Anyone who has exited from the top of the Aiguille du Midi ice cave to descend the narrow ridge leading into the Vallee Blanche above Chamonix will agree: it has your full attention. To the left, the ridge drops away down the famous Frendo Spur, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 vertical feet. To the right, 800 feet of 50-degree snow will drop you to the base of the Midi’s south face. So as I guide two guests down the steep and exposed arete, the last thing I need is my crampons balling up. Holding the rope tight between us, I wait for just the right moment, when all’s steady, to whack my boots with my axe and knock the snow from them. That’s it. I am buying new crampons, I tell myself. Tying yourself to people who are seemingly trying to pull you off of your feet every other step can make the cost of a new pair of spikes seem like chump change.
As a guide I get the opportunity to see much of the latest and greatest gear in use by my guests. After watching lots of crampons with close scrutiny on exposed terrain, I noticed that the Grivel G12 looked like a great all-around crampon. After using them all season in the Cascades and Alps, I am convinced that they are about the best such crampon I have ever used. In all kinds of conditions–ranging from bare glacial ice to eight inches of wet new snow over firm neve to long mixed routes on mostly rock–the G12’s have surpassed my expectations in almost every way.
This is a crampon that has been around for quite some time. Over the years, Grivel has made subtle changes and minor improvements that continue to build on an already-solid performer.
One of the most innovative features of this crampon is the unique style of the antibott plate. Grivel has designed an ingenious outward facing dimple in the plastic that sheds snow like no other antibott out there. During the entire time I tested these crampons, they did not ball up once! And by coating the adjustment bar with an “accordioned” piece of plastic, Grivel further has reduced snow sticking to the binding.
The binding system is easily adjustable (without tools), quick to put on and solid on your foot. The new-matic front bail made of a super-durable plastic will accommodate a wide variety of boots as well.
My only real complaint about the crampon is a difficulty in collapsing it, which would make it more compact. I have a small foot, and therefore the bar is shortened most of the way. This setup compresses the accordioned plastic and doesn’t allow the two halves of the crampon to slide together fully. Trimming a bit of the plastic, however, is not difficult and will remedy this problem and allow the crampon to fully collapse.
In all, I (along with many clients) found these spikes perfect for everything from moderate water ice to long glacier routes to mixed alpine climbs. If a single pair of do-it-all crampons is what you’re after, then the G12s won’t let you down.
Pros: Versatile; excellent antibott plate design that prevents balling; durable.
Cons: Trimming the sizing bar may be necessary to compress the crampons fully for storage.