. Dynafit spacers are taken from TLT Speed/Classic bindings; B&D spacers (in two different thicknesses) and attachment screws are provided with crampons.

So instead his blogness lent me a pair of the new Dynafit wide ski crampons and as compensation provided me with airfare, ground transportation, and hotel for an Anchorage-based ski touring test of them.

Well, okay, so the trip to Anchorage was actually paid for by my toil, and Lou never quite acknowledged my requests to sneak off a pair of DyNA boots, but the part about the ski crampons is true.

Until now, the “wide” Dynafit ski crampon despite a “92” designation had a maximum effective clearance of somewhere between 86mm and 88mm depending on your definition of clearance: the 169cm Dynafit FT 10.0 / Mustagh Ata was fine, as its waist is just under 86mm, but the 178cm version with an 88mm waist entailed some light scraping of the crampon against the side edges. (Searching on “Dynafit” at Youtube still produces a highly ranked video shot by a friend trying to prove to me that his “92” crampons didn’t work on his 178cm M.A. skis.)

Backcountry Skiing

Underneath, you can really see the differences between Dynafit (left, regular-width crampon used in this shot) and B&D offerings. Also note my custom use of t-nuts to attach spacers for the Dynafits, while B&D provides machine screws in threaded holes.

For the 2008-09 season, Dynafit came out with the Manaslu ski, which has significantly more girth than any ski Dynafit has previously made, yet is lighter than almost all skis that Dynafit has ever made, as well as lighter than most other far narrower skis from its competitors. At first I was surprised that Dynafit didn’t come out with a crampon compatible with its own ski, but then I figured that the ski would be a pure soft-snow specialist and hence I would never want to use it for conditions in which I might need ski crampons.

However, Manaslu proved to be far more versatile than I had anticipated, and hence it was my first choice for the AK trip. But as my guide Joe Stock specified, ski crampons were a must (along with Dynafit bindings of course, plus anything else that is similarly superlight, efficient, and effective, with everything else left at home).

Backcountry Skiing

Crampon penetration at middle heel lift, both brands are similar (with TLT spacers installed for Dynafits, and B&D crampons using the thinner of the two supplied spacers sets). The amount a ski crampon is designed to penetrate is a dicey compromise. Too little and it won't function, too much and it'll precariously stilt you up on hard surfaces.

Lou and Salewa North America came to the rescue with the Dynafit crampon loaners, and Lou also suggested I contact B&D to do a comparo with their crampons. Bill from B&D was happy to help out, and also sent me a couple other products from his line of after-market accessories. Among some of his more intriguing products:

• Lighter Dynafit release springs, for those skiers willing to admit that not only is 10 sufficient on the high end of the release scale but also that 5 is too much on the low end of the release scale.

• Customized and slightly lighter heel unit top plates for the TLT Speed/Classic and Comfort models.

• An intriguing approach that solves the conundrum of how to shim the F1/F3 bellows for skiing yet allow the use of a ski crampon for skinning.

• A custom leash. I’ve logged over thirty thousand vertical spread out over several outings with his leash on one ski and my own custom leash on another. The B&D leash is designed to dissipate energy in case of a release, is made of coiled cable that extends quite a distance, and also has built-in failure points. The convenience factor of the B&D leash was definitely appreciated in that I never needed to undo the leash while removing my skis, even for short portages. I still prefer my own lightweight short-leash design, but for anyone interested in a more robust design the B&D is appealing and affordable.

• Crampon locks. I think the fixed crampon designs like the Voile and old Sk’Alp are a big disadvantage, since they reduce skinning to more like stepping. By contrast, a pivoting crampon allows you to skin almost as usual, yet with additional lateral security. But I have gotten in a few tricky situations where I would have appreciated a fixed crampon. The best approach is of course to avoid getting into those tricky situations, but the B&D crampon lock offers the best of both worlds. (And note that it works only with B&D crampons, not Dynafit OEM.)

Okay, now finally the ski crampon details.

Backcountry Skiing

Side view with new Dynafit wide crampon on left and regular-width crampon on right.

