Ice climbing is dangerous in a variety of ways. First and foremost, you must protect your body from the elements by dressing in layers and wearing dry gloves. Then, using the proper equipment and learning efficient techniques, you can prepare your brain to climb up the ice walls. Finally, practice prevents perfection over time and increases confidence in oneself.
Ice climbing is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world due to the dynamic situations you will face and the high level of risk. Most importantly, completing a moderate to long ice climbing session will necessitate a high level of fitness.
Is rock climbing or ice climbing harder?
Ice climbing is, undoubtedly, more dangerous than rock climbing. Falls are to be expected when rock climbing. Falling on lead is never acceptable in ice climbing. Ice climbing falls are hazardous events that can result in a wide range of injuries.
Here are the main risks that ice climbing presents and makes the sport so dangerous.
Natural hazards are difficult to manage because they cannot be controlled. You can’t, for example, do anything to reduce the likelihood of an avalanche occurring on a route you’re climbing; all you can do is be aware of the risks and make a decision about whether or not you want to go climbing.
You won’t be able to go unless it’s cold, and being cold has its own set of risks for human injuries. Proper study and health issues must also be addressed.
Water will seep into the cracks between the rocks, creating stress points and fractures. When that same water freezes and thaws, it can expand and contract multiple times, weakening the rock around it and causing large chunks to come loose. Similarly, as ice warms, it is more likely to accentuate any pre-existing weaknesses, causing it to shear and fall.
All of your protection — that is, the pieces of gear that catch you when you fall — is placed in the ice when ice climbing. If the ice gives way, you’ll fall farther than you anticipated. As a result, the quality of the ice is critical to your safety.
Your mental health preparation is important here. You will face dangers, but your ability to remain calm at all times should be a constant variable. The decision-making criteria for ice climbing are simple: you either do it or you don’t.
Is ice climbing an extreme sport?
For a variety of reasons, ice climbing is a dangerous extreme sport. Ice climbing is dangerous because of the cold temperatures, the risk of falling ice, and the physical injuries that occur during lead falls. This complex sport ensures that your skills are put to the test in order to have a safe and rewarding experience. Ice climbing tests both the body and the mind and provides a significant mental boost.
Tips to expert ice climbing and avoid dangers
Here are a few pointers to keep you climbing stronger, safer, and warmer.
Placement of Ice Tools and Crampons: Modern ice tools are designed to reduce the amount of force required to achieve a good placement. As a result, it is preferable to prioritize technique overpower.
The best ice climbers have mastered the balance of swing and wrist flick. Swinging too hard on thin ice can smash the area you’re hoping to hook and leave you with nothing. When swinging, make sure not to overgrip.
By scoping for a location, you can always know where you want the ax to go (avoid placing tools too close in a horizontal plane). You’ll learn what a good placement sounds and looks like as you gain experience. If you’re certain, test the placement by pulling down and gradually adding more weight.
Use Umbilical Leashes: Umbilical leashes are used to keep an ice tool from falling. They connect your tool to your belay loop. They are an old concept that predates wrist leashes but has fallen out of favor.
Most modern bent tools have dropped the wrist leash option in favor of a clip at the base of the handle for umbilical leashes. While they require some practice, they are a better option than carrying a third tool up longer ice routes. A tool can easily be dropped or knocked off the ice.
Do not place your body weight on the umbilical cord. Instead, secure a screw to the rope. Even if your umbilical is rated to support your weight, single ice tool placements are frequently insecure anchor points.
Avoid the Screaming Barfies: Glove selection is critical, so bring an extra pair, if not two, including a down pair. According to some, the most terrifying aspect of ice climbing is the screaming barfies. They occur when your hands are held above your shoulders for an extended period of time against the ice and then filled with warm blood when lowered. Warm-up by bouldering on the ice or flapping your arms like a chicken to reduce barfies. But it all comes down to the gloves in the end. Wear warm gloves that won’t get wet and have a good range of motion.
Use Anti-Ballers: Crampons should always have anti-ballers, which are pieces of plastic that fit into the crampon’s sole to prevent snowballs from forming under your foot.
Master the V-thread: Not all ice routes have trees or bolted anchors. Learn how to use a V-thread. The climber can use two 22cm screws to bore intersecting holes that meet and form a V with this simple system.
When the V is set in place, a piece of cord or webbing can be threaded through it to make an anchor. A no-thread is when the climber passes the rope through the hole and then leaves to trace the rope.
Smart Climbing: Belay away from any ice falls, but close enough to safely catch the leader. Examine the path of the line as it ascends the waterfall. The wettest ice can have poor ice screw placement and be too soft for good sticks.
Don’t become a climber who can only use one hand to place a screw; practice with both. If you hit the lip when topping out or climbing over bulges, it will dinner plate into razor-sharp ice discs. Swing far above the bulge, raise your feet, look for depressions in the ice for good sticks, and then mantel over.
Remember to bring a thermos of hot beverages, such as tea or coffee!