The reluctance most people greet rock climbing with is often heightened when ice climbing comes to the fore. One of the lesser-known facets of climbing, Ice Climbing, ranks as one of the multiple climbing forms often avoided by climbing enthusiasts.
The reason for this isn’t far fetched. The risks ice climbing presents can outweigh the thrill, but mountaineers eager to reach the summit of nature’s toughest height continuously engage in this hazardous form of climbing, with zero casualties.
Often engaged by adept climbers, success in every ice climbing expedition often largely depends on the gears. Right from the early 20th century, when Oscar Eckenstein, one of the early pioneers of mountaineering, manufactured the crampon, gears’ significance in ice climbing had been long established.
Ice Climbing Gear List/ Equipment
With multiple gears manufactured and older models tailored to fit rugged terrains better and ensure a climber’s convenience, the attention given to ice climbing gears speaks for its importance in ice climbing expeditions.
These gears can sometimes be so much that climbers may erroneously leave out individual essential gears, which could be the only thing that stands between life and death. Reviewed in insightful details are the ice climbing gear list.
1. Mountaineering Boots
In ice climbing, the importance of a good pair of mountaineering boots can not be overemphasized. This gear is one of the most critical ice climbing equipment as it protects the toes from frostbite.
There have been known instances where mountaineers have lost toes to frostbites, hence the importance of well-insulated mountaineering boots. Mountaineering boots have to be stuffy enough to keep the feet warm and ensure blood circulation.
Boots made of leather and waterproof material are a great choice. While mountaineers may opt for tight boots, enough space should be left for the front of the toes to prevent injuries when boots bash against ice.
With most boots often well encased with materials to keep the feet warm, weight becomes an issue. Thankfully, gears manufacturers have worked around this issue, but manufacturing lightweight shoes, i.e., plastic shoes, provide warmth, comfort, and mobility.
An ice climbing gear used for over a century, crampons are attached to the bottom of rock climbing boots to ensure traction and comfortable ascension.
This traction device, which is often made of steel alloy, has to be well attached to the boots. Firm contact must be established between the heel of the boots and crampon heel posts and the front part of the boot and the crampon fore.
Crampon mode of configuration has this be chosen based on the terrain to be ascended. For technical ice or ice known for breakage, monopoint layout is ideal.
Due to the minimal force in contact with the ice, monopoint configuration presents great precision but less stability. Vertical front point configuration often used on various terrains comes with excellent stability, but the front point is permanent.
Dual point configuration has the same impact as the front point, but the significant difference lies in the replaceable front point and weight.
Other great choices of crampons configuration are horizontal front point crampon, which is ideal for alpine terrains.
3. Ice Axe
A must-have gear in ice climbing, Ice Axe often are the basis of arguments regarding which is best. An ice axe may be ideal for all terrains for avid ice climbers, but specific types make ascent an enjoyable experiment.
The Alpine axe, better known as Mr. All rounder, is characterized by its distinctive moderate pick angle, narrowly inclined bend, and spike.
An excellent choice for beginner ice climbers, they come with a hammer and an adze, they are perfect for terrains without the dreadful angles. The grip on the axe provides a factual basis for the ice breakage.
As beginners use this ax, it’s recommended that the adze is removed. The vertical ice ax has a more inclined angle and an angle-like grip. As denoted by its name, it’s ideal for steep terrains.
Plunging into the ice with this axe is usually done close to the wrist due to its inclined angle. Each axe can be used for any terrain, but each is best suited for specific terrain.
In the past, ice climbers have successfully ascended terrains with tools generally not ideal for these routes, so don’t stress yourself over not having the perfect axe.
A general rule for outdoor climbing of any kind is using a helmet, and for ice climbing, it’s no different. With ice and glaciers falling from thousands of feet, climbers have to protect their heads from these missiles by adorning helmets with strong shells.
