Ice Climbing Tips for Beginners

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!


2010 ABS Comp Timonium

2010_abs_compWhere: Earth Treks Climbing Center, Timonium, MD [Directions]

When: November, 6 2010

  • Check-In For All Competitors: 9am
  • Competitors Meeting: 10:30am
  • Climbing: 11am-5pm
  • Finals: 6:45pm
    • Top 5 male scores and top 5 female scores will advance to finals.
  • Awards: 8pm
    • Prizes to top three in all adult categories.
    • $500 Cash Purse! 


  • Pre-Registraion (Available Online till 6pm tonight):
    • $40 (USAC Member)
    • $45 (non-USAC Member)
  • Day-Of Registration:
    • $50 (USAC Member)
    • $55 (non-USAC Member)

Pre-Register Online Today by 6pm!  Click the correct registration button based on your USAC Membership status and make sure calendar is set to November. All categories will be chosen on the day of.

Pre-Registration USAC Member:

Pre-Registration USAC Non Member:

What is USA Climbing?It is the national governing body of competitive climbing in the US. The website has a ton of information.Where to go to be an ABS Member?


  • Youth
    • Youth D / born in the years 2000 or later
    • Youth C / born in the years 1998 or 1999
    • Youth B / born in the years 1996 or 1997
    • Youth A / born in the years 1994 or 1995
    • Junior /  born in the years 1992 or 1993
  • Citizens
    • Beginner V0-V2
    • Intermediate V3-V5
    • Advanced V6-V8
    • Open V8+
    • Masters 40+

Difference Between Traditional Climbing and Sport Climbing

Difference between Traditional climbing and Sport Climbing

Traditional rock climbing, colloquially referred to as “trad climbing” is essentially a form of free climbing whereby all protection and anchor points are permanently installed beforehand. The route in trad climbing is climbed without the use of any external tools for assistance. Climbers must rely solely on hands & feet and basic protection like nuts & hexes. Basically, trad climbing is about exploration & discovery and leaving natural elements the way you found them. It allows you to choose your own route and test your capabilities. Get comfortable with the trad climbing gear, your life literally depends on it! Trad climbing also promotes teamwork when you’re climbing with a leader who will place pros and a belayer who will retrieve the equipment after the climb. Solo climbers will have to remove the ‘pros’ themselves. Rocks ideally suited for trad climbing are granite, sandstone and limestone.

In trad climbing, the leader begins ascending by placing his or her ‘protective devices’ while climbing. This is usually a combination of chocks & spring loaded cam-driven devices and prior to 1970, pitons were commonly used with a hammer & bolt inserted into a hole drilled into the rock. In Australia, trad climbing is often called adventure climbing. Trad climbing gear mostly serves to protect, rather than assist the climb itself.

Trad climbing gear is generally carried on a rack which can be slung around the shoulders or clipped to the gear loops on the harness. Trad climbing is relatively gear intensive & it is imperative to carry everything you might need – pieces of protection, slings of different lengths, carabiners for emergencies and rock climbing essentials such as climbing shoes, a  helmet and a belay device.

On the flipside, sport climbing relies on anchors fixed permanently to the rock and bolts for protection. When the climber begins the ascent, the route already has bolts & anchors attached on the wall. Thus, sport climbing gear is quite minimal as compared to trad climbing and all you need to carry is a harness, a good pair of climbing shoes, helmet, rope, belay device & quick draws. Sport climbing is relatively less about adventure and more about strength, endurance and gymnastic ability.

In sport climbing, a rope is tied to a climber’s harness with the loose end handled by a belayer. As the climber ascends, he or she will encounter bolts where a quick draw can be used to clip one side to the bolt and the rope to the suspended end of the quick draw in order to ensure protection from falling. Typically, a distance of 8 feet is used between each bolt. Due to this systematic placement of bolts drilled into rocks, sport climbing is generally considered a bit less risky as compared to trad climbing.

