Indestructible steel crampons are mandatory for vertical ice routes and testy alpine climbing. But you pay a big price in pack weight, and steel is often overkill for simple snow climbing and ski mountaineering. Enter the all-aluminum XLC, which checks in at about half the weight of comparable steel spikes.
We put the XLC to use for more than a year on summit climbs and steep snow couloirs in Colorado, and they flat-footed and front-pointed with aplomb on firm névé snow and over short ice bulges. We used the fully automatic XLC 390, and the fit was secure on full welted mountaineering boots and ski boots. “I crossed icy patches of Switzerland’s Haute Route with ease,” says one tester.
The crampon is also available with semi-automatic bindings (toe strap and heel bail; XLC 470) and with universal toe and heel straps (XLC 490). Anti-balling plates are available separately ($12). Watch out: The bottom points may bend or break if you crampon over too many talus fields.