Ice climbing—scaling up frozen waterfalls or icy cliff faces—isn’t a sport for wimps.
There’s no margin for error when it comes to tying in, placing your ice screws, or judging where to plant your axe. You’ll likely be whapped in your helmet by chunks of ice the size of dinner plates. Plus, you’ll get wet and cold as the ice forces the blood to leave your hands and forearms. (Not to mention the blood’s stabbing painful return as you warm up, dubbed “screaming barfies” by the climbing world.)
But if danger and extreme conditions don’t turn you off? You have to try it.
The best way to learn is to hire a guide who really knows his stuff, and we recommend heading to Estes Park for some of the sweetest ice columns you’ll ever ascend. “It’s different altogether [from rock climbing]—it requires a lot of gear and is a true destination sport,” says Zach Zehr, outdoor gear specialist, backcountry guide and Estes Park, Colorado climber for more than 10 years. “You have to go to the flow, but the element of danger makes it thrilling.”
Here’s where to climb and how to get in shape for it. If you can handle the intensity, we promise—you won’t regret it.