Gear Guy

What kind of crampons do I need to climb Mount Shasta?

A friend and I are planning an attempt to summit Mount Shasta this summer. Neither of us owns an ice ax or crampons and we plan to rent those items when we get to the area. But recently I've been looking at Kahtoolas, which are kind of "crampons light." They're aluminum with no front points and touted as compatible with everything from hiking boots to running shoes. Looks like they might be adequate for a trek up Mount Shasta. Also, I might get some use out of these in future winter hikes. But they are north of 100 bucks (in the same territory as some entry-level crampons). Do you have any experience/insights on Kahtoolas? Mitch Thompson Shaker Heights, Ohio

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I can’t say I have any direct experience with Kahtoolas, but I’m familiar with them and have used other “shorty” crampons. Basically, Kahtoolas are very light, ten-point, short-point crampons that have non-aggressive front points (they slant down rather than sticking straight out). They’re designed to work with just about any kind of footwear on slippery but non-technical terrain. The main model, the KTS, is very light (18 ounces per pair), and costs $129.

The idea is great; climbers often need some pointy things on their feet, but not necessarily two-inch daggers. For icy snow or hard snow, up to a moderate angle, Kahtoolas are all you need. And I think they’d be fine for Shasta. To me, the cost is the main factor. As you note, a pair of Kahtoolas cost the same as a pair of crampons—a nice pair of crampons. Yet they aren’t crampons, so shouldn’t be used on really steep snow or ice.

So if all you plan to do is Shasta and some occasional hiking on snow, get Kahtoolas. The ease of use and lightweight is worth the price. But if you think you’ll do some occasional climbing, then get some Grivel G10s. These are real crampons, albeit with fairly short, non-aggressive points—more aggressive than those on Kahtoolas, less than those on most mountaineering crampons. They’re also pretty light (27 ounces a pair) and adaptable to just about any kind of footwear. And the cost is very reasonable: $90. I have used G10s and think they’re terrific.

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