Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Review: Cassin Blade Runner


The roots of this technical equipment date back to 1935 when Riccardo Cassin made the first ascent of the north face of the Cima Ovest di Lavaredo (now rated 5.11d). He established his innovative climbing company down valley from C.A.M.P. in 1952. C.A.M.P. purchased the CASSIN brand in 1997 and honors Riccardo’s memory by stamping his name on some of the most technical products in the line including Technical Ice Axes & Crampons, Big Wall/Aid Climbing gear, a selection of Harnesses, and Bouldering gear. Other select products with an established history under the CASSIN brand also carry his name.


The Blade Runner represents a new era in technical ice crampons. A wealth of innovative features
combine to create a crampon that conforms to the ergonomics of modern boots, increases rigidity along the entire length of the crampon without decreasing dexterity or compromising fit, adapts to alpine conditions with a variety of front points and toe bail configurations, and naturally reduces balling with its inverted V-shaped front platform. The patented heel slide integrates the linking bar with the heel piece for better torsional rigidity. This allows the Blade Runner to offer the best of both worlds by combining the power and stability of vertical frame crampons with the precision and ease of adjustment of horizontal frame designs. The entire heel slide is constructed from proprietary Sandvik Nanoflex® steel: an amazingly strong and tough stainless steel that allows for a reduction in the thickness of the frame from 2.75 mm to 1.8 mm, thereby reducing weight while simultaneously increasing strength and providing the right amount of longitudinal flexibility for a precise fit on modern boots with more extreme rocker. The front platform is constructed from traditional chromoly steel alloy to absorb impact energy and maintain solid rigidity under foot. The elimination of connection joints leaves little room for play and reduces much of the flex that can make crampons seem less secure on technical terrain. The sophisticated geometry of the front points interacts with the secondary points on the main frame for easy penetration and superior hold even in the most fickle conditions. Switching the front points between dual and mono, centered or offset, is made easy with the hook and notch system on the rear contact point. The optional snow points convert the Blade Runner into all mountain machines with their beveled design and precise shape and spacing that maximizes purchase in ice and hard snow. Optional semi-automatic toe bails also allow the Blade Runner to be used on boots without rigid toe lugs – a great feature for alpine climbing where the bulky toe lug reduces sensitivity and performance on rock.


The most versatile technical ice crampons on the market
Patented heel slide design integrates the benefits of vertical and horizontal frame crampon designs
Interchangeable front points are easy to switch from dual to mono, centered or offset
Optional snow points optimize the crampons for alpine terrain
V-shaped chromoly steel front platform offers high rigidity and reduces balling
The patented heel slide is constructed from proprietary Sandvik Nanoflex® steel for the optimal blend of strength, flex and lightweight
Asymmetric design follows the contours of modern boots to ensure a more precise fit
Semi-automatic toe bails allow for use on boots without rigid toe lugs
Anti-balling plates included
Available in two sizes for optimal boot fit compatibility

Points: 13/14
Frame Material: Chromoly Steel / Nanoflex® Steel
Antibott: Included
Binding: Automatic / Semi-Automatic


Mono-point (vertical)

Size 1: 1015 g
Size 2: 1030 g

Duo-point (horizontal)

Size 1: 1130 g
Size 2: 1145 g
Srce: CAMP

My opinion


The Blade Runners came very close to a perfect fit on my La sportiva Trango Extreme’s. The front part follows the curve of the boot very well. At the back, the crampon has a weird bend between the heel part and the connection bar. It has to fit right in front of the foremost heel lugs of your boots. This tiny detail makes a lot of difference! It makes this crampon a lot more rigid than others, because this piece, together with the front bail, absorbs the impact while kicking the front points. This feature however can be disastrous for the fit on some boots, especially those with less pronounced heel lugs. If the heel of the boot is longer than the crampon heelpiece it can also leave some heel space uncovered by the crampon. This could be an issue, while descending a snow slope. On my boots there was a small part of the heel uncovered, but I never felt insecure while descending. Another difference with standard crampons is the connection bar. The connection bar is made out of one piece of flexible Sandvik Nanoflex steel together with the heel part of the crampon.  The first thing you’ll notice is the width of the connection bar. This makes the crampon more laterally rigid and it transfers the force to the heel bend, but it allows the crampon to flex vertically to allow a better fit on modern rockered boots. The second thing you’ll notice is that you can’t slide them in, like classic crampons. This makes them harder to transport, if you don’t want to adjust them every single time you put them on.
Fit of the heel piece
The bended connection bar fits very well on my Trango's

Fit of the front part. Notice the gap between the boot and the front-bail on the inside.

The binding system is very versatile, you can choose between a semi-automatic and a full-automatic configuration. I tested the full-automatic one. There was a good fit between the toe bail and my boot, but there was a gap between both on the inside of my boots. This means, the crampons will accommodate even more asymmetrical, wider boots.  I can’t say much about the heel piece apart from that the piece was sitting very flat against my boots and that it wasn’t very easy to adjust with gloves on. The buckle of the webbing existed out of two rings like on Grivel crampons. They are easy to use with gloves on.


The crampon counts 13/14 ‘big’ points depending on the configuration. Ten of them are placed vertically and three or four are placed frontally. In addition to those ‘main’ points, there are some cleverly placed secondary points. The biggest are placed underneath the connection bar, the second biggest are two points placed on the proximal side of each replaceable front point and the smallest are some serrations sticking out of the anti-balling plates in the center of the front part of the crampon. They are very useful to keep grip while stepping onto cauliflower ice.

The frontal points are placed in a very clever way. You can switch the front points between snow points or ice points; you can place them centered or offset, dual or mono. This makes them very versatile in all sorts of terrain. I climbed with them in mono-point configuration and in this position, the small secondary points were visible and I wondered how they would work on ice and rock. Apparently the small points did a good job in stabilizing the crampon while climbing ice (I guess they’ll also prevent the mono-point from slicing through névé) and they didn’t interfere with the rock while dry-tooling, something where I was afraid of. When the crampons are in dual-point configuration, the secondary points are flat against the removable points, so they don’t interfere anymore.

Anti-balling plates

I never noticed any balling under the crampons. There are solid anti-balling plates in place on the crampon and the shape/material of the crampon can reduce the balling effect as well. CAMP says that the front piece of the crampon is V-shaped to reduce the balling; I can add that the stainless steel back part sheds the snow as well, because the snow doesn’t stick as much to stainless compared to chromolly steel.


The Blade Runner weighs just a little more than one of its closest competitors, the Petzl Lynx (1080g; duo-point), but the Blade Runner is a better crampon on ice for sure, because it is more rigid and its ability to keep grip on cauliflower ice. It is probably also a better snow crampon, because of the interchangeable horizontal front points. The trade-off is however that it is less compact to transport, it just might fit not as much boots as the Lynx and I believe the extendable front points of the Lynx  make them just a little better in dry-tooling.


If you want one crampon to do it all, this just might be something for you. A bit more versatile than the Petzl Lynx, but also a little heavier and less compact. Make sure you try them on your boots before you buy them!


Great on cauliflower ice


Pretty heavy
Hard to fit on some boots