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Crampons

GSb Binding plus Scarpa Freney XT boot

Having nearly had a nasty accident when a clip-on crampon popped off my boot while leading, I was keen to try the new GSb system on the Grivel G14 crampon and Scarpa Freney XT boot.

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GRIVEL G14 GSb WITH ANTIBOTT | $200 | grivelnorthamerica.com SCARPA FRENEY XT GSB | $379 | scarpa.com

Having nearly had a nasty accident when a clip-on crampon popped off my boot while leading, I was keen to try the new GSb system on the Grivel G14 crampon and Scarpa Freney XT boot. Touted as the fastest and most-secure crampon attachment system yet, the GSb (Grivel/Scarpa binding) eliminates the crampon’s standard toe bale, replacing it with a steel hook that inserts into a hole in the toe of the boot.

The system works great. I did, however, have to adjust the crampon a full notch tighter on the boot than usual,  to firmly set the hook in the hole. No big deal, but it did make affixing the crampon as time consuming as that of a standard rig, negating any time savings.

On ice and rock, the boot and crampon felt precise and solid, with zero play, similar to boots that have the crampon bolted directly to the sole. I also noticed that, because there was no toe bale to get in the way, letting you get rubber instead of steel against the rock, the boot was more solid jammed into corners and wide cracks. Security wise, the system is totally bomber — you’d have to rip the sole off the boot to lose a crampon, and this is the system’s primary advantage.

While I never encountered the problem, the hole in the toe could jam with gravel, making it difficult to attach the crampon. To prevent this, the boot comes with a tiny plastic plug to stopper the hole. This works, but one day into it I lost a plug,  and I heard of a case where a plug broke off from extensive kicking up a snow slope, requiring small tools to extract it.

The primary disadvantage is you have to wear a Scarpa GSb boot with the binding. At present, the Scarpa Freney, an insulated, mid-weight ice and alpine boot, the Scarpa Phantom, a line of high-altitude boots, and the Scarpa Escape, a lightweight mountaineering and backpacking boot, have the system. For climbers who wear various pairs of boots, this is problematic, although you could retrofit the crampon with a toe bale and use it on your non-GSb boots.