5 Ways To Progress Past Beginning Ice Climbing

Have you tried ice climbing a few times… and loved it? Do you want to know what steps you can take to become a better, stronger, and more self-sufficient climber? Here are my top five tips for moving beyond the beginner stage.

1. Get good technique. Get out on the ice as much as possible. Learn the difference between a good placement and a bad one. Figure out how to use natural features to your advantage. Hang straight arm and stem as much as possible. Go out with a more experienced friend, take a clinic or hire a guide. Become efficient with your energy and then ...

2. Become as strong as you possibly can be. Why limit yourself with a lack of strength when you can instead become the strongest possible version of yourself? Go to the weight gym, do CrossFit, set up a pull-up station in your basement. Anything it takes to make you stronger. Combine your strength with your technique, and you’re ready to ...

3. Practice placing protection, first while standing on the ground and then on a mock lead. Find the best stances to hang from one axe and put in your screw. Become ambidextrous. Not only will half of your screws be on your non-dominant side, but so might the best and most reliable ice. At some point, you will encounter the worst and least reliable ice, which is why you must ...

4. Learn how to down climb. Because the credo of ice climbers is: “Don’t Fall,” you need to be able to climb your way back down to the safety of your last screw—or the ground—if you find yourself in over your head. Trust me when I say you don’t want your first down-climbing experience to be on overhanging, chandeliered grade 6 ice, which is why you want to ...

5. Work the grades. Go out and start leading on whatever grade you feel comfortable on. This will be grade 2 for some, and grade 4 for others. But don’t compare yourself. Be present for your own process, not distracted by someone else’s. When you can look around at the scenery and carry on a conversation with your belayer while you’re placing a screw, you know it’s time to bump up the grade.

Ice climbers are a breed unto themselves, and they often find it hard to follow the rules of society, which is why I’m throwing in one extra tip so I can encourage you to:

6. Find the best gear, and by this I mean the absolute best gear for you. Research outdoor apparel and find the pieces with the best fabric, fit and features for your gender and body type. Borrow or demo crampons, ice axes and screws to see which feel right for you. Find technical boots that are fitted yet comfortable enough for approaching your given objective.



Lodestar Jacket: With an athletic fit and using Polartec Powershield fabrics, this jacket keeps you warm and dry from the time you leave the car right through to your apres ascent cocktail hour.

Conviction Pant: These pants combine softness and comfort with water resistance and breathability. Articulated for those acrobatic ice moves, yet stylish enough to wear through the hotel lobby on your way to the hot tub.

Contact Gloves: Designed for pure ice, this glove features a leather palm for optimal grip and the perfect amount of articulated padding. While ideal in temperatures down to minus 10*C, I have used these in far colder temperatures.

Photo by Forest Woodward.