Is Ice Climbing More Dangerous Than Rock Climbing? (3 Reasons)

Many rock climbers eventually switch to ice climbing, but they may be unaware of the hazards that come with the new sport.

To highlight a few of them, I produced the following guide.

So is ice climbing more dangerous than rock climbing? Ice climbing is, without a doubt, the harder of the two activities.

Many of the dangers of rock climbing are present, but it also has a few that are unique.

is ice climbing more dangerous than rock climbing? for three reasons (which we’ll go over in depth in this article):

Is Ice Climbing More Dangerous Than Rock Climbing? (3 Main Reason)

The Dangers Of Ice Climbing

1.) Falling

Is Ice Climbing More Dangerous Than Rock Climbing

I’ve written about it before, and I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to prevent falling while ice climbing.

One of the most significant distinctions between this activity and rock climbing is this.

It is possible to fall numerous times each route during rock climbing with little to no repercussions.

If you look up a video of a professional climber working on a project, you’ll notice that they take dozens, if not hundreds, of falls with little to no repercussions.

This is not the case, however, in ice climbing.Because of how disastrous an ice climbing fall may be, you must never fall while leading on ice.

This makes the sport inherently riskier, as a single misstep can result in a host of injuries such as fractured bones and torn cartilages.

2.) Protection

This goes hand in hand with the previous section about falling. Not only can falls cause major bodily harm,

But there’s also the possibility that your protection won’t be as effective as you had hoped.

The great majority of people are safeguarded while rock climbing by ‘bolts,’ or metal hooks drilled/glued into the wall.

These fasteners are frequently installed by professionals and are rated to withstand far more force than you’ll cause in a fall.

The only protection you have when ice climbing is’screws,’ which you twist into the ice and clip your rope through.

These screws are only as good as the ice that holds them, and ice has a tendency to break/shear when stressed.

So, not only should you avoid falling while ice climbing, but if you do, your protection will have a lower probability of catching you.

3.) Avalanche And Icefall

The chance of something crashing down from above and harming you or dragging you off the wall

From the impact is one of the most common causes of ice climber injuries. There are two key suspects when it comes to this:

Avalanches are caused by enormous slopes of snow slipping and collapsing.

These can pour down into the ice climbing area (say, a frozen waterfall) and hit you with enough force to kill, bury,

When a block of ice breaks loose above you and tumbles down the route, it is known as an icefall.

This is similar to having a boulder thrown at you while climbing; if it hits you, it can break a bone, concuss you, or force you to fall.

Rock climbers don’t have to worry about either of these factors (although they do have to deal with rockfall, which we’ll discuss later).

4.) Conditions

Finally, and most crucially, ice climbing is risky due to the weather conditions.

You’re outside in the dead of winter, braving subzero temperatures and working in a setting where the weather might change quickly,

Bringing storms or cold fronts with it. You’ll have to deal with icy fingers (which makes climbing more difficult),

Fluctuating temperatures (which means you’ll need to have a lot of garments), and inclement weather (which can influence how strong the ice is).

Overall, while ice climbing, there are simply more variables to consider.

You must balance route complexity, weather, temperature, ice condition, and avalanche risk while attempting to avoid falling.

The Dangers of Rock Climbing

Rock climbers, like ice climbers, must face with danger from above.

Aside from avalanches and ice, they must contend with the threat of cliff portions coming free and falling on them.

When climbing outdoors, one of the most serious dangers you encounter is rockfall.

Rocks might come loose from where they’re attached and fall at you while you’re on the road due to wear and tear, changing weather, and ordinary erosion.

If they collide, this might result in major head injuries or fractured bones.You should also be concerned about your belayer.

If the person assigned with catching you in the event of a fall is knocked out, there’s a slim chance you’ll make it off the wall alive.

1.) Fall Danger

Now, I know I stated you fall a lot while rock climbing, and I’m going to stand by that assertion.

However, there is something to be said for learning how to fall correctly, and even if you get it wrong, you can still get hurt.

