UKC

Crampons on approach/fell running shoes for easy snow/glaciers

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 Tom Last 21 Apr 2022

Hi folks.

I'm looking for a bit of advice from anyone who has real world experience of travelling on easy glaciated terrain, using crampons on footwear other than boots.

I'm potentially away to Chalten in December and amongst the possible objectives there are some that involve travel on big, but mostly flat glaciers and some approaches up easy (ie max Scottish grade 2) ground. Ultimately, I'll be looking to climb rock routes with snowy approaches.

I've been there before and some of the walk ins are fairly massive. Having wrecked my feet walking into Torre Valley once in B3s, the next time I approached in my fell running shoes which were ample without crampons as the glacier was very flat and dry at the time.

I don't wish to repeat the B3 experience again and would prefer to climb without B3s in my pack, so am considering a few different options instead.

Obviously, glaciers aren't always very dry, particularly in December which will still be quite early season there, so I'm wondering about the effectiveness of putting crampons on approach shoes or running shoes. I know that this is done a fair bit but dont have direct experience of it.

There are a few different C1s which look capable at least, if not actually claimed to be fittable to high top approach shoes/running shoes. All round aluminium crampons, highbrid steel front point/aluminium back, microspike type things etc. I think I would prefer those with actual front points since some easy snow slopes might be encountered. I know there are problems such as heal baskets rubbing/crampons just popping off etc and wonder if anyone has overcome these?

FOR THE RECORD. I am not considering wearing anything other that proper boots and crampons on anything involving summit snowfields or any steeper ground anywhere on the approach, I'm thinking about level glacier approaches and easy snow slopes only.

There's a few pros and cons I have thought of and would appreciate anyones advice who has direct experience of, or anything to add to this at all.

High top fell running shoes

Pros. Very light. Quick drying. My usual mountain footwear. Least bulky.

Cons. Least likely to feel secure with crampons? Heal rub with C3s? Not that great at rock climbing.

https://www.inov-8.com/roclite-g-286-gtx-mens

High top approach shoes

Pros. Light. Good at rock climbing. Might take some sort of C3 crampon more readily that fell shoes.

Cons. Likely to get wet and stay wet/freeze. Heal rub with C3s? Not that mucch lighter than lightest B3s. Still quite bulky.

https://tinyurl.com/2p8xkrby

Newest generation of very light B2s

Pros. All round capable.

Cons. Quite likely to wreck my feet again. Fairly heavy/bulky.

https://tinyurl.com/yex923y6

Cheers all. I appreciate the input.

Tom

Post edited at 17:38
 mcawle 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

I have no direct experience but there’s an article here that discusses shoes and crampons as part of a wider article; they have used this on classic snow routes in the NZ Southern Alps: https://alpineteam.co.nz/2019/trailpinism

Elsewhere (although I can’t remember where) I have seen the same author suggest cutting a thin footplate  from a layer of carbon fibre sheet in the shape of your shoe to sit between the crampon and the shoe for lightweight additional stiffening - again I have no direct experience but they do appear to know what they’re doing and to have got some pretty big stuff done.

 daWalt 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

I'v got a pair of Katoolas for wearing with flexible shoes: https://kahtoola.com/hiking-crampons/kts-hiking-crampon/

For what they are intended for, they're ace. I'v wear them with fell shoes, which is why I bought them: and I mean fell-shoes, not some specialist stiff soled hi-top weird things. it's the ulrta-bendy bar that makes them secure on really flexible shoes.

they're a bit fiddly to adjust, and don't adjust quickly, but if they're right they're solid. N.B. I have not tested these on steep ground.

these fit and work like actual crampons (funny that) - and not like floppy micro-spikes held on by a glorified rubber band.

I'v also got fell shoes with metal spikes, and have worn both at the same time.

La Sportiva do shoes with a reinforced sole, onto which you can install spikes and then de-mount them later if you wish. https://www.climbers-shop.com/footwear/running-shoes/la-sportiva-at-grip-spikes-key__9278393 good but only up to very shallow angle terrain if it's proper icy... [ask me how I know..]

Post edited at 17:51
In reply to Tom Last:

I’m confused why you keep referring to C3 crampons in your pro’s and con’s, why not buy a set of C1 aluminium crampons and some light weight B1 boots. 

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OP Tom Last 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Martin Haworth:

Sorry yes, C1s! Just me getting confused, haha. Usually just thinking about this stuff, rather than writing about it.

Don't want boots though for the reasons listed, ie, even lightweight B1s aren't really that much lighter than lightweight B3s, half a kilo-ish, plus they're also bulky as hell in the pack. 

