The Petzl Sarken: Quiver of One Crampons

Ask any mountain guide about their crampons, and they’ll have a quiver of models, much like they have a quiver of skis. I was no different. Now, that idea is mostly a thing of the past! Today, I rely on one pair of crampons for almost everything that involves slippery surfaces like ice and snow: the Petzl Sarken.

I am climbing in Chamonix this month, so I have been out on quite a few of the classic objectives that surround this epicenter of alpine climbing. The routes have included all the ingredients of good alpine climbing; glacier crossings, rock ridges, ice-choked gullies, and bergschrunds. On my feet: the Petzl Sarken, at home on snow, ice, and even rock.

The Sarken is made of slim but robust steel and comes with 12 sharp points. The 2 front points combine a flat and vertical serrated style, in effect forming a T-shape – good for every demand. They work great for kicking steps into ice thanks to good penetration, and they also march along with solid purchase on snow.

A close look reveals Karen’s Petzl Sarken crampons on the ultra-classic Cosmiques Arete on the Aiguille de Midi, up above Chamonix, France. Photo credit Mary White

Petzl’s Leverlock system is part of what makes them so user friendly: you can switch out both the heel and the toe bindings, making them match up with any style of mountaineering or ski boot. I often use the semi-automatic version, with a welt-compatible heel piece and a strap for the toe. Great for boots like the Scarpa Ribelle or the La Sportiva Trango.

It’s really important that the crampons fit well when you abuse them on rocky sections of your climb. Tweaking the front points onto small rock ledges or cracks will show you in a heartbeat whether your crampons have a tight fit or not… I am always happy having the Sarken on my boot with their solid connection from boot to steel to rock.

In addition to great performance, the weight of the Sarken also fits the bill. At 870 g, they are light enough to go for an easy ride in the backpack when I’m climbing rock walls with glacier approaches.

Yay for the Sarken: a ‘quiverkiller’ of crampons that comes along on all my big alpine adventures. But don’t hear it just from me: The Chicks will be using the Petzl Sarken crampons for our mountaineering program on Mount Baker, Washington at the end of July. We’ll tell you how it goes!


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