Crampons will provide you with the critical traction you need when ice climbing. Crampons will be attached to the footwear you have on (which is important in itself) and will make all the difference to your safety, confidence and manuevarability while climbing ice.
Types of Crampons for Ice Climbing
When we talk about crampon types or styles, it’s the attachment mechanism that differentiates them. Here there are three primary attachment types for crampons:
To attach step-in crampons you will need boots that have welts, or otherwise be wearing boots specifically made for mountaineering that have lugs at the front and back.
Hybrid crampons have the same boot requirements as described above for step-in crampons.
Strap Binding Crampons
If you need crampons that can attach to most regular shoes or boots, strap binding crampons give you a more flexible option. Just keep in mind that this style of crampon usually won’t fit as perfectly as the other two types. Strap binding crampon are suited for the casual or occasional ice climber who doens’t necessarily need or want specialized footwear.
Whichever binding system you prefer, there are three grades of crampons based on their flexibility and what type of boots they’re compoatible with. C1, C2 and C3 are the standard crampon grades. All grades are, at a minimum, compatible only with semi-stiff boots or better – none are suitable for being used on regular flexible type walking boots. This means you will need to have at least B1 graded boots to use any crampons, B2 boots at a minimum to use C2 crampons, and if you want to use the most advanced C3 crampons you will need B3 rated climbing boots.
Microspikes vs Crampons
A lot of people get confused about whether microspikes and crampons are the same thing or if they can be interchanged. The general answer is that no: microspikes and crampons are not the same. You can’t use crampons on anything besides specialized mountaineering boots, whereas microspikes can fit to just about any type of shoe or boot. Crampons have bigger spikes, and they fit tighter. Microspikes (as the name suggests) has spikes that are smaller and more numerous and are simply not built to withstand the more extreme conditions and terrain that crampons are used for. Microspikes are a good option for less steep and less demanding surfaces like dirt or snow, but not for ice. If you want to go ice climbing, microspikes will rarely be the better option – you will need crampons.