Grivel are the originators of the modern front-point crampon and justifiably proud of their heritage. The Grivel G20 Plus is the updated version of their top end mono-point crampon the G20 which was the main competitor to the Petzl Dart. I’ve been a long time Petzl Dart user and though the design of the G20 appealed there wasn’t enough of a difference to make me jump ship. The new G20 Plus seemed to offer all the same benefits (light, precise etc.) and a few additional temptations. Chief amongst these is the replaceable front point, not only that but it’s Grivel steel and this has a deserved reputation longevity so I was more than happy to give them a try for the 2019/20 winter season.
The G20 plus uses Grivels Cramp-O-Matic (step in with toe bail) although you can set them up with a toe basket if you purchase it as an extra – more about this later. The heel section is relatively standard and length adjustment is achieved by lifting a spring steel plate and relocating studs into holes. In addition heel section has Grivel’s usual extremely effective antibott plate. The big difference is how the front and rear sections are connected. Instead of the usual horizontally orientated sliding bar there is a vertically orientated ‘folding spine’ the front section of which is comprised of the replaceable mono-point. The rear section of the spine incorporates a couple of additional down points that give a little more security for descending. The forged mono-point spine enhances the crampon’s rigidity and also provides some extra points underneath the arch of your foot which can prove quite useful on funky ice and odd mixed snow/ice/rock thrutchiness (think bollards and icy ribs)! The actual mono-point itself is cntred around the big toe and projects a little further forward than the average but this has proven no disadvantage with a well fitted rigid boot and has at times proved quite handy (footy?). The remainder of the front section comprises two parts that are bolted to the central spine to provide four down points and a stuby horizontal mini front point that gives a some additional support in softer neve. Altogether the G20 Plus weighs in at 452g a piece (904g a pair) compared to my old Darts at 398g a piece (796g a pair) but the G20 Plus has a replaceable point and an antibott. Packing wise the G20 is not as neat or as compact as most crampons overall. The folding spine does make for a shorter package but it is also deeper and to some extent spikier than most. Certainly you’ll want to think carefully how you stow these alongside your belay jacket or hardshell – a decent crampon pouch is probably a wise idea!
With the winter season cut short by Lockdown and with a run of poor luck conditions wise (well great conditions but high avalanche risk – so frustrating!) I’ve not had as long with the G20 Plus as I would normally like before writing up a review. However the routes I did complete have given me an indication of their character and performance. Durability will have to wait but this is not usually an issue with Grivel, if anything it’s their forte.
First off they fitted brilliantly well to both my Scarpa Mont Blanc Pros (original version) and my Phantom 6000s, the slightly wider front piece putting the inside points in a very good position for ‘edging’. Packing them into my sac required a little re-arrangement compared to my usual system but no real issues although as I stated earlier a crampon bag of some for is nigh on mandatory. An ascent of Scabbard Chimney in SCNL gave a good introduction to thin slabby ice a great test for a crampon and the G20 Plus felt absolutely planted. Very precise and solid with a good ‘feel’ which was most welcome as the fist two pitches provided only two pieces of gear but a plastering of great thin ice. Topping out and over rather than opting to abseil back down showed that the G20 plus was fine on more moderate terrain and certainly didn’t ball up like my old Darts tended to – they’re not perfect mind as the antibott only covers the heel but they felt much more assured in descent than the Darts ever did. On more purely mixed ground they felt brilliant. There is no flex or slop, it is easy to get the inside edge points to engage and that forged mono-point latched onto every nubbin and edge like a limpet – perhaps it was just that it was nice and sharp 😉 Having to make do with routes on the Douglas boulder because of the high avalanche risk gave a good flavour of their prowess on rock where again they excelled. I sadly didn’t get the opportunity to try them on any pure ice routes so I’ll add an update when I get the chance but I see no reason to doubt they will perform equally well there. Are there any downsides to the G20 Plus? Well they don’t pack as easily as most crampons but apart from that I’ve found nothing so far. I Do wonder if the three bolts that basically clamp the rest of the crampon around the central mono-point spine might loosen and need to be watched but I’ve seen no evidence of this and it would be no more onerous than checking your picks aren’t loosening. For me they are pretty much the perfect technical mixed crampon.
Some people, including Grivel sponsored athletes, have been experimenting with fitting a toe basket instead of a toe bail with the G20 Plus so that it can be fitted to ultralight winter boots like the Ribelle Tech OD and this does look like an interesting concept but I’ll have to wait till next year to have a play. Have a watch of Uisdean Hawthorn’s astonishing Winter Cuillin traverse and you’ll notice him using the earlier version G20 with a toe basket on Ribelle Tech ODs.
- Slightly more awkward to pack
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