How To Sharpen Your Crampons

crampon maintenanceWhether you’re a moun­taineer who treks across rock, snow, and ice or a mixed climber who tra­vers­es all man­ner of abra­sive terrain—know that every time you use your cram­pons, you’re dulling their grip. Here’s how to sharp­en and main­tain them to opti­mize safe­ty and longevi­ty.

First, Dial In Your Work Area
When work­ing with any man­ner of tools and tech­ni­cal gear, it’s worth tak­ing the time to set up a work area that’s safe, com­fort­able, and well lit. Because sharp­en­ing cre­ates met­al shav­ings, sharp­en cram­pons in an easy-to-sweep area.

Sharp­en by Hand
Start by thor­ough­ly rins­ing dirt and dust off your cram­pons, then wipe them com­plete­ly dry. Depend­ing on the design, you may be able to sep­a­rate the heel from the toe section–if you can, do so. Some choose to put their cram­pons in a vice to sharp­en them, which is fine—just take care not to bend the met­al. You can also sim­ply hold the cram­pons, but pro­tect your hands by wear­ing gloves. Using a coarse hand file, file the side and points of your cram­pon spikes, fol­low­ing the exist­ing forge. When fil­ing, be care­ful to strike a straight line from frame to tip. Nev­er use a grind­ing wheel, which gen­er­ates heat that may weak­en met­al by chang­ing the tem­per of the steel. Straight­en bent points as much as pos­si­ble, either by the direc­tion of fil­ing or with a ham­mer. For moun­taineer­ing cram­pons, aim for the equiv­a­lent sharp­ness of a steak knife tip (ultra-sharp blades can cut pants, legs, and back­packs); for technical/vertical cram­pons, the sharp­er the bet­ter.

Cod­dle Your Cram­pons
After you’ve sharp­ened your cram­pons, wash and wipe them down with a clean rag. Care­ful­ly inspect them, look­ing for chips, burrs, or warped edges. Care­ful­ly exam­ine the points—if they’re get­ting thin, odd­ly shaped, or notice­ably short­er, it might be time for a new pair.

When pack­ing for an adven­ture, check your cram­pons for loose riv­ets, wig­gly screws, and worn straps and buckles—replace or adjust as need­ed. Ensure the heel and toe bails are in good work­ing order and that they fit your boots snug­ly. For longer trips, car­ry a small repair kit includ­ing a mul­ti-tool, bal­ing wire, and spare parts like straps, bails, and extra cen­ter bars.

Off-Sea­son Stor­age
Final­ly, after each trip, make sure your cram­pons are com­plete­ly dry before putting them away; if they sit with mois­ture on the met­al, they may begin to rust. If you’re stor­ing them for the sea­son, clean them thor­ough­ly then con­sid­er coat­ing them with light oil or a water-dis­place­ment spray like WD-40.