Pro Tips: How to Stay Warm Ice Climbing

Posted by in Ambassador, Deuter USA Blog Posts

Many folks have not tried ice climbing because they are afraid it will be too cold. But with a little knowledge and some preparation it’s not hard to stay quite warm and have a pleasant experience. Here are a few pro tips on keeping the blood pumping to the right areas:

Don’t get sweaty on the hike in

When you start your approach, you want to be cold. If the hike is going to be uphill you want to be very cold… like, so cold you want to get back in the car. The rookie mistake is sweating like crazy on the way up and then being cold when you get to the crag and having to stop and put on all your climbing gear.
Pro tip: If you have a tight fitting back system, loosen your pack straps so the pack is just off your body but all the weight is on your hips. This airflow will keep the sweaty back to a minimum. Alternatively, get yourself a Deuter pack with the Aircomfort backsystem. Very airy. 

Don’t climb in thick gloves

Bring two or even three pairs of gloves that are different thicknesses. Use the lightest pair for climbing. When you use a thick pair to climb, you are squeezing the ice tool and in turn squeezing the glove which is pushing blood out of your hand. This can cause a serious case of the “screaming barfies”.  If you don’t know what that is, well, the name says it all. Your hands start to warm up and you are not sure whether to scream or barf. Most pro climbers will use thin “golf” style gloves when climbing hard routes. They are more dexterous and you don’t have to squeeze so hard, thereby staying warmer. 

Have some hot sugary drinks

A nice warm drink is great to make us feel good but it is really the sugar that keeps the fire going inside. The hydration helps with profusion of blood which means our extremities will stay warm as well.
Pro tip: Watch the caffeine intake as it is a vasoconstrictor and can cause extremities, like our fingers and toes, to become quite cold.

Do air squats

Squats work our biggest muscles so if you do feel like you are getting cold start doing some air squats. This can warm you up fast. But be careful, it can also wear you out!

Use a bigger pack 

For ice cragging, I use a bigger pack so that I don’t have to pull everything out to get to something at the bottom of the stack. It also helps me just throw in that extra layer or extra bar for energy as I am not so worried about space. 

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About Karsten Delap

Karsten Delap

Originally from the flat lands of Indiana, Karsten has found his obsession in the mountains. He has climbed extensively throughout the United States including Grade V big walls in The Black Canyon, Long’s Peak, and Zion National Park. Karsten’s experience outside of the U.S. includes many peaks over 17,000ft in Boliva and Equador, as well as major alpine objectives in Africa and Argentina. Lately Karsten has been traveling to more exotic climbing locals such as Armenia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand for work and play. Karsten spends his springs working in the High Sierra and the rest of the year traveling the world working for Fox Mountain Guides heading up their alpine programs. Karsten gained AMGA Alpine Guide Certification in 2013 becoming the first guide in the Southeast to achieve this certification. He also successfully completed the rock guide program in 2009 becoming the Southeast’s second AMGA Certified Rock Guide. Karsten has successfully completed the AMGA Ice Instructor Course, Leave No Trace Masters Educator Program and AIRIE Level II Avalanche Course. He has also passed his Canadian Avalanche Association Operations Level 1 certification and his American Avalanche Institute Level 3 certification. Karsten is a licensed Provider for the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor and Climbing Wall Instructor Programs. He is also a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT-B), and has his ACA Advanced Swift Water Rescue Certification that he puts to use volunteering for the Brevard Rescue Team as their “go-to” man for high angle technical and wilderness rescues and backcountry searches.