Skip to main content

Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Ice climbing


(Published January 2018, last reviewed with no update 2022)


This page looks to give the facts a person would need to know to run Ice Climbing for a group of young people, or to do it for themselves if they are a young person.


Ice Climbing generally refers to the climbing of ice formations such as icefalls and frozen waterfalls, although there are now also artificial ice climbing walls available. Ice climbing is climbing done using ice climbing equipment and/or on ice surfaces, this includes dry tooling.

Dry tooling involves climbing rock or artificial structures using ice climbing equipment; such as ice axes and either crampons or rock shoes.

Single Pitch Climbing is where a climb can be completed in one stage (pitch) where the rope is anchored only once and not moved on to form a second pitch, and from which the climber can safely walk off unroped from the top, or can be safely lowered to the bottom of the climb.

Multi-Pitch Climbing is where a route that can only be completed in two or more stages (pitches), or from which the climber cannot safely walk off unroped from the top, or cannot be safely lowered to the bottom of the climb.

Top Rope refers to a single pitch climb where the climber is belayed either by a person at the top of the climb, or by a person at the bottom of the climb when the rope runs from the belayer through an anchor at the top of the climb.

Lead Climbing refers to a climb where the climber places protection devices into the rock face, or uses pre-installed protection devices, to clip their rope into as they climb.

What is an Ice Climbing Permit?

The adventurous activity permit scheme is designed to ensure that only people with the relevant skills and experience lead adventurous activities for the young people. Therefore all activities classed as adventurous can only be lead by someone holding the appropriate permit. Additionally young people (under 18) can take part in adventurous activities for themselves with personal activity permits.

An ice climbing permit is required for all ice climbing activities, including those using ice climbing equipment such as dry tooling.

A climbing permit is required for all other climbing activities, except bouldering and those using auto belay systems.

Levels of Permit

There are five levels of permit available for ice climbing. These are:

  • Artificial Top Rope
  • Natural Top Rope
  • Artificial Lead
  • Natural Lead
  • Multi-Pitch

Each permit can be restricted (such as through specific locations, etc.) to end up with an individual permit to the level of the competence and requirements of any person.

All natural rock permits cover the equivalent artificial permits, unless restrictions state otherwise.

Types of Permit

There are three types of permit available for Ice Climbing. These are:

Personal – Allows a young person (under 18) to take part in ice climbing with other youth members with a personal ice climbing permit.

Leadership – Allows the permit holder to lead ice climbing for a single group.

Supervisory – Allows the permit holder to supervise more than one ice climbing group.

Permit Limitations

Personal – If you hold a personal ice climbing permit you can go ice climbing with other youth members (under 18) who also hold a personal ice climbing permit. Ice climbing undertaken must only be to the level of the person with the lowest permit held within the activity group. It does not allow you to go ice climbing with anyone not holding an ice climbing permit.

Leadership – If you have a permit to lead ice climbing you can lead one rope system at a time.

Supervisory – If you hold a permit to supervise ice climbing then you can supervise up to three rope systems at a time. You should remain in a position to be able to effectively supervise and assist all rope systems. You remain responsible for all the groups you are supervising, but can designate someone with the appropriate skills to be the rope leader of each group.

Note: No supervisory permit is available for multi-pitch ice climbing.


When supervising more than one rope system, the holder of an ice climbing supervisory permit needs to designate a rope leader for each group. This rope leader can then act as the belayer. This designation lasts only for the current activity while the permit holder is supervising.

People designated as rope leaders should hold the skills; including being able to competently belay, and be responsible enough to lead the rope system that has been set up. There is no problem with making young people rope leaders if they are up to the role, and it can be used as a useful development tool.

Ice Climbing and Hillwalking

Where any element of ice climbing involves walking in Terrain One or Terrain Two then the relevant hillwalking permit is required by a member of the group. This includes walking to or from a climbing area.


The weather can create risks for all adventurous activities, but it can present particular dangers for ice climbing.

Permit holders should know where to find local weather information and should take historical weather conditions into consideration. Knowledge of weather conditions relevant to ice climbing is included in the assessment checklist.

Policy, Organisation and Rules

Rule 9.7 Adventurous Activities Permit Scheme

Rule 9.8 Adult groups undertaking activities

Rule 9.12.3 Climbing and Abseiling

General activity rules

Rule 9.1 All Activities 

Rule 9.6 Use of External Centres and Instructors