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The Basics of Ice Climbing

8 Min Read • Whether you're new to ice climbing, or just looking for a refresher course — this is a great place to start. Below is an excerpt from one of our Petzl Access Books: Ice Climbing Basics.

January 24 2024

Ice climbing

Ice climbing, more than perhaps any other type of climbing, is a delicate balance. A balance between the climber's skills and an ever-changing medium.

Ice climbers need the right conditions, the right techniques, and the right gear to succeed. 

That's why Petzl has published our Access Book on Ice Climbing Basics. Because whether you're new to ice climbing, or just looking for a refresher course — this is a great place to start

To download the PDF of this booklet click here

Topics addressed:

  • Choosing the right tools for the job 
  • Placing ice screws
  • Technique for progressing on ice
  • Building a belay in ice 
  • Creating and rappelling from V-threads 

What sets ice climbing apart is its environment. Apart from tools, tips, and technique; ice climbing requires significant experience to better understand ice quality and formation. This topic is not covered in this booklet.

Choosing The Right Tools For The Job 

Climbing ice may seem like it requires a ton of gear — let's simplify it for you. This section outlines the basic equipment you'll need to get out on the ice, as well as some nice-to-have gadgets that could make your day at the crag a lot easier. 


Progressing On Ice 

Ice climbing movement diverts slightly from traditional rock techniques. In ice climbing, we put a premium on stability and balance, and less emphasis on difficult moves. 


Placing Ice Screws 

Ice screw placements are all about ice quality. To read more from Petzl about ice quality and formation click here


Building Belays For Ice Climbing

When belaying a ice climbing leader, falling ice is the main concern. Position yourself accordingly. 


Constructing V-Threads

V-threads are a common tool used to retreat from ice climbs where no fixed anchors are present. 



  • These booklets present an excerpt from the body of techniques for the activity
  • Get training and practice in the techniques of the activity 
  • Carefully read the Instructions for Use of the products associated with the proposed techniques
  • The environment and the activity itself are inherently dangerous
  •  You are responsible for your own actions and decisions