Alaska Ice Climbing is among the most thrilling outdoor activities to try while visiting the great state of Alaska. Alaska offers ice climbing options for all ages and experience levels. While most areas of the country can only offer ice climbing in the winter months, Alaska offers it all summer, where you can ice climb on the glaciers in the beautiful, warm sunshine. A great way to learn ice climbing is on glacier ice, which has a softer texture for achieving purchase with ice tools and crampons.
After several warm-up climbs on the glacier’s surface, your guide may even lower you down into a moulin, and let you climb up out of it. Moulins are holes carved by water flowing deep into the ice, and create an excellent ice climbing environment! At the end of a day of ice climbing, you’re sure to be exhausted from head to toe, a little sun burnt in the face, and full of wonderful memories and experiences. But watch out… you may have caught the “climbing bug” and be hooked on this fascinating Alaska summertime sport!
Best Practices and Safety Tips
If you’re interested in ice climbing in Alaska, there are a few things you should know:
- Hire a guide – If you’re a beginner, make sure you go with an experienced ice climbing guide. They will “show you the ropes” (literally) and encourage proper ice climbing form.
- Know the equipment -Having fancy ice climbing gear isn’t necessary, but using safe and proper equipment is essential – read more below.
- Keep your hips forward – Beginner ice climbers tend to lean back away from the ice, causing their arm and leg muscles to work harder than necessary. Get up close to the wall and trust in your equipment.
- Wear a helmet – Whether climbing high on the ice, or down below holding the ropes, it is important to wear a helmet. Helmets protect your head against falling ice or equipment, and also look really cool!
- Bring a water bottle and snacks – Keep yourself refueled during a long day out on the glacier by bringing snacks to enjoy during a break from climbing. Bring a water bottle so you can sample some pure Alaskan glacier water afterwards.
- You might get hooked – Ice climbing (especially in Alaska) can be addicting! If you go once, be prepared to want to go again and again!
Ice Climbing Gear Guide
Before you head out on your ice climbing adventure, check this list to make sure you are properly prepared. Your guide will supply the technical equipment (ropes, ice tools, crampons, harnesses, and carabiners):
- Technical equipment – If traveling with a guide, they will be supplying the crampons, ice tools, helmets, harnesses, carabiners, and ropes. Crampons, helmets, and harnesses are adjustable, and will be fitted to each individual.
- Rain gear – Be prepared for the changing Alaskan weather by always carrying a rain jacket and pants in your pack. While ice climbing, it is also very easy to knock small pieces of ice down onto your clothing, so a waterproof layer is important.
- Warm sweater or jacket – A warm wool sweater or fleece jacket is great for pulling on while taking a break from climbing. It is easy to cool down once you stop moving, so always bring an insulating layer along.
- Hiking pants – Lightweight, quick-drying pants work great out on the glacier.
- Warm socks – Keep those feet warm while spending all day out on the ice! Avoid cotton, and stick to wool or synthetic materials. Toss a spare pair in your pack as well.
- Hat and gloves – It is always good to carry a warm hat in preparation for changing weather and a study pair of waterproof gloves is essential for ice climbing. Make sure they fit your hands well, and are flexible enough to provide for good movement and grip.
- Hiking boots - These will be used for hiking out to the glacier. Once you get on the ice, you’ll switch to plastic mountaineering boots for ice climbing.
- Camera – Make sure you catch all the action and beautiful scenery!
- Lunch, snacks, and water bottle – Nothing tastes so good as lunch out on the glacier after a morning of ice climbing. Be prepared with lots of high-calorie snacks to keep your energy up throughout the whole day. Bring along a water bottle to sample some of the cool glacier water as well!
Alaska Ice Climbing Resources
Check out our Alaska Ice Climbing Trip >> Root Glacier Ice Climbing Trip
Other Alaska Ice Climbing resources from around the web: