How to Stay Warm While Ice Climbing
With ice climbing, it’s all about using the right gear to make the experience enjoyable - this is the kit you’ll need to stay warm and climb ice like a pro!
Curated by Caroline George
Layering for ice climbing is key. To protect you from the elements, a proper layering system is essential in keeping your core insulated and in turn your whole body warm. Wear a warm base layer that wicks moisture properly. On approaches, you’ll be warm and often strip down to that base layer. If you sweat a lot, make sure to bring a change of baselayer - you don’t want it to get wet or you will end up being cold all day ice climbing. To keep warm feet, always wear one pair on the approach and a pair of warm thick socks to change into at the base of the climb to start the climb off with dry feet
Approaches can be the crux of the way: wadding through deep snow, balancing on iced up boulders, bushwhacking; poles have become a very key component to my kit. They help spread the weight more evenly with every step you take and make the whole body work instead of just your legs. On descents, they ease the weight on your joints. It’s important to have collapsible poles to adapt to the slope angle and to pack in your backpack if you need to do carry over (go up one way and down another).
Belaying your partner can get cold really fast on ice climbs so it’s important to always bring a packable down jacket to belay in, one that you can pack in a little compression sack or inside its own pocket to clip to your harness and put on as soon as you feel the cold creeping in.
If it’s not too cold, I like to climb with a thicker glove, like these. It’s important to have a warm glove for belaying so you reduce the chances of screaming barfies on your next pitch. I always keep my gloves stored inside my jacket so they are there when I transition from the one to the other. In addition, most of the Eddie Bauer outerwear has an inside pocket that is perfect for storing gloves!
I always take a pair of sunglasses with me ice climbing. Yes, ice climbs are often shady, but on a bright day, your eyes can suffer from the reflection as much as if standing in the sun. As your body warms up while ice climbing, it’s important to wear glasses that are very aerated so they don’t fog up. Sometimes, an ice climb can be wet and wearing eye protection enables you to look up into the dripping water. And as the sun moves around and you may finish the day in the sun - so always best be prepared!
This pack has a great quick release system for ice axes on the outside. On approaches, you sometimes need to take your ice axe out for a quick icy step and it’s nice to have them so accessible and readily available. This pack can store all your layering pieces, gear, ropes, avalanche gear if needed, thermos and food in the top lid. I like to have everything inside of the pack so nothing gets lost on the way.
What else comes in my pack? A giant thermos full of my special potion: hot water, lemon and a fat stick of cinnamon. Cinnamon is good for circulation so it’s a good way to get the blood flowing to your extremities, and it provides a sweet taste to your drink without added sugar.
Boy it is hard to keep your feet warm while ice climbing. Hanging in a harness tends to slow down the blood flow, the metal on your crampons induces cold inside your boot and standing on snow all promote cold feet. So it’s important to wear boots that are a half size too big, wear warm socks and have boots that you know will keep your toes warm. And the Lowa Latok is the warmest and most comfortable technical boot I have worn to date.
The IgniteLite jacket is the perfect non-bulky insulation piece for ice climbing. It’s nicely fitted with a smooth surface that allows great range of motion as it glides on the fleece. It’s warm and stays warm even if it gets wet; it’s also packable.