UKH

Do I need different boots for ice climbing?

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 VictorM 01 Sep 2021

Hi everyone,

I want to do a week-long ice climbing class this winter, probably in Austria. The goal of the class is to learn to lead climb up to about WI4. 

I currently own a pair of Scarpa Ortles GTX, a really comfy pair of B3 boots that have served me well for summer mountaineering up to about 3800m. I have used them for some very easy ice front pointing as well but nothing too steep or too prolonged.

Would these be stiff enough and warm enough for such a class? I'm mainly concerned that they might be too flexible because they hike so damn well, even though they have held my Petzl Vasak B3 crampons very well so far. 

Thanks for any input! 

In reply to VictorM:

I don’t think the stiffness would be an issue, I’ve climbed WI4 in B2’s. But warmth may be, and I’d say it depends as much on you as the boot, whether you run hot or cold. There’s nothing worse than not being able to feel your feet all day long…

 VictorM 01 Sep 2021
In reply to beardy mike:

Well I’ve been in some very bad conditions in these boots and have never had cold feet in them so long as my socks were dry so that might work out alright. Thanks for your input, looks like I’m just going to have to see how they perform. I can always upgrade after if they don’t! 

 George Ormerod 01 Sep 2021
In reply to VictorM:

Look ok to me. A good hiking fit is most of the battle. They need to limit your heels lifting. I’d buy / hire some more ice climbing orientated crampons with vertical front points, such as BD Cyborg. Crampons make a huge difference on steep ice. 

 VictorM 01 Sep 2021
In reply to George Ormerod:

I have a set of Petzl Dart front points that I can swap out with the Vasak ones so that’s been taken care of  

In reply to VictorM:

I guess it just depends on how cold it is when you go. If its -8 to 0 no problem, colder than that you may have trouble? I’ve been out in -13 in my B2’s and I literally couldn’t feel my feet most of the day, not recommended at all 😂. I’m just too tight to shell out for superboots - but next time I go its got to happen because I can’t take it any more…

In reply to George Ormerod:

> I’d buy / hire some more ice climbing orientated crampons with vertical front points, such as BD Cyborg. Crampons make a huge difference on steep ice. 

Funny, I've come to quite a different conclusion. Decent 12 point mountaineering crampons with good supportive secondary points, Grivel G12s for example, work very well on the majority of water ice routes. This is based on 16 winters in a country where I got to climb ice most weekends from Dec to March, and sometimes from Nov to April! I climbed on vertical monopoints a lot because that's received wisdom, but when I started climbing on other crampons for various reasons I was surprised by how little difference it made. Sometimes monos are an advantage, other times they are a disadvantage.

 George Ormerod 01 Sep 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Interesting. I’ve climbed in all manner of crampons through the long season here in Canada (November to June if you count Alpine ice 😉) and reached the opposite conclusion. That includes taking multiple sets of crampons to the crag and trying them on the same route. Each to their own. 

 Jenny C 01 Sep 2021
In reply to VictorM:

I'm no expert but when I enquired about using a stiff B0 boot with a C1 crampon the advice was that this was generally easier to get away with for those with small feet, as there would be overall less flex in the but to start with.

In reply to George Ormerod:

I remember Gadd wrote a long blog post (probably 10 years or a bit more ago now) about why he liked climbing in Sabretooth - the 12 point 'standard' crampon from his sponsor. I'm not sure if that was what made me reconsider, or just added to what I was thinking. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about these things! Since moving back to the UK, just finding any snow or ice has become a much bigger issue than what crampons to take. I did crumble and lapse back into my old habit of crampon-obsession a couple of years ago though and bought a pair of second hand BD Snaggletooth. As well as being a little bit lighter than all my steel crampons - and being lazy + needing to hike to find winter, that's something I appreciate! - they do seem to work very well for both hiking around and scrambling in the UK winter hills but also on harder stuff.

With monos on freshie-ice have you never had that thing of your mono going between the micro columns of new ice and not gripping on anything? I tried to illustrate it here in a blog post from long ago! https://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2007/02/monopoints_06.html

In reply to VictorM:

> I currently own a pair of Scarpa Ortles GTX, a really comfy pair of B3 boots

I don't think they've ever been sold in the UK have they? Anyway, if they are B3 rated they should be absolutely fine for the climbing. How warm or cold they are seems to be a function of their fit on your feet as much as anything else. As long as they don't pinch anywhere and you have room to wiggle your toes you should be ok for single days out as long as it isn't brutally cold. I got Nepal Extremes in 2000 just before I moved back to Finland, I used them solely for ice climbing until maybe 2005 when I got Trango Extremes (lighter) which then became my normal ice boot. In single boots like them I was generally fine down to about -15. I later bought a pair of Sportiva Baruntse double boots on an amazing sale - these are really too warm for temperatures above -10 and I generally only used them in Finland when it was heading for -20 or below. I don't know how cold it's likely to be in Austria - I'm sure it depends hugely on whether you go in late December or March etc. - but if your boots fit you well and you don't crank the lower foot lacing up too much, they may be surprisingly warm for day trips! Camping out is another issue though.

 George Ormerod 01 Sep 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Very few people here bother with monos anymore apart from mixed. The theory seemed to be you’d get in between chandeliers to the good ice, but that can be avoided by not climbing shitty ice given the amount here. Dual points seem more stable in most situations. 
 

I did climb a route after Will Gadd once. I think he was in the usual vertical front point crampons. I know for certain that he put 2 screws in, but I put in all 12 of mine!

In reply to George Ormerod:

That's interesting, although I'm not hugely convinced of the difference between dual vertical points and dual horizontal points. What do you think? Do you think penetration (stop sniggering at the back! ) is noticeably better with vertical points? I agree that dual points are (or can be in many situations) more stable than monos, but don't see why the points being vertical is really any different from horizontal.

I remember thinking a lot about just how different ice can be from other bits of ice! I've never climbed in Canada, short of a summery scramble up some minor Rockies peak, but notice from reports and a lot of social media people seem to climb a lot in really low temperatures, around -20 or colder. I have wondered if many of those areas being quite a lot further south than where I climbed means the sun is stronger and makes that a bit more bearable? But anyway, my experience of -20 is the ice is incredibly hard to climb well and even harder to protect https://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.com/2010/01/things-that-we-forgot-when-it-was-warm.html but I could imagine if you were climbing on the ice like it was the weekend of the blog post often, you'd be pretty obsessed about your crampon front points!

I've climbed in quite cold conditions a lot further north than southern Finland too - but up in the Norwegian arctic first of all just the vast amounts of ice seem to make a difference (weird microclimates around massive icefalls, particularly as water is freezing on them early season - I guess the heat energy has to go somewhere?) along with the maritime environment - most of the ice I've climbed around Lyngen is never more than a few hundred metres away from open sea water.

Right, I should do some work - I'm falling down my favourite ice/crampon points rabbit hole again!

 VictorM 01 Sep 2021

Thanks for your input everyone! Looks like I will just have to see how they perform, at least for the climbing they will easily be sufficient. 


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