Climbing on snow and ice is a totally different sport to rock climbing, with a whole new set of challenges, rules – and equipment.
Techniques for snow and ice climbing vary depending on the conditions encountered. From 8000 metres up in the Himalayas, to an Alpine ridge or Scottish pitch in winter, experiences will be very different, and the equipment required more specialised.
Crampons and ice axes are a given, whether traversing a glacier or scrambling up a frozen ice cascade.
Scarpa – renowned for their rock climbing shoes like the Force and Vantage – are also specialists in tough, crampon-compatible mountain boots designed for the most difficult conditions underfoot.
At the top end of the scale, the Scarpa Phantom 8000 is one of the most practical, durable boots around, aimed at serious high altitude use and built specifically for the Himalayas.
Along with the Jorasses Pro and women’s Mount Blanc, the Phantom Guide is made on a shared technical last for what has been called the highest level of comfort ever achieved in high performance mountaineering boots.
With a toe shaped for rugged mountain climbing and an improved forefoot shape for a precise fit, the Phantom Guide is the crème-de-la-crème of mountaineering footwear.
Other Things to Consider
- When climbing in winter, it must always be remembered that daylight hours are limited, and thought must be given to extra emergency equipment.
- Always carry a head torch with charged batteries, a spare crampon strap, a good pair of UV-rated sun glasses to protect against the glare of sun on snow, and bivouac equipment in case the worst should happen and you become stranded overnight.
- A thermal blanket rolled up tight and packed at the bottom of your rucksack could save your life in extreme temperatures.
- A helmet should always be worn, whatever type of climbing is being undertaken. Falling rocks are an ever-present danger, not least from those kicked down by climbers above you, and in the case of a fall a helmet will help lessen the risk of serious head injury.
On mountain cliffs and Alpine routes where stone fall is common, helmets are essential – and snow and ice routes should never be attempted without one. Lumps of broken-off blocks of ice can be just as dangerous to a climber as loose rock raining down from above.
Petzl, Grivel, Wild Country and many other manufacturers have ensured that the heavy, cumbersome climbing headwear of yesteryear has been replaced by low-profile, lightweight helmets with built-in impact liners and comfort padding.
Nicki Williams is a keen outdoor pursuits enthusiast who writes for Gear-Zone. She loves Scarpa, but is based as far from the mountains as possible – in Norfolk!
Citations: Images by schoeband; Gear-Zone/Scarpa