The B&D “100mm” crampon actually measures 103mm inside, which matches up with the website’s information (i.e., interior clearance is 3mm in excess of the stated width). Weight including the lower-height spacers (and small mounting screws) is 9.8 ounces. The thickness of the metal is about 2.6mm. For the 169cm Manaslu with a 92mm waist (as opposed to the 95mm waist in the longer lengths), I probably could have just barely gotten away with the “90mm” crampon, but Bill sent me the “100mm” based upon the Manaslu specs. (Lou says he uses the 90 mm model with his Manaslus and likes the way it fits snug to the ski, thus resisting torque.)

The Dynafit wide crampon measures about 108mm inside. Weight including spacers (i.e., TLT Speed/Classic heel post extensions) and fasteners (hardware store T-Nut with Brad hole 6-32 x 1 ¼ plus corresponding machine screws, no drilling required) is 8.0 ounces, so almost two ounces less than B&D despite being 5mm wider. The thickness of the metal is about 2.5mm.

In terms of durability, it’s obvious during bench testing as well as field use that the additional ribs stamped into the Dynafit crampons make them much more resistant to bending. The importance of this depends on your walking weight and style of use (stepping across patches of dry ground or not, etc.).

Note that Dynafit has never included spacers with their crampons, and explains this is because they advise against using the crampons with the bindings in the higher heel elevator position. I agree with this advice: ski crampons are intended for traversing skin tracks, not going straight up. And if you’re on a skin track with firmer snow — i.e., ski crampon territory — the higher heel elevator position will create a less stable platform. However, I have been in some situations that merited keeping the uphill ski binding in the lower heel elevator position but the downhill ski binding in the higher heel elevator position: this differential helps to even out the disparity in the downhill ski being lower than the uphill ski. Moreover, using the ski crampons with spacers in a Comfort or Vertical ST/FT binding is creating essentially the same snow penetration or “bite” as using the ski crampons without spacers in the original TLT IV/Speed/Classic binding, which has less stack height.

Backcountry Skiing

Crampon penetration at middle lift, B&D to rear.

As shown in the various pictures, the Dynafit wide crampon is just a wider version of the current “92” (with ~87mm interior clearance) crampon but with the front “tooth” eliminated. The snow penetration or “bite” with the TLT spacers is essentially the same as the B&D crampons with the lower-height spacers, although the teeth configuration is quite different. When I was ski cramponing along on some flatter terrain with the Dynafit crampon on one ski and the B&D on the other, I tried concentrating on which crampon had less drag, but I wasn’t able to discern any difference on shorter stretches.

Backcountry Skiing

Another comparison between the two brands.

Backcountry Skiing

Side view of Dynafit regular-width crampon nested within new wide crampon. Note the eliminated front tooth.

Since the B&D crampons are just aluminum flat stock bent into shape, they can be nested together for packing, entailing a little bit of splaying out in one crampon. (One approach is to tuck the nested crampons together underneath a pack strap, then secure the package in place by clipping a biner through the pack strap and the cutout in the crampons.) The Dynafit crampons have significant stiffening contours in the metal and do not splay easily, hence they can’t be nested for packing. The upside of this is that I’ve never heard of a Dynafit crampon bending or breaking. By contrast, B&D crampons are supposed to be reinforced for this year, but their crampons in prior years have been prone to bending for some users.

Backcountry Skiing

AMGA guide Joe Stock's 'professional' approach to crampon attachment - he strongly disapproved of my 'cow bell' attachment method as well as my general practice of strapping all manner of gear to the outside of my pack: 'You like look an REI employee . . . who just got his first proform.' (Ouch!).

Okay Lou? Now when do my DyNA boots arrive for summer volcano ski testing?

Shop for B&D ski crampons here.

(WildSnow guest blogger Jonathan Shefftz lives with his wife and daughter in Western Massachusetts, where he is a member of the Northfield Mountain and Thunderbolt / Mt Greylock ski patrols. Formerly an NCAA alpine race coach, he has broken free from his prior dependence on mechanized ascension to become far more enamored of self-propelled forms of skiing. He is an AIARE-qualified instructor, NSP avalanche instructor, and contributor to the American Avalanche Association’s The Avalanche Review. When he is not searching out elusive freshies in Southern New England or promoting the NE Rando Race Series, he works as a financial economics consultant.)

Comments

22 Responses to “Widebody Ski Crampons — Jonathan Gives His All”

  1. Andy May 6th, 2009 12:02 pm

    That’s cool and all, but can you actually get the wide Dynafit crampons anywhere now?

