Ice Climbing 101

Ice climbing? It’s Summer, right? Yup, but it’s not too early to start planning. Not sure where to start yourself? Here, in a nutshell, is some info on getting started (or at least how I did it).

Maybe you saw my post on learning to ice climb, a buddy mentioned ice climbing, or you’re just looking to broaden your winter outdoors pursuits. Ice Climbing is a great way to spend time outdoors in the cold weather, as it teaches you new skills, offers a fair workout, has you playing with sharp edges, and calls for travel to locations you might otherwise overlook. Those, at least, are what drew me to it and will have me continue to practice the sport.

Ice Climbing 101

Tools of the trade: ice climbing tools, helmet, harness, winter boots, and crampons, along with warm clothing. Here lies probably the biggest impediment to starting this sport, as most of these items happen to cost quite a bit, though not inordinately so when compared to other outdoor pursuits such as downhill skiing. Unless you’re lucky and find things used, in good shape, and cheaply priced, you’ll probably need to ask your rich uncle to buy these for your birthday. Cost? Two technical ice climbing tools, upwards of $100 each. Helmet, $50-100. Harness, $50 and up. Winter boots that accept crampons, $300 or more. Crampons, $100 or more. Put it all together and that comes out to $700 or more, and that doesn’t include ropes or safety gear (better hope your new climbing buddy has those). I’m searching eBay and also the forum on, hoping to find some deals this Summer.

Ice Climbing 101

Get inspired, learn some basic techniques, and get some history. You can’t go wrong with a classic – Yvon Chouinard’s Climbing Ice may have been published originally in 1978, but it is a classic for a reason. Learn some history, the French technique, the 3 methods of glissading, assessing the conditions and so much more – I borrowed a copy through my library, but it’s readily available through outlets such as

Ice Climbing Near Chicago Video

Find a place to learn ice climbing, be it through a guide or at an ice climbing festival. I originally planned on taking the beginner’s class at the Michigan Ice Festival, but when those plans fell through, I took a class less than an hour from home, climbing on a farm silo. Interestingly enough, there are indoor ice climbing walls all over the world. Who’d a thunk it? There are probably a few places where it’s just not possible to get started in ice climbing, but if piques your interest, plan a trip around lessons.

That’s really the gist of it. Get inspired, find a place to learn, and rent or borrow equipment until you have the money and desire to invest in your own gear. Climbing festivals are a great place to meet practitioners of the trade, take lessons, and maybe find a mentor or climbing buddy.

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