5 Ways To Stay Warm While Ice Climbing

Sure, ice climbing brings with it a certain amount of discomfort. I mean, it's not deep water soloing in the tropics, right? But knowing a few tricks can help keep you just a little bit warmer while your swinging tools into frozen waterfalls. And sometimes feeling just a little bit warmer can mean the difference between finishing a route wanting to come back for more—and feeling like you'd rather not ever see a pair of ice tools again.

Bring a hot drink.
Far too often I have gone out for a day on the ice only to carry a liter of water around for the day without having taken a sip! A warm thermos not only helps take the chill off, it ensures that you stay hydrated. Fill up your thermos with a sweet drink and you're sure to finish it before day's end! Hydration and simple sugars also go a long way toward keeping your body warm.

Bring lots of gloves.
When I head out for a day of ice climbing, I bring a minimum of three pairs of gloves. One for the approach, one for climbing and one for belaying. This helps to ensure that your gloves stay dry and keep your hands warm. Also, when belaying, I stuff my climbing pair in my jacket to ensure they remain warm. This system also allows me to climb with a light pair of gloves even during the coldest days, which tends to make the overall climbing experiences easier, more efficient and more enjoyable.

Avoid gaps in your clothing.
While not in vogue so much these days, on the coldest days, I go old school and bust out the balaclava and farmer John-style one piece long underwear, or tuck in my shirt. These two tricks help enormously on cold days as they cover up gaps often formed around your waist and neck.

Don’t drive in your boots.
I learned this one long ago and it's important. If you have a long commute to go climb ice, don’t wear your boots in the car! Keep your boots in the inside of your car with a dry pair of socks. When you get to the trailhead, change socks and put on the boots. This makes a big difference as your feet will sweat inside the car during a long drive, so your feet will chill immediately out in the cold.

Be efficient.
Really cold days are not he time to practice your climbing systems. Make sure you're dialed with your partner at belays and doing transitions and you will save a lot of time, keep moving and stay much warmer. On cold days, it's a good idea to have a designated leader or lead in blocks. This way you only stand around while your partner leads or follows a pitch and not while they do both.

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Photos by Forest Woodward.