  2. Jonathan S. Shefftz May 6th, 2009 1:44 pm

    “That’s cool and all, but can you actually get the wide Dynafit crampons anywhere now?”
    – Well, umm, not really. So, yeah, this is really more a review/heads-up for next year.

  3. Jonathan S. Shefftz May 6th, 2009 1:48 pm

    Just a clarification that the pics with a hardwood floor and/or orange-base ski feature the regular-width Dynafit crampon (with the extra tooth) — the penetration is identical to the new wider crampon, and I took some pics at slightly different angles with my older crampons, hence the use of those pics.
    Also, in case you want to see some really silly ski cramponing video, here goes:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYdiCimX0n4
    (Has to be the only time anyone has toured with a different brand of crampon on each foot?)

  4. Lou May 6th, 2009 2:10 pm

    Andy, they sold out but some retailers might have them. We’ve never predicated our reviews on product availability, sorry if we implied such. They’ll be distributed again in the fall, and this review will be here as reference…

  5. ScottN May 6th, 2009 3:00 pm

    Good stuff. Has anyone ever used B&D’s F1/F3 crampon set up? Opinions on that?

  6. Lee Lau May 6th, 2009 3:13 pm

    Per Salewa – none of the 110mm crampons till August or thereabouts. Check retailers then

  7. Jonathan S. Shefftz May 6th, 2009 4:17 pm

    “Has anyone ever used B&D’s F1/F3 crampon set up?”
    - A touring partner has such a set-up.
    I’ve never seen him use it, but sure seems like a good solution.
    The other three approaches are to:
    1) cut a very small custom shim from LDPE sheets available at SmallParts.com;
    2) use the heavy and icing-prone Scarpa sliding shim, then hope you don’t lose it during skicramponing transitions; and,
    3) start with the standard Scarpa shim, but mount it slightly aft and with only one screw secured by plastic insert or helicoil, so that it can swivel out of the way for ski crampon use.

  8. Mark May 6th, 2009 9:41 pm

    I’ve thought about getting or making the little spacers for my Dynafit crampons, but might just skip it. B&D makes cool stuff. When you need ski crampons, they are amazingly helpful.

  9. Andy May 6th, 2009 10:39 pm

    Jonathan/Lou: Wasn’t trying to crack wise. Just happened to actually be trying to buy some at the moment and was having trouble finding them and, apparently reading. Will get in line early for the 110s or pick up some B&Ds. Thanks!

  10. Blair Mitten May 6th, 2009 11:30 pm

    I find that the Diamir ski crampon that fits to the binding behind the toe and can be flipped into place with your ski pole extremely useful, providential even, its available and ready to go when you hit that icy bit near the top of the slope. I once left the crampons in my pack to save stride weight on a long day up Mt Baker, what a silly plan, I got a nasty ice rash for my scheming. The point being, it would be great if some engineer out there could come up with a flip option that is Dynafit compatible.

  11. Lou May 7th, 2009 7:08 am

    Andy, no worries, the issue of product availability vs reviews comes up here all the time, as we tend to do first-looks and reviews sometimes months before something is in retail. Nature of the web, I guess, and the PR folks desiring to get a buzz going so they make the product available to us, and so forth.

    I depend on the comments as being as important as the original blog post in terms of communicating this stuff, so it’s good you brought it up!

  12. jerimy May 7th, 2009 11:16 am

    I have the B&D F1 shim on one of my setups. I have only had one opportunity to use crampons with them and am satisfied so far. However, there were two small modifications that I had to make to the shim in order to get everything dialed in.

    First, the shim is 3 1/4″ or 83mm wide. This was much wider than the 68mm waist of the ski I put it on. A few strokes of the hacksaw and a dremel quickly fixed this issue.

    Second, the standard Dynafit crampon would not slide into the B&D crampon slot because of clearance issues with the front tooth of the crampon. A little more work with the dremel and this was solved as well.

  13. Lou May 7th, 2009 11:40 am

    Good info Jer, thanks!

  14. ScottN May 7th, 2009 3:31 pm

    Thanks Jerimy. Didn’t know you could mix/match parts with this setup. But sounds like it all works.

