Petzl IRVIS Crampons – Lightweight Durability

Post by blogger | August 15, 2016      
Louie Dawson thankful for some added protection in his Petzl IRVIS Crampons above the Monarch Icefield, BC.Louie Dawson thankful for some added protection in his Petzl IRVIS Crampons above the Monarch Icefield, BC.

Louie Dawson thankful for some added protection in his Petzl IRVIS crampons above the Monarch Icefield, BC.

Summer is here in the Pacific Northwest. I have not been skiing lately, but rest assured that glisse captures my thoughts almost daily. Instead, my summers are spent teaching and sharing my passion for the mountains to teens and adults from across the country, while I’m leading courses for the Northwest Outward Bound School.

My work keeps me in the mountains and I am always looking to refine my systems and figure out the gear that can make the work day that much easier. Working three-week mountaineering trips in the Cascades takes me through a variety of terrain. This range is characterized by deep brushy valleys and glaciated alpine peaks, which make for challenges that necessitate the right tools for safe passage. Crampons are almost always mandatory while moving through steep snow and across glaciers in the summer, especially in the early hours when the surface is firm.

I have been testing Petzl’s IRVIS crampons since early spring.

To begin, I used the IRVIS crampons primarily with my Dynafit TLT6’s for splitboard mountaineering on a number of trips, one of them being to the Monarch Icefield. As the seasons transitioned, I have been using these spikes all summer long with my summer mountaineering boots on various work and personal trips. One of the features I especially like about the crampons is their adaptability between a fully automatic and a semi-automatic set-up.

The wire toe bail fits well on the Dynafit TLT6

The wire toe bail fits well on the Dynafit TLT6.

Here is the flexible strap-on toe attachment – fits well on a Salewa boot that is notoriously difficult to fit due to the curve of the sole.Here is the flexible strap-on toe attachment – fits well on a Salewa boot that is notoriously difficult to fit due to the curve of the sole.

Here is the flexible strap-on toe attachment – fits well on a Salewa boot that is notoriously difficult to fit due to the curve of the sole.

IRVIS crampons are a steel, 10-spike crampon that comes with a lever lock heel bail, and an interchangeable metal toe bail or a flexible plastic strap on attachment (universal filflex). This pair of crampons has become my go to pair for just about everything (except vertical ice). Petzl markets the IRVIS for ski mountaineering and glacier travel.

Of course there are aluminum crampons out there that could shame the IRVIS in terms of weight, but when it comes to the combination of durability and grams, I think that Petzl has struck a good note here.

Aluminum crampons simply do not hold up to the rigors of transition zones in the mountains, and that is where I find myself more often than not in technical terrain. A long steep snow climb, with short sections of rock scrambling can have you second-guessing your choice to dawn the aluminum ‘pons. The IRVIS crampons are designed with a smaller gauge of steel that help to drastically cut down on the weight, but still retain the durability and rigidity of a burly set of steel spikes. When I hold them up to an older pair of steel crampons, they feel about half the weight.

One disadvantage to steel is rust. The paint on my IRVIS crampons is already fairly scratched; quite a few spots are rusty. (This happens with all painted crampons.) I like stainless steel as an alternative to paint, not sure why it isn’t more widely used. Perhaps, it’s a more difficult metal to manufacture, or a challenge to minimize for weight savings. Anyone here a metal manufacturing expert who cares to comment?

The anti-balling plates are a key component, especially in gloppy summer snow conditions.

The anti-balling plates are a key component, especially in gloppy summer snow conditions.

anti balling plates

The anti balling plates in action.

In addition to this, the steel frame provides a solid platform for my ski boots, and especially for my 3/4 shank Salewa summer mountaineering boots. I have fit the IRVIS to several different models of boots and have found a pretty good fit across the board.

It can be difficult to switch the front parts between the strap, and the toe bail. Another potential issue is the wire toe bail does not have a uniform curve shape, but rather two obtuse angles that seem to fit a slightly wider toe better. Again, I have not had this issue with my Dynafit TLT6’s, or my La Sportiva Nepal Cubes.

The IRVIS crampons weigh in at:
736 grams for the pair with the wire toe bail
768 grams for the pair with the flexible toe bail

The packability of the IRVIS is another feature that impresses me. The toe and heel bail can fold down and lie flush with the base of the crampon, which is a major bonus when they are forced to live on or in your pack.

When collapsed the IRVIS crampons are some of the most packable steel ‘pons I’ve used.

When collapsed the IRVIS crampons are some of the most packable steel ‘pons I’ve used.

The 'pons doing their thing.

The ‘pons in their element, Monarch Icefield.

Overall, I would recommend the Petzl IRVIS crampons as the one crampon quiver for ski mountaineering and glacier travel as these are some of the lightest steel crampons on the market. You can shop for these and other Petzl products here.


