Review updated February 2018.
Since I first got into alpine climbing a few years ago I’ve been the proud owner and frequent user of Black Diamond’s Sabertooth crampons and have rented similar sets along the way. However, a few seasons of climbing on mixed terrain routes in the Cascades have taken their toll on my Sabertooths so for the 2017 season, I opted to spoil myself and picked up a pair of Grivel’s classic G12 crampons as my “sharps” for steeper ice & snow routes I wanted to take on.
To cut to the chase, the G12s became my go-to choice as soon as they came out of the box and onto the snow. I’m not alone in that, they are truly a classic recommendation with their 12 point design and aggressive anti-balling technology making them a favorite general crampon all over. Since my purchase over a year ago, I’ve had the chance to take these up peaks from Helens to Baker, Hood to Rainier and aside from a little rust, I can see why these are such the go to pick.
The crampon for all around alpine adventuring
Grivel dates back to 1818 (their website feels like it dates back to about the same period!) and has been making the G12s for well over a decade now. I’m not sure if there’s been many major revisions since then but clearly this is a time tested products. If you keep searching around for reviews, you’ll see talk of the A-to-Z performance of the G12s by every day users and professionals alike, in particular a 2007 post from Larry Goldie on Alpinist caught my eye as a final decision point in which he called them “about the best such [all-around] crampon I have ever used.” I’m not qualified to speak for the entire world of crampons myself but against my limited set of experiences I’m inclined to agree.
From their point placement to their bite, the anti-balling plates, even the way their new-matic and cramp-o-matic models work, the G12s are well thought out and well executed on. My primary climbing use is general mountaineering: long days across moderate to steep snow slopes with a spot or two of aggressive ice, frozen or thawing snow, and across all of it, they deliver. The front points are sharper and more aggressive than those of the Sabertooths, the placement of the rear points make down climbing solid, and the anti-balling plates are simply on another level and repel even loose, wet snow with ease.
Getting the crampons setup is easy too. Despite my size 14 / 48 La Sportiva Nepal Evo boots*, I was able to use the standard size bars without any issues which was an immediate $20 savings vs BD where I had to upgrade to longbars. While my boots support the full cramp-o-matic model, I elected for new-matic to give myself some future flexibility but still find the fit to be solid: once adjusted (always size crampons before you leave the house), they slide right on, secure down quickly (even with gloves on) and stay in place well until the end of the climb when they pop right on off.
Spec wise they’re steel, considered semi-rigid, weigh in at 36.7 ounces with the antibott plate and of course have 12 points. Size range is 36-47 though the new-matic version fits my 48s just fine.
Sharp & balanced for easy climbing
No matter what terrain you climb on, sooner or later crampon points are going to wear down. While filing certainly helped my Sabertooths stay useful, in shopping around, I found that even out of the box, they were just not as sharp as Grivel’s designs and trips over chossy rock like that of the Disappointment Cleaver did not help (I’ve filed away a few points completely!) Despite my best intentions to keep my G12’s off rock, that has not always been possible and the end of the points have started to lose some of their black coating while acquiring a few good scratches. Still, the points remain aggressive allowing for easy stepping and even some decent front-pointing on spicier moves.
I can’t speak for true ice climbing use but this winter was solid allowing for a lot of steep, frozen routes and giving a great testing ground for the versatility of the G12s. Step after step, I’ve found the G12s grab well going both up and down and yet are not overly aggressive to get in the way slogging up tamer slopes. They’re not up to the level of say the G22s for grab but they get the job done and remain comfortable even when on for a full summit day. Like I said, well thought out!
Six months is not enough to really report on the durability but so far they’re holding up well with just a little wear to the tips, no rust and no adjustment issues. I’ll update this review if that changes in the coming seasons.
The bulky downside
In a sea of five star reviews it’s hard to find much to talk badly about here. Replaceable front points would be nice, an included bag would be logical, but one comment that rings true for me is how little the G12’s collapse on down. Even after pushing down the bar and folding in the straps, the G12s can’t really fit into my previous crampon bag and have a hard time fitting into the crampon pockets on my Mountain Hardwear or Osprey packs at all.
I also prefer the secure strap system on Petzl’s slightly more expensive Sarken Crampons more than Grivel or Black Diamond’s as it keeps the strap from flopping around (though it’s a pain to use in gloves.) Beyond those wish-list buts however I have nothing negative to say.
The bottom line: Buy without hesitation
While I’m sure I could get away with a couple more seasons of rigorously sharpening up my Sabertooths, the more aggressive points and more effective anti-bot plates on Grivel’s G12s have made them a well worthwhile addition to my gear collection. From what I’ve experienced so far, they are a great all around solution for mountaineering, light ice and maybe even a bit more than that with a track record to suggest that I’m far from alone in my assessment.
- Category: Mountaineering Crampons
- Utility: Mountaineering, Moderate Ice
- Pros: Great all around solution
- Cons: Bulky, on the heavier side by ounces
- Style: Strap, new-matic, cramp-o-matic
- Price: $180 MSRP
- Rating: 5 of 5
- Official Site | Buy It Now at BackCountry.com*
* Disclosure: I earn a commissions for any sales made through Buy It Now links on this post. As for the crampons, I paid for those myself.