ice climbing for beginners

Ice Climbing for Beginners

Despite the steep learning curve, ice climbing can be a challenging activity. It is true that the snow and ice conditions are often shifting and that you will be using sharp and unfamiliar instruments both on your feet and in your hands.

On the other hand, ice climbing is an exercise that requires your particular strength, both physically and mentally, and can be quite fulfilling.

You must participate in the activity with other people, and having a guide for your initial outing is highly recommended.

You may have some buddies who can't stop raving about the ice-climbing trips they went on over the weekend.

ice climbing

You may be a rock climber seeking a fresh approach to extending your climbing season that doesn't involve tearing up your hands on plastic grips.

If this is the case, try bouldering. Or, you may have just seen some awesome pictures of people climbing what look like enormous icicles and can't help but think, "I need to give that a try!"

You are in for a real treat if you decide to start participating in ice climbing, regardless of the reasons that led you to this decision.

As long as you are aware of what you are getting yourself into and take the time to prepare properly, you will find that you quickly fall in love with a new sport that you can't get enough of.

As long as you take the time to prepare properly, you will find that you quickly fall in love with a new sport that you just can't get enough of.

Basic Technique for Climbing Ice

Basic Technique For Climbing Ice

We can begin our discussion of the fundamentals of ice climbing now that you have all of the necessary equipment. Because basic ice climbing skills are everything in this sport, it is essential to consider your stance, swing, and motions.


When you first start ice climbing, learning to take a proper stance is the most critical skill to pick up right away. Always remember to start and finish each climbing sequence by imagining that you are constructing a triangle with your body.

The foundation of your triangle should be formed by your legs, which should be separated from one another. Your ice tools should be placed on each other line with the center of your body.

Keep your core and butt tight and your center of mass near the wall by maintaining this position.


When ice climbing, your feet are the most important factor in maintaining your balance. No matter how fit you are, if you try to pull yourself up the wall by using only your arms, you will become exhausted in a very short amount of time.

There are a few different things you can try to improve your foot placements while skating on Ice. First things first, take a good look at the target of your kicks.

Ice is replete with humps, hollows, and other topographical features. The use of some of these elements, such as footholds, can help you maintain your balance, while others will throw you off. When kicking, drop your heels.

Because of this, the secondary tips on your crampons will be able to climb ice, giving you a significant increase in traction.

Be careful not to elevate your heels when you're contemplating your next move while you're standing on the wall. The last piece of advice is not to be frightened to kick many times.

When ice climbing, you can carve your own holds out of the Ice, which is one of the sport's many appealing features. When you kick into a footing, if it doesn't feel solid, keep kicking at it until your crampon points are fully engaged.


The ability to swing your ice tools is quite difficult when you first learn ice climbing, but with practice, it becomes simpler. You will first need to locate a position above your head that appears to have the potential to provide a useful stick.

As much as you can, look directly above you rather than off to the side, and try not to reach too high; you should be able to reach the point you wish to strike at while holding your ice tool with your elbow bent.

After you have determined who or what you are aiming for, position your tool in front of it. After that, bring your tool around behind you and swing it from your shoulder. During the swing, your shoulder, elbow, and wrist should remain in alignment.

To drive the pick into the Ice, you should flick your wrist just before it makes contact with the Ice.

Suppose the instrument you're using keeps ricocheting off the Ice. In that case, it's probably because your shoulder, elbow, and wrist are not aligned directly perpendicular to the surface you're working on.

Once your selection has been inserted into the Ice, you should evaluate your position.

Even though it's simple to feel when a placement is secure, you should still test it by giving the tool a little bit of weight anyhow.

If the positioning does not work well, you should try it again. Chipping away at the Ice's surface and then swinging at the same location can frequently result in a fantastic placement.


Now is the time to put everything in its proper place. When you are ready, weigh your upper tool and move your feet up the Ice approximately one foot at a time while maintaining your triangle stance.

