What are Crampons and What Do Their Ratings Mean?

Crampons have been described by Cox et al. as a traction device that is attached to footwear to improve mobility on snow and ice. They are toothed devices that fit onto the soles of specially designed boots to give the wearer secure traction on hard packed snow.

Crampons are utilised extensively by mountaineers and walkers in traversing glaciers, snowfields, icefields, ascending snow slopes and by alpinists/climbers for scaling ice covered rock as well as climbing ice structures. The original crampon was designed by Oscar Eckenstein in 1908 with the design then being made commercially available by the Italian Henry Grivel. His design has since formed the foundation of what all modern crampons are based around.

What Do Crampon Ratings Mean?

C grades are intended to help match the users boot and intended use of a crampon. The general rule is that the boot must be stiffer than the crampon, to ensure secure attachment and thus preventing it from falling off. The categories are characterised by the stiffness, binding and point design of the crampon. They are graded as follows:


This style of crampon is referred to as Strap-on features a pair of nylon webbing straps that pulls malleable cradles around the heel and toe. These do take longer to attach to boots than other styles, however they are lighter than their counterparts. A traditional C1 crampon usually has 8-10 less aggressive points and are described as flexible.

  • Bindings: Strap On
  • Compatible: B1 | B2 | B3 Boots
  • Great for: Winter Walking & Glacier Traverses


Usually referred to as Hybrids but are sometimes called Mixed or Semi step. It is compatible with B2 and B3 boots as they require a stiff sole and heel groove to lock onto. These feature the same malleable cradle and toe strap as a C1, however, they also host a heel lever. A traditional C2 crampon usually has 10-12 points that include secondary spikes, that are semi sharp.

  • Bindings: Heel Lever & Toe Cradle
  • Compatible: B2 | B3 Boots
  • Great for: Winter Climbing & Alpinism


This style combine a metal toe bail with a plastic heel lever and as a result they are referred to as Step in. C3 crampons tend to have 12-14 points that offer the best performance on steep icy slopes and technical mixed routes. Additionally aggressive front points offer the best penetration on hard ice and on some models the front tips are replaceable.

  • Bindings: Step In
  • Compatible: B3 Boots
  • Great for: Hardest Scottish winter climbs and high altitude ascents

Crampons Explained

Crampon Points

The spiked teeth that bite into snow and ice are referred to as crampon points, they are situated at the contact areas beneath the forefoot and heel. While the amount of points differ between crampon grade and affects where where a crampon will find traction they nearly all have four points beneath the toe and heel.

Flex Bar

The Flex Bar is a piece of metal that joins the plates of a crampon. This component allows for crampons to be sized to the wearers boot size and the way it attaches to the plates dictates the flex of the binding.

Anti-Balling Plates

Alternatively referred to as the Antibot are designed to mitigate the collection of snow compacting at the base of the crampon, this would result in slippage of the user, and the compromisation of either plate.

They are made of a rubber compound in a dome shape and clip into the base of each plate. They are included as standard with crampons and are easily replaced should they become damaged or lost.

Walking techniques high alpine tours

You might wonder how the crampons work. Do I really need one? How should I walk in these crampons? Check this less than 5 mins tutorial out! The experts suggest some tips about walking techniques and high alpine tours on ice with crampons. Learn the correct walking technique and get on your adventure on a high alpine tour, whether it's flat or steep terrain.

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