If you are looking for a general mountaineering crampon, then these three models are the best on the market. They are all well-designed, and tried and tested, so all my comments need to be seen as a comparison between good products. As a mountain guide of 20+ years experience I have used many different models of crampon, and seen the big effect that small differences can make. On the surface all three are very similar: same kind of binding system, all have anti-balling (or anti-bott) systems to prevent snow build-up underneath, all have clip-on heel and cup-type front. So lets look at the differences: how good are they at staying on my boots?
Boot fitting and heel piece attachment
They all look similar but there are some important differences.
Bar length adjustment
The Black Diamond and Grivel models use a single line of holes in the adjustment bar, but the Petzl has two offset lines which means a much finer adjustment is possible. Standard bars will usually fit up to UK size 10 – if you have larger boots, you will need to buy an extra large bar with your crampons.
I have had problems with both the Black Diamond and the Grivel heel pieces. The Black Diamond plastic is a bit soft and can allow the heel piece to pop off the heel of the boot. The Grivel heel piece has a plastic component which I have seen fail quite often. The Petzl system is much more rugged and fit for purpose, and does not suffer from the same problems. The front fittings of the crampons are all very similar and all work well.
All three systems work well, however the Black Diamond and Petzl systems are more reliable and better designed than the Grivel system. On the Black Diamond and Petzl crampons the anti-bott system allows the length adjustment bar to move through the back of the crampon easily, making adjustment a much less fiddly job. This is not the case with the Grivel crampons, so adjusting is a more complicated process. My main complaint against the Grivel system is that you often get a build up of ice in between the sole of the boot and the anti-bott plate, which means that the anti-bott plate cannot flex, and so the crampon points cannot work as they should.
Having used all these for several years, I can say they all work well, but overall I think the Petzl is more rugged. The only small problem I have had is the small screws holding the anti-bott plates in place can work loose, but super glue solves this problem.
Prices today on The Climbers Shop website:
Petzl Vasak Lever Lock £125
Grivel G12 New Matic £135
Black Diamond Serac Clip £125
So we have three good products, two with some minor weaknesses. My advice would be to go for the Petzl crampons, which have the edge over the other two.
Happy climbing in 2015. Hope to see you out in the mountains!