Gear to Succeed
Just like any sport, there are several essential items of gear that are needed to make your ice climbing experience safe and enjoyable. In addition to the typical climbing gear such as a rope, harness, and belay device, ice climbing requires special boots, crampons, ice tools, and possibly ice screws (depending on the type and difficulty of ice climbing you plan to do). Many people argue that ice climbing is too expensive to get into, but if you are a good shopper and learn about the appropriate gear, you can get started for less than $500.00.
First off, the most important piece of gear for safe climbing is an adequate mountaineering helmet. As you can guess, ice breaks very easily and can become lethal if it falls on you. Choose a helmet that’s light in weight yet, sturdy and comfortable. By choosing the right helmet, you’ll be climbing safely and without headache…literally!
Next, you’ll need a comfortable pair of mountaineering boots that are insulated and crampon compatible. Many specialty outdoor stores, and online catalogs, sell boots that range from $100.00 to $400.00 depending on the brand and materials.
Once you have boots, you will need a set of rigid crampons that have front points for vertical ice. There are several different types of crampons for various situations, ranging from standard glacier travel to difficult mixed climbing conditions that can involve rock and ice climbing. Most crampons, however, will have a front and back bail that will attach to the boot for a secure fit while climbing. Be sure to choose the crampon that’s most comfortable and appropriate for the type of climbing you plan to do and if you’re still unsure, don’t be afraid to ask.
Now that your feet are ready for the ice, you will need something for your hands. The answer for this is ice tools. Ice tools basically look like medieval weapons and are what one uses to climb the ice. Ice tools come in various shapes and sizes depending on the type of climbing you plan to do. A standard ice tool will have a bent shaft for better swinging efficiency, and a hammer or adze attached to the back of the pick.
Lastly, the more advanced ice climber will need ice screws to lead climb. Basically, a climber can secure the rope while climbing by placing a specially designed screw into the ice with a carabiner on the end to clip the rope into. This type of climbing is more advanced and requires a high level of confidence to minimize the chance of falling. With some smart shopping and knowledge of gear, you will be well on your way towards being ready for your first ice adventure.