When it comes to leading on rock, the most common concern is your foot placement in regard to the rope.

Make sure your leg is never caught between the wall and the rope.If this happens, you’ll be sent spinning as the rope tilts you backwards as you fall.

This can cause you to slam against the ground with a lot of force, potentially injuring your skull.

2 ) Protection

Finally, rock climbers must be cautious about their safety, even though it isn’t as important as it is while ice climbing.

Ironically, the problem that rock climbers encounter is nearly the same as that which ice climbers experience.

The problem with ice climbing, as I mentioned previously, is that you’re responsible for your own gear placements.

This implies there’s a chance you’ll make a mistake, but it also means you’ll have more time to evaluate each placement.

When rock climbing, you’re putting your life in the hands of whoever installed the bolt.

You won’t know until you fall on it if it’s a poor-quality bolt, bored into terrible rock, or rusted beyond repair.

The only way to avoid this is to climb in an area where a respectable organisation, such as TABVAR or the RRGCC,

Maintains routes and sets bolt placement standards. If you don’t have that, you’re basically climbing on trust.

Ice Climbing Vs Rock Climbing

To understand why ice climbing is riskier, consider the threats that each poses and how they compare.

To that end, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common risks associated with each sport.

How Is Ice Climbing A Different Or Similar Experience From Rock Climbing?

Ice climbing is similar to rock climbing, however it has some advantages:

1.) Ice climbing is frequently done in an avalanche chute, which adds to the thrill.

2.) Because you may position your ‘holds’ pretty much wherever you choose, ice climbing techniques are rather simple to learn.

(Sometimes the placement of grips in rock climbs is troublesome.)

3.) Ice-screws can be set (nearly) at will to provide protection.

Regrettably, these are typically unable to survive the forces created by all but the tiniest of falls, adding to the excitement.

4.) If the ice is too brittle for secure tool placement on a difficult ice climb in extreme cold,

You may always bail and return a few days or weeks later when the temperature is 20 or 30 degrees warmer,

The ice is more flexible, and the climb is several grades easier. It’s not necessary for anyone to know.

Is Ice Climbing As Dangerous As Free Solo Climbing?


While there are many dangers associated with ice climbing, it is not as dangerous or extreme as free soloing.

This is because when you free solo, if you make even the tiniest error and fall, you will perish.

There are no margins for error, no backups, and no do-overs. You die if the rock breaks. Foot slips, and you’re dead. Bye if you miss a hold.

You’re still linked to a rope, which is attached to ice screws or a top out anchor, even if you die from ice climbing.

It is, nevertheless, substantially safer than free soloing if everything is done according to protocol.

I should point out that ice climbing is still riskier than traditional rock climbing.Hypothermia, avalanches, and falling ice debris are all more likely.

What Is The Ideal Number Of Rope Team Members For Climbing A Glacier?

Three to five individuals is the ideal size for a rope team.

In the event of a fall, the larger the rope team, the lower the risk of being dragged into a chasm.

What Are The Rules Of Ice Climbing?

  • 1.) Do not lead a grade higher unless you can converse comfortably while ascending at your present grade.
  • 2.) The leader must never lose control.
  • 3.) Maintain a low heel height.
  • 4.) Swing one tool and move both feet at all times. Swing, kick
  • 5.) Swing your tools narrowly, no broader than your shoulder blades.
  • 6.) Ice screws should be placed around your waist, not higher.

How Can You Stay Safe During Ice Climbing?

When you descend, keep your tools tucked away. If you’re top roping, which is the only semi-safe way I’ve found to ice climb.

I’m an experienced ice climber, but for some reason, when top roping an ice climb,I get tired and overconfident, and I forget to holster my gear when being lowered.

You can deck with only one false swipe of a tool!

Apart from that, the safest thing you can do while ice climbing is to remember how dangerous it is. Even if it’s on TR.

