Ice Climbing Tips for Beginners
Ice climbing as we know it can refer to protected climbing of frozen waterfalls, glaciers, and rock slabs covered with frozen and refrozen water flows. There are two main types: alpine ice & water ice; Alpine ice is frozen precipitation whereas water ice is a frozen liquid flow of water. Ice climbing is the high point of adventure sports, no pun intended.
As with most adventure sports, you need the right ice climbing gear if you want to do it properly and more importantly, without getting hurt. First and foremost, you’ll need a harness and helmet; Rock climbers may already have these and they can be used for ice climbing too. Although, you might want to check if your harness fits with a few more layers of clothing & there’s room in the helmet for a hat. When you’re shopping for Crampons and ice tools, make sure you try out a few and while you’re at it, try out some boots too. These are the essentials.
Ropes used for ice climbing aren’t much different from the ropes used for rock climbing. There’s one very important distinction – ropes used part of your ice climbing gear needs to be dry treated. Ice Screws are very important too. These days, you can get ice screws with replaceable tips that are more effective and last longer. Get a few of each length and also quick draws to clip in to (again, if you already have the ones used for rock climbing, there’s no need to buy more). Once you’ve got all the ice climbing gear, find a backpack that’s big enough to carry your rope, ice screws, extra layers, and crampons. A backpack with tool loops to attach your ice tools to the outside can come in very handy.
You can’t just get the ice climbing gear and head for the nearest snowcapped mountain, though. It is absolutely critical that you find a leader/mentor so that you will pick up the tricks quicker and also get some insight into the more minute details that make it easier & safer. Your mentor can help you perfect the art of sharpening tools and crampons. Ice can be treacherous and nothing can quite substitute experience in variable conditions. With the help of your mentor, you’ll start to learn what to look for in order to stay safe.
Last but not the least, practice! If you’re already a rock climber, you’ve got a hang of footwork but swinging a tool into ice might not come so easily. Practice swinging over and over. Practice with your weaker side too by swinging & placing protection with both arms. Ice climbing in Maryland can be great fun, so long as you stay safe!