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11 Responses to “Petzl IRVIS Crampons – Lightweight Durability”

  1. Travis August 15th, 2016 11:20 am

    I believe stainless was used by BD for awhile (Might still be) but that it has a shorter life span due to stainless steel’s make up. I have heard of a lot of BD stainless front points snapping off. Rust always comes off pretty easy if you wipe the pons down with some WD40 after use.

  2. David Aldous August 15th, 2016 9:11 pm

    What do people think of the hybrid crampons like the Petzl irvis hybrid or Grivel haute route? Does the steel front and aluminum back provide a decent compromise of weight and durability? Also when would you say an all aluminum crampon would be appropriate?

  3. Nathan August 16th, 2016 9:36 am


    I used the Haute Route crampons all spring in the Wasatch and Sierra and the durability has been great. The majority of their use was in snow and ice, with only the occasional rock patch. I think they are a good compromise ski touring crampon for couloir climbing where unknown conditions will be encountered, or as a crampon “quiver of one” for ski touring.

    If a lot of rock is expected, all steel is the appropriate choice.

    All aluminum is appropriate for situations where you know that the absolute majority of their use will be on snow or soft ice/neve.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 August 16th, 2016 9:42 am

    I’d agree that the aluminum is not very appropriate if you’re on rocks much. I’ve scrambled rock on mine quite a bit, the points dull very quickly of course, but for snow climbing you don’t need needle points anyway. If the alu ‘pons are well made and you’re not to big and heavy, bending alu points is not as much of an issue as one would assume, though they’re clearly not as strong as steel.

    Thing to remember is that if an aluminum product is made to be strong, it can be as strong as a steel product, but to do so the aluminum has to be thicker and expensive. To keep the alu crampons super light they compromise in the strength area, and though most seem to use fairly good aluminum I’d bet they could be an even better temper and alloy if price was not object. Overall, I’d think that with the rapid advances in alpine climbing equipment, what we’re seeing currently in crampon innovation is just the beginning of a revolution in weight and strength. Lou

  5. James August 16th, 2016 1:15 pm

    Commercial grade stainless steel is softer & considerably more expensive! Stress corrosion cracking is also a problem in the harder grades of SS.

  6. Steven Kovalenko August 17th, 2016 11:32 am

    The crampon surface rust goes away on the first few kicks into ice or snow, just like any rust on your ski edges disappears on the first few turns. Rust is never a big deal if you thoughtfully dry your crampons out after a trip. It’s not like chromoly crampons are not exploding and failing from rust corrosion every season. Dane Burns has some thoughtful insights into use of stainless steel in ice climbing crampons: I personally will not buy a stainless crampon after the Sabretooth debacle.

    IMO stainless looks good in the store and online in pictures (a victory for the marketing department), but it’s not an ideal material for anything you want to keep sharp. I realize this is less of an issue with skiing. I buy crampons primarily for ice climbing and use them for skiing applications, too, since having a massive crampon quiver is ridiculous.

  7. Louie III August 18th, 2016 12:13 pm

    That’s a great article about steel crampon durability. Super interesting.

  8. Maciej August 18th, 2016 5:27 pm

    I also use Haute Route crampons, and I think they’re the best ski-specific non-racing crampons out there. They’re dead simple to take on and off, pack way small, are impressively light, and the fit on an AT boot is precise. Also, they include the anti-balling plates.

    All steel sharps do work best for gnarly mixed climbs, but those seldom lead to good skiing. Props to Grivel for making a dedicated ski touring crampon!

    The Haute Route axe is also worth looking at-also impressively light and “just right” for ski approaches.

  9. Ben January 17th, 2018 6:32 pm

    The traditional claim has been that stainless doesn’t hold an edge like high-carbon steel. And that may still be a little bit true, but lots of knifemakers seem to be in awe of the new supersteels—stainless steels that holds an edge about as well as anything, are tough, strong, corrosion-resistant, wear slowly… Check out knife fora on things like Elmax or CPM 20CV (I don’t have much experience with most of them, but I have a little Elmax knife whose performance is pretty astounding… much thinner blade than I would have expected because the metal is strong enough; that alone might save a third of the weight of a pair of crampons…).

    Probably cost-prohibitive for crampons at the moment, but I believe that saying “stainless steels break” or “stainless steels don’t hold an edge” rather oversimplifies the situation.

  10. Kristian January 17th, 2018 8:28 pm

    Many years ago, I made a vertical ice climbing pick out of stainless. Worked great! Was soloing several hundred feet off of the deck when suddenly the pick was bent back on itself. My first and last use of stainless.

  11. Vincenzo March 21st, 2019 1:50 pm

    what’s your boot number?

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