In snow & icy conditions crampons will stop you slipping

Image opposite courtesy of Martin Free



When there's snow and ice on the ground, your kit list for your trip to the hills should include crampons & ice axe. Taking crampons doesn't mean that you have to climb vertical ice walls or indeed climb anything at all. Using crampons at the basic level means that you reduce the likelihood of slipping, thus increasing your personal safety.

If you are thinking of progressing from summer to winter walking, the best advice is to get yourself on a winter skills course (see training section) and get some instructed experience using winter gear. Crampons and ice axes are generally used together. An ice axe will arrest your fall, but crampons should stop you slipping in the first place.

Walking in fresh snow would not normally require crampons, but when faced with a steeper the slope or more compacted and icy snow (consolidated), will bring about the requirement to use crampons.

Walking With Crampons

Walking with crampons is surprisingly natural, but do take care to widen your gait slightly, else you'll be sticking a front point into your calf or through a gaiter before you know it. Another issue to be careful of is that twisting an ankle is a real possibility if the point of one side of the foot rests on a rock that's higher than the other side. It only takes one point to do this to throw your balance, so take extra care with foot placement, especially if using crampons in fresh snow, which could be hiding rocks below the surface. Consolidated snow is less of an issue as the crampon points will not penetrate much of the surface, so you should be better able to avoid single point instability.


Here's a useful video from the folks at Glemore Lodge.

Top Crampon Tips

  • have crampons adjusted to your boot before you set off
  • double check to instructions to ensure that your belief about how to put them on is actually correct
  • carry them inside your rucksack inside a specific crampon bag (which are light, but reinforced)
  • before putting on crampons, re-tie boot laces and double knott
  • put them on before the ground becomes steep, and do it as a group
  • check that the clips & straps are properly fastened and locked as appropriate
  • tuck extraneous lengths of strap away
  • have a someone buddy check that they're on properly
  • stop occasionally and check they're still correctly fastened
  • once in a while (when back home), file the points sharper, as blunt points will not penetrate hard snow & ice

Type of Slope

The slope in the picture below is quite steep but not un-typical of what could be encountered on a normal walkers' path, only in this situation it's covered in snow (and maybe ice beneath the snow). It may be possible to walk up the slope without crampons if the snow was fresh, but it would be so much safer with them. If the snow was compacted and icy, one would be foolish to attempt the slope without crampons.

Picture courtesy of Peak Rambler 

Removing Crampons

When to remove crampons is sometimes a difficult decision when a path has intermittent patches of snow & ice and bare rock/normal path. If slipping on an icy part could lead to a long fall, then keep them on even it means walking over rocks for a short distance. As the risk subsides and patches of snow/ice are less frequent, that may be the time for crampon removal.