OP Tom Last 21 Apr 2022
In reply to daWalt:

Amazing, thank you. I'll look into those. Do you find the strap at the back of the Kahtoolas rubs on your ankle? Assuming you were able to make them sit properly on the back of the fell shoes rather than your flesh!? 

OP Tom Last 21 Apr 2022
In reply to mcawle:

That's great, thanks. Sounds like an ingenious solution. I'll give that a read  

OP Tom Last 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

Some definitely confusion in my OP as Martin pointed out. Where I'm talking about C3s, I mean C1s. Also, where I refer to heals rubbing I mean ankles!

Aargh. Perils of writing UKC posts and PGCE essays simultaneously.

Cheers all. 

In reply to Tom Last: I have a pair of Salomon S/lab carbon Alpine boots, not sure if they still make them. They are like a trainer with a rigid sole and built in zip up gaitor, weigh less than a kilo. Paired with aluminium crampons it’s about 1.5 kilos total. Got them specifically for glacier approaches to Alpine rock routes.

https://ultrarunningcommunity.com/reviews/full-gear-list/10-shoe-review/1180-salomon-s-lab-x-alp-carbon-gtx
 

Post edited at 20:02
 George Ormerod 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

I've used the Katoolas crampons with fell shoes and they're OK, not really to run in, but waking's fine.  I run a lot in snow and ice with spiked shoes (Innov8 Arctic Talon) and they are not good enough for ice with a significant gradient (say >15%), so would be a no-no on glaciers with hard ice.  If you're OK with light boots then any 'new classic' type crampon with a flexible bar would work, as would the plethora of light aluminium touring crampons, probably.

In reply to Tom Last:

The lightest footwear I've used with crampons are http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2017/12/scarpa-zodiac-tech-gtx-review.html they are very impressive for the weight - don't know how they compare against the newest Ribelle models though and hard to get in the UK, but not in the EU.

Whatever you do, please be careful. A chap I knew and liked a lot, and his partner who I didn't know, were both killed in the Alps in an incident that to my understanding started when one of them slipped approaching a rock route on a snow when they were using crampons attached to approach shoes.

 daWalt 21 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

 I'v got the KTS type, with what looks like a more "boot" oriented heel-cup. I still get them to fit soft shoes, and hadn't realised there was a different option (bought mine many years ago when they were quite new on the market)

I think I know what you mean, it looks like the heel unit is high - it's not, it still sits comfortably below the top-of-shoe level even on relatively low-rise inovates. the pics on the webshyte are almost misleading...

there are now other crampons on the market that have bendy mid-bars and claim to be for soft / trail shoes (BD do an ALU one - which isn't that much lighter....)

the good thing about the Katoolas is the crossover toe straps mean you can fit them to ANY shoe. only downside are the front points are SHORT, they're basically underneath and you can't really front-point in them......

In reply to Tom Last:

In the past I’ve walked up the Torre glacier many times wearing trainers and carrying a heavy load, also the glacier in valley Silencio in Torres del Paine. Nowadays with global warming having rendered the Mer de Glace half the size and flat, going up to either the Envers or the Couvercle for rock climbing, approach shoes are perfect. I do carry an axe though for the odd leap over meltwater streams. Large crevasses or seracs simply no longer exist, other than the Greant  icefall which you can walk round.

1
In reply to Tom Last:

I've used Kahtoolas, microspikes and Grivel Airtech extensively on fellrunning shoes and light boots. Microspikes would be useless if there's much fresh snow. Kahtoolas are pretty good when new. The aluminium ones wear quickly if there's any rock around. I have the steel ones. Be aware that there are two models of the Kahtoolas with differing lengths of front point. I have the shorter ones but would advise the longer ones as front pointing is tricky with the short ones. I've used them up to Grade II but steep hard snow slopes are a bit iffy. I've also used them on hard ice on a galcier in Austria when they skittered over the ice. Expect them to feel less secure. If they are new they would probably bite better. I've also used the Airtech crampons on fell shoes. They stay on okay but clearly they are calf busting when going up a steep slope as there is so much bend. They do feel more secure on ice than the Kahtoolas but they are hard work on steeper slopes.

 wbo2 22 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:  I'm curious about what 'wrecking your feet' involved - I'd be looking to fix that, though I appreciate flipping straight from approach shoes to B3's as I do it as well.

Salomon don't make the X-alp carbon anymore which is a shame as they're almost perfect for Norway (my local).  When mine wear out a Ribelle of some flavour will be the replacement.

Any crampon with front points seems to be where life gets tricky with running shoes as it changes how the crampon 'pulls' on the shoe

 ianstevens 22 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

For a non-steep, non snow-covered glacier, trail shoes and micro spikes are perfect. If it's been sunny and there is a good weathering crust, you might not even need/want the micro spikes.

