Appearing as weirdly specialist the BD Snaggletooth actually proved to be a tremendous all-rounder and possibly the perfect Alpine crampon.
I can still remember the first mono point crampons appearing around the mid 1980s but I think my first pair were some fluorescent green Stubai jobs (which I still have) around 1990. Since then I have become a big fan but they do have a few flaws – perhaps chief amongst these is the tendency to shear out of cruddy snow and ice. On rock the single point allows for a greater variety of placements and avoids the occasional issue of dual points levering you off a small holds if you pivot your foot in some funky Egyptian. On ice it can facilitate placements in odd chandelier-ed features etc.
As far as I know the BD Snaggletooth is the only horizontal mono point in existence. I won’t repeat the story of its creation at length here but basically Whit Margo a BD athlete chopped a pair of Sabertooths and asked BD to produce a proper version of his idea. Eventually he was told only if he could get his home-brew version to the top of Cerro Torre – which he promptly did. As a result the rest of us now have access to this wonderfully versatile crampon.
The Snaggletooth looks very much like the Sabretooth until you reach the front point. Built from stainless steel which keeps it good looking, easy to clean, rustproof (and very shiny!) mine are are still looking pretty new. I’ve been told that the stainless steel resists balling better – I’m not sure if this is because of the polished finish or because it reflects heat or what. The distinctive bright green dual density ABS anti balling plates certainly work as well as any that I’ve tried and are proving very durable. The rear micro adjust bail helps get a precision fit and the heel posts are wide enough to accommodate Scarpa boots – I’ve had issues with some other brands where the boot heel is too wide for the crampon heel posts. The front rail has a slight rocker and together with the asymmetric centre bars I found the Snaggletooths to be one of the best fitting crampons on my Scarpa’s that I have used. Once you get to the business end of the crampon you come to the wide horizontal mono-point – think Rosa Klebb trying to do for Sean Connery in ‘From Russia With Love’ 😉 The mono point looks to have pretty much the same surface area as two conventional front-points; hence its resistance to shearing in softer ice and snow. This mono-point has been ‘coined’ (stamped under pressure sufficiently high to create plastic flow of the metal) to produce a sufficiently strong and rigid front-point. I had originally imagined that an horizontal mono-point would flex when edging on mixed terrain but there was no flex at all – in fact it felt more solid on edges as you had a greater surface area in contact with the rock than with a vertical mono-point (obviously if you weigh 140kg your milage may vary with regard to flex). There is an additional secondary front point that is pretty minimal to aid stability in softer conditions too.
I’d hoped to get a chance to review the Snaggletooth last summer in the Alps but various mix ups meant that they didn’t arrive until well into the 2016-17 Scottish winter season that wasn’t. A trip to Cogne to rescue my ice climbing for the winter gave me a chance to try the Snaggletooths on sustained water ice. I must confess I’d brought along my normal Darts incase I didn’t get along with the Snaggletooths. I needn’t have worried. The horizontal mono is brilliant in water ice and I would say better than any other design for 95% of uses – it penetrated as easily as a vertical mono and felt more secure in softer ice. In the few passages of funky chandelier ice it was equally as good as a vertical mono-point but I can’t say I’ve extensively tried them in such conditions. There is a slight caveat here – conditions were on the warm side, rarely dipping below -6 so I didn’t get to use them in much bullet hard ice which might be the type of condition where a vertical mono would out perform them. On short sections of mixed the Snaggletooths felt solid and by the end of the week I hadn’t even got my Darts out of the kit bag. The Snaggletooth’s next outing was a quick Spring week in Chamonix. This is the sort of terrain the Snaggletooths were designed for and unsurprisingly they excelled. On the glacier they resisted balling up as well as any crampon I’ve used in the warm/wet afternoon spring snow. On mixed terrain they felt secure and agile on rock. On the occasional patches of hard ice they penetrated with ease and felt good on the more cruddy passages. If you want an all-round Alpine crampon the Snaggletooth is going to be hard to beat – it works well on moderate snow slopes and glacial terrain typical of the easier classics whilst being precise and agile enough to excel on technical terrain.
So far the Snaggletooths have proven durable the only sign of wear is what appears to be the plating on the toe and heel bails wearing to reveal copper colour. Otherwise everything is to the usual high BD standards. They even survived a tumble down the Contamine route after the rope somehow pulled them out of the bungee cord on my sac – an error Kev is unlikely to let me forget in a hurry! A rapid change of plan from walking off the top to abbing back down to retrieve the lost Snaggletooths found the centre bars somewhat bent but otherwise the crampons were fine. A quick bit of re-bending and they were good to go (I will replace the centre bars though!).
If I had to have just one pair of crampons to do everything with it would be the Snaggletooths and to be honest I don’t think there would be much compromise involved – their performance is that good that to call them a ‘Jack of all trades’ would be to do them a serious disservice.
- Great Fit
- Incredibly versatile
- Not a lot!
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!