Technical – Fritschi Crampon Penetration Depth

Post by blogger | June 17, 2008      

You asked for it; an overview of how deeply the standard Fritschi crampon penetrates under your ski, dependent on heel lift height. Binding shown below is on a demo board that’s slightly thicker than some skis, but you get the overall idea.

Fritschi backcountry skiing.
Fritschi standard model crampon penetration at various heel lift heights.

With heel height set to flat-on-ski mode, penetration is of course very good. Go to the next step up and it’s okay as well. But got to the top two heel lift heights and you’ll get minimal to no grip from your crampons. In our opinion, the crampon should be longer so it grips better with higher heel lifts — but it still works if you’re aware of its limits and use it with lower heel lift.

Yet using the Fritschi medium lift height is very common, and the high lift gets used quite a bit as well, so that’s the problem. Downside of a longer (taller) crampon solution is such can stilt you up and trip you when on hard snow or ice.

As always, we’re led to the conclusion that the best ski crampon is one of moderate height that’s fixed to the ski and does not move up and down. To that end, the Voile or B&D crampons can be easily fitted to skis with Fritschi Freeride binding. (Know that Fritschi also makes a crampon called the Axion, which is available in a taller height for use with higher heel lifts, and folds up out of the way when not in use. Sadly, Axion is only available for skis up to 82 mm at the waist, thus obviating its use for most of our’s and many other folk’s ski touring quivers.)


10 Responses to “Technical – Fritschi Crampon Penetration Depth”

  1. Jim Clarke June 17th, 2008 10:54 am


    A friend mentioned a modification you might have done for the Dynafit TLT crampon so that it can be locked down onto the ski rather than just flappin’ & draggin’ along when skinning in a higher post…is there a way to do this?


    Jim C.

  2. Lou June 17th, 2008 11:06 am

    Jim, to solve that problem just go to B&D crampons with their crampon lock. Request his new stronger cramps made with slightly thicker alu. We’re very happy with how these have been working.

  3. Eric Holle June 17th, 2008 3:14 pm


    We have been discussing your webpage a bunch as we have been mountaineering and skiing like madmen lately. One of the topics that came up last weekend while we (including the aforementioned Mr. Clarke) were in the Maroon Bells was how steep a slope ski crampons are a viable option. Obviously there is a point where you are skinning up steep slopes with the heel height at the max and the crampons won’t touch the ground, but is there a point where the slope is too steep that the crampons don’t provide any extra traction?

    Eric H.

  4. Lou June 17th, 2008 6:02 pm

    Hi Eric, sure, the way I judge it is simply by when it gets too awkward and is taking more energy than it saves to be on skis instead of boots. That assuming the snow is solid enough for booting. Otherwise, you take it to the max on skis to avoid post holing. Also, the ski crampons that don’t raise up with the foot are way better when it’s steep. If you have not tried them, I think you’ll be surprised at the difference.

    With solid steep snow, I do tend to boot rather than be on skis.

  5. john Gloor June 17th, 2008 6:51 pm

    Thanks for this review of the Fritschi crampon. Hopefully no one else will make the mistake I did and buy it! I cannot believe they pawned this off on backcountry skiers after making such great bindings. In the medium height step, if the snow is not bulletproof, it provides next to no shear resistance and it is useless in the high step. I emailed Bill at B&D and he sent me a crampon that will operate efficiently in an unfixed mode in the lower two steps and can be locked down at any height. If your skis are between his crampon sizes, I believe he will custom shape them for you. Visit his website and see the options he has for AT and telemark setups. I think he has put a lot of thought into his products and I am very pleased with them

  6. adam olson June 18th, 2008 9:03 am

    I own and use the Axion crampon w/ my Fritschi Freerides. What a great design. I just purchased a pair of Elan 888’s, they have an 88mm waist. The Axion works just fine on this width of ski. It looks to have 1mm clearance on each side of the crampon when engaged. The 82mm max width seems to be a typo.
    The overall design of the Axion seems to offer the best all around performance. I can appreciate the B&D design and feel it comes in a close 2nd. Once the Axion is installed, usually done when skins are being put on, the user can w/ a ski pole “activate” the crampon by flipping it down. It flips up out of the way just as easy. When flipped up you are able to use the glide of skins without the drag of crampons, especially on more moderate terrain. For me this glide is important. Also important is the ability to use the crampon when I choose. The B&D design is an “always on” crampon, once installed it is ALWAYS biting the snow. The flatter the terrain the more bite it has. (What a drag!?)

    I find that I only use the crampon during spring type conditions. In these spring type conditions I use a narrower ski. I have large powder skis for softer conditions. In these soft winter conditions where the skin track can be set flat, I never use ski crampons. The modern skins have more than enough bite for all skin tracks around here.
    The Axion crampons do not work well w/ the heel inclinator in the highest position, I have learned to climb steeper terrain in the middle position. Here the crampon gets acceptable bite to climb and traverse.


  7. Scott B June 18th, 2008 9:58 am


    Can the crampon be mounted backwards? This would put it down into the snow lower.

    I wonder why they don’t make it so the tines come strait down from the mounting point. It would be less effected by the binding lift that way.

  8. Lou June 18th, 2008 10:09 am

    Adam, I was looking for some Axion comments so thanks! Review of those coming soon, but you took care of most of it.

  9. KenR January 4th, 2010 1:07 pm

    I use my Diamir crampon lots with the heel elevator in the 3rd highest position. I find it works just fine for me. I do lots of touring in Europe where there’s lots of steep hardpack slopes to be climbed, and there’s lots of other skiers there who use the Fritschi harscheisen in the 3rd position. I’ve trusted it in lots of situations where the consequences of failure to grip would be long accelerating sliding fall.

    I almost never use the Fritschi crampon on the 2nd heel elevator position recommended on this page.

    True the crampon does not work well in the highest 4th heel elevator position — but there’s little call for that in real touring situations.

    Bear in mind that out on real tours the crampon in the 3rd heel position is not used with the ski base flat on the snow, as shown with that board on that sheet in the photo on this page. The ski is edged and tilted substantially, so the crampon teeth penetrate deeper into hardpack than the vertical geometry of those measurements would suggest.


  10. KenR January 4th, 2010 1:57 pm

    I suspect the real explanation for how it works in the 3rd heel position is that the role of the “ski crampon” is kinda subtle. Perhaps using the word “crampon” is not helpful because it suggests that it’s supposed to work like a boot crampon for ice-climbing. But the points on a boot crampon really do have to “hold” most of the body weight (except what rests on ice axe).

    With harscheisen / couteaux / ski-crampons, _most_ of the climbing skier’s body weight is held by the metal ski edge plus the partly the friction of the edge of the climbing skin. So there’s no need for harscheisen points to penetrate as deep as boot-crampon points.

    I remember when I first tried Fritschi harscheisen I was convinced just by looking that I would never trust them in the 3rd heel position. So at first I used them in the 2nd position. But I kept experimenting on steeper hardpack slopes, and before long I was using the 3rd position confidently.

    So I suspect that if you look at the points of the harscheisen in isolation, you end up over-engineering them. If you test the total climbing system out in real touring situations, you discover that less is sufficient.

    My own complaint about the Fritschi harcheisen is that they’re so bulky to store in my pack, and kinda heavy. I guess the new Axion ones address that, but I haven’t been motivated to switch.


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