Beginners Guide to Ice climbing

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Welcome to the exhilarating and fascinating world of ice where thrill seekers scale ice formations, rocks, canyons, cliffs covered with ice and frozen waterfalls in the extreme adventure sport known as Ice Climbing.

The aim is to summit the ice mountain using pre-defined routes. By manoeuvring belays, the first climber maps a route on the surface of the ice formations and after he has reached the first pitch, the second climber, utilizing the points marked out by the first climber reaches the spot where the first pitch is complete. In a similar way, they proceed to climb the second pitch and so on until they reach the summit of the ice structure. Mind Blowing, isn’t it? So, get ready to indulge in a few ice climbing fascinations. Here is the beginners guide to Ice Climbing.

Ice Climbing Gear

To ensure that this exciting and adrenaline stimulating feat is accomplished successfully and safely, here are certain gears to equip you with.

  • Dry ropes: Strong and durable quality ropes are essential as it is undesirable if the rope snaps mid-way.
  • Harness: Holds the weight of the body especially during a fall. A Rope is buckled to the harness usually using a figure of 8.
  • Boots: Rubber shoes designed to have grip even on slippery surfaces.
  • Crampon: A device attached to the shoes which fixes into the ice forming support to improve mobility.
  • Guidebooks: Always handy in situations you are unfamiliar with.
  • Shock absorbing runners: Well cushioned and lightweight to keep your feet dry.
  • Ice screws: Facilitates the ascent and descent and are practical to complete the task.
  • Spare pick: Where no support or holds are available, this tool chips ice or forms a hole in it to place the hand.
  • Insulated waterproof jacket and pants: Keeps warm and dry in the cold environment. Helps avoid frostbite and numbing sensations.
  • Compass, knife, headlamp: Three essentials to help you if you’re lost
  • First aid kit: Frostbites, cuts and bruises are common so carrying one is wise.

Safety & Precautions

Severe environment and harsh conditions necessitate thorough safety checks such as

  • Ice tools and gears should be of the best quality.
  • A lot of variations exist in the volume of ice as some places have solid ice while others just have frost. So strength applied must be regulated accordingly.
  • Climbing tools are selected depending on the slope and texture of the ice. When the angle is low, an ice axe can be used to chop steps. For steeper slopes, crampons are used.
  • Thorough knowledge of belaying techniques is highly essential for climbing ice.
  • Always attempt in pairs, where there is a leader and a follower.
  • Descending is generally more strenuous than the ascent. So re-energizing yourself by carrying food and water in your backpack is recommended.

Best Ice Climbing Destinations in the World

  • Valdez, Alaska
  • Ouray, Colorado
  • Rjukan, Norway
  • Rocky Mountains, Canada
  • The Alps, Switzerland
  • Maligne Canyon and Jasper, Canada
  • Montrose, Colorado
  • Yosemite National Park, California
  • Indiana Summit, Mammoth Lakes, California
  • The Adirondack Wilderness, New York