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How to Sharpen Crampons

With winter just around the bend, this is a good time to start thinking about checking your winter hiking gear and sharpening your crampons. Crampons work best when they’re sharp enough to assertively bite into ice. The problem is that they wear down with use, especially if you hike or climb on rock and ice, which is inevitable in the mountains near me.

All you really need to do this is a file. Leather gloves are useful to protect your hands and a table vice comes in handy to hold the crampons in place while you file.

A 10″ Mill bastard hand file works well. As to the correct method, just make sure that your file strokes go in the direction away from the pointy base of the file, so you are pushing it away from your body.  Don’t use a powered grinder, as it may heat the metal and ruin its temper.

Only sharpen the points of your crampons along the bottom, narrow point of the tip, and not along the wide side. For hikers, the most important points to sharpen are the front ones under the ball of your foot: sharpness similar to the tip of a ballpoint pen should be adequate. Ice and mixed climbers, will want to focus more on the front points, which should be sharpened on the sides, but not on the top or bottom because the metal will become too thin and potentially snap under stress.

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  1. There is a bit of variation on where to sharpen, depending on the design of the crampon. I have a pair of older crampons that require that the front points are sharpened only on the top.

  2. Another mention I was thinking of was the whole do I choose steel or Aluminum crampons. Steel will hold up much better after being hammered on rocky sections compared to aluminum.

    The steels will cut down on how often one needs to sharpen their crampons.

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