Ice climbing is one of the most dangerous recreational activities ever and is no longer just a subset of mountaineering. More and more adrenaline seekers climb frozen waterfalls and steep ice since the equipment for this high-risk sport has gotten better and better.
Many people make the mistake of comparing it to rock climbing. They can’t be more different. You use different tools, conditions change constantly, you move away from the ice as oppose to the rock, ice is much steeper and more difficult than it looks.
Another difference, for example, is falling. Forget about it being common or expected. It’s simply not an option. Such mindset will get you seriously injured. Tumbling from an ice wall can literary shatter your ankles. You don’t want to fall while crampons are still on your feet and sharp objects are flying around attached to your body.
Mentally, ice climbing is more challenging. Decisions are made in a moment and risks are calculated in seconds. Other characteristics are similar: you need good footwork and balance, ice is not perfectly flat, it can fall apart when you hit it; you need to choose the right spots to step and swing.
There are several ways a person can prepare for ice climbing. Climb in toprope a lot; do many laps. Perfect how to put in screws and how to climb both with and without crampoons. Fitness is important but the biggest issues experts see have to do with a person’s attitude towards the sport. Take it seriously. You can never practice too much. Don’t go ice climbing without belaying in pairs with a designate partner who is on the ground.
Some places are more dangerous than others do ice climb. Avalanches are unpredictable and deep crevasses can be hidden under lots of snow. And don’t forget the real possibility of falling ice.
1. “Wolverine”: Helmcken Falls Spray Cave, British Columbia, Canada
The 450 feet tall Helmcken Falls are strongly perceived to be the toughest, certainly among the most dangerous, ice climbs in the world. That’s why they’ve earned their nickname – “Wolverine.” You can always count on the climbing to be steep and hard. If you dare, go near the 100 feet dee ice hole. Imagine this along the ice spray and 6 feet icicles and you can understand why professionals are looking for ways go around the Wolverine.
2. Rjukan, Norway
Climbers all over the world go to Rjukan every year. Cold weather due to high pressure systems contribute to the development of some beautiful frozen waterfalls which are often several meters thick. The best time to go is in February and the worst in March, when the temperatures rise and some of the ice begins to melt, and in December when the wind is too strong. Lipton is the areas' most challenging icefall. There are no guarantees of decent ice climbing conditions.