Like any other sport ice climbers need to have the proper equipment in order to perform at their best. In addition, having the right gear and equipment will keep you safe from any fatal injuries and from exposure to cold temperatures. Though similar to rock climbing equipment ice climbing equipment has evolved to match the terrain of snow and ice more precisely.
Ice climbers must choose their equipment based on a number of factors. Firstly, you must consider the terrain you will be climbing or traversing. Secondly, your experience level has a lot to do with the equipment you will need. Lastly, would be your personal preference. The last one means that if you can handle without a particular gear or piece of equipment then great!
The ice ax is the single most important piece of equipment that an ice climber must have. It is what will help you hoist you up along the ice formation. Ice climbers use the ax by swinging it into the ice, using it as a grip in order to pull themselves up while pushing with their legs. The ice ax itself is double-sided. One side is the pick used for pulling yourself up, the other side is a chisel or hammer used to chop holes into the ice.
Leash vs. Leashless Tools
There are two types of ice axes that you can choose from. The first one is leashed. Leashed ice axes, or traditional ice tool, has a leash that wraps around your hand to help keep it in place. This prevents the tool from dropping while in use. Leashed tools come in handy in case you lose your footing and need to hang on until you regain your footing. On the other hand, a disadvantage is that you cannot opt to change tools if needed.
The second type of ice ax is the leashless ice tool. Simply put, it is an ice tool that is not strapped to your hand by a leash. This allows you to switch tools when necessary making inserting ice screws an easier feat. However, the disadvantage is that the ice ax tool is more likely to be dropped if you are not careful. Ice climbers tend to prefer this method as it affords flexibility. Additionally, ice climbers carry many tools with them and with leashless ice tools it is much easier to switch between tools.
Crampons are the sharp metal spikes that stick out from the bottom of your boots that help you dig into the ice as you climb. You can opt to buy crampons on their own or use boots with crampons already built in. Additionally, you can choose between mono-point or dual point crampons. Mono-point crampons are more versatile and is good for mixed climbing. Mixed climbing means that your terrain changes from ice to rock. Mono-point provides more ice penetration but on the other hand have less stability. Dual-point crampons offer more stability but les ice penetration.