Did you know you could climb on a frozen waterfall?
Popularised in the 70s, ice climbing is a combination of classic climbing and mountaineering – an activity that consists of climbing with the aid of ice axes and crampons on formations like couloirs, ice chutes and even frozen waterfalls. Today, whether its natural or artificial, ice walls offer an amazing sporting opportunity for aspiring altitude addicts.
Open to anyone ready to leave the comfort of the climbing wall and conquer mother nature, understanding the integrity of the ice is key. If you’re new to ice climbing, why not consult an expert to help you get started. There are many ski resorts that offer this amazing winter sport – plus loads of professional ice climbers willing to help you learn the basics in some unbelievable natural settings!
You don’t need a lot of equipment to get into ice climbing. Warm clothing that can handle cold conditions and the icy terrain is essential, a pair of specialized ice climbing shoes that can accommodate mono or bi-point crampons, a pair of technical ice axes – plus basic climbing equipment adapted for the ice – as anchors can be made directly into the ice with the help of axes.
When it comes to the world’s best ice climbing destinations – follow the cold… Some of the most popular cliff faces, couloirs and frozen waterfalls are found in unique and amazing locations. In France, one of our favourite beginner’s ice climbing courses is on a frozen waterfall in Briancon – and another in Argentière la Bessé. Ice climbing in Gressoney, Italy, is renowned for its accessible formation that’s suited to all levels.
You can also find some really far out ice walls like this photo of Will Gadd in Kilimanjaro, Africa. Don’t forget, artificial ice walls also exist – like the famous one in the French ski resort, Tignes. But, before you head out in search of hidden heights, it’s always recommended to check the weather to avoid unpleasant surprises and poor conditions – just like regular climbing.
When it comes to scale, ice walls are rated by technical difficulty and terrain, taking into consideration the gradient, steepness incline, ice configuration and density.
To add some drama to a sport that’s already pretty hardcore, we’ve picked this epic Bollywood scene – we wouldn’t recommend ice climbing in a pair of jeans, though…
Photos : Will Gadd by Christian Pondella ©red bull content pool