Your 101 Guide to Ice Climbing


Here’s the very first issue you want to know about ice climbing: it is not as challenging as it seems. Of course, you are scaling a vertical frozen waterfall with sharp metallic objects on your toes and in your palms, but some say it is basically a lot easier than rock climbing.

“Ice climbing can be extra simple than rock climbing due to the fact you are not desperately searching for holds,” suggests Ryan Scott, owner of Maine’s Atlantic Climbing Faculty, which qualified prospects ice climbing excursions in Acadia Countrywide Park. “The holds are everywhere you set a sharp detail.” You really don’t even will need to have any rock climbing encounter to get commenced on ice. “If you have some fundamental climbing skills—tying into a rope, putting on a harness—that’ll assist, but it’s not important,” Scott provides.

No matter whether you’re a rock climber wanting for a new wintertime interest or you have hardly ever climbed just before, you can master anything you require to know on the ice. We’ve place together a primer to get you began.

Find a Place to Climb

The finest months for ice climbing are, obviously, when there’s ice, which implies primary season is commonly late December by early March. To obtain ice climbing parts in close proximity to you, internet sites like Mountain Undertaking permit you filter routes by type—rock, ice, mixed—and site.

Ice climbing parks, like Ouray Ice Park in Colorado or Sandstone Ice Park in Minnesota, are terrific areas to start off, mainly because they are a lot more controlled environments—the ice is groomed and maintained—and you can often obtain clinics or guided outings at them.

Once-a-year ice climbing festivals can also be practical launching pads, since several have newbie clinics, exhibitions, and gear demos. Colorado’s Ouray Ice Competition, held in January, is the very best-acknowledged event, but there are other people, like Montana’s Bozeman Ice Pageant, held in December, and Alaska’s Valdez Ice Climbing Competition, New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley Ice Competition, and the Michigan Ice Fest, all in February.

Consider a Lesson or Use a Guideline

It’s generally a great concept in the outdoor to discover somebody far more professional than you to assist present you the way. That’s particularly accurate in ice climbing. You cannot master these competencies by oneself or by seeing YouTube movies about how to walk in crampons. Sign up for your local climbers’ Fb group or hang all-around your nearest climbing health and fitness center to obtain professional climbing associates or to talk to for mentors who are eager to share their experience.

“Don’t be intimidated. It’s a quite welcoming local community, and all people has to start somewhere,” says Pete Davis, functions manager at the Ouray Ice Park. “If you are searching to ice-climb, talk to individuals who are out there. Select their brains. Quiz them on what they’re carrying out, how they’re undertaking it. You can understand a ton from fellow climbers.”

Many guide expert services offer team or non-public introductory ice climbing courses, or you can use a tutorial for the day to present you the ropes, virtually. In Colorado, the Colorado Mountain School has a just one-day intro to ice climbing system (from $269) in Estes Park, where by you’ll find out about threat management, proper strategy, and how to use your ice ax. San Juan Mountain Guides qualified prospects intro programs (from $494) at the Ouray Ice Park. Synnott Mountain Guides, out of North Conway, New Hampshire, has a a person-day program (from $150) that can be extended to a number of days.

In Alaska, St. Elias Alpine Guides potential customers 1-day ice climbing excursions (from $165) on the Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias Countrywide Park. Sierra Mountain Guides does a two-day class (from $360) in California, and Wyoming Mountain Guides has a equivalent two-day training course (from $285) in northern Wyoming. Maine’s Atlantic Climbing Faculty has intro programs for ice climbers (from $125), as perfectly as intermediate and state-of-the-art clinics. Inclusive Outdoors Project potential customers two-day ice climbing clinics (rates range) in Montana’s Hyalite Canyon that are geared toward climbers who detect as BIPOC or LGBTQ, as nicely as adaptive athletes.

Get the Correct Equipment

Ice climbing can involve a good deal of hard work and then standing all over. “By mother nature, it is quite end-and-go. You go from periods of severe exertion to durations of inactivity, like when you’re belaying,” claims Charlie Townsend, operations manager for Synnott Mountain Guides in New Hampshire. “Dressing in layers would make sense, due to the fact we will need to increase and subtract as we’re heading together.”

A single of the very first things a guide will teach you in advance of you even get on the ice is how to continue to be warm and risk-free in cold wintertime environments, like carrying the ideal layers, hydrating and staying fueled, and getting mindful of threats like hypothermia or frostbite.

You are going to go by way of a equipment checklist with your information. You will need all the obligatory equipment for climbing, like mountaineering boots, ice applications, and crampons, as perfectly as ice screws, a rope, helmet, and harness. That gear will most possible be delivered for you, or you may possibly be able to obtain rental gear at some mountaineering stores.

Other vital objects can assistance continue to keep you risk-free and warm, like a 1st-assist package, a variety of water-proof, insulating levels, and sunglasses for eye defense. Carry numerous pairs of gloves in case they get moist, including a thinner glove for climbing and a thicker pair for belaying. Points like wool socks, a major puffy down jacket, hand heaters for your gloves, or a thermos of very hot tea can go a lengthy way in maintaining you comfy out there.

Learn Suitable Technique

Not all ice is the similar, and it is continually transforming. “In rock climbing, the holds stay in which they are. In ice climbing, anything is switching,” claims Scott from the Atlantic Climbing College. “You’re scaling this sheet of vertical ice that adjustments all over the day, dependent on the temperature, the sunlight, and how a great deal it’s been climbed.”

The more time you invest carrying out it, the better you are going to get at reading through the ice and navigating more durable and steeper routes. You are going to get started by leading-roping, but as you development, you could sooner or later progress to guide climbing. With a information or teacher, you will observe competencies like walking in crampons so you don’t snag a pant leg or kick by yourself in the calf and wherever to enjoy your belayer so they are out of harm’s way, away from falling ice. You will operate on strategies like entire body positioning and how to use your instruments most efficiently.

“There’s this idea that swinging tougher and kicking more difficult is heading to make you far more safe. That’s not the circumstance at all,” says Townsend from Synnott Mountain Guides about how to get holds. “Use the ice, use the features that by now exist, and you can scamper up it with a minimal exertion. We’ll educate you how to examine the ice, how to move competently, and how to do the minimum amount of money of hurt to the wall.”