The Alpinist Mountain Standards reviews apply Alpinist's tradition of excellence and authenticity to gear reviews by providing unbiased, candid feedback and anecdotal commentary to equipment tested (hard) in the field. Our panel is comprised of climbers who use the gear every day as part of their work and play. Only the gear they would actually buy themselves, at retail price, qualifies for the Alpinist Mountain Standards award. The five-star rating system is as follows:
One Star = Piece of junk.
Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
Three Stars = Average. This solid piece of gear is middle-of-the-road on the current market.
Four Stars = Better than most comparable gear on the market. It has one or two drawbacks, but still 90% positive.
Five Stars = Is there such thing as perfection? An Alpinist Mountain Standards award-winner.
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Petzl Dartwin Crampons: Serious about Steep
Posted on: March 19, 2008
Weight: 1 pound, 14 ounces
In December I headed down to Ouray, Colorado's Ice Park, to begin testing the Petzl Dartwin crampons. With all kinds of immediate climbing to be had, Ouray seemed the best place to determine effectiveness on everything from low-angle ice to crazy mixed testpieces. I was like a kid in a candy store with sticky fingers in a jar. Those proverbial sticky fingers were the Dartwins.
The hot- and cold-forged steel Dartwins have been out for a few years and are made to excel on steep waterfall ice and mixed routes. They are dual front and secondary pointed with generous teeth, and they sport a third row of inclined points in the rear for back stepping. My pair came with a standard wire toe bail for boots with a toe welt and a rear side lock to accommodate a variety of boot heel wells. They also have a replaceable front section if you wear the originals down to dull stubs. The two front points are slightly offset and allowed me to find a variety of stable positions. While moving around on delicate, thawing ice they had just enough front weight to get a good step in, and on the long vertical sections the secondary points kept my feet solid.
Although these crampons are designed for the steep stuff—they did well on some hairy terrain in the Canadian Rockies—they have performed excellently on moderates as well.
Now, for some constructive feedback. First, I needed practice locking off the sidelock lever because on several occasions I struggled to pull it around in the locked position. I remedied this with practice and kept the bail under my ankle webbing strap so it couldn't unlock. Second, the heel bail is a bit narrow and doesn't fit some older, bigger-heeled boots. Third, it lacks anti-snow plates. Even though they are intended for steep ice, it's nice to have at least one plate underfoot up front to keep them from balling up with snow when you encounter the fluffy stuff on route, or want to use them for the approach. Also, If you have size 11 or larger feet, you'll need to purchase an XL connecting bar ($17.95). A bent linking bar ($29.95) for asymmetrical boots and heel spurs ($79.95) also are available.
The Dartwins have performed solidly all winter in various conditions on varied terrain. They've become my number-one pick for vertical and overhanging flows, and I'd recommend them for anyone serious about steep ice and mixed climbs.
Pros: Precise; stable; technical; easy to adjust without any tools
Cons: Delicate sidelock heel lock; don't fit bigger-heeled boots well; would be improved with the addition of anti-snow plates.