Skip to main content

Ice climbing

Learn how to keep your cool during a sub-zero climbing adventure.
Plan a session with this activity

What to expect

On an ice climb, you’re attached to a rope for safety as you climb using specialised crampons (metal plates with spikes that you fix to your boots) and ice axes. Some artificial ice climbing walls allow people to practice away from the mountains; ‘dry tooling’ describes using ice climbing equipment to climb an artificial structure. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can head out and get your crampons stuck into the real thing. Outdoor ice climbing’s usually a winter activity as you’ll need ice formations like frozen waterfalls.

What you’ll learn

Ice climbing is a great way to get active. It’s a technical sport – you’ll need to learn how to use crampons and place your ice axes, and it’s important to understand different types of ice (and how stable they are) too. If you’re looking for a chance to put your courage to the test and challenge yourself to stay confident in tough conditions, then ice climbing might be for you!

Fun facts

  • Ice climbing dates back well over one hundred years, but the first known ice climbing competition was organised in 1912 on the Brena glacier in Italy.
  • Now, competitive ice climbing falls under the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA). It was part of the cultural programme at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia; people hoped it’d be included in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but it doesn’t look like it’ll make the cut this time.

Handy hints

  • Gloves, gloves, gloves. Carry at least two pairs of gloves – three if the weather’s bad. It can get chilly standing around waiting, and it’s dangerous if your fingers go numb.
  • Pack your snacks. Stick a few of your favourite snacks in your jacket pockets, so you can easily grab something when you need an energy fix. Think about things that’ll give you a boost and are easy to eat – chocolate and cereal bars are perfect!
  • Watch the weather. Always check the weather forecast, avalanche forecast, and snow condition reports in the week leading up to your visit.

Safety

You must always:
Be safe outdoors:
  • Check the weather forecast
Climbing and abseiling:
Joint activities with other organisations:
This activity can be led by you or someone else in Scouts:
You can go to a centre or use an activity leader who is not part of Scouting:
You must find a suitable provider who meets the following requirements :
Guidance

Activity Permit Scheme

Ice climbing

Reflection

Ice climbing needed people to be courageous. It can be really challenging, whether it’s because of the height, the technical skills people need, or the brand new environment. Was ice climbing new for everyone? How did it compare to other climbing adventures? Did anyone have any worries or fears before they gave it a go? What helped them to try it anyway?

Ice climbing’s also a really fun way to be active. Did people enjoy this type of climbing? What sort of active skills did they need? People might talk about how they had to think through each move before they made it, and how they needed stamina too. When else might these skills be useful?

Ice climbing is an example of a sport that’ll be affected by climate change. What could people to do reduce the impact of the activity so that groups can enjoy ice climbing for years to come?