When there is some snow cover I'd suggest that you'll be mainly concerned about getting your feet wet. On a snowy surface, unless its graded climbing steep, I rarely bother with crampons, unless its bullet hard. Again, micro spikes will be fine, and the lightweight waterproof shoe of your choice. I'd actually go with waterproof socks and trail shoes myself.

 Tom Briggs 22 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

It’s funny that you describe the Ribelle’s as “heavy”. I have a pair of both the Ribelle Tech and TX4 boots. 648gms versus 530gms per boot in a 46. The Ribelles have hardly any ankle collar so aren’t exactly bulky. They’re also way better for climbing in unless you were just padding up slabs. And obvs they take a crampon.

Pretty sure Ben Bransby had an “incident” in Patagonia involving crampons and Five Tennies!

In reply to Tom Last:

What about snowshoes? If the snow is deep enough and fresh enough to 'posthole' into they'll be a godsend. I'm also wondering if there's a model where the pivoting section you strap your foot into is easily detachable from the 'skirt', thus leaving you a foot-sized 'crampon' you can use when there's no snow.  Most modern snowshoes have a form of crampon built into the skirt for use on ice, and also metal 'teeth' in the toe of the central section for 'front pointing'.

The other alternative is 6-point walking crampons  - I have a pair of the Edelrid ones for 'emergency' use on high VF approaches in summer having had a nightmare trying to cross old permasnow in couloirs and ascend glacier patches first thing in the morning when the nice slushy 'ski tracks' made by people glissade-descending the previous afternoon have turned to ice again overnight.  I've never worn them so can't comment on their effectiveness.

Post edited at 11:43
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 Webster 23 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

'basket' crampons such as the grivel G10/monta Rosa will strap onto a flipflop if you really wanted them too! of course nobody would be stupid enough to do that, but i know plenty of people who have used them with approach shoes for routes on the south face of the aig. du midi etc, and that involves the non trivial descent of the midi arete. 

but you definitely need a shoe with a degree of rigidity, i.e, an approach shoe, not a running shoe if you are on anything other than completely flat ground, otherwise you risk them popping off!

In reply to Tom Last:

> Hi folks.

> I'm looking for a bit of advice from anyone who has real world experience of travelling on easy glaciated terrain, using crampons on footwear other than boots.

> I'm potentially away to Chalten in December and amongst the possible objectives there are some that involve travel on big, but mostly flat glaciers and some approaches up easy (ie max Scottish grade 2) ground. Ultimately, I'll be looking to climb rock routes with snowy approaches.

I knew it wouldn’t be more than a few hundred metres of moderate névé but I used some lightweight crampons with my 5.10 Guide Tennies on an alpine approach and it saved carrying bigger boots when I knew we wouldn’t be climbing in them.

Post edited at 02:06

 Tom Green 23 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

I combined Petzl Darts with Scarpa Crux approach shoes (held on with twisted 30cm slings) on the Charpoua glacier. The glacier itself was dry at the time, so the cramponing was on fairly hard old ice. 
 

This arrangement worked surprisingly well, being secure and functional for ‘flat-footing’ (not sure how good it would have been for front-pointing!) and it was fantastic not having to carry heavy boots on the route.

However, one thing I noticed was the lack of ankle support when flexing my ankle to keep the spikes engaged whilst contouring across steeper slopes. Lack of ankle support wasn’t a problem as such, but I think would be quite tiring for longer distances. 
 

I would definitely do the same thing again for short, non-serious approaches to climbs that I don’t want big boots for. 

 Brown 23 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

Your experiences with walking into the Torre valley in B3s mirror mine. I only did it once.

My solution was inovate running shoes with microspikes and to carry the boots (as far as Nipenino or beyond). This worked fine when the weather was good.

Whilst I did leave boots at Nipenino in a gear cash, I'd be wary of heading onto that glacier system with no proper footwear as when the weather turned and there were snow flurries coming through it was epic getting out even properly shod.

Since then I've bought a pair of scapa rebel lights that I can do miles and miles in before then doing glacier crossings/steepish slopes. This worked for me well in Northern Patagonia. I've used them with both full steel crampons and light ski touring crampons. Both worked fine.

 Fellover 26 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

I've done this quite a lot in Chamonix and other alpine places. I'm a big fan - wearing trainers is much nicer than wearing boots (caveat that I've not worn any of the new generation of B2 boots, I'm talking in comparison with my LS Nepals). I've got a pair of Grivel G1's for when I need crampons on my trainers. They're the New Classic binding, which is basically the plastic basket at either end version. They've got a very flexible bar on the bottom, so they cope with most shoes, certainly don't need a stiff boot. They're basically the same as the Kahtoola ones someone mentioned upthread.

