Weight: 478g Automatic / 558g Semi-Automatic
It wasn’t until late in the evening at the Cosmiques Hut in Chamonix that my partner and I decided climb the Grand Capucin. The steep, flame-like obelisk is a classic that most granite climbers obsess over at one point or another in their climbing careers. Having made this call at the eleventh hour, I didn’t have steel crampons with me–just my mostly aluminum, semi-automatic XLC Nanotechs from C.A.M.P.. I thought for sure I would trash them on the rock, but that’s my job as a reviewer for Alpinist, so I took them anyway.
I led a snow couloir for a ways, eventually getting to easy rock scrambling that brought me to the start of the Swiss Route. When I reached the anchor at the base of the route after a few hundred feet of mixed terrain, the crampons showed zero wear.
I don’t know who at C.A.M.P. had the idea to combine two mediums–lightweight aluminum and hard steel–but kudos. The XLC Nanotechs are an upgraded version of the aluminum XLC crampon. C.A.M.P. has taken their aluminum crampon and riveted Sandvik steel front points onto the aluminum frame. The Sandvik steel is much harder than the usual chromoly steel, so it’s pretty tough to damage the front points. This blend of aluminum for the down points and steel for the front points makes the crampons light (just under 20 ounces) and also hearty enough for rock and hard ice.
Aluminum crampons lost their place in my ice climbing kit–on both guiding and client-free outings–ages ago. My old, light and fragile aluminums would bend and dull as soon as I skittered over any hard surface, rock or ice. I confess, when I packed for a week-long traverse in the Berbiba of eastern Switzerland–my first opportunity to use the crampons–I left them behind. I would be guiding clients along rocky ridges for the next seven days and simply couldn’t afford to have any gear fail on me. Even after that trip, I had to motivate myself to take these crampons anywhere, fearing that I wouldn’t make it up a climb because of them. But once I gave them a chance, trusting that the steel front points on the aluminum body would hold up, I found that the XLC Nanotech is one bomber, why-didn’t-I-think-of-this piece of gear.
On warm days, I was pleasantly surprised at how few balling issues I had, even without the optional anti-balling plates. The plastic toe basket is stiff and supportive for several types of footwear. I used them with approach shoes, climbing and ski boots. Transitioning from the one style of boot to another, I did have a hard time adjusting the length of the crampons. The lever catch is stiff and long, so it is tough to jump from one hole to the next.
Another issue I took note of is that the crampons only work in one direction on ice. Traversing some black ice on a recent climb, I found the limits of these crampons. Sideways, the crampons’ steel front points didn’t work because the steep front point hovered a few centimeters above the surface ice. I had to traverse on my front points rather than side step my way across.
Lastly, the release bit on the ankle strap isn’t fixed and therefore moves around, making it almost impossible to release if it isn’t positioned well. I had to slide it up to be parallel with the strap, but that wasn’t easy because the release bit and the strap are made of the same material, and the strap is cinched so tightly that there is no room for the bit to slide against the metal buckle.
Overall, C.A.M.P.’s XLC Nanotech crampons have exceeded my expectations on all grounds: performance on rock and snow, lightness, ease of use, fit and durability. The release system and adjustment bar could function more smoothly, but these details don’t take much away from my overall approval of the design.
Pros: Lightweight; durable steel front points; supportive plastic toe bail.
Cons: Not easily adjustable; front points don’t reach the ground when traversing.
Tyler Cohen, of sister publication Backcountry Magazine, managed to break a pair of the XLC Nanotechs kicking steps in Tuckerman Ravine, New Hampshire. C.A.M.P. replaced them quickly. Another member of the Alpinist staff does not deny that he may have been trying to climb a WI4/Msomething in them a few days prior. –Ed.
I have a pair of these crampons, too, and think they deserve five stars and a Mountain Standards medal. The XLC Nanotech has some shortcomings, sure, but it’s still better than any other aluminum crampon. Also note that only the semi-automatic version of these crampons features the spring-lever adjuster for the length bar. The automatic version uses a simple screw. But unless you’re planning on absolutely only using these with ski boots, get the semi-automatics. –Keese Lane, Associate/Online Editor