Image of the June 2019 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
June 2019 Issue
Home / Articles / Skills

Keeping your feet on the ground with crampons

Photo: Emily Shrosbree

Trusting your feet with your full weight is the best way to walk in crampons.

Those new to walking with crampons and an ice axe often make the same mistake when first learning to use these tools. They shove their ice axe down in the snow and then lean on it as they take a step. This takes the weight off their feet, making them less stable. As a result, they can feel less confident, lean more on the ice axe and make their footing even more unstable.

So how to do it differently?

Put all your weight on your feet – the crampons are keeping you on the snow, not the ice axe. The ice axe is just there to help with balance and in case you slip.

The challenge is trusting your feet. When you take your next step, notice the brief moment it takes before you feel all the crampon spikes bite down or grip the snow. That’s the cue to trust your feet and move. As you get more familiar with trusting the crampons, this will become more natural.

To get all the spikes into the snow, you’ll need to roll your ankle slightly – it can take some getting used to.
Next time you’re out on the snow in crampons, notice if you’re pushing down on that ice axe or trusting your feet.