What kind of lunatic climbs a frozen waterfall?

So you’ve seen those crazy people with their axes and climbing gear, scaling frozen waterfalls. But what exactly is ice climbing? Unlike alpine or sport climbing, ice climbing is a discipline in its own right. It has its own set of rules, techniques and history that sets it apart from other forms of climbing. Ice climbers use special gear and techniques to tackle frozen waterfalls known as ice climbs. They employ different strategies to manage these super-challenging routes that are more like puzzles than hikes up a cliff face. In this article we take an in-depth look at the sport of ice climbing: who does it, why they do it, how they do it, and where they do it.

Who Climbs Ice?

Ice climbers come in all shapes, sizes, ages and types. The common thread that unites ice climbers is their love for the sport. They are adventurous souls who want to experience the thrill of climbing frozen waterfalls. Some want to test their skill and see how far they can push themselves, while others want to experience the pure beauty of frozen waterfalls. There are many reasons why people ice climb. Some do it purely for the challenge, some for the sense of accomplishment, and then there are those who climb as a form of therapy. For example, people who have suffered a trauma can find solace in the therapeutic qualities of ice climbing. Ice climbing is accessible to people of all ages and abilities. If you can walk, you can ice climb. However, ice climbers generally fall into one of three categories: beginners, advanced beginners, and experts. Beginners should focus on the basics and build a strong foundation of skills before attempting more difficult ice climbs.

Why Do People Ice Climb?

As mentioned above, some ice climbers do it purely for the challenge, some for the sense of accomplishment, and others for the therapeutic qualities of the sport. For many, the challenge is what draws them to ice climbing. Climbing frozen waterfalls is not for the faint-hearted, and conquering ice climbs is a real test of skill and determination. Ice climbing can be seen as a metaphor for life. To complete a challenging climb is a great feeling, but to fall off is humbling and teaches you valuable life lessons. For others, the sense of accomplishment of climbing a difficult route is the motivation. Ice climbing is a sport that can be tailored to suit all abilities, so it is possible to find a climb that challenges you. Finally, some ice climbers climb to get away from their daily troubles and find solace in the ice. The repetitive and meditative nature of climbing on ice can be therapeutic and help to take your mind off worries and problems.

Equipment Used During Ice Climbing

As with all types of climbing, safety is paramount. Before setting foot on an ice climb, it is essential to ensure you have the right gear. Ice climbing is a dangerous sport, and failure to wear the right equipment can lead to serious injury or death. Helmet - Ice climbing can be a dangerous sport if you don’t wear a helmet. A fall on ice, even from a low level, can cause serious head injuries. A helmet is therefore an essential piece of equipment for ice climbing. Crampons - A pair of crampons attached to your climbing shoes is an essential piece of gear for ice climbing. Crampons are spikes attached to the bottom of your climbing shoes. They are used for gaining traction on frozen ice. A crampon combines the grip of a spiked boot with the flexibility and sensitivity of a climbing shoe. Rack - The gear used for ice climbing is similar to that used for rock climbing, but with a few important differences. For example, ice climbers use screws (also known as ice screws) rather than rock climbers’ traditional pitons. Ice climbers also attach carabiners to the ends of their ropes to clip into protection as they climb.

The Basics of Ice Climbing

The Basics of Ice Climbing Route finding - Before an ice climb, you must find the route. When climbing a frozen waterfall, the challenge for the climber is to stay in contact with the frozen water and continue climbing as it melts. Route finding (or route selection) is the process of selecting the path up a frozen waterfall that allows you to remain in contact with the ice. Staying in contact with the ice is essential because it allows the climber to use the ice as a source of protection. Protection is used to safeguard the climber against a fall. Protection comes in the form of ice screws, ice pitons, or ice screws placed in cracks in the ice. Ice screws are the most commonly used protection on frozen waterfalls. Falling on ice - If you fall while ice climbing, you must be careful not to fall into the ice. This is known as an "ice fall" and can be fatal if the ice around you melts.

Types of Ice Climbs

There are many different types of ice climbs. The type of climb you choose will depend on a number of factors, including the weather conditions and your skill level. Before setting off on an ice climb, you should be aware of the different types of climb and select one that is suitable for your skill level. Beginners should start with easier climbs that require less technical skill. As you become more experienced, you can try more difficult climbs that require more skill and technique. Free climb - Free climbing is the most common form of ice climbing. It is similar to rock climbing, but instead of climbing a cliff face, you climb a frozen waterfall. Free climbing is often done on frozen waterfalls that contain few or no ice features. Alpine ice - Alpine ice climbing is a specialty form of ice climbing done when frozen waterfalls are in an alpine setting, away from trees. Alpine ice climbs are often shorter than typical ice climbs because the frozen waterfalls are smaller. These climbs are typically done on frozen waterfalls with lots of ice features. Aid climb - An aid climb is a type of ice climb where the climber uses equipment such as cams, nuts and hooks to ascend a frozen waterfall that has no ice features. These climbs are challenging because all of the protection must be put in (placed) by the climber.

Bottom line

Ice climbing is a unique and challenging sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Before heading out on a climb, you must ensure you have the right equipment and understand the various types of climbs available. A fall on ice can be fatal, so climbers must be very careful indeed!