ProView – C.A.M.P. Alpinist Tech Review
Ice Climbing in the Northeast – especially upstate New York – can be very fickle. It’s possible to be climbing 120 foot tall dead vertical curtains of ice one day and then an abnormal warm spell with rain can turn your beautifully formed ice into a hundred tons of river debris overnight. Such was a backdrop for my maiden voyage using the C.A.M.P. Alpinist Tech Crampons. I had one really good day of ice on them and then everything fell down. But it was one really good day.
C.A.M.P. Alpinist Tech Review
Product Name: C.A.M.P. Alpinist Tech Review
Product Description: The evolution of the Alpinist Pro, the Alpinist Tech features the aggressive functionality of a mono-point with a precisely positioned secondary point for extra support and stability.
Offer price: $259.95 MSRP
Solid, stable ice climbing crampon for technical/waterfall ice. These crampons change climbing hard ice from ‘scary’ to ‘enjoyable’!
- Climb well on verticle ice
- Easily adjustable + micro adjustments
- Well-made design
- Rigid platform
- Cannot replace the front points, only the front half of the crampon.
- Don’t collapse easily for transport.
After five seasons of hard use on my Blade Runners, I was looking for a replacement and hoping for an upgrade. Enter the C.A.M.P. Alpinist Techs. After doing not a small amount of my own research and waiting for them to be back in stock, I purchased a pair. The bad news is that I only got one day out on them, but the good news is that they performed flawlessly. I’m absolutely thrilled with my new crampons!
In the Box
The crampons come with the standard automatic toe and heel bails. Also in the box are the dynamic anti-balling plates, a fold-over carrying case, and a set of instructions. The semi-auto toe and heel bails are available for purchase separately.
Out of the Box
There were a few things that made a big initial impression on me. First – and hugely important when climbing hard ice – is torsional rigidity. Because of the wide bar connecting the front and rear half of the crampon, along with the bar being an integral part of the rear half, they’re very stiff laterally, torsionally (twisting) and have only a tiny amount of flex. The combination of the three means that they a more stable platform when front pointing, which equates to less energy wasted, and better climbing. A solid win!
Next I was impressed by both the ease of fitting to my boots and the ability to make micro adjustments to dial the fit in. Not only can they be adjusted quickly to fit a wide range of boots, but C.A.M.P. has made a huge leap in being able to dial the fit in – the half-step ‘micro’ length adjustment. Their innovation of the micro-adjustable linking bar is a new level in fine-tuning to maximize the fit on your boots. A half-step – sounds silly, right? But consider that while all three of my ice boots (Scarpa Phantom Techs, Scarpa Rebel Pro GTX, and La Sportiva Trango Extremes) are the same size (42.5) the external dimensions are not the same. Each require slight adjustment to perfect the fit of the crampons and the micro-adjustments give me that precision. In addition to the micro-adjustment bar length, the Alpinist Techs have three positions for the toe bail, two for the heel bail along with three heel bail height settings, giving you the ability to create a perfect fit with your boots.
On the Ice
How do they climb? One word: GREAT! They’re stable. The mono-point minimizes the ice displacement and the secondary point provides a great balance between additional stability/support while not getting in the way. Also? They’re solid. The ability to fine-tune the fit to your boots means that they don’t slip or slide around on your boot while front pointing, side stepping, or camming them sideways. Your foot might slide in your boot, but the crampon/boot interface is bomber. Two more words? Absolutely Thrilled!
You can’t have everything, right? Instead of calling them pros/cons, let’s discuss the tradeoffs of the Alpinist Techs. The Alpinist Techs front come as a single piece, so you can sharpen the front points but you cannot replace them, as in the Blade Runner. However, C.A.M.P. sells replacement front pieces. Because the rear piece is interchangeable with either the Alpinist Tech or the Alpinist Pro front, carrying the other front piece gives you two different ‘tools’ without having to carry two complete sets of crampons.
The Alpinist Techs (nor the Blade Runners) do not quickly collapse down for transport. This is a tradeoff that I’m happy making, as the stability in the platform outweighs the need for a smaller package. In a pinch, you can adjust them to the smallest setting for transport if it’s really necessary, and then reset them upon arrival using the numbers on the bar. It is quick but I find it unnecessary.
The Alpinist Tech doesn’t have the heel dial like the Blade Runners. I prefer the rotating dial on the heel bail of the first generation Blade Runners, at least when initially setting them up. It allows for quicker/easier fine-tuning. The tradeoff? The dial on the heel can wiggle loose over time, changing the fit. Also, it adds complexity, which means more places for potential failure. The fit with the three position heel throw on the Alpinist Tech is great, but takes a touch more time than the rotating dial to determine the perfect fit for your boot. Once it’s dialed in? It’s set and not going to wiggle loose. And the likely-hood of it breaking when you are miles from the trailhead are lower.
Super trivial … I miss the zippered carrying case. They were great for carrying crampons and just about everything else … ice screws, files, extra widgets, etc. However, larger feet (US size 10-11 and bigger) meant your crampons wouldn’t fit into the bag without collapsing them. Hence the newer fold-over carrying case. It does what it’s supposed to do: securely keep the sharp bits from destroying everything else in your pack, which is the important part.
The Final Word
I’m very happy with the Alpinist Techs. They’re lighter than my Blade Runners. They climb very well on steep (and not so steep!) ice. I can easily and securely adjust them to fit multiple boots depending on what I’m wearing and who I’m climbing with. At the tail end of a disappointing ice season, I’m already looking forward towards taking them out on next year’s waterfalls!
If you’d like to learn more about Crampons, check out Crampon Fitting 101
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About the Gear Tester
Michael has been climbing ice long enough to have started with straight shaft axes, strap on crampons, and ice screws that required more energy to put in than they were worth. He is the founder of StepUpMentoring.com, helping outdoor athletes Step Up their game and become their best selves. Depending on the season you’ll find him on the water, biking, climbing, skiing, or - if there is finicky weather - just taking his ice tools for long walks.