If there’s one name in fast-and-light right now, it’s Kilian Jornet. He’s the Catalan skimo king that, no matter how fast you do anything, will make you feel like a beached whale having a bad day. Point being, Kilian gets what he wants for free, so the fact he paid full retail for the Tech 250 skimo crampon ($110; 261g home verified) means something.
German inventor Manfred Quaeck devised the original version of the Tech 250, an abbreviated crampon designed to fit onto any boot with tech inserts in the toe. It’s crafted entirely of thick, laser-cut steel, with two front points, and two full-size points on the sole of the boot, with a petite third point centered between those two.
In short, it’s a lightweight skimo tool used for booting couloirs, scrambling frozen mixy terrain, or any time a full boot crampon is overkill.
Quaeck shopped his initial design around, eventually finding an ally in the capable Martin Volken. Martin is a UIAGM/IFMGA mountain guide based in North Bend, Washington. While he hails from the mountains near Zermatt, he managed to marry a delightful American woman and relocate to the States more than two decades ago. He’s pioneered Cascades classics like the Forbidden Tour, as well as many beyond-burl descents like the North Face of Mount Buckner. Trust me, grab his excellent new Cascades guidebook and you’ll see what I mean.
Anyway, Martin helped Quaeck refine the design and now sells the Tech 250 through his retail shop, Pro Ski and Mountain Service. The result? The perfect 261-gram insurance policy for firm snow or a short pitch of water ice.
Martin slipped me a pair of these little weapons last fall, so I’ve had several months to monkey with them and with only one or two caveats, I’m saying these belong in your gear closet. I’ve carried these during our low-snow good-stability winter here in Colorado, down at the Opus Hut, up to Rocky Mountain National Park, and even into the Ouray Ice Park. I also took them to Rogers Pass, British Columbia, where they’ve had an unusual winter, too. Point being—perfect testing conditions for the Tech 250.
Yeah, they’re crazy light. 261 grams by my home scale, so I’m guessing the little leashes I installed on the crampons added 10-11g. Nevertheless, this is well over 100g lighter than the lightest aluminum crampon CAMP sells, and you get the durability of steel at the same time. It’s not without a compromise, but I’m betting all you weight weenies out there are already perking up. Read on.
Martin says there’s an aluminum version in the works, but I’ve not yet seen it or tested it. Whether that comes true or not, the steel version is probably a better bet in Colorado anyway. As the old joke goes, they don’t call them the Rockies for nothing. My experience with aluminum crampons has been that walking/short-roping on rocks quickly bends the center bar, which means it’s permanently fatigued. Replace it with a steel bar, sure, but then it beings to chew up the interface at the Al crampons. Not a huge deal, but it shortens the life of the crampon.
The Tech 250, despite bashing around a bit on rock, kicking it into vertical water ice, and wallowing in some faceted ridgeline snow, has held up like an overbuilt steel ‘pon. The points, indeed, are noticeably thicker than a regular boot crampon, so durability has been fantastic thus far.
During installation, you need to customize the front of the 250 to your particular boot. I run Dynafit’s TLT 5/6 98 percent of the time, and part of the reason the boots are so light is the pared down shell. I couldn’t get a perfectly flush fit with the Tech 250 (see pics), but they proved to be perfectly secure, even toproping vertical water ice. I actively tried to lever them off the toe of my boot, without success. Martin reported success with some folks using a Dremel tool to sand out a tiny recess for the Tech 250’s interface, but I did just fine without.
Your set will include washers and instructions to achieve the desired fit. With a more traditional toe shape like a SCARPA Maestrale or Dynafit Vulcan, you should be able to get a perfectly flush fit. It definitely looks nicer and gives better peace of mind, but again—I didn’t experience any problems on a TLT.
I lowered into the Ouray Ice Park to test ‘em while Micro-Trac’ing and zero stress. I climbed 75 feet of vertical water ice and after two laps, it was equivalent performance to a boot crampon designed for snow climbing. The lack of an aggressive set of second points is somewhat noticeable, but for a short stretch water ice—awesome.
While doing this I tried like hell to get them to shift or lever off. You’ll notice the little “keeper” leash on them to guard against losing them in the case I succeeded. I couldn’t do it and doubt I could even climbing rock (which I also did later). Was I as confident as climbing in a fully auto Blade Runner? No—but at less than 25 percent the weight of the Blade Runner, it’s a compromise worth considering for skimo.
Field installation is a breeze, once you’re accustomed to it. Early versions employed an allen wrench, but Martin lost one in the backcountry and had a voila moment—make it a flathead and you can install/remove these with a quarter, screwdriver, any number of common things you carry ski-touring. Simply remove the crampons from your pack, position them on either side of your boot toe (in the field I was careful to clean the sole of my boot and tech inserts, though our warm winter had me walking in mud more than once–bummer!), then screw in the adjustable nut on one side. Two minutes, top.
For steep, hard snow, they’re great. Frozen, shallow steps in a couloir seem the perfect application for them; they bite like a pissed-off badger and you’re probably not going to get your foot in any deeper anyway, so all you need are the five points.
Once the snow softens and you’re kicking your foot halfway in, you might want a boot crampon, but at that point your boot pen is so good, I’m betting most of you will forego a crampon altogether. Maybe?
Climbing/scrambling on rock yielded similar results. Solid performance, though at this point, when standing on a larger rock or slab, the raised toe was noticeable. Without spikes on the mid- and rear-foot, your toe sits pretty high. I can’t imagine most folks will be climbing long stretches of rock in these, so slow down, realize your footing will feel off-kilter, and SEND!
One of the things I like about the Tech 250 is its packability. With a little jostling you can nest them within your ski crampons, no problem. Carried on their own, I lined a small stuffsack with duct tape and made a dedicated bag. In any event, they take up almost no space in your pack, though I warn you: they’re sharp. You gotta have them stashed in a reinforced stuffsack, or you’re going to shred your pack’s interior!
If you know you’re headed into a bulletproof bootpack, then a small stuffsack dangling from the waist is a slick way to carry them. You could even get them in a pocket, if need be. Be careful, though, you don’t want to puncture your junk.
One of the few situations in which I found the Tech 250 noticeably inferior to a full boot crampon was in descending pied a plat, or in flat-footed “French” technique. With the foot flat, you’re missing at least six or eight other spikes, so it feels much less secure. If the snow is firm, you can simply turn around and face in, but keep it in mind before you start dropping vert.
I’d also hesitate to short-rope guests wearing the Tech 250. My thinking is that if I’m short-roping, I need to have the ability to face out, flat-foot, etc. Not a consideration for most people, but it occurred to me.
‘Tis the Season
Skimo season is upon us. Even though Washington, California, Colorado, and even much of Canada has had a bizarre, below-average winter, there’s still fun and rowdy skimo ready to go. The Tech 250 is the perfect addition to your gear quiver, I think. Sounds like Washington requires a hike in the valley no matter what, to get the goods, and Colorado’s heading that way—so why lug your boot crampons when you can bring along the 250 and get similar performance?
Though Martin provided my set free, I’d pay the $110 for the Tech 250. It lightens your pack and almost as important, it saves space. I love the things…and so does Kilian. Forty pounds of liposuction later, maybe I’ll be just as fast? Wish me luck.
Rob Coppolillo is an IFMGA-certified mountain guide based in Boulder, Colorado. He’s the co-owner of Vetta Mountain Guides.