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Petzl Crampons + Ice Axes: Which models do I choose?

Updated: Jan 31, 2018

By Don Nguyen


A good set of crampons are the foundation of classic mountaineering. There are very few times I’ll head out of base camp without crampons on my feet. Attending a Climbers of Color workshop is a great time to invest in a pair.

Petzl currently makes the most versatile and high quality crampons on the market. I guide most Rainier trips in Petzl ‘pons, and for similar reasons, the rental shop rents out almost exclusively Petzl brand crampons. The two models I strongly recommend are the VASAK and the SARKEN respectively:

I would suggest either of these as I know them to be a solid piece of equipment for guides, clients and climbers on many classic routes. The VASAK is a standard 12-point design, the SARKEN has more technical front points (only really helpful for climbing steep ice) and an extra half points on the bottom. I like the SARKEN crampon for the extra points on the bottom for traction. I believe it is worth the extra money and weight. These crampons can be quickly adjusted from a very small size up to my size 13 feet. If you have larger feet than that I would suggest fitting them in a store before ordering online.

I would strongly urge against the 10-point IRVIS despite many retailers trying to sell it as a lower cost beginner crampon, the loss of 2 points on the bottom is not worth the money and weight savings.

Ice Axes

The ice axe is essentially a mountain multitool. It can help secure a slip, arrest a fall, anchor gear, serve as a cane for walking up a steep slope, or even dig out a platform for a break.

For the Mountaineering Leadership workshop, I would suggest choosing between the Glacier and Summit designs (right).

The Glacier is the straight shafted design and the Summit is the black slightly bent axe. Glacier comes with the pictured leash. The Summit’s slight bend in the shaft will allow it to climb moderate ice slightly better, but for the planned workshops I would just suggest the Glacier.

Both of these axe designs come in several lengths. To size the axe that is right for you go into a store and handle the axes. Standing straight and holding the ice axe by the head, find one that the bottom spike falls between the top of the ankle bone and below the end of the calf muscle. If in doubt go for the slightly shorter one than the slightly longer one.

Happy shopping!

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