Ice Climbing: A Beginners Take

Olivia Mitchell  |   Wednesday Mar. 1st, 2023

Living in Bozeman gives you access to many different outdoor activities, including countless winter hobbies, such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and, my personal favorite, ice climbing, a sport in which participants climb frozen waterfalls, ice formations, and other frozen structures. It requires specialized gear, such as crampons, ice axes, and ropes, as well as technical skills and physical fitness. Ice climbing is a physically demanding and mentally challenging sport that provides a unique, rewarding experience for those who participate. 

All of this is not to deter you from trying out this incredible sport. Though ice climbing may be intimidating, you shouldn’t back down from trying it just because you’re a beginner. In fact, I went for my first time this past January as a complete beginner and had an absolute blast!

If you’re interested in getting into ice climbing, here are some steps to follow:

Get in shape
Ice climbing is physically demanding, so make sure to engage in strength training and cardio exercises to build your stamina and strength. 

Learn the basics
Familiarize yourself with the gear and equipment used in ice climbing, and learn the proper techniques for climbing, belaying, and rappelling. A great place to practice these skills is at Spire Climbing + Fitness (13 Enterprise Blvd.). Spire is a great place to build a community of ice climbers who are also practicing indoors.

Find a guide or take a course
Consider taking a beginner’s ice climbing course, or hiring a guide to help you get started. They will teach you the necessary skills and provide a safe environment to learn. 

Rent or buy gear
You can rent or buy the necessary gear for ice climbing, including ice axes, crampons, ropes, and harnesses. A wonderful place to rent all things ice climbing is at Uphill Pursuits (211 E Oak St Ste 1D), where they offer rentals for mountaineering boots, crampons, ice picks, helmets, harnesses and more.

The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Start with small, easy ice formations and gradually work your way up to more challenging routes.

Climb with a partner
Always climb with a partner for safety reasons, and to help each other improve your skills—someone like Kevin, a partner in my climbing group who absolutely loves the sport and has been doing it for many seasons. He is great at giving tips and advice on technique. 

Plan ahead
Before you go, make sure you plan everything ahead! Where are you climbing? What routes are you planning to climb? Do you have the proper gear for that area? How long is the ascent to the ice wall? Do you have enough food, water and clothing? When it comes to ice climbing, you want to make sure you have the entire day prepared ahead of time to avoid dangerous situations.  

Stay safe
Ice climbing can be dangerous if proper techniques and safety measures are not followed. Make sure to always use proper equipment, follow guidelines for safe climbing, and be aware of changing weather and ice conditions.

Something I love about ice climbing is that it’s a sport enjoyed by all. Women have made significant contributions to the sport, and have climbed many of the most challenging routes around the world. There is no inherent reason why women are less capable of ice climbing than men, and many women excel in the sport. There are also many ice climbing communities, events, and workshops specifically for women, which provide a supportive environment for women to learn and improve their skills. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced climber, there are many opportunities for women to enjoy and participate in the sport of ice climbing.

When it comes to ice climbing in Bozeman, we are spoiled. Bozeman is home to some of the best ice climbing in the lower 48. That’s all thanks to Hyalite Canyon, where the ice is a true wonder. With more than 150 ice climbing routes in a three-mile radius, you won’t be bored as a beginner, nor as an advanced ice climber.  In fact, Hyalite Canyon is home to the highest concentration of natural ice climbing routes in North America. A few of the routes have been ranked as some of the best ice climbs in the entire world, like “Cleopatra’s Needle” and “Black Magic” to name a couple. Many people would argue that Ouray, Colorado has more concentrated ice and more ice climbing routes than what Hyalite Canyon offers. Yet, that ice is artificially made for the ice park. This is done by ice farmers who meticulously form ice routes with intense planning and mist to form these ice walls. Additionally, to climb in Ouray requires a membership, which starts at $75 for the season. There’s nothing wrong with climbing at a park as such, but there is something so exquisite about how natural, accessible, and consistent Hyalite Canyon is for ice climbing for free.

As the winter season begins its slow demise, get out there and partake in ice climbing. We are lucky to live in Bozeman, where the climate can stay cold enough to keep solid ice formations until May! If ice climbing is not in the cards for you this season, spring and summer are a great time to start training and learning for next year’s ice climbing season. Another great thing to look forward to is Bozeman’s Ice climbing festival, which usually takes place in early December and is a great opportunity to attend ice climbing seminars, watch killer ice climbing, and meet other eager enthusiasts. 

We live in a gorgeous place, and there are so many ways to get out there and experience the beauty. Make sure you get outside this season and enjoy all things Bozeman has to offer!

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