Judy Armstrong reviews some ultralight crampons – but make sure they fit your footwear
Leopard is relatively new to Petzl’s range and is a flag-bearer for the ultra-lightweight sector. All innovations are underfoot. The central adjustment bar has been replaced with non-stretch parallel cords which loop over hooks in the heel plate for adjustment. This is extensive: they easily mated to size 36 and 44 boots and shoes. Material is (beautifully anodised) aluminium with 10 points: two out front, and four under each plate. The uppers come from the general mountaineering range: the flexible plastic harnesses mounted on chromed bars (which anchor to the foot plates) are identical to those on the Irvis Flexlock crampon also tested here, as is the narrow strapping. The closure system is different: to properly secure the crampon we used the ‘alternative’ approach: threading the strap under the cord to pull it closer to the boot, as part of the attachment and tightening process.
So, yes, they are very lightweight. They are also fiddly to attach: I recommend practising attaching Leopard to your footwear – with your gloves on – until it is instinctive. Once on, walk a few steps, tighten each strap segment, then repeat.
Downsides? The front harness has too much volume for a lightweight boot (or shoe), despite its flexibility. It fits well over a four-season or large size boot (size 40 +), but then the front plate is too small, finishing too close to the flex point of the foot. In reality the crampon doesn’t work with larger or heavier footwear: besides the base plates being small, there is too much lateral movement in the cords so the crampon never feels secure. On boots smaller than size 40 the cord flex is much less noticeable, but the front harness volume allows the boot’s forefoot to move. The absence of anti-ball plates, plus the cord and the heel hooks, means they quickly accumulate snow underfoot (Antisnow plates can be bought separately, £16).
If you are an adventure racer, winter fellrunner or a gram-chaser, where the crampons are for emergency use and low weight is more important than high performance, these will be on your check-them-out list. They are things of beauty, but your decision should be made based on the serious safety criteria of how, where and on what footwear you would plan to use them.