Petzl Sarkens: Wicked on Both Vertical Ice and Glacier Travel

Ice climbing in Banff, Canada. Photo belonging to Genevieve Hathaway.

The Petzl Sarkens are one of my favorite crampons, both for ice climbing and glacier travel.  If you climb with me, you will hear me gush my love for these crampons a lot.  Recently, I’ve had numerous friends ask advice on buying crampons, so I thought I’d post a few thoughts about this piece of gear.

Petzl’s Sarkens are rockstars on everything from vertical waterfall ice, to technical mountaineering, to general glacier travel.  The front-points have a T-shape making them both great for vertical ice climbing and very stable in snow and neve.  Good ice climbing crampons have front-points that are very aggressive – vertical, serrated points.  This allows those points to cut into the ice better and the serrated edge grabs the ice.   While good basic glacier travel/snow travel crampons have wide, flat front-points that are not serrated.  The flat front points help give greater balance when traveling across glaciers or low angle ice.  The T-shape of the front-points combines these 2 features giving the Sarkens high performance in a variety of terrain.

At 2 lbs these crampons aren’t very heavy (well for steel crampons) and they sport the balling plates to prevent snow from balling under your

Petzl Sarkens. Photo courtesy of Petzl.

feet.  It works very well and I’ve never had a problem with these crampons getting snow stuck under them, even in soft, mushy snow.   The Sarkens are more flexible than a pure ice climbing crampon, making it good for walking long distances.  Even though the great flexibility meant I lost some of the force translating to the ice when I kicked, I haven’t found that that diminished the performance of these crampons on vertical ice.  The Sarkens still perform smashingly and I love the versatility of also being able to use these awesome crampons for long glacier travel.  Whether it’s a weekend of doing an alpine ice route up Rainier (combining rock, glacier travel and ice climbing) or a weekend of pure waterfall ice, these crampons give me top-notch performance.

Ice climbing in Ouray. The vertical, agressive front-points penetrated the ice easily and were very stable. Photo belongs to Genevieve Hathaway.

How adjustable are the Sarkens?  Very, very easy, which is something I demand in a crampon since I have three different boots I use often – leather, plastic and my touring boots.  The front bar is easy to move to adjust the crampons to fit my plastics, leathers or touring boots.  The webbing that wraps around the ankle is a breeze to tighten down, even with bulky gloves on and it doesn’t slip or catch on things.  The lock on the back takes almost no time to adjust.

If I had to use only a few words to describe this crampons is thoroughbred-workhorse hybrid.  I highly recommend these crampons whether you are looking for a stellar pure ice crampon or a great all around crampon or a good technical mountaineering crampon – these crampons get the job down with style, finesse and high performance.

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~ by Genevieve Hathaway on April 19, 2010.

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