Many rock climbers dream of one day at least trying to ice climb. However, while modern ice climbing tools and warm clothes will lead you on the right path to comfortable climbing, fully understanding the most important climbing technique is essential for staying safe on the ice.
Ice climbing consists of three constantly repeated movements: squat, stand and swing.
- Squatting – While keeping the arm above you straight, kick your footholds for both feet at the same level. You should have both of your thighs equally parallel to the ground, in a squatting position. Ensure your foot holds are properly secured before moving to a standing position. Once your ready, plan where you will place your next hold – typically you will place your upper tool 12 to 24 inches above the current placement.
- Stand – Now, use your legs to begin to move to a standing position. Once you have stood up half way, pull on the tool that is hanging the lowest, the sharp pick will cut the ice making it easy for you to remove it. Ensuring that you always have a tool that is lower will make it much easier for you to remove the pick. If you have previously placed both picks at the same level it will most likely result in being stuck and thus will be much harder to remove. Therefore, as mentioned before, make it easier for yourself by making sure that before you move into the standing position, you plan on where you will insert your next placement.
- Swing – Keeping your elbow close to your ear will help you deliver the final blow with the most power. You may need to swing a few times before you feel you have really hit a solid hold. Once you feel comfortable with the placement, pull downward on the tool, if it holds, the pick will stay in as long as you continue to pull down on it. Also, one important tip to note is to duck your head toward the ice as the pick hits the ice. This will insure that if any ice pieces fall, your helmet will get the hit, instead of your face.
As you continue to squat, stand and swing, ensure that in the squat position, you are always hanging straight-armed from the newest pick placement. Also, ensure you are relaxed – Ice climbing is fun, and as like in any other sport, when your body is tense, you will not perform as well as you would if you relax!