Ordino Arcalís Blog

Ice climbing: What is ice climbing and where to do it?

There are so many possible winter sports that you can take up when the temperatures drop, and they range from very common and popular sports such as skiing or snowboarding to slightly more extreme winter sports like ice climbing. But, what is ice climbing exactly? And, what are all the main ice climbing facts you need to know before you start? In this guide to ice climbing, that’s what we’ll discuss.

What is ice climbing?

Let’s begin with the definition of what is ice climbing. According to the Collins Dictionary: “Ice climbing is the branch of mountaineering that specialises in climbing on frozen surfaces.” It’s quite self-explanatory, then, as this sport is all about climbing up and scaling bodies of ice.

Ice climbing is a lot like rock climbing, but the main difference is seen in the ice climbing equipment. In this sport, climbers use special ice climbing equipment, such as ice axes, crampons and support ropes.

What is the best time of year to practice ice climbing?

As a winter sport, ice climbing is only able to be practiced in the outdoors for a limited period of each year. There is a need for truly solid ice, and these conditions only appear for a few months of each year, if at all. The best time to practice ice climbing can vary depending on where you are in the world, as each environment’s coldest months might be different.

In terms of where is ice climbing most popular, some of the most attractive destinations worldwide include Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Canada and the north of the USA. It is also possible to try out ice climbing at La Coma d’Arcalís in Andorra. These places all have one thing in common, which is that they have a lot of ice for a lot of the year.

ice climbing


How to learn to ice climb?

One very important thing to keep in mind if you’re becoming interested in ice climbing and wondering how do you prepare for ice climbing is that it’s vital to begin under expert supervision. Many people are concerned with the question of ‘Is ice climbing dangerous?’ and the answer is that it generally isn’t, but there is a need to ensure you are practicing ice climbing in a safe and proper way.

As such, how to start ice climbing means taking lessons or learning from an expert. If you’re not sure where the best ice climbing academy near you is, check out a local ski and snowboard school, as they might offer ice climbing lessons too or at least they’ll be likely to offer a good recommendation.

What equipment do you need for ice climbing?

A positive to taking ice climbing lessons with a professional is that they’ll usually provide all the ice climbing equipment that you need. That’s a big boost, because how hard is ice climbing depends a lot on the equipment.

There are nuances to each of the pieces of kit, but a general ice climbing equipment checklist includes:

  • Ice Axes
  • Ice Clippers
  • Ice Screws
  • Crampons
  • Harness
  • Rope
  • Rack
  • Helmet
  • First Aid Kit

Is ice climbing dangerous?

Before finishing, let’s return to the questions of ‘How hard is ice climbing?’ and ‘Is ice climbing dangerous?’. It’s worth making clear that ice climbing is a more difficult winter sport than some others and it requires significant care and attention to detail in order to be carried out safely. In other words, it isn’t to be taken lightly. However, ice climbing is a fun sport and can be enjoyed by all who practice it with care and with the right precautions.