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Ice Climbing Equipment And Techniques

Updated on October 22, 2011

Ice climbing is defined as an action of climbing the inclined ice formations such as glaciers, frozen water falls or the blocks of ice topping the mountains. The concept of ice climbing pretty much emerged from the rock climbing and mountaineering and its origin can be dated back to the early 1900s. 

Some say that it emerged out of the need for thrill by the adventure junkies who found climbing the inclined ice formations in their path of mountain climbing more thrilling and exciting. Ever since the invention of crampons, which were invented by Oscar Eckenstein, to make the climbing of ice formations easy, the ice climbing has become one of the most attractive task for the adventure lovers all over the world.

Climbing the frozen ice is by no means an easy task. It is perhaps one of the most life risking and most exhilarating task ever made by man. Due to the excitement and the thrill it offers, ice climbing is a must achieve target for all the people in search for a serious adrenaline rush.

Special Tools Required For Ice Climbing

There are some special tools designed for the purpose of ice climbing as the climbing of frozen ice requires a much more effort.


Crampons are special toothed claws that are attached to the bottom of the boot of the climber. These crampons are mandatory for safe vertical climbing of the frozen ice as they get fixed to the ice making the movement possible.

During the 1930s the structure of crampons was further revolutionized by the addition of special fangs Laurent Grivel. This made the boot of the climber adhere to the frozen ice much more efficiently. 

Ice Axe

Ice axe is probably oldest tool used for the purpose of ice climbing. Before the invention of crampons, the climbers who met the frozen ice during their path of mountain climbing used ice axe for vertical climbing.

For the sole purpose of ice climbing both the ice axe and the crampons are necessary. The crampons get the climbers fixed to the frozen ice whereas the ice axe is used to the chop the ice to make steps easy.

Ice Screw
Ice Screw
Climbing harness
Climbing harness

The Rope System

Climbing is impossible without the ropes. The rope system for the ice climbing consists of a single, a double and a twin rope.

The Ice Screws

Ice screws are special tools used for the ice climbers for protection. These are used when the climber is ascending upwards.

The Climbing Harness

The climbing harness is used for attaching the ropes.

Tools To Carry In Ice Climbing And Where To Keep Them

Special Techniques Used By The Ice Climbers

Ice climbing is comparatively more difficult than either rock climbing or mountain climbing and far more dangerous. It requires much more technical effort from the climber’s part. Only those who are experienced and are well trained can do the task.

Usually there is a group of climbers climbing together one leading the way for the other. Climbing the ice alone is almost impossible.

Following are some special techniques used by the ice climbers:

The Tying Of The Rope To The Harness

The rope should be tied the harness in a way that it provides the maximum security to the climber. Usually the knot preferred for the tying is the bowline and thumb knot. The reason for which is that it is secure and can easily be opened when frozen.

The Front Pointing Technique

The front pointing technique is used for the vertical climbing. The climber fixes his position on the ice by first inserting in the front point of the crampon in the ice while fixing the axe on the ice above his head. This technique requires a lot of force, therefore ice climbing is for those who are strong and practiced enough.

A climber belaying
A climber belaying

The Belaying Technique

The belaying technique involves the leader fixing a running belay (either running or fixed) on the ice and tying a rope around it.

The next climber then on reaching the point removes the protection. The job of the leader is to make the protections for the followers until he reaches the top of the pitch. There he builds a belay anchor for the following climber.

A climber abseiling
A climber abseiling


Abseiling is a technique used for descending. It involves the use of a fixed rope for getting down. Other than descending, abseiling technique is also used to make through some narrow and difficult new paths.


This technique involves the belays on the base to ensure the safe descending of the climber descending vertically.

Basic Tips For Ice Climbing


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    • TrahnTheMan profile image

      TrahnTheMan 5 years ago from Asia, Oceania & between

      Great hub Hassam! Do you climb much in your home country?