Check to see that these new foot placements are secure, and once you're satisfied with them, stand up on your legs. You'll rapidly become exhausted if you try to lift yourself up by using your arms, so avoid doing that.

The next step is to remove your lower tool from the Ice. Find a target location above you, and then swing through the Ice from there.

As soon as you feel that you have achieved a good placement, you should revert to your triangle posture. While you figure out what to do next, release the other arm you're holding and focus on using your feet.

How To Start Ice Climbing

How To Start Ice Climbing

There are various entry points available for those interested in trying their hand at Ice climbing this winter.

Hire a Guide

Taking an ice climbing lesson is the greatest method to get started ice climbing, just like it is with many other mountain sports.

In ice climbing locations such as Bozeman, Montana, Lake Placid, New York, and Ouray, Colorado, it will be easy to find a climbing guide willing to take you out for the day.

Employing a guide is a smart choice because guides are aware of all the ice walls that are ideal for introducing novice climbers to the sport.

They can also set routes for you and provide advice to help you improve your technique when ice climbing. This will make the process lot easier for you.

In my opinion, one of the most effective ways to become more skilled at ice climbing is to have a guide provide feedback on your technique while you ascend. You should note that a skilled and experienced guide will be your perfect choice.

Go To an Ice Climbing Festival

During the middle of winter, several of the best sites for ice climbing have festivals that are accessible to both seasoned ice climbers and those who have never tried it before.

Attending an ice climbing festival is a fantastic idea because it makes it simple to make connections with guides and rent necessary ice climbing equipment.

In addition, you'll have the opportunity to observe some of the most accomplished ice climbers in the world and learn how they tackle climbing routes.

The Adirondack International Mountain Fest, the Ouray Ice Festival and Competition, the Mt. Washington Valley Ice Festival, and the Wyoming Ice Festival are among the most prominent examples of large-scale ice celebrations held in the United States.

Practice with a Friend

You can also go ice climbing with a partner while learning the sport on your own.

 However, you will be responsible for bringing all of your own equipment, and you and your climbing partner will need to be confident in your ability to perform fundamental ice climbing tasks such as belaying and setting up an anchor.

If possible, you should climb with someone with previous experience doing so on Ice. They will be able to instruct you on how to properly set up a top rope anchor and provide you with some fundamental instructions on how to climb Ice in this manner.

What Gear You Need

What Gear You Need

While discussing various types of ice climbing gear, let's talk about the many pieces of equipment required for ice climbing.

Assuming that you will become enamored with the activity after your first class, you will ultimately need to purchase your own equipment (unless you have a buddy with spare ice climbing gear that they are willing to let you borrow).

Here's what you'll need:

Harness & Helmet

If you already have experience rock climbing, you presumably already have these two items and can also use them for ice climbing.

Be sure that your harness can be worn over your thicker jeans and that there is sufficient space under your helmet to wear a cap if you choose to do so.

Mountaineering Boots

BOOTS: If you take an ice climbing lesson, a pair of plastic mountaineering boots will likely be provided for you to wear. However, once you begin searching for your mountaineering boots, you will have more possibilities. 

Ice Axes and Crampons

Similar to mountaineering boots, when you take an ice climbing session, your guide will provide you with a pair of crampons and a set of tools without giving you much choice.

Crampons are spiked shoes worn on the feet to provide traction while climbing Ice. However, if you begin looking for your own, you will notice that there are many options available to you to pick from.

Climbing Rope

When it comes to climbing ropes, ice climbing ropes aren't too unlike their rock climbing counterparts. You can choose single, half, or twin ropes; their diameters span a wide spectrum.

For ice climbing, the only change is that the rope must be DRY TREATED. 

Ice Screws are Imperative

Even if you just intend to ice climb on the top rope for a short while, you should still bring at least a few ice screws with you. This is because falling Ice can be extremely dangerous. If you take the lead, you will require multiple screws of each length.

To clip in, you will also need QUICKDRAWS; however, if you already have drawn for rock climbing, there is no need to purchase any additional draws.


