DirBuzz > Article Details

The Basics of Ice Climbing

March 21, 2008 03:34:41 AM

Ice climbing is similar in some ways to rock climbing in that it involves techniques for handling a vertical or nearly vertical ascent - however, while many of the methods and even some of the gear used for ice climbing is similar to that of rock climbing, ice climbing has some special differences due to the nature of ice. Usually ice climbers ascend ice falls (a part of a glacier where ice has flown down the side of the glacier at a comparatively rapid rate, creating a smooth slick surface), frozen waterfalls, and rocky surfaces over which water has frozen. The consistency of ice can vary widely depending on the weather and the type of ice which is being climbed - alpine ice is ice formed from precipitation over a mountain, and is usually climbed as a part of a mountain ascent, while water ice comes from flowing water sources which freeze during the winter.

As with rock climbing, ice climbers use rope systems which are attached to some kind of harness, hooked into a belaying system which makes it possible to let out the rope in a controlled manner (and keep it from releasing in the event of a fall) and connected as firmly as possible to the climbing surface using a variety of tools. When climbing ice, people generally wear boots with crampons attached - spikes on the bottoms of the boots are used to get better traction while walking across ice, and spikes on the fronts of the boot crampons are used for greater stability while climbing a sheer ice surface. Ice climbers also make use of the ice axe to help them ascend - an ice axe has several uses, and can even be the sole piece of climbing equipment used for an easier grade of climb. While walking along the surface of the ice, the ice axe can be used as a walking stick for stability, and when climbing the pick of the axe can be used as a dagger, or the ice axe can be swung overhead to embed the pick in higher elevations of ice, so that the climber can pull him or herself farther up the side of the ice face.

While rock climbers will often embed spikes into the side of the rock face to help themselves climb, this can cause ice to become unstable. This has led to the use of hollow ice screws and V-thread systems (where two intersecting holes are bored in the ice and a rope is run into one hole and out of the other). The recent weather has to be taken into consideration while ice climbing as surfaces may be more slick or unstable as a result of the precipitation that has occurred within the past couple days. Of course, ice climbers also wear a greater degree of padding and materials for warmth than rock climbers. Ice climbing can be a lot of fun and provide even greater challenges in some cases than rock climbing, making it one of the most extreme outdoor sports in the world!

About The Author

Chris Haycock is an information publisher, one of whose many hobbies is climbing. With recurring knee problems, including one replacement, making it no longer possible to physically climb, he spends a lot of time researching resources to help other climbers. For details of one amazing resource, go to http://www.climbingknowledge.com