The Air-Tech Crampons are an excellent compromise between weight, durability and performance making it one of the most versatile general purpose 12 point crampons available.
Grivel should need no introduction, for those of you familiar with the history of mountaineering they can rightly claim to be the originators of the first commercial ‘front point’ crampons back in 1929 and have maintained a reputation for reliability to this day. When I received the Air Tech crampons I requested the ‘New-Matic’ binding system so that I could try them on a variety of boots and to experience the benefits (and drawbacks) of this hybrid system. I’ve been using the modern step in binding system ever since I upgraded from my Messner Scissor crampons with ‘French Straps’ back sometime in the early 90s and to be honest systems like Grivel’s own ‘Cramp-O-Matic’ have few faults, they’re rock solid if you match boot and crampon and generally hassle free. There are times when it can prove a bit awkward fitting them – soft, steep, deep snow etc. but usually that’s only because you’ve misjudged when to tackle up. So what benefits did the New-Matic system bring? Well after an extensive review period I have found them faster and easier to fit no matter how big the gloves or awkward the stance. Providing you get a good fit to your boot they are also incredibly secure, perhaps not on a par with the full step-in bindings but more than enough for traditional alpine mixed or Scottish winter up to about grade V. If I’m heading for a day of mixed climbing in Scotland I’d still opt for a set of step-ins and mono points, but for the odd pitch I’d have no worries. If you’re heading to the greater ranges and higher altitudes the New-Matic system also allows the use of overboots with fewer hassles.
The Air-Tech additionally offer something different to the mega classic G12. First off it’s lighter and cheaper which has got to be a win win situation. I would have to assume that some of this lightness would come at the expense of durability and rigidity but to be honest over the review period I found it hard to tell. What you do notice is the Air Tech has noticeably shorter walking points (that may help with the lightness) which are also serrated. These are excellent on mixed ground as they reduced the whole ‘standing on stilts’ feeling you get on rock at times and the serrations gave some funky opportunities for added purchase on both rock and ice. Like many of the Grivel crampons it telescopes down to an extremely compact package, although if you fit the ‘concertina’ anti-balling devices to the central bar you loose this ability to an extent. The anti balling plates are another excellent feature of the Air-Tech. Grivel’s unique proactive antibott consists of a convex bulge that gets compressed as you step into the snow then tends to ‘pop’ snow off your boot when you lift your foot. There are times when the system gets overwhelmed but there were noticeably less anti-balling ‘taps’ wearing these crampons.
Like all crampons it is a good idea to check the fit of the crampon to your boots, I did find that some modern narrow toed boots projected further forward reducing the amount of front point projection, not disastrously but something to be aware of (see my review of the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pros). Likewise boots with more of a rocker or curved forefoot (usually those B2 rated) could lead to a bit of a gap at the toe/front point area but I solved this by fitting the Grivel flexibars which also reduces the weight – if you’re worried about this in terms of durability check out this video from Steve House at about 2:39 regarding crampons on Nanga Parbat.
The Air Tech have become my go to crampon for classic Alpine routes and traditional Scottish gullies with the odd mixed section.
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!