The Busy Man’s Guide to Beginning Ice Climbing

So you want to try ice climbing? Congratulations! You’ve now joined a group of people where everybody else will tell you that you’re crazy.

Ice climbing is a great winter sport and is a good way to stay in shape throughout the cold season. Ice climbing has become well developed in the more mountainous provinces of Canada and is readily accessible to many of their citizens. In Ontario, the sport is still very much in its infancy but is growing rapidly in popularity. This article will focus primarily on Ontario.

Think of this article as a living reference manual that will constantly be updated with useful information and links.

Basic Technique Steep Ice Skills Special

  • Great article with good info on basic technique by professional ice climber Will Gadd.
  • If you’re just starting out don’t fret too much about the section on lead climbing, you’ll do most of your beginner laps on top rope.
  • Basic Ice Climbing Technique
    Solid video by Mountain Equipment showing basic technique.

How to tie a Figure I knot

  • YouTube
  • Essential skill to know for all climbing.

How to Belay

  • YouTube
  • Another essential skill to know for all climbing.

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills

Where to Learn (Ontario specific)

Southern Ontario Ice Festival

SOICEfest takes place at Diamond Lake near Palmer Rapids, Ontario. It’s a beautiful location and the festival grows in popularity every year. Clinics can be found for skill levels from beginner to advanced. Prices are very affordable. Each course is taught by ACMG certified guides. Make sure to try the chili (secret ingredient is whiskey) and join in the nightly festivities at the Arlington in Maynooth.

Visit the website: Click Here

The Alpine Club of Canada

The Alpine Club of Canada is a great place to meet like minded people and learn ice climbing in a supportive environment. The Ottawa Section climbs in areas such as Gatineau in Quebec and Calabogie in the Madawaska Highlands. Gatineau features a very beginner friendly route called Luskville Falls and Calabogie features many routes that can be anchored via top rope.

Luskville Falls

Nameless Too at Calabogie

The Toronto Section provides clinics at Tiffany Falls every Sunday during the winter. Conditions permitting.

Ottawa Section website: Click Here

Toronto Section website: Click Here

One Axe Pursuits

If you’re in Southwestern Ontario and looking to learn ice climbing then people will quite often point you towards One Axe Pursuits. They come highly recommended by all and allow local climbers to use their ice on the shores of the Irvine River when they aren’t teaching clinics. The owners of One Axe Pursuits took matters into their own hands after a few sporadic winter and began farming their own ice on one of the cliffs within Victoria Park. If you’re looking for ice climbing in a scenic location with lots of good meal options around then this is the place to go.

Visit the website: Click Here

Where to Climb

Resources for Northern Ontario

The map above only lists some of the locations where ice climbing is available in Ontario. Notable missing crags include Calabogie.

Guidebooks are generally a good source of information on routes. They can be found online or in stores such as Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Buy Southern Ontario Ice at MEC

Social media can be quite useful too. Groups on Facebook can help you find Climbing partners and keep you up to date on current conditions.

Ontario Ice Climber Forum on Facebook


Forgot my helmet that day. Not the brightest moment.

  • Ice tools
  • Helmet
  • Harness
  • Mountaineering Boots (ski boots are a cheap alternative on easy ice)
  • Crampons
  • Multiple carabiners
  • Anchor material
  • Belay device
  • Rope (dry rope)
  • Ice screws

All of this equipment can be bought or rented at your local Mountain Equipment Co-op with the exception of mountaineering boots in Ontario. Toronto is the only store to carry mountaineering boots for rental.

Living Document

This article is intended to be a living document. If you have any information to add or recommendations then feel free to comment or email me and I’ll gladly add them in!

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