I'm getting back into mountaineering and I want to know whether I should be using steel or aluminum crampons? I've used steel in the past, but looking at the newer ultralight crampons, I'm wondering if they're actually tough enough to take all the abuse I deal out. So, which is it: steel or aluminum? Bob Salisbury, North Carolina
Stubai Ultralight Universals
In my opinion, for general snow and glacier climbing, approaches to rock pitches, or as "emergency" crampons tossed into a pack just in case, aluminums are fine. I'd use them on the standard routes up Mount Hood or Mount Rainier, on the various mixed snow-to-rock, moderate-angle climbs we have here in the Pacific Northwest, that sort of thing. For really hard, mixed routes, then maybe steel. Meanwhile, check out crampons such as Stubai's aluminum Ultralight Universal Crampons ($100; distributed in the U.S. by www.libertymtn.com or www.rei.com). They weigh just 20 ounces, about half what a comparable pair of steel spikes would tip the scales at. Kahtoola's aluminum crampons ($139; www.kahtoola.com) can more readily accommodate a wide range of footweareven trail runners, which makes them popular with adventure-racing teams. They're a good choice for lower-angle stuff and the occasional steeper pitch.
As an aside, I've also long been fond of the Grivel G10 ($120; www.grivel.com), a lightweight, ten-point steel crampon that's excellent for general non-technical crampon work.
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