“Rock climbing” and “mountaineering” have a wide range of specific skills and sub-genres that encompass the overall sport. One area that is truly unique is the sport of ice climbing. There’s an entirely different set of skills, equipment, and risks associated with climbing frozen waterfalls and glaciers, and once you conquer a couple of routes, it can be tough to go back to any other kind of climbing. If you’re looking for some of the best ice climbing in the world, this list will help you get a solid start on your bucket list.
This one is a bit of cheat, as it’s an indoor ice climbing center. But that means that the weather is always perfect for ice climbing, something that is tough to find in natural, outdoor venues. This indoor facility in Scotland has a variety of different routes that are perfect for any skill level, from beginner to expert. You’ll also find instructors on hand to help you learn the fine art of ice climbing, which is also something you won’t get in natural settings.
Ouray, Colorado is home to the annual Ouray Ice Festival, one of the biggest events in the ice climbing world. Located in the San Juan Mountain Range, Ouray offers numerous ice walls along the steep gorge that runs through town. You can find several schools in town that will offer instruction, and you can expect to climb throughout the winter up until the ice becomes unsafe to climb, so keep an eye on the weather and plan accordingly.
Banff, Alberta is a popular winter sport destination. If you’re specifically looking for some great ice climbing, head out to Johnston Canyon, where you’ll find plenty of challenging routes for beginners and experts alike among the frozen waterfalls.
Scandinavia is a mecca for winter sports enthusiasts. Skiers, skaters, and cross-country athletes all head for various parts of Scandinavia. For ice climbers, Rjukan, Norway is the place to be. The walls of a deep ravine border each side of the town, and in the winter the walls of that ravine are covered in ice. The climbing is so good that each year an ice climbing festival is held in Rjukan, bringing in some of the sport’s best athletes.
The Swiss Alps should be on any ice climber’s bucket list. It’s a great place for beginning ice climbers to learn the craft, but you’ll also find plenty of challenging–and very long–routes to test the skills of the even the most talented ice climbers.