Grivel Air Tech Light Aluminium Crampon $329.95
Used by: Contributing gear editor Mark Watson
Used for: Three years
Aluminium crampons are a useful tool in my gear quiver. For the uninitiated, crampons are usually made from chrome molybdenum (chrome-moly) steel; the same durable steel used for ice axe picks and bicycle frames. They’re made from this to be able to penetrate hard ice and be wear-resistant on ice and rock. They can also be resharpened often. But steel is heavy, and sometimes overkill for softer or gentler slopes.
Aluminium is a weight saver for trips where you don’t anticipate hard ice or steep gradients. For aluminium crampons to be strong, the alloy has to be thick, so it does not penetrate very hard névé or ice as deeply, and because the alloy is soft compared to chrome-moly, it’s less wear-resistant, meaning you’ll blunt them walking on rocks.
With those caveats in mind, I’ve used Grivel’s Air Tech Light (New-Classic binding) on many snow and trans-alpine trips and they have performed admirably. The binding system is solid, fast and works well on boots as well as my softer approach shoes. On stiff boots, the crampon allows stable front pointing on firm névé but they feel less confidence-inspiring walking ‘flat footed’ on anything other than mellow slopes. If you’re mostly encountering snow, even with a firm freeze, they work very well. On rock transitions, they have not fared as badly as I expected, thanks to a relatively hard alloy.
Verdict: A well-designed product that upholds Grivel’s reputation for quality. Would definitely buy again to keep my choice of equipment flexible.