Ice climbing: tips and techniques for beginners

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Iceland is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to start ice climbing. Its extensive and imposing glaciers are the ideal place for people who are new to this extreme sport.

So if you want to live an authentic adventure in Iceland, we invite you to dare to climb an ice wall in the beautiful glaciers of the cold European island.

For this we bring you an article with tips and basic climbing techniques that you should take into account when performing this exciting activity. If you are interested, read on.

Best destinations to get started

One of the best destinations in Iceland for both hiking and climbing is the Svinafellsjokull glacier. This glacier tongue is perfect for this climbing as it has spectacular formations for climbing enthusiasts.

skaftafell national park

The other destination that offers access for hiking and climbing for beginners is the majestic Skaftafell National Park, within the Vatnajökull National Park. If you are a beginner ice climber, we recommend that you get started with a guided tour, such as this ice climbing tour in Skaftafell.

Necessary equipment

Below you will find all the material you should have if you want to go ice climbing:

  • Boots: They should be quite rigid and made of a waterproof material.
  • Crampons: These are metallic elements that are placed on the sole of the boots to improve traction on the ice by means of “spikes”. Ice crampons differ from touring crampons because their front tips are vertical.
  • Galochas or gaiters: They are waterproof covers that cover the union of the boots with the pants.
  • Ice axes: These are ice axes used in mountaineering and high mountain routes. For ice climbing, slightly different ice axes are used, usually two are used, one in each hand and they are used to make progress on the ice.
  • Clothing: Clothing should be waterproof and allow you to conserve heat.
  • Rope: The rope should be waterproof, as this reduces the risk of freezing and losing its braking capacity in the devices. Ropes are usually 8 mm in diameter.
  • Other anchoring devices such as ice screws (the most commonly used are the tubular type, 10 to 25 cm long), stakes and anchors or rock anchors such as friends or crackers.
  • Lanyards and webbing for anchors.

Aspects to take into account in ice climbing

If you are a beginner in ice climbing it is essential that you take into account the following aspects:

Strength and endurance

To go ice climbing you must have certain strength and endurance, since it is an activity or sport that is quite physically demanding.

It is advisable that before going ice climbing you prepare yourself in climbing walls and gyms. On the other hand, good nutrition is essential since energy consumption due to the altitude and the cold is higher than normal.

glacier climbing tools

If you are going to do an introductory guided hike, they are generally of moderate difficulty so it is not usually necessary to have a specific physical preparation, but simply to be fit enough to do a mountain hike on foot.

Weather

Weather conditions are another aspect to take into account for climbing. In Iceland the summer and spring weather is not recommended for ice climbing, as in these seasons the ice melts and becomes unstable.

Therefore, the best climbing weather is in winter. However, forecasts should be taken into account as wind and snowstorms can be dangerous. It is important to check the weather forecast before going climbing.

Basic position

To climb it is necessary that you know at least the basic position or the correct technique. This position consists of placing your pelvis close to the wall and placing your back slightly arched. The arms should always be stretched out as far as possible without lifting the shoulders. The feet should be apart and the heels down; this prevents the front toes from slipping and also reduces fatigue.

Types of ice climbing

In this case we are going to talk about natural ice climbing, that which takes place on frozen waterfalls, large rock walls with ice and glaciers. This type of climbing is basically divided into three types:

Ice climbing

The entire length of climbing takes place on ice, which may be of temporary (frozen waterfalls) or permanent (glaciers) formation.

Mixed climbing

Mixed climbing is a combination of climbing on sections with ice and climbing with pure rock sections. According to expert climbers there must be 20 to 30% ice in the total length to be climbed for mixed climbing to exist.

mixed climbing

Dry Tooling Climbing

This type of climbing consists strictly of using ice tools on pure rock. But for many it consists of climbing rock walls that have less than 20% ice. So, although you will be climbing on pure rock for most of the section, you will need to carry crampons and ice axes for the small ice sections.

Conclusion

Ice climbing is one of the most exciting and extreme activities you can do in Iceland. We hope this information has been helpful to give you an idea of what it takes to do this adventure.

On the other hand, if you are a beginner, we recommend that you always go with a professional ice climber and hire a tour to ensure your safety and enjoyment.

Laura

Journalist and traveler. Laura has traveled around Iceland several times and is in love with its nature, especially the northern lights. She loves the cold, the icebergs and says that at some point she will move to the land of ice. For now she tells us about her adventures traveling around the island.

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