  15. Chris Tennal May 8th, 2009 5:53 pm

    All of us at Mountain Outfitters in Breckenridge, CO. follow Lou’s blog daily (too often sometimes). We have never used this, or any blog as an advertising source for our shop. This one time though, we wanted to let everyone know that as a Dynafit competence center, we did get a dozen of the wide Dynafit crampons last month.

    Sorry again for the retail plug, but we can get you hooked up at http://www.mtnoutfitters.com or call us at 970-453-2201.

  16. Greg Louie May 9th, 2009 2:40 pm

    Timely post, Jonathan! I just looked at the wide Dynafit crampons at Marmot Mt. Works today, and they are a lot wider than my 95mm waisted Manaslus. I’m with Lou, preferring a tighter fit . . . think I’ll go with the B&D’s. Thanks for the comparison.

  17. Jonathan S. Shefftz May 10th, 2009 9:25 am

    Just a thought on tightness of fit – for a couple seasons in the spring and early summer I used a 67mm Atomic TM:11 with the Dynafit “92″ crampons. So with an effective interior clearance of ~86mm, I had about 19mm of excessiveness clearance. Never noticed any problems with torque or anything like that.
    The Dynafit crampon is also significantly reinforced, which I think is a factor in needing only three sizes of crampons. The one thing I did notice when using the new Dynafit wide crampon on the Manaslu is that you have to be careful to keep your feet sufficiently wide apart, since with crampons that wide it’s like you’re skinning on skis with that wide a waist width.

  18. Mark April 23rd, 2010 4:58 am

    Hi – Thanks for the review. I have the Manaslus and use B&D crampon which was sent to me overseas by B&D without hassle. However, the issue noted above of them being prone to twisting and bending is a major issue. I have trashed both crampons by way of them bending (across both vertical and horizontal planes) when standing on rocks. Clearly, you don’t do this by choice. I’ve done it on three occassions – once the rocks were just under frozen snow and invisible, another time I was tottering through rocks and the ski sawwed back and onto the crampon, third time a variation on both. All other people with me have been on Fritchi crampons and they have been way strong, allowing users to delicately walk through rocks. None of these situations were safe for ski removal, so this is a major issue. I would rate the B&D crampons as ‘very soft’ aluminum. Not ideal. Else they are fine.

  19. Matt April 30th, 2010 7:18 pm

    What is the crampon of choice for the Manaslu 187 with the FT12? Never used a crampon before. Thanks.

  20. Jonathan Shefftz April 14th, 2011 8:15 am

    Update for a quick review of the new Dynafit Speed Crampon. Weight including spacers (i.e., TLT Speed/Classic heel post extensions) and fasteners (hardware store T-Nut with Brad hole 6-32 x 1 ¼ plus corresponding machine screws, no drilling required) is 4.9 ounces, as compared to 8oz for the widest Dynafit crampon (as previously reviewed above). The width is officially designated as 82mm, which seems about right, and the tag that comes with the crampon shows it with the Se7en Summits, which is the widest ski in the Dynafit line-up that would fit.
    However, the picture also shows the crampon with the Vertical ST, which really wouldn’t allow sufficient point penetration except in flat mode (i.e., no heel elevator). With the spacers I installed, penetration seems sufficient with a Speed on low elevator. But highest Speed elevator, or even low elevator on the Vertical ST/FT, and it’s not doing much good.
    I used it for a tour of nearly 9k vert & 13mi distance for lots of ski cramponing including very firm snow, with Movement Fish-X skis and Plum Race 135 bindings. The very aggressive shape of the points seemed to more than compensate for their relatively short length. And the size is just absurdly small for packing away — the pictures really don’t do it justice, as when the crampons arrive, you think, what, how can something this small be effective? But with the binding compatibility caveats noted above (and the ski width limitations of course), it works!

  21. David May 30th, 2013 2:33 pm

    I like the Voile crampons. They work all the time in any heel position, require no spacers, have no moving parts, seem bullet proof walking on rocks, and best of all the attachment gizmo does double duty as a shim for my F1′s.
    I dont notice them dragging in the snow and slowing me down much, but to be fair have never used the spring loaded ones. Anyone have an opinion? Thanks

  22. XXX_er May 30th, 2013 4:34 pm

    I put the crampons in my pack teeth facing one another I found a small tupper wear box that just fits inside that wasted space in the middle of a nested pair of crampons in which I can put repair stuff or a 1st aid kit and I wrap it all together with a voile strap

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