Crampons, Crampons, Crampons......and Axes

Report by Mick Ryan,

Ian Barnes and a customer buying crampons at Lakes Climber in Ambleside.

By last Friday, Lakes Climber in Ambleside was all out of crampons and walking axes. At 7.30pm that evening Ian Barnes of Lakes Climber called Colin Westland of Allcord, the northeast based distributor of climbing gear. Colin was at a dinner party and Ian was on a mission with a big weekend ahead in the Lakes.

Ian Barnes set off at 4.30am Saturday from Ambleside and met Colin at the Allcord warehouse where they loaded Ian's van up with C.A.M.P crampons and axes. During Saturday Ambleside was jammed as were the fells, and Sunday morning it was back up to Newcastle and a return trip to Allcord for Ian for even more spiky and pointy bits.

It was the same over at the Climbers' Shop; Nick Cox, deputy manager told that they had sold over 100 pairs of crampons in the past week, from 10 point walking crampons to technical Grivel G14 GSB and Black Diamond Seracs, all the way to Grivel Spiders and Kahtoola Micro Spikes. Nick told us that Langdale Mountain Rescue Team who as you know have been busy all season, had been in and bought crampons and head torches, not for themselves, but to lend to stranded walkers whilst they were escorted, in some cases roped down to the valley. The Climbers' Shop also feature a Langdale Mountain Rescue Incident Log next to their popular weather forecast in the window of their shop. A warning of what can happen if you venture above snowline without the right gear and the skill to use it - or in some cases just be darned unlucky. Want to see how busy Langdale Mountain Rescue Team have been? Click on Incidents 2009 in the menu bar at

Including the latest:

"Three men became stuck on steep, frozen ground and were unable to continue down. They were located by team members, roped together and escorted down via a series of steps cut by team members. Regrettably, the message that we have been trying to get out for several days seems to have fallen on deaf ears. They were not equipped for the conditions and seemed surprised by the fact that the snow had re-frozen once the sun was off it."

Down in North Wales, Pete Griffiths of V12 Outdoor told a similar story, but not just walking axes and crampons but pricey more technical items, like DMM Flys, Petzl-Charlet Nomics and BD Cobra axes, have been flying out the door. Just up the Llanberis high street, Gill Barnicott at Joe Brown's said that they were selling out of everything and she had been on the phone all morning ordering more kit from suppliers.

The Climbers' Shop window features their popular weather report for the fells, and a new addition, Langdale MRT Incident Report
Suppliers are keeping up with demand just, although some items are in short supply. Rosemary Murphy, General Manager of the Mountain Boot Company told us that they were expecting another big shipment from Grivel this afternoon and she had talked to most key accounts this morning to assure them that kit would be sent out immediately. Rosemary had taken orders for 150 pairs of crampons just this morning. The Mountain Boot Company do invest in holding a lot of stock but she said that supplies had been "utterly decimated". Most retailers only order small amount of winter hard wear, so when there are exceptional weather conditions it can put a strain on supplies and both manufacturers and distributors have to react quickly. Rosemary said it can be "feast or famine".

So the weather is good news for many climbing companies despite the bad news with the economy. Of course it is all very well having the right kit, but it is essential to know how to use it.

If your skills are lacking it is wise to read up and even consider going on a short winter skills course. Here are some resources.

UKC related articles.

And please, Mountain Rescue Teams throughout the UK are under great pressure and are doing an amazing job.

Please donate:

Even on moderate paths, ice build up can be significant and treacherous; very easy to trip and hurt yourself.

9 Feb, 2009
It kind of makes me wonder if we have a crummy season (in the way of lack or snow and ice) next year we will see a rise of ice axes and crampons for sale on fleaBay. Hopefully we don’t see a sharp incline of people who have the equipment but no knowledge on how to use it on the hills, getting into accidents and causing an even greater straight on MR.
10 Feb, 2009
Am not sure home is the best place to acquire "the skills"! :)
10 Feb, 2009
Came across a small group on Tryfan the other day struggling up a snow chocked gully, no amount of talk would make them turn back (and they had passed the hard bit)so I had not much choice to keep an eye on them to the top and then advice on safest way down. None had the required equipment but all turned out well, could of quite easily gone the other way. Advice was given to be correctly equiped and trained next time that I hope they take this advice. The latest weather will have us all see similar incidents after all it can't be that hard can it!!!!! its only snow!!!!!
10 Feb, 2009
Good news for people selling kit, the axe I couldn't sell on here last year for £25 went on ebay for over £40.
16 Feb, 2009
I can just see the summer's headlines now: "Shops sell lots of suncream in blazing weather" "Blackpool almost out of ice lollies"

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