Ever fancied trying ice climbing? Or maybe you know nothing about it! In this post I will introduce you to the basics of ice climbing and show you how I got on at my very first session.
I’ve started trying to say yes to many more things – stuff I’d normally umm and err over, tell someone I’d get back to them about, then never bother getting back in touch. I now just say yes then figure it all out afterwards. That’s just how I came to try ice rock climbing this week!
Read on for all the info you need as a beginner ice climber PLUS watch the icy cool video I made on the GoPro Hero 6 of my session!
What is ice rock climbing?
Pretty much like rock climbing – just up a vertical face of ice! You wear different kit to normal climbing though, and the technique is slightly different. Outdoors this involves climbing icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice refrozen from flows of water, but you can also climb artificial ice cliffs indoors too.
How can I give it a go?
I did my session at Vertical Chill on Manchester’s Deansgate, although there’s a branch in London too. Despite being nervous at the start of my session, I’d love to do it again and would highly recommend you try it if there’s somewhere local to you – you may be able to find somewhere on this extreme sports map of the UK.
Do I need any kit?
All kit was provided by Vertical Chill, I just wore a base layer of leggings and a tee. Upon arrival you tell staff your clothing and shoe size, and get a thermal jacket plus a thinner waterproof jacket and pants. You also get boots which have crampons added along with a helmet and some gloves. It’s -10°C inside the ice room so you need the layers!
How do they get ice indoors?!
This was one of my biggest questions to my instructor! On a Monday they close the ice wall for maintenance, then spend the day packing on the ice by hand. It starts as a powder which has water added to it, and apparently everything gets very messy and wet! I heard about this as I chipped off maybe my tenth chunk of ice trying to get my pick in…
So how do I climb an ice wall?
Your instructor goes through all the technique at the start of the session, so don’t worry too much about that. In a nutshell, though, you stagger your picks as you climb up, keeping them close together, whilst keeping your feet level and further apart. When you move your picks you keep your hips in (something I struggled with) and when you move your feet you hang with straight arms and your butt out. I’m not explaining this that well, so just watch my video to see, and listen to your instructor in your session..!
As a beginner, you won’t be expected to know about tying in, belaying, and using the rope in any way, but this is something you’d have to learn if you wanted to take your climbing to ice in the great outdoors.
What’s the most challenging part?
Your forearms start to burn out pretty quickly, so I’d say the most challenging part was managing your grip all the way up to the top. I asked to come down about three quarters of the way up because my forearms were on fire, but my instructor encouraged me to rest then carry on to the top, which worked fine. I imagine after giving it a few goes your grip gets much stronger through the gloves and it doesn’t become an issue.
Mentally it’s hard work too – the climb is no different the further up you go, but my brain started screaming at me to come down! I got better as the session went on, as it’s really about confidence: trusting your body and trusting that you’re making the right decision.
And the best?
Definitely the feeling of achievement when you make it to the top! I also enjoyed the mental challenge, especially when ‘hooking’ rather than just hammering the pick in. You have to find existing holes rather than making your own, so it was all about judgement.
How did I capture my session on camera?
I used the GoPro Hero 6* to film the entire session from different angles. I’d only received the camera 24 hours before so I was rubbish with all of the settings but as a video newbie I was so pleased with how it all came out! My absolute favourite feature – and what I’ll use going forward for CrossFit and weightlifting content – is that you can shoot a video and then pull a still image from it, which is as crisp and clear as one you’d get from a camera. There’s also a slow-mo version to the camera, for which this activity wasn’t suitable for as I was slow-moving anyway, but I’m excited to use it to study my Olympic lifts and capture some mega outdoors content.
The only downside is that the videos are SUCH high quality they were difficult to get onto my phone to edit, although this is partly my fault as the videos from my ice climbing session were 6-8 minutes long each, plus my phone is getting on a bit now too. In the future I’ll keep the shutter speed as high so I can get the crisp photos, but shoot much shorter videos so it doesn’t give my phone a meltdown! There is a Quik Stories app which makes videomaking much faster, so I’ll be using this once I get my video length under control.
I’m going to be using this camera much more in my content so once I learn how to use it better I’ll make sure I include a note about what I did in each post I use it in.
Hopefully this post has given you the bug to try something new! I’m going to continue saying yes to things – who knows where it’ll get me next?
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