They've worked well on a couple of different fell running shoes and fine on approach shoes. I've even used them with barefoot shoes, though that wasn't very comfortable or stable. While wearing them with fell running shoes I've front pointed successfully up some reasonably steep snow, would be totally fine on Scottish II. So I'd question the idea up thread that you need approach shoes or boots if you want to do anything that's not flat. Obviously different fell shoes are different stiffness's, so it does depend on the shoe you have.

I think that aluminium crampons aren't a great idea unless you're only going to be on snow or pretty clean ice (or if you have lots of money/get given your gear/want them for a once-in-a-lifetime objective) - they just wear out more quickly.

I've not used the G1s much on boots, but when I have they've been good - pretty comparable to G12s. I'd think you could use them for summit snowfields.

Anyway - I'm probably not using my G1s in December because I'm using all my leave earlier in the year so you can borrow them if you like?

In reply to Fellover:

I tried using my G1s on trail shoes and found that the rear basket rubs on my ankles very uncomfortably when they were done up tight, whereas with big boots the straps just go on top of the boot so there's no contact with skin. Did you not have this issue?

In reply to Fellover:

> I think that aluminium crampons aren't a great idea unless you're only going to be on snow or pretty clean ice (or if you have lots of money/get given your gear/want them for a once-in-a-lifetime objective) - they just wear out more quickly.

Have you worn some out? If so what model was it? I've always presumed this to be the case, but I'm still using these https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/snow+ice/crampons/beast_lite_crampons_from_edelrid-6227 after 9 years - not a huge amount each winter, but in recent years becoming lazier with age I've even taken them on winter scrambles in the UK, just to make the bag lighter!, and even clopping around up down the edges on Helvellyn doesn't seemed to have done them any harm!

 Fellover 26 Apr 2022
In reply to TobyA:

> Have you worn some out? If so what model was it?

Fair play to call me out on this - because I've not used them no, so maybe I'm just perpetuating the myth!

I just remember seeing someone else's which were pretty messed up from alpine use and based my opinion mainly on that tbh. When I'm using crampons in the alps for approaches I find that I end up standing on rocks quite a lot and wearing down my steel crampons not inconsiderably (I don't like taking them on and off, so once I've got them on they tend to stay on even through reasonably long rocky sections if I know I'll need them again, maybe I should just get faster at taking them on/off), so I assumed that the aluminium versions would get even more damaged.

 Fellover 26 Apr 2022
In reply to Suncream:

> I tried using my G1s on trail shoes and found that the rear basket rubs on my ankles very uncomfortably when they were done up tight, whereas with big boots the straps just go on top of the boot so there's no contact with skin. Did you not have this issue?

I don't recall this being a big issue when I used fell or approach shoes - unfortunately due to covid I've not actually had reason to wear a crampon/fell shoe combination for a couple of years. It was absolutely an issue when I used my barefoot shoes. With my Salomon Fellraisers the fit looks roughly like the attached (not done up tight in the photo). It's not super comfy, but it's ok. I imagine the specific shoe being used has an impact on comfort.

Post edited at 15:31

 morpcat 26 Apr 2022
In reply to Tom Last:

I have used Kahtoola KTS aluminium crampons with inov8 mudclaws and inov8 arctic talons. Taken them on a few winter Munros, Ring of Steall, CMD Arete, Ledge Route. I don't think I would consider going beyond that kind of grade I/II territory. Had one incident on a hard icy slope where points didn't penetrate and the axe was deployed. The lack of front points is good for running, but not good on steep ground. The other points are quite thick to begin with and being aluminium do blunt very quickly. The bar and plastic piece at the rear isn't as uncomfortable as it looks, but could still be a lot better. If doing this sort of thing again I would probably try a Grivel G1 or similar.

PS - the Arctic Talons don't get as much use as I'd hoped. You need a trail with all soft ground and close to zero road/gravel/rocks. The best use I've found for them is taking on ski trips so you can run in the evenings and get an excuse to order extra tartiflette and fondue.

In reply to Fellover:

> Fair play to call me out on this - because I've not used them no, so maybe I'm just perpetuating the myth!

It's exactly what I believed/presumed as well before getting the Beast Lites - and I've not used any other alu crampons so have nothing to compare them to, but at least that model seems surprisingly resilient. The downwards points were rather short and relatively blunt to begin with though on that model, so although it won't stop them blunting more, I guess the short points help resist bending.


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