You will need a large pack to carry your rope, ice screws, additional layers, and crampons. You can use the side compression straps or the tool loops included on many CLIMBING PACKS to hold your ice tools.

Tool loops are a practical way to attach your ice tools to the outer front of the pack.

Dress for the Occasion

Ice climbing is a really fun activity that can be done outside throughout the winter months. However, you are going to find yourself in a lot of discomforts if you are not dressed appropriately for the weather.

The most important thing, as it is with many winter activities, is to have multiple layers of clothing that you are able to take off and put back on as your internal temperature fluctuates throughout the day.

Learn the Basics of first-time climbing tips

First-Time Climbing Tips

Before you embark on your first ice-climbing trip, you must be familiar with or knowledgeable about a few fundamental things.

It is necessary to have a solid understanding of the inherent hazards and perils that accompany outdoor recreation, particularly when the weather is cold and wintry.

It is essential to have a general understanding of the environment you will be entering quite literally.

Acquaint yourself with the fundamental safety concerns that may arise while ice climbing, such as the possibility of avalanche dangers, icefall, hypothermia, dehydration, and the state of the Ice.

Ice Climbing Jargon

When you begin ice climbing for the first time, there will be a lot of new terms that you become accustomed to using.

The following is a list of some of the vocabulary that is used the most frequently and which you should be familiar with:

Adze: This is a blade that has the shape of a shovel and is attached to an ice axe; it is used to chip away at loose ice Bollard: a huge knob of rock, Ice, or snow that can be used as a belay anchor

Couloir: a deep valley or gorge typically covered with snow or Ice and has a high slope.

Dry tooling: ice axes and crampons are utilized to ascend the rocky portions of mixed routes.

French technique: "flat-footing" refers to walking on (low-angled) Ice in such a way that all of your crampons, save for the front tips, are in touch with the surface of the Ice.

German technique: "front-pointing" refers to solely kicking the front points of your crampons into the Ice when climbing steep Ice.

Neve: This describes a type of persistent, granular Ice that develops due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles.

Piton: a piece of protection that is pounded into the Ice using the hammer that is attached to your ice tool; not quite as prevalent of an application as ice screws

V-thread: a sort of anchor that is carved out of the Ice by arranging two ice screws in a V-shape. 

Verglas: a slender layer of Ice that develops on rocks as a result of precipitation and the freezing of snow that has melted (hard to climb due to thinness). Knowing this ice climbing jargon will help you to understand instructions and communicate with other Climbers.

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Wrap Up

Acclimatizing oneself to the climbing environment The presence of Ice in the mountains can facilitate the discovery of many new pathways.

Because the ice climbing technique is so important in ice climbing, it's a good idea to get your feet wet by first going out with a guide or signing up for a clinic at an ice climbing festival when you first start.

In addition, you can take an ice climbing course. Because you can rent most of the equipment you need to participate in ice climbing, you should be reassured to try it out this winter.


Is Ice Climbing dangerous?

Ice climbing is a strenuous activity, but you have some say in the degree of difficulty you want to give yourself by deciding how simple or difficult you want it to be.

When you're first getting started, it's best to climb on ice walls that aren't vertical ice climbing. Learning how to climb on Ice with a low angle is considerably simpler than learning how to climb on Ice with a steep angle.

Where can you go ice climbing?

Ice climbing may be done on your own time or as part of a larger mountaineering adventure. By a wide margin, frozen waterfalls and glaciers are the most frequented locations for ice climbing.

Mixed climbing is a form of ice climbing that involves climbing not just on Ice but also on rock and snow. Many versatile ice climbers also engage in mixed climbing or learn an ice climbing course.

Can I use mountaineering crampons for ice climbing?

To climb the majority of different forms of Ice, you will want a set of crampons made expressly for ice climbing.

Mountaineering crampons, which are normally built to kick into softer alpine Ice, can have their front points broken if they are used to strike into a frozen waterfall that has become quite hard.

Ryan S. Mills
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