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How Difficult Is Ice Climbing?

Ice climbing is becoming more and more mainstream in the climbing world…I mean, you can go ice climbing in Covent Garden in London if you really wanted to! This, of course, means it's opening up doors to people who would never in their right mind do it...if that person can do it why can’t I?

Now yes, this is a good thing! With more people getting involved in ice climbing, this means the sport can grow and become more popular, but on the flip side it does mean there are people getting involved with the sport that won’t follow every rule to the tee.


So with that being said, how difficult is ice climbing?


What Makes It So Difficult?

Just like most, if not all climbing, one false move could really put your life in danger. You really have to put all your faith in your ice axe and the ice that it's hooked into and that takes a lot from you mentally. Ice climbing is super hard on your body; when you see an ice climber they look ripped as hell and they need to be because they have to carry all their gear to the location. A climber's body needs to be ready to take all that weight and then on top of that... go climbing!


Just get ready to do a ton of squats, pull-ups, sit-ups, deadlifts and overhead presses...


Is It Really That Dangerous?

The dangers of ice climbing aren’t always about the slippery ice on the surface. The first set of injuries or dangers you will come across is actually from training your body; that within itself is dangerous and you haven’t even headed out to location yet! You will need to get used to falling a lot, very much like in rock climbing. The risk of falling when ice climbing is also pretty high.


The only difference when it comes to falling whilst ice climbing is you, of course, are carrying an ice axe which could come down with you and do some damage. What’s an even bigger threat is your crampons.. they will do some serious harm to you. So just based on that alone, the sport is pretty dangerous!

How To Prevent Risks Like Falling

Luckily it's pretty simple to avoid falling too far when ice climbing. All you need to do is employ fixed belays. Doing this means you will need a harness complete with a rope attached which will prevent you from falling too far just in case you do slip.


If you're climbing with more than one person you should apply running belays; the lead climber will put in the screws and then climb up them as a safety check. The climber following should remove them as they progress. When ice climbing you also need to think about failing debris and of course avalanches as well, but the more risk assessments you do the safer you will be.


Is It Better Than Rock Climbing?

Putting it simply, no! Both sports are different; both your climbs will be different. Your pace will be different, your stamina will be different, your holds and protection will be different! So, although most people see ice climbing as the same as normal climbing, they are pretty much a different type of sport.


I’m sure that if you were to talk to any climber they will say one's better than the other.. Yes, they will have their own views and opinions about this but really at the end of the day they really are both different and it boils down to personal preference and what you personally enjoy the most.

So Should You Do It?

Short answer… yes of course… The long answer is still yes… but, do it properly! Make sure you purchase appropriate climbing gear and equipment...even if you are a seasoned climber like I said earlier, both require different skills so always do courses before you head out! And if you have never climbed before then personally I would suggest rock climbing or bouldering first. You can do this at many indoor centres in a safe controlled environment to help build up your confidence and hone in on your skills and abilities before then heading outdoors! You need to get a feel of the sport first and once you are confident on the rock side you’ll be confident on the ice!


And so, to answer the question: how difficult is ice climbing?…it’s hard mentally and physically… but it’s totally worth it! So have you just started to ice climb? If so, how are you finding it? Let us know in the comments.

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Author: Shaun Johnson

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