Review: CAMP Ascent Crampon
Author: Ian Peterson, AAI Guide
The Bottom Line
The Camp Ascent provides a versatile, higher end option for a 10-point steel crampon. At a slightly higher price, the weight conscious climber can save a few ounces while retaining a high level of functionality for all snow and moderate ice climbing applications.
Easton Glacier, Kulshan (Mt. Baker)
Coleman Deming, Kulshan (Mt. Baker)
Kautz Glacier Route, Tahoma (Mt. Rainier)
Emmons Glacier, Tahoma (Mt. Rainier)
Disappointment Cleaver, Tahoma (Mt. Rainier)
Fischer Chimneys, Mt. Shuksan
Sulphide Glacier Route, Mt. Shuksan
Any steep snow!!!
As a climber, skier, and guide, I’m constantly searching for ways to reduce the weight of my kit while retaining a level of durability that can stand up to a high level of use. As someone who travels between the Front Range of CO and the North Cascades of WA, I’m also a fan of “quiver of one” tools - pieces of gear that can fulfill a number of applications without sacrificing significant functionality in any of them. When the Camp Ascent crampon landed in my Boulder apartment this past April, I was thrilled to take them for a spin. I’ve since put them to the test across the Rockies and the Cascades. They carried me up steep ski lines in Rocky Mountain National Park, across the low-angle glaciers of the North Cascades, and up some steeper snow and alpine ice pitches, with plenty of clomping on rocks in between. My one sentence take-away is that they’re a fantastic steel crampon for a myriad of alpine applications, and maintain a light weight with only slight compromises to durability.
I fit these crampons with very little effort to all of my alpine mountain footwear. They come with a semi-automatic and fully automatic toe bail, so swapping between boots was a breeze. The bails were flexible enough to remove by hand, and I never had to employ the ice axe lever or Dyneema sling tricks that often need to be pulled out for my Petzl crampons. I used the Ascent’s on Dynafit TLT 6 ski boots, La Sportiva G5s, and La Sportiva Aequilibriums. One things to note is that the center bar was maxed out on my size 47 Aequilibriums, but unless you have huge feet, that shouldn’t be an issue.
I took these crampons up Mt. Baker via various routes close to ten times over the course of the season. They excelled. They’re light enough that they didn’t once weigh my feet down, even on the longest of missions. The ten-point construction provided more than adequate security in the mornings when there was a refrozen surface, and the anti-blotting plates mitigated the heavy, wet northwest snow from balling up on the way down from the mountain. They rarely proved to be bothersome enough to warrant stopping an entire rope team to remove, which proved to be super handy as the glaciers melted out, and having a crampon on all day became a necessity.
When the slope angle ticked up, regardless of whether the snow was firm and refrozen, or mashed potatoes, the Ascents provided more than adequate security for a 10 point crampon. I found the crampons to feel extremely secure in the French technique, and remained stable when I transitioned into front pointing in snow. When paired with a ¾ shank boot, they create an excellent rigid platform that still kicks effective steps.
While I never took these crampons up routes like the North Ridge of Mt. Baker, their exposure to late season conditions in the Cascades meant that I was able to put them to the test on some short pitches of moderate Ice, and I took them serac climbing up to WI4. The bottom line is that they performed as expected for a non-ice climbing crampon. The sharp front points found excellent traction in the plasticky ice, and they felt relatively stable and secure, even in the semi-automatic configuration, both on full shank, and ¾ shank boots.
The Center Bar:
To achieve a weight of 728g (25.7oz) steel crampon, the Ascents have a center bar that is a bit thinner than those found on other crampons. The bar is noticeably thinner than the Petzl line. While this brings an obvious benefit of weight savings, it unfortunately is prone to mild bending and warping, especially when used in mixed conditions.* This never impacted the function of the crampons, as I could always bend them back into shape by hand, however it did cause a nuisance at times… especially when I found myself wrestling to compress the crampons after a long day, or making adjustments with the bent center bar in the dark during an alpine start.
An added benefit that our tester was not able to experiment with is the compatibility of the Ascent Crampon with the Ascent Universal Heel Bail. This heel bail allows the Ascent to be matched with lightweight approach shoes, like a La Sportiva TX4. The flexible linking bar would flex with that style of footwear to give a very natural walking gait. We can see this being very useful when you may encounter only short sections of snow/ice on your alpine climbs!
This could be viewed as a pro, or a con. These crampons are wicked sharp, and stay wicked sharp. Even after dragging them through scree, mixed climbing, and a season of clomping around on glaciers, they remained razor sharp, when compared to my Petzl Sarkens, which dulled significantly after only a single attempt at the Kautz Glacier route. If you’re looking to do minimal maintenance with a file on your crampons for more technical terrain, this is great news, but if you want more forgiving consequences when your footwork sends a front point into the back of your calf, this could be something to consider!
If you’re looking for a light and ultra-versatile 10-point steel crampon, there’s not much more that $159 can buy you. The Camp Ascent Auto/Semi Auto crampon excels on multiple boot types, in many different types of terrain. It has been, and will continue to be my go-to steel crampon for everything except for steep ice. It provides more than adequate stability and security, and is incredibly reliable. The SkiMo Dyneema Linking Strap allows the Ascents to transform into an arguably more durable version of Petzl’s Irvis Hybrid, meaning that this crampon will surely be in my kit as I set out on the Haute Route on skis this spring. Last but not least… they help to keep my snacks from rolling off the mountain!