A beginners guide to ice climbing

03 June 2020
2 min

This brief guide to ice climbing features aspects you should consider before tackling the intense conditions found in Ice climbing.

If you have been excited about the incredible, tantalising images in blogs and articles online featuring ice climbing in this country and abroad, then you have already started to get hooked into this incredible sport.

Ice climbing grades in the UK have an objective and a technical grade. If you read through the Scottish Mountaineering Club guidebook (SMC) this will give you the full details, but in brief the Roman numeral suggests the overall difficulty of the route, and the technical grade will be shown in numbers and applies to the hardest steps.

Obviously, the difficulty of the route also depends on how good you are at the sport, your experience and how good your technique is. Dragging yourself by doing continual pull-ups will feel a lot harder than walking up with axes for balance.

In time you will gain the confidence to strike the balance between going slowly and placing lots of gear and moving confidently between rest points and runner placements.

Regarding equipment we have compiled a basic list of essential requirements.

Helmet – probably the most essential piece of kit required

Winter climbing boots

A pair of technical ice axes

Ice screws (depending on the route, these will vary)

Leashes for axes


Quickdraws, slings, carabiners and other suitable rock gear depending on the route

Abseil tat and the knowledge of V-threads / Abolokov threads

Safety gear – goggles, fully charged phone, head torch etc

Plenty of gloves! Belay gloves, climbing gloves, gloves for the walk in and fresh dry ones for the walk out

Buff / balaclava

Most importantly ensure you have a guide who knows the route, knows the area, and can take the lead. Check out our ice climbing guides available to take you on your first ice climbing adventure.

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