Ice Climbing Techniques

By Dona Welch / December 19, 2019

Ice Climbing Techniques

Mountain climbing locations vary in altitude but many of them are in of sub zero temperatures. There are different techniques required for climbing in ice covered terrain and it’s much different than climbing in dry terrain. While it is more challenging than other forms of climbing, ice climbing can be the most rewarding and exhilarating.

Many techniques that are used in other types of climbing are used in ice climbing but the challenge is altogether different. There are definite differences in the equipment used for ice climbing. For example, ice climbing boots require more insulation than for alpine climbing since it’s important to keep ice and snow from entering the boot.

Spiked soles that clamp to the soles of your boots, called crampons are required for keeping traction on the ice. There are special techniques used for trekking on ice. Using a large ice pick, you use an overhead swing to penetrate the ice in front of you. When you’ve determined it’s secure, you kick your crampon fitted boot into the ice. Once you are sure you’re secure these two steps are repeated.

While hiking and climbing, a pro is used much like in traditional climbing but the protective devices used in ice climbing take on a different aspect. Single, twin and double rope ascents are still used but ice screws are commonly used. Ice screws are hollow tubes that have teeth on one end and a hook on the other end. They’re placed and secured into the ice and the hook on the ice screw is for attaching to.

The ice itself is sometimes used as a pro. There are two common methods; the V-thread and the Bollard method. In the V-thread method, a pair of holes are drilled diagonally into the ice and their holes connect to make a “V” shape. A sling is threaded and then attached to a rope and harness. The ice is quite strong and there is little risk of giving way. With the Bollard method a rope hold is carved into the ice and a rope is looped over the piece of ice. The ice is strong enough to hold one or two climbers depending on their weight. There is a risk to using ice as a pro since it is an unpredictable medium but many climbers prefer it.

Ice climbing utilizes many of the same techniques as traditional climbing but with some different equipment. Many climbers find that ice climber is more adventures and provides them with a more rewarding feeling. If you’re a climber, you should give ice climbing a try for a true adrenaline rush.