Mountaineering: Down by Law

Outside magazine, October 1994


Mountaineering: Down by Law

A judge gives the boot to a team of Park Service-approved Mount McKinley guides
By Douglas Gantenbein


It's a long hike in to the Enchantment Lakes, a gorgeous bowl of ice-carved granite high in Washington's Cascades, but I do it each fall when the larches turn to gold. The 11-mile trek with 6,000 feet of elevation gain dictates packing triage, so I take necessities like Pepperidge Farm cookies but leave my heavy, clumsy crampons at home. They just don't work well enough with the lighter boots I prefer on this hike. So I've had to bypass those peaks with the odd bit of shade-hardened snow.

This year, though, I'll take my Grivel Grippers, a handy set of six-point crampons that fit easily to almost any shoe and, at 13 ounces a pair, are well worth their weight. Imported by Vermont-based Climb High, the Italian-made Grippers are based on the traditional European grappettes, precursors of the modern crampon. Putting them on is quick, simple, and secure: One neoprene strap goes around the ankle, another across the top of the foot. The straps end in short metal chains that form a hinge around the boot, working much like the hard bale on a regular crampon, and a metal hook on the top of each Gripper butts against the boot heel for security. They'll work even if you're out there in tennis shoes, as the hooks will simply dig into the rubber soles.

The Grippers' short, wide points offer good footing on icy trails, hard snow, steep heather, or even wet logs that wouldn't otherwise call for full-bore 12-points. The spacing of the points gives you a wider platform than four-point instep crampons have, making Grippers more stable on solid ground between snow patches. Remember, though, that these are not the crampons you're used to. Grippers might actually be a bit hazardous if you find yourself sliding and try to dig the nonexistent front points in. But when you need something between standard crampons and Vibram soles, Grippers are just the thing. <SOURCE>$67.50. From Climb High, 1862 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, VT 05482; 802-985-5056.

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