So you want to be a badass ice climber? Do you just buy gear and slug away? Head over to Backcountry.com and stock up on a rack of Spectres and get after it? After all, it's your God given right...
No. Like most things that require experience, you train for it. With DRY ICE Tools, you can get very close to training for actual ice. Beyond DRY ICE, the real question is, 'what are my options for training on real ice?'
So far, in these fine United States of America, the number of facilities, indoor or outdoor, where you can train year round for ice and mixed climbing can be counted on one hand: 5. There are only FIVE. There are gyms here and there that have soft plastic holds where a climber can get practical training, but they are not listed here.
For climbers on the world cup circuit, specialized training in personally built gyms and travel to the worlds mixed playgrounds seems to do the trick. But for the regular folk, what follows is a list of your options for getting the experience you'll need to have at least a modicum of confidence on climbs like this:
The Weeping Wall, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
To get your real ice fix during the off season, AND you're in the UK, check out these places:
Located in Kinlochleven, England, this is a 50ft, indoor, refrigerated, straight up ice climbing gym. It is also a 500 mile drive from London. This is easily the best training for real ice climbing, simply because it is real ice climbing. However, the ice is unleadable and totally picked out. Kind of like showing up at your favorite crag in the Catskills on New York after a guided party of 12 has swiss cheesed the cliff into an unaesthetic and dinner plated mess (referred to as 'gang-roping'). But then again, this is indoor, year-round, fabricated ice and it's amazing that it even exists!
The owners of the Ice factor have second facility called the Snow Factor
in Glasgow. It's part of a larger, indoor ski hill and family fun zone called Xscape
. One industrious climber made this POV vid for all your voyeuristic indoor ice climbing needs. Take note of the padded hammers!
Vertical chill is yet another UK indoor ice gym located at the Ellis Brigham London
stores. Smaller and more (ahem) 'intimate' than the Ice Factor, these two centrally located gyms are a great LUnch hour activity
Faux Ice Options
Looking beyond 50ft refrigerators (and the MASSIVE energy requirements therein), here are some other options for ice training available today:
FoamIce is exactly that, stiff foam sculpted into the likeness of ice into which you can swing you ice tools and crampons. From Nicros: Nicros FoamIce™ allows you to bring the thrill of ice climbing into the comfort of your indoor facility. These panels are ideal for pre-season training or as a great way to extend your ice climbing season. FoamIce™ panels are easily installed on any flat climbing surface and can be custom cut to fit your space requirements. FoamIce™ is a great way to add a new element to your climbing program or revitalize your existing climbing wall.
iceHoldz are a great idea.
Modular, soft plastic holds that are mounted to a climbing wall. Climbers swing away and the feel is very similar to actual ice. Cons: You know that feeling when you smack your ice tool into rock? That's what it feels like when you hit the bolt head that hold the iceHold to the wall. $216 for 7 holds. (and $80 for new picks)
The main problems with any faux ice option are cost and safety. Both of the options listed here are very pricey. Just to use any of them you'll need a $300 pair of ice tools, a $250 pair of ice climbing boots, $150 crampons, and $40 tethers. AND you'll wreck the panels or holds and have to replace them after about 200 swings. AND you'll have to cordon off a section of your gym so ice climbers and swing their sharp pointy things all over, posing a risk to themselves, the other customers, cutting down on precious climbing wall real estate, and potentially damaging the wall, the matts, the gym flooring, etc... Using real ice tools indoors is simply not safe nor practical.
If only there was a better way. A way to train for ice and mixed climbing in a way that is safe for the climber, the other climbers, and the gym. Wait a second... THERE IS