Ice Climbing in Iceland - An Introduction

Jan Zelina

Iceland’s Untamed Nature

Iceland: a country whose name elicits images of an icy, frozen paradise of deep blues, unshaped by the hands of humankind. Iceland possesses 4,500 miles of glacier which remain largely un-tread, except by those who are skilled enough and brave enough to marvel at its wonders.

Due to the ever-changing, ancient, frozen phenomena, venturing to explore Iceland’s crevasses and jagged ridges requires climbing ice and a guide to lead you across Iceland’s untamed expanses. Fortunately, for the adventuring traveler, ice climbing is practiced year round and there are a multitude of interesting natural phenomena to observe: jagged ridges, sink holes, and ice formations.

Ice Climbing: A Short History

Early variations of ice climbing has existed for at least 2,000 years, however, it didn’t become popular for recreation until the late 19th century. Originally, an offshoot from European mountaineering, there were several key inventions that shaped how we ice climb today.

The development of climbing tools revolutionized ice climbing and are essential for any trek: crampons, boot nails, ropes, ice picks, harnesses, etc. Crampons were first invented by Oscar Eckenstein in 1908. These devices have toothed claws that attach to mountaineering boots. By the 1930s, crampons had been further modified by fitting protruding front points, which increased the overall speed at which one could ice climb, as well as taking on steeper climbs.

What is Ice Climbing?

As mentioned above, ice climbing developed out of early European mountaineering. Ice climbing is very similar to rock climbing, its quintessential difference lying in the additional components of ice and frigid temperatures. Additionally, ice climbing provides the opportunity to climb and explore features not as easily accessible as those in rock climbing. The two primary types of ice climbing are climbs that involve frozen, flowing water (e.g. waterfalls) and climbs that involve compact snow or ice located on the top mountains and glaciers. These kinds of climbs require a special expertise not found in rock climbing tours.

Why Go Ice Climbing?

For good reason, ice climbing has become a prominent and exhilarating outdoor activity. There is no better way than to experience Iceland’s most striking and best preserved natural phenomenon than by ice climbing to them.

In addition to the beautiful scenery, ice climbing provides rigorous physical activity that challenges the mind and the body, even during the coldest of months. It helps tone muscles, improves balance, increases endurance, and further develops flexibility while testing one’s limits and skills. It is an inexplicable triumph, realizing the peak of a difficult climb, having been pushed to your limits while still succeeding.

Finally, it is a sport that, while it exists to challenge yourself, it also brings you close to others. Ice climbing is not a solitary endeavor, it is a communal one. Visiting some of earth’s most stunning landscapes is not something that should be done alone, it should be shared by people who love to relish in the challenge ice climbing presents and the magnificence of the outdoors.

The question is not “why go ice climbing” but “why haven’t you gone ice climbing yet?”

For the best excursion experience exploring Iceland’s most stunning landscapes, visit our web page to view our ice climbing tours today.

Björgvin Hilmarsson

About the Author

IMG Staff Writer

IMG Staff Writer

An anonymous but well informed member of our team that enjoys sharing their knowledge of Iceland & Greenland’s stunning nature.

Reader’s Comments