These helmets should be well strapped and fit climbers’ heads appropriately. It’s recommended that climbers wear hoods or hats over the helmets.
The helmet’s front part should be free from obstruction to provide clear sight when climbers lookup.
5. Ice Screws
Ice screws are chosen based on the nature of the terrain to be ascended. These cylindrical Chromoly steel screws are often about 10 to 23 cm long and used for running belays in steep terrains and overhangs and implanting anchors.
The holding power of the screws are often the same and not determined by length. This is due to the same length of threads on all the screws.
The length of screws is essential, depending on how deep ice is buried or when implanting anchors. There’s no limit to the number of screws brought along while climbing, but climbers should take enough, which would not present weight issues.
Screws with replaceable tips are ideal as they last longer.
This gear is required when climbing with ropes, as they allow ropes to run freely from bolts and anchor points. Quickdraws used in ice climbing are often lightweight and capable of withstanding freezing.
Quickdraws features carabiners attached to leathers or plastic.
7. Belay Device
When climbing with a partner, a belay device allows climbers to exert tension on the rope and presents falling. While the belay device helps arrest the rope when climbers fall, the belayer has to be attentive to hold on to the rope.
This gear comprises two loops with a belt girdle connecting climbers to the climbing rope or anchor. The harness used for ice climbing differs from the conventional harness in the material used.
Materials such as Dyneema and spectra are used for ice climbing harness as they prevent water absorption. Harness used for other climbing activities can also be used.
Often used to interlock the climbing rope and harness, the carabiner is a spring-loaded gate made of steel. It is also used for belaying and rappelling.
Two types of climbing ropes are used for ice climbing. The dynamic rope, which has elasticity and often used in ice lead climbing, is the best choice.
Static rope, on the other hand, is ideal for rappelling, as it is stiffer. Ropes are often between ten and eight millimeters in diameter and about 60 meters long.
11. Avalanche Gear
When packing up this gear, the nature of the terrain has to be considered. For snow-capped mountains, blizzard and avalanches are regular occurrences, and so it’s recommended that climbers go along with avalanche gear, which includes a shovel, beacon, and probe.
When bringing along this gear, weight presents a challenge. So, climbers have to source for lightweight options. They can be fitted into the interior of a climber’s backpack.
It is not uncommon for climbers to find themselves on ice routes past daylight. So it is ideal to come along with a headlamp which runs on batteries. Climbers should ensure they come along with extra batteries.
13. First Aid Kit
Injuries on ice routes are common occurrences, hence requiring every climber to carry a first aid kit. The kit should come with the essential tools needed to stop bleeding, keep the body warm, treat a broken bone, and deal with pain.
Kits should include C splints, gauze, bandages, a small blister kit, and effective pain medication. A means of communication is also ideal in the event climbers need urgent help.
A GPS device is also recommended, as climbers can easily be located. If climbers go along with phones, spare batteries should be carried along.
This is an essential gear in ice climbing, as clothing can make climbing an enjoyable or horrific experience. Whatever clothing is worn, it should be one that can keep the body warm.
Clothing may from waterproof material are an ideal choice. Gloves must be worn, but the thickness of gloves worn depends on the routes. Terrains with extreme cold require thicker gloves.
15. Food and water
The amount of food and water to be significantly taken depends on how long your climbing expedition will last. Foods with high calories are recommended.
Double the usual food climber take during rock climbing sessions are to be taken. Foods that freeze should not be taken. Snacks can be taken but should be placed close to the body for warmth.
Enough water should be taken to keep the body hydrated. Water should be brought in well wrapped insulated bottles. Hydrated Packs are not as ideal as the hose freezes.
For low-risk climbing, a quality ice climbing gear list is of the essence, in order for you to reduce high-level risk when climbing. See 5 Probable Rock Climbing Risks and 10 Best Rock Climbing Safety Tips & Advice.
Please let us know your thoughts on our ice climbing gear list and equipment in the comments section below.