10 Things to Know about Ice Climbing

From wearing the warmest jacket to having sharp tools. Here are the tips, tricks and hacks from our ambassador Matthias Scherer to make ice climbing a lot more fun.

Matthias Scherer is a professional ice climber from Germany. He started ice climbing in winter 1993 and has since then climbed far over 1000 ice falls all around the globe.
As an organizer of international ice climbing and winter mountaineering events such as the ‘Cogne Ice Opening’ and the ‘Arctic Ice Festival’ Matthias shares his stoke for the action in the cold through workshops, talks and seminars.

1. Gear

Pay close attention to your layering system. Gore Tex jackets and pants are a must. A very warm belay jacket is your life saver. Underwear must be warm when wet so wool is a great choice. A polartec power stretch fleece hoodie is the perfect mid layer. The integrated hood fits under a helmet and keeps the spindrift out.
Choose a pack that’s comfortable to carry while approaching but also nice to climb with. Waterproof packs make in rough conditions the difference between a messy or a “still” fun day.
Keep your ice tools and crampons always sharp. The same goes for your ice screws.

Matthias’s prefered Norrøna ice climbing gear:

trollveggen, Gore-Tex Pro Light Jacket

Developed to achieve the perfect balance between lightweight and durability, the trollveggen Gore-Tex Pro Light Jacket is our lightest jacket for demanding mountaineering.

trollveggen, Gore-Tex Pro Bib

The trollveggen Gore-Tex Pro Bibs are our most durable pants, developed for mountaineers with high requirements to excessive durability, innovative functionality, and high-performance weather protection.

trollveggen Powerstretch Pro Zip

The durable trollveggen Powerstretch Pro Zip Hoodie is a highly flexible and functional mid-layer designed for mountaineering activities.

trollveggen, 40L Dri Pack

The trollveggen 40L dri Pack is our most durable mountaineering backpack developed for activity in steep terrain. It is fully seam taped and offers a versatile dri backpack with roll-top closure for watertight closure and compression.

wool, Zip Neck

The Norrøna merino wool baselayer is developed to suit your outdoor activity perfectly, regardless of the weather conditions, season or intensity level.

trollveggen, warmwool2 Stretch Tights

The highly stretchable and functional trollveggen warmwool2 stretch Tights are our most durable mid-layer tights ideal for mountaineering .

2. Safety

This is a big article for itself but here some key factors:
Check the weather forecast. Check especially the temperatures in the forecast. Check the avalanche report. Bring a beacon, shovel and probe. Bring a bivi bag or wind sack. Bring a dedicated first aid kit.
As mentioned above. Bring a very warm jacket. If anything goes wrong you have the warmth to wait. Make your plan always with some extra time in your head. That means bring some extra food, hot drinks and extra clothing. A couple of extra ice screws, quick draws and some rock pitons don’t weigh much but can make a huge difference if the climb is harder than expected.
Don’t climb with fuzzy ropes. They just freeze up and you will have a mess when the abseiling starts. Always bring a headlamp. I have always a very small (extra) one in the pocket of my trollveggen Gore-Tex Pro Bib.
Climb in a team of three. Might be slower but, it’s so much safer in case something is happening.
Try always to see the ‚bigger picture‘ – ice falls are often the part of a big mountain face…

Matthias’s prefered Norrøna ice climbing safety gear:

trollveggen, ACE down950 Jacket

The trollveggen ACE down950 Jacket is our warmest and most durable down jacket engineered for mountaineering. It’s the obvious choice for demanding and quality conscious mountaineers.

general outdoor, Lightweight Windsack

The norrøna lightweight Windsack 4/2 is one of the world’s lightest windsacks weighing only 166 grams.

Pay close attention to your layering system. Gore Tex jackets and pants are a must. A very warm belay jacket is your life saver.

- Matthias Scherer

3. How to get started

Join an alpine club or an ice climbing festival that offers introduction clinics. Ice climbing is a sport that needs a lot of experience and knowledge to move safely in winter terrain. A festival or organized clinic gives you the opportunity to do your first steps and focus on the ice tools and crampons.

4. How to train

Get used to the cold. Ride your bike in cold weather. Go running in the rain. Do pull-ups and push-ups when it storms outside. Hang from your ice tools in your garden when it’s cold. Go drytooling, if you have a dedicated crag nearby. Jump or take baths in freezing water – Everything that gets you stoked for the cold is great.

5. How to stay relaxed

Choose realistic goals. Don’t stress yourself and your partner with over ambition. Learn to understand the nature of the winter of ice and get inspired by it. Work together with your climbing partner, don’t compete with him. Decisions in ice climbing should always be team decisions. The journey is the destination not a certain ice climb on one certain day – enjoy being out there.

The journey is the destination not a certain ice climb on one certain day - enjoy being out there.

- Matthias Scherer

6. How to stay warm - beside having the right layering system

Keep yourself busy on the belays – of course you need to keep attention while belaying your partner but a system of warm up gymnastics like squats and arm circling do the job. Hot drinks are key. In a team of three, means that there are two persons on the belay. If you are not belaying don’t drift away. Build already the v-threads for the abseiling, give hot drinks to your belaying partner. Cheer him up.

7. How to keep the fun over years

Learn to adapt to the situation. Don’t act like a bullet that cannot change anymore it’s trajectory anymore. If a climb is already busy with another party, check for alternatives.
Temperatures will drastically change the ice quality and difficulty of a climb. Be prepared to pull back when the ice is frozen like concrete, exploding like glass or super wet… Ice is always in flux so don’t approach it with a rigid mindset.

8. Warm fingers - how?

Choose gloves for climbing that are nimble enough to handle all the gear. They should have a thin inner hand that gives you a good grip on the tools. The harder you have to grip with your hands the colder your fingers get. Bring a couple of those, because they will become wet. Choose extra warm gloves for belaying.

Matthias’s prefered Norønna gloves for ice climbing:

falketind, Dri Short Gloves

Waterproof and windproof, this is the perfect glove for any activity that requires protection. The falketind dri Glove is a lightweight glove that will protect you against the elements regardless of your activity.

lofoten, Gore-Tex Thermo200 Long Gloves

The waterproof lofoten Gore-Tex thermo200 long Gloves are our warmest freeride gloves.

Offering great protection, high-performance insulation, and premium materials, they’re ready to join in on any cold day adventure.

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trollveggen, Gore-Tex Pro Mittens

The trollveggen Gore-Tex Pro Mittens are a waterproof seam-sealed shell mitten in 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric with Pittards Armortan goat leather in palm for durability and grip.

/29, Wool Pile Liner Mittens

The /29 Wool Pile Mittens is designed to fit inside the trollveggen Gore-Tex Pro Mittens.

The wool pile fabric is a combination of wool and polyester for durability and fast drying.

9. Embrace exploring

Social media is great for inspiration, but don’t run the next day to a climb when someone posted a picture, saying that conditions are great. In fact others might have the same idea. Think out of the box and go to a different place. Explore and have the satisfaction of discovering freshly formed ice all for yourself.

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10. Embrace the cold

Ice climbing is an awesome experience that will change your perception of this world. You must be willing to open yourself to the cold. Embrace this incredible moment when water stands still for a moment. When the rush of life is frozen for a moment, to witness its magnificence.

Check out Matthias Scherer’s website to learn more about his #eternalquest for the frozen ephemeral.

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