Make sure you know what time of day you’re climbing; if you go too early, the ice will dinner-plate you;

If you go too late, the ice will melt and your tools will freeze into the ice, causing extra fatigue. Many of the incidents I’ve witnessed have occurred at the base of an ice climb.

So keep an eye out for moments when you’re not on the rope or on the belay.

In twenty years of rock, ice, and mountaineering, the only head injury I’ve had came at the base of an ice climb.

I slipped on some verglas and fell flat on my face.

Be safe!

EDIT: I completely forgot about ice climbing. As a beginner, a small group of buddies and

I would practise on frozen streams with only a few feet of ice falls. Without the added weight of the rope,

You can explore and perfect technique while also being more aware of your surroundings.

You’ll also stay warmer if you’re moving around a lot, and you’ll get some practise with your ice screws.

However, be aware that this can be quite harmful. Ice bouldering was the closest I ever came to dying as a climber.

I turned around to sit and rest next to a companion at the top of a little ice waterfall without planting my crampons, and I began to slip.

My friend caught me, but looking back, we had hiked up about a dozen tiny falls, and I could have easily slid down a hundred feet, shattered or dead.

Why Do Some People Prefer Ice Climbing Instead Of Normal Climbing?

Climbing on ice and climbing on rock are two very different experiences.

“Why do people prefer to run hurdles instead of marathons?” you might wonder.

Sure, a lot of the rope techniques are comparable, and you are climbing up something in theory, but that is about the limit of the similarities.

I used to go rock climbing to prepare for ice climbing. Strength and conditioning are more important than technique.

In the summer, I could go to my local crag after work and spend a few delightful hours climbing many times per week.

You’re not going to be able to accomplish that ice climbing. At least not where I reside.

Difficult days high in the mountains, typically doing long multi-pitch routes in all kinds of weather,

Were always a part of ice climbing. The equipment used and the levels of fitness required were completely different.

The weather has a significant impact on ice climbing. Ice routes change constantly depending on the conditions.

Depending on the weather, the trip’s difficulty may fluctuate.

Ice that is thin and brittle one day may become thick and hard the next month.Techniques differ as well.

The grips are decided by the ice’s capacity to hold, not by where there are holds on the rock, while using crampons and axes.

The use of ice screws for fall protection is considerably different from bolted climbs on excellent rock.

Basically, you try your hardest to avoid taking a huge fall, whereas on bolted rock routes,

You can take as many tries as you want to execute a specific move, knowing that a fall will be protected and you can simply climb back on the rock.

The most significant difference is likely in the objective risks you confront while ice climbing,

Which range from the fact that you’re in the mountains in the winter to avalanche, falling ice, unstable protection, and a lack of daylight.

They are, as I already stated, two distinct entities.

FAQ’S On: Is Ice Climbing More Dangerous Than Rock Climbing?

Can you fall ice climbing?

So, what’s the big deal with ice climbing falls? Lead falls on ice are extremely dangerous,

And there’s a good chance you’ll break a bone. Falling is something that should be avoided at all costs.

It’s totally acceptable to fall on ice if you’re climbing on top rope.

Is ice climbing difficult?

Ice climbing is a sport that is naturally tough. Only the most experienced mountaineers venture tackle this challenge.

Ice climbing is regarded as one of the most dangerous sports in the world due to the unpredictable conditions you will encounter and the high level of risk.

Is ice climbing easier?

Ice climbing is a challenging activity to master, both physically and mentally.

It not only necessitates a high level of fitness, but it also entails a number of logistical and planning problems.

The risk and frequently changing conditions that ice climbing provides are what make it so tough.

How dangerous is ice climbing?

Yes, ice climbing is a risky activity due to a number of causes. Ice climbing is dangerous

Because of the low temperatures, the possibility of falling ice, and the physical damage that can occur during lead falls.

How do you know if ice is safe to climb?

Weather, avalanche risk, and ice quality are just a few of the elements that must be considered.

Climbing ice that is thick, blue, and free of natural hazards is generally considered safe.

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