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Cassin Vector Nanotech Crampons: For Peaks, Not Crags
Posted on: June 1, 2010
Weight: 880-920 grams
Editor's Note: Just prior to publication, C.A.M.P. rebranded the Vector Nanotech as a Cassin product. The Cassin name represents C.A.M.P.'S elite gear line. The only changes made to the crampon are the colors of the frontpoints, webbing and heel bail.
I've always been one of those ice climbers who thoughtfully selects ice screws and technical tools but picks out the cheapest pair of crampons in the shop, usually some discontinued, red-tagged model. While filing another tooth off my rusted frontpoints this fall, I finally decided it was time to drool over a cutting-edge pair.
So this winter I tested the Vector Nanotech, ultra-shiny and fully modular crampons that C.A.M.P. touts as "the lightest, most technologically advanced ice climbing crampons in the world." Light? Yes. Technologically advanced? Not really.
While built on the same structural design as the old Vector crampons, the Nanotechs are constructed from an impressive new material, Sandvik Nanoflex steel. The alloy is supposed to be harder and stronger than regular stainless or chromoly steel. It's certainly durable—so durable, in fact, that sharpening the body seems to require diamonds. When I first took my bastard mill to the Nanotech's chromoly frontpoints (they arrived fairly dull—not so impressive), I also tried my file on the Sandvik steel, and I couldn't make a scratch.
A few early season days last fall involved more scree and schist than snow and ice. All the fuss over the durability of the Sandvik alloy is well deserved. These crampons eat stone for breakfast. Despite kicking my way through chimneys, hiking on rock and traversing ledges, the bodies of my Nanotechs are as shiny today as they were in November. (The chromoly frontpoints showed normal wear for the season.)
But in terms of ice climbing, the Nanotechs leave something to be desired. The frontpoints scrabbled more than they stuck; the semi-rigid design rattled more than it should; and, in general, the Nanotechs just never felt that solid when confronted with long, vertical ice.
And the toe bails fall off. On my pair, all it took was two fingers, or hard kicking and stepping, to dislodge the bail from the frame. Bending the bails into a tighter arc with bare hands fixed this problem, but the need for such tweaking after very little use suggests a design oversight: either the stock toe bails are too flexible or the crampon body is not wide enough to handle these bails, or both. It took a good month of climbing for me to regain my confidence in the crampons.
The Nanotechs come with a nice rip-proof pouch instead of anti-balling plates. Personally, I liked this trade-off as the crampons fit unusually well in the pouch. Plates are still available for about $12 extra.
By the end of the season I came to this conclusion: these crampons are lightweight all-rounders that might appeal to beginners, or mountaineers hunting long approaches and short spurts of hard terrain. Nearly as light as aluminum crampons yet much more technical, the Nanotechs will sit lightly on the pack for the approach and still perform decently on a section of steep ice or mixed. And they'll last forever. But for ice cragging or soloing, I'll stick with my rusty, trusty old pair.
Pros: Light; modular frontpoints; extremely durable; carrying bag included.
Cons: Loose toe bails; frontpoints have wide profile; rattly semi-rigid design; expensive.
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