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Gear Guy

Are lightweight crampons strong enough?

I'm a middle-aged backpacker trying to lighten my load. I'll will be "climbing" Mount Shucksan in Washington this summer with a guide. A member of our group maintains that Stubai makes a pair of multi-purpose, lightweight crampons that are great for any boot. I'm wearing Asolo Fusion 95 GTX, which I really like, and these crampons are supposed to be okay for these boots. At best, I'll only be doing one climbing trip per year, but would like a pair of lightweight crampons for crossing the occasional snowfield in the Northwest. What are your thoughts about the adequacy of these crampons (and boots) for a non-technical climb such as the one on Mount Shuksan? Don Uslan Seattle, Washington

A: If you're a middle-aged backpacker, Don, then you're old enough to remember a time when there was no such phrase as "crampon-compatible." Hell, ALL boots were crampon-compatible. You had crampons, you had boots (or, for that matter, sneakers) and you stuck the crampons to the boots. End of story.

As for the Stubais, the model in question here probably is the "Ultralight Universal" ($135), a simple, flexible, ten-point crampon with moderately aggressive points and a binding system that allows them to be used on just about any kind of footwear. They'll be fine on your Asolo Fusions, although I think the Fusions—a terrific boot—might be a little low and light for the snowy summit of Shuksan. But for one trip, assuming you have a decent pair of gaiters over them, they should be fine.

Generally speaking, in fact, I think that most people use far more crampon then they need—particularly for modest glacier/snow slogs such as you find on Shuksan and the standard routes on just about any big volcano (Rainier, Hood, etc.) on the West Coast. Crampons such as the Stubais are light enough (20 ounces for a pair) to pack for most trips without giving it much thought, and will work on basically any boot you're apt to be wearing.

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