How to improve climbing efficiency

How to Improve Climbing Efficiency

The key to finding yourself in the climbing hall of fame is to continuously work on your climbing efficiency. This means discovering the way to do each move on the entire route with minimal energy expenditure. Catlike movement should be your inspiration for optimum climbing efficiency. Getting there is about working on correct movements, monitoring your breathing and focusing on your climbing method & climbing footwork.

One of the hallmarks of a good climber is quiet foot movements. Your goal should be to learn how to climb with good foot technique even in the toughest times. This means concentrating on each foot placement, keeping your foot steady and firm to the hold, and standing up on the foot with confidence as you proceed smoothly to the next hand, or foothold.

Another hallmark of a good climber is fluid movement. One of the keys to smooth, efficient climbing movement is learning to contract only the muscles necessary for engaging the rock and directing movement such as your forearms, shoulders, abdomen, thighs, and calves. Stiff, mechanical movement is a sign of poor technique and a high burn- rate of energy. You also need to optimize your climbing pace. This becomes increasingly important as a route gains in steepness and difficulty. While an easy climb with large holds allows you to ascend at a leisurely pace, a challenging sequence or overhanging terrain will require you to dig deep and surmount the difficulty in short order.

Climbing in a ladder like motion yields the rhythm step, reach, step, reach. However, a better rhythm for effective movement is often step, step, reach, reach, because it will allow your legs to direct and drive the movement. Obviously, there are many other rhythms. You should consider how you use momentum in moving hand-over-hand across monkey bars at a playground, with each movement blending into the next in a perfect continuity of motion.

Try move as briskly as possible without any drop-off in technique like skidding feet or botching sequences. Slow down if you think that your technique is suffering. As time goes, knowing just the right pace on a given route is a sense you will develop with experience. You could try practicing climbing at different speeds and on different types of routes, and you’ll quickly foster the subtle skill of proper pace.

A steady oxygen flow to the muscles is important for energy production and recovery, and it’s the slow, deep, steady belly breaths that best get the job done. A lot of climbers have a tendency to shift into shallow, rapid breathing as fatigue and mental anxiety grow. Some climbers may unknowingly hold their breath at times of high stress. These are two tendencies that you must be aware of and proactively counteract if you are to climb your best.

Member News October 2010

As the leaves begin to change and the temperature outside gets cooler every day, we’d like to wish you a happy fall season filled with plenty of pumpkins and strong climbing.

Slackline Yoga Clinic in Rockville this Wednesday! slackline.jpg

Slackline Yoga (or slackasana) has been described as “distilling the art of yogic concentration.” To balance on a 1″ peice of webbing lightly tensioned between two trees is not easy, and doing yoga poses onit is even more challenging. Yet despite the seemingly impossible nature of the act, it is achievable by almost anyone with a little bit of perserverance and patience. The practice has many layers, simultaneously developing focus, dynamic balance, power, breath, core integration, flexibility, and confidence.

Join Adi Carter of YogaSlackers for a unique slackline yoga clinic at ET Rockville on Wednesday, October 13th from 6-8pm.  Cost: $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Please arrive 10-15 minutes early for registration. The members of team YogaSlackers have collectively taught over 5,000 people (from 2 to 82 yrs old) to successfully embrace this form of amazing asana.  For more info on YogaSlackers, visit their website here or to get a better idea of what they do, check out this great video!


2010 Reel Rock Film Tour returns to Maryland this Friday! 

Reel Rock is back and better than ever! This year, Reel Rock turns five, and co-founders Sender Films and Big UP Productions are celebrating by taking you on a global ride like never before. From death-defying speed link-ups of the wildest faces in The Alps, to Olympian displays of strength and tenacity on the hardest boulders ever climbed, Reel Rock 2010 features a breathtaking journey through the vertical realm with the heroes of rock and snow.

Festival tickets are available at all Earth Treks locations: $15 in advance ($12 students with school ID) or $17 (students $14) at the door. The festival is being held at McGuire Hall, Andrew White Student Center, Loyola College of Maryland. [ Event Website ]