Tools of the Trade


Thinking of climbing up a frozen waterfall? Familiarize yourself with these terms before your first class, and feel more confident learning about the ice.


Belaying – A safety technique where a stationary climber provides protection by means of ropes, anchors, and braking devices or techniques to an ascending or descending partner.


Carabiner – An oval- or D-shaped aluminum device that has a spring-loaded closure – in some cases it can be locked – that connects anchors (such as an ice screw) and ropes or ropes to harness.


Climbing rope – Usually made of nylon, climbing rope, like yachting rope, features kernmantle construction; that is, it is built with an inner core that is protected by a woven outer sheath.


Crampon – Metal spikes that attach to climbing boots for traction on ice and firm snow.


Ice ax – A multiuse device with a long handle and a top that usually has a narrow, sharp pick on one end and a wider adze on the other. It can be used as a pick to chop footsteps and seats from the ice, as a walking stick, and as a method to stop a climber in case of a fall.


Ice screw – A durable, threaded screw with aggressive teeth, sometimes with a ratcheting device, designed to bore into ice securely enough to serve as an anchor.


– Definitions derived from the American Mountain Guides Association, the Santiam Alpine Club, and other reference materials.



How to Go


These outfitters offer a range of locations, pricing, and ability level. Check the websites for further details.


San Juan Mountain Guides offers private guided ice climbing trips and a variety of levels of ice climbing courses and seminars in the famed Ouray Ice Park of Colorado. This may be one of the best-known and most-celebrated ice climbing locations in the United States, if not the world.


Adirondack Rock and River offers private and group ice climbing guiding and instruction in the Adirondack region of New York.


Jackson Hole Mountain Guides leads classes in the South Fork of Shoshone (the eastern gateway to Yellowstone), just outside of Jackson, Lake Louise, and Death Canyon.


Eastern Mountain Sports has an ice climbing and mountaineering school that explores the ice in New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut. Groups can learn to climb to meet personal goals or as a team-building exercise.


The Montana Mountaineering Association offers Ice Climbing Essentials, a one-day program that teaches the basics – including ice ax and crampon technique – and how to progress from low-angle terrain to steep ice climbing. One to three students per instructor.


Adirondack Mountain Guides offers ice climbing and rock climbing tours and training for everyone by guides who are well-known in Adirondacks and the Northeast.



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