Ice climbing can be divided into two main categories: Alpine ice and waterfall ice. Alpine ice climbing refers to climbing in the mountains and glaciers, where the ice is often formed from snow and freeze-thaw cycles. Waterfall ice climbing, on the other hand, refers to climbing frozen waterfalls and icefalls, which are found in valleys and gorges. These routes are typically shorter and steeper than alpine ice routes, and the ice conditions can be more variable.
The best time to go waterfall ice climbing is typically in the winter when temperatures are low enough to keep the ice frozen. Some Alpine Ice routes can be climbed year-round, but you will find the most routes in condition in the winter and spring.
Popular areas to go waterfall ice climbing are Cogne, Pitztal, Kandersteg, Chamonix and Rjukan. You also can find artificial ice parks additional to the natural formed ones. These parks are easily accessible and relatively safe. Perfect for the first day of the season or when the avalanche risks are high. Check out the eiskletterpark in Martrei in Osttirol, it's massive!
For ice climbing you will need to have appropriate shoes, ice axes, crampons, ice screws and avalanche safety gear. This is in addition to the standard climbing gear. For the approach, touring skis or snowshoes can come in handy. Except for skis and shoes, you can borrow all the materials from the NijSAC. Easy right?
If you're interested in trying ice climbing, there are several ways to get started. The Dutch Student Alpine Club (NSAC) offers a comprehensive ice climbing course that covers everything from basic technique to multi-pitch ice climbing. However, it's important to note that the NSAC course requires previous multi-pitch and alpine experience. The Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Association (NKBV) also offers a variety of courses and workshops for ice climbing. Finally, hiring a guide can give you personalized instruction and guidance, although it can be expensive.
Ice climbing is an incredible way to experience the beauty and challenges of winter. It offers a level of creative freedom and adventure that is unparalleled in other forms of climbing. By placing your own ice screws, you get to choose your own line up the ice and create your own path to the top. Additionally, ice formations come in a variety of shapes and sizes, resulting in awe-inspiring structures that make for some truly amazing and three-dimensional climbing. While some muscle can come in handy, it is mainly about technique. Focusing on your technique in the route translates indirectly to your sport climbing abilities, making it an excellent way to improve your sport climbing level.