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What is winter iceclimbing?

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Winter iceclimbing MCS AlexClimb iceclimbing courses

Classic form of winter outdoor iceclimbing as a kind of active entertainment and sport

So, what is winter iceclimbing?

Among extreme winter sports, classic iceclimbing have a special place due to its exoticism and entertainment. And, in general, there are quite a few people who can boast of truly interesting achievements in this sport.

Winter ice climbing on the cascades - gymnastics, drive, aesthetics and exotics
Winter ice climbing on the cascades - gymnastics, drive, aesthetics and exotics

To what extent iceclimbing in its classical form is a sport - that is an open question. The fact is that the sporting form of iceclimbing is not its best or beautiful form.

Winter iceclimbing in the Caucasus - Dombai
Winter iceclimbing in the Caucasus - Dombai

If we consider a sport to be an activity in which the goal of the process is to defeat an opponent in a competition, then it is unlikely that the most classic form of iceclimbing - climbing frozen waterfalls (cascades) will fit this definition.

Climbing the Hydnefossen cascade in Norway
Climbing the Hydnefossen cascade in Norway

For the sports iceclimbing competitions, special structures are built, like rockclimbing walls, with overhangs, roofs and special holds that ensure high complexity of competitive routes, which is practically impossible to achieve on the natural ice terrain.

Russian Ice Climbing Championship in Kirov
Russian Ice Climbing Championship in Kirov

Often, at the serious iceclimbing competitions, the routes lack even the most important element for iceclimbing - the ice, turning this exciting activity into climbing acrobatics using ice axes, crampons and other alpine climbing equipment. In this form, iceclimbing leaves the boundaries of its nature, turning into a specific technogenic activity, far from its original source.

Competition in sport iceclimbing with elements of climbing on the holds
Competition in sport iceclimbing with elements of climbing on the holds

It is almost impossible to achieve the difficulty required for iceclimbing as a sport on the frozen waterfalls. After all, the formation of cascades occurs in accordance with the laws of physics, and one should not expect any super complex tasks from the vertical ice.

Natural cascades - frozen Golsfjellet waterfalls in Norway
Natural cascades - frozen Golsfjellet waterfalls in Norway

Along with the complexity, which on the natural ice can only be achieved through overhangs and cornices, the ice becomes more dangerous. And unnecessary risk is not acceptable in any sports competitions.

Classic MCS AlexClimb iceclimbing training in Norway
Classic MCS AlexClimb iceclimbing training in Norway

Iceclimbing competitions which are held on the natural terrain, usually are of a local scale. The surface of a frozen waterfall have be specially marked in such a way that, for the athletes in addition to basic physical strength, ingenuity, dexterity and attention are also required.

Iceclimbing competition route on the natural terrain
Iceclimbing competition route on the natural terrain

Due to the lack of natural difficulty, various rules are introduced to increase the difficulty of the routes in sport iceclimbing, such as counting tool hits, time required for completing of the route, narrow corridors with a ban on going beyond.

Iceclimbing competition on natural terrain, Dombai, Russia
Iceclimbing competition on natural terrain, Dombai, Russia

But no matter what system is used to artificially increase the complexity of the iceclimbing route, it still does not bring it closer to the real classic form of iceclimbing.

Northern Norway - endless variety of iceclimbing locations
Northern Norway - endless variety of iceclimbing locations

Classic iceclimbing, like mountaineering, does not have any competitive context. When climbing the cascades, a person opposes himself to the elements of ice and competes exclusively with himself in endurance, dexterity of movements, and accuracy in choosing a route.

Classic iceclimbing
Classic iceclimbing

Classic iceclimbing is an immersion in the world of the frozen force of falling water, scattering in bright splashes with each hit of an ice ax. This is the ability to feel the ice in every blow of the instrument, hear the ringing of crystal columns and determine the direction of the next step by its tone. Iceclimbing is an art of tactics associated with the ability to perfectly control the body, feel and think over every centimeter of each move.

The ability to 'feel the ice' is one of the important secrets of iceclimbing technique
The ability to 'feel the ice' is one of the important secrets of iceclimbing technique

Winter ice climbing is a phenomenon quite typical for various mountain regions with developed alpine infrastructure. Many popular areas for iceclimbing are described in special seasonal guidebooks, which contain iceclimbing routes of various difficulty levels with a detailed description of the routes and approaches to them.

