Tips For Winter Climbing

If you’re someone who gets their thrills from climbing mountains, you probably find yourself feeling a little sad when winter rolls around.

Gone are the easy conditions and temperatures that make it simple to enjoy your favorite time of year, and back again is the scary but enticing backdrop to try out winter climbing.

Some people never experience winter climbing because of a fear of safety, and generally being unsure about what it entails. That’s why we’ve compiled this simple guide with some winter climbing tips and what you need to bring in order to have a successful time on the mountain.

What’s The Difference Between Winter Climbing And Other Seasons?

Sure, you might be climbing the same mountains in the same areas when you do winter climbing, but it’s a totally unique experience.

The key difference isn’t just the drop in temperature or the shorter days that give you a limited window to climb, but what happens to the surface of the mountain that you’re scaling.

Winter Climbings

The weather makes this unpredictable and you’ll find yourself extremely cold. The surface will be covered in snow and ice and it’ll take a whole new range of techniques to be able to manage them, as well as an increased risk in frostbite and avalanches.

For all of these potentially scary things though, those who love winter climbing think it’s the best and most thrilling type of adventure you could ever do.

The Dangers Of Winter Climbing

Smart climbers educate themselves on all of the risks involved before they head out, and this is especially true during winter. These are some things you’ll have to be mindful of that might not usually seem like a big deal in the warmer months:

  • ​Frostbite
  • ​Dehydration
  • ​Falls
  • Avalanches
  • Debris

​Add to this the usual things that you have to worry about while climbing, and you can see why some people want to avoid the risk. However, with careful planning and the right gear, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a colder climb.

What To Bring On A Climb

Preparation is key during any climb or outdoor activity, and because the risk is higher when doing something like snow or ice climbing this is especially true.

Ice Climbing Gears

The gear you pack and the clothes you wear will be your savior when it comes to safety and comfort, so don’t discount its importance. Here are just a few essentials you’ll need to bring along:

  • ​Climbing harness and helmet;
  • ​Crampons;
  • ​Locking carabiner;
  • Tools for navigating the ice;
  • Insulated boots;
  • Insulated jacket;
  • Long thermal underwear;
  • Heavy fleece or sweater;
  • Waterproof jacket, preferably with a hood;
  • Lightly insulated pants;
  • Two pairs of gloves, one thin and one thick;

​In addition to this, you’ll need the regular stuff that you take on a climbing expedition. This would include sunscreen, food and water, sunglasses, medical supplies, and anything else that you usually deem essential.

Tips For Winter Climbing

If you’re still apprehensive about going in the colder weather or wondering is it safe to climb during winter, let us ease your mind a little. These are some top tips from expert winter climbers who have had many successful runs and have some great tips to offer.

Match The Route To The Conditions

Always check conditions the day you head out and stick to a route that is safe. Not all climbs are recommended in all kinds of cold weather.

Use A Belay Jacket

Belay Jackets


This means choosing a jacket that’s ideal for cold weather, so it should offer warmth and insulation as well as the freedom to move. Have a belay jacket ready for this time so you can stick it on and stay warm even when you’re not moving.

Pack Hot Liquid

Fill up a thermos with hot juice or Gatorade and pack it on you. The warmth will be helpful but it will ensure that during your climb, you’re not attempting to drink frozen liquids halfway up the mountain.

Have Excess Gloves Ready

Going through all of your gloves and having them soaking wet in freezing conditions is not a position you want to be in. As well as a thin pair and thicker pair, considering stashing another two sets somewhere for emergencies.

Keep Moving

Even if you’re standing there enjoying the views, you need to stay active to keep warm. This means doing a little dance or walking in one spot to stay warm and keep the blood pumping, even if you feel silly doing it.

Prepare Yourself With Navigation Tools

Don’t just rely on one thing to help you find your way, but have many. Pack a GPS device, even if it’s your smartphone, but also have the traditional methods of a compass and a map just in case. You definitely don’t want to get lost in these freezing conditions.

Navigations

Have Spare Trainers

Once you’re out of the tricky bits and have to do a lot of walking up a hill, it could offer some relief to wear trainers for a while. Pack a pair and change into them whenever conditions allow and you’ll feel a huge difference.

A Unique Experience For Those Who Like A Thrill

Once you’ve had your very first winter climb, you’ll probably wonder why you were so worried about it. It’s a completely unique experience compared to mountaineering in the warmer months and something that you’ll never forget.

 Just like any other form of climbing, preparation is going to be your best friend. With such extreme conditions and the risk being increased of something going wrong, you really need to have everything in order. With the right supplies and knowhow though, you’ll experience a whole new way of climbing that will change your outlook for good.

Resources:

​MSR​

​BMC

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