There are several of the most interesting locations in which we conduct our winter iceclimbing programs.
There are several of the most interesting locations in which we conduct our winter iceclimbing programs.

The Lofoten Islands not only offer some of the most beautiful winter scenery in the world, but also the opportunity to go iceclimbing in the fantastic polar mountains

First, of course, this is Norway - the country of waterfalls. Iceclimbing areas in Norway are located almost everywhere, but their greatest concentration is in the northwestern part of the country, in the Buskerud district.

Night magic of Lofoten Islands
Night magic of Lofoten Islands

Also, iceclimbing is very popular in Great Britain, Austria, France, in the mountainous regions of North Italy and, of course, in the “cradle” of all mountain sports - in Switzerland.

Speaking about other continents, it should be noted that, for example, in the mountain regions of the United States, the popularity of iceclimbing as a winter sport is also quite high.

Iceclimbing training in New Jersey, USA
Iceclimbing training in New Jersey, USA

Every year more and more people become interested in iceclimbing. In just one area of Willoughby Lake in New Jersey (USA) there are more than 200 described iceclimbing routes of varying difficulty. In this area the number of iceclimbing routes may well compete with no less developed rockclimbing locations.

A frost-covered island in Norway, Geilo. An ideal location for outdoor activities and iceclimbing
A frost-covered island in Norway, Geilo. An ideal location for outdoor activities and iceclimbing.

Fortunately, iceclimbing and rockclimbing do not overlap due to their seasonal characteristics and both can be practiced in their proper season!

The author of the iceclimbing programs, texts and photos - Alex Trubachev

MCS EDIT 2023

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AlexClimb Rule #1 - Safety First

From the very beginning of our activity, here nearly 16 years, the first Principle of work of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb is the Safety Priority. On the basis of this Principle all process of training is based, all programs and rounds are developed and carried out only within this main principle. We consider that at professional approach to development of programs, at personal discipline and correctly put motivation - occupations by mountaineering and rock-climbing are COMPLETELY safe. And from the return - all troubles and accidents in our sport come from nonprofessionalism, from ignorance or neglect by elementary standards of safety, from irrational motivation, from revaluation of own forces and opportunities. All these prerequisites we COMPLETELY EXCLUDE in our work - ours Rock-climbing, Ice climbing and Mountaineering are based on one Principle - the Safety Priority. In rock-climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing, the Priority of Safety of MCS AlexClimb-is your personal security and comfort irrespective of, than we are engaged - we train muscles and we work technology of the movement in the sports hall and on the rock climbing wall, we make the way through snowstorm to top or we relax on golden sand of the Caribbean beach after hot day of trainings on rocks. The Safety priority - the main credo of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb.

AlexClimb Rule #2 - Leave No Trace

Closely interacting with Nature, working with the active programs in mountains, woods, lakes and rivers, we perfectly understand the importance of carefull and respectfull bahavior towards the Nature, for its resources. From the very beginning of our outdoor-activity we adopted rules of  Leave No Trace technique - the standard of behavior of the person accepted in all the civilized world in relation to environment and especially - to the wild nature. After all on the relation of people to the nature near which they exist, itself can draw dalekoidushchy conclusions on the relation of these people to... Where and as we didn't travel - we don't reserve any garbage, we try to reduce whenever possible our influence on environment to a minimum. We clear earlier zagryazyonny tourist parking of the left garbage, we take out and we take out to utilization places that to us other people left there. We consider that only thus, at personal individual consciousness of each citizen, each tourist, climber or autotraveller, we will be able to keep the nature surrounding us in its state, natural, suitable for life, - in it pledge of the healthy future for ourselves and our children.

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The position of AlexClimb Mountain and rockclimbing School regarding healthy lifestyle is quite clear - we consider that only sober consciousness is capable to fill sincere emotions,  to sympathize, to enjoy life in all its variety. Bright various enjoyable life is possible only on condition of keeping the absolute sobriety and purity of consciousness. Any way of obscuring our perception of reality is intended to do harm to our consciousness and bring harm to our physical health, to replace the true values by false ones, to destroy us physically - to turn us into flabby, weak, senseless, gray herd with empty hazy eyes. We don't force anybody to our point of view, everyone has a God's gift of making his own choice and to destroy himself if that is what he wants... But in AlexCilimb Mountain Climbing School we accept quite certain and very simple set of rules: neither alcohol, nor drugs.
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