Terrifying Ice Climbs From the Past Winter

15 gnarly photos from Canada, Switzerland, Scotland, Norway and Italy.
By Tarquin Cooper

Strenuous, intensely physical and at times quite terrifying, ice climbing is one of the most demanding sports around. Climbing ice is, by its nature, a fickle business where protection can be minimal and good judgement is essential. But it also promises spectacular exposure and, for the elite athletes who take part, maximum rewards. These shots include highlights from some of the hardest climbs put up this winter by some of the sport’s strongest climbers.

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Out on a limb
Jeff Mercier climbs Mach3 in Kandersteg, Switzerland.
Out on a limb Jeff Mercier climbs Mach3 in Kandersteg, Switzerland. The shot was captured by Antoine Rolle who was climbing a parallel route called ‘Tranen der Eisprinzessin’ — tears of the ice princess. © Antoine Rolle
White thunder
Will Gadd climbs Helmcken Falls
White thunder “If you got hurt on the upper wall, a rescue would be very complicated,” says Gadd. “There isn't a manual on how to long-line someone off from behind a large waterfall.” © Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
Wet and wild
Will Gadd climbs Helmcken Falls
Wet and wild The water doesn't stop flowing all winter. The climbers had to seriously monitor the weather conditions to stay safe. © Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool
It’s grim up north
Jon Walsh conquering the rocks.
It’s grim up north Jon Walsh and Michelle Kadatz sample Scotland’s unique winter climbing conditions on The Shield, Ben Nevis – thin ice, poor weather but always engaging! © Paul Bride
As cold as ice
Jon Walsh climbing up the ice
As cold as ice Jon Walsh enjoys perfect Scottish conditions on Mega Route X VI,6. © Paul Bride
Watch me... !
Michelle Kadatz belaying Jon Walsh on the way up
Watch me... ! Jon Walsh treads lightly on the second pitch of Feeding Frenzy VI,7 while belayer Michelle Kadatz hopes for the best. © Paul Bride
Sea ice
Albert Leichtfried climbing the up the ice in Norway.
Sea ice In February, Albert Leichtfried partnered up with Benedikt Purner to explore remote vertical ice fields in northern Norway. The results were spectacular. © Elias Holzknecht
Exploring Norway’s sea cliffs
Albert Leichtfried climbing the up the ice in Norway.
Exploring Norway’s sea cliffs During the trip, Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner climbed Tiroler Tris (550m, WI 6), Enter Sandman (750m, WI7-) and Happy End (600m, M5 WI5). © Elias Holzknecht
Long reach
Albert Leichtfried climbing the up the ice in Norway.
Long reach Benedikt Purner enjoys some lean climbing conditions in Norway. © Elias Holzknecht
Ice style
Albert Leichtfried climbing the ice.
Ice style Albert Leichtfried cranks it on the first ascent of Zweite Geige (WI7/M7, 140m) in Vallunga, Dolomites, Italy. © Elias Holzknecht
Rock on
Benedikt Purner belaying the rope
Rock on The route was a mixed line that tested the skills of the two alpine guides. “The fact that it's not always 100% stable pure ice, meant that it was psychologically one of our harder climbs,” says Albert. © Elias Holzknecht
Put it on ice
Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner ice climbing
Put it on ice Austrian alpinists Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner sending Zauberflöte in the Italian Dolomites. © Elias Holzknecht
Don’t look down
Dani Arnold climbing up the ice of the Crack Baby route.
Don’t look down Dani Arnold solos the route Crack Baby in a record 27 minutes and 13 seconds. For experienced climbers, it’s normally a day tour. More details of the climb can be found at daniarnold.ch. © visualimpact.ch | Thomas Senf
Climb free
Dani Arnold climbing up the ice of the Crack Baby route.
Climb free Dani Arnold, who is the current Eiger north face speed record holder, made the ascent without a rope or any aids. © visualimpact.ch | Thomas Senf
Dani swings his tool
Dani Arnold climbing up the ice of the Crack Baby route.
Dani swings his tool The 340m route is on the Breitwangflue ice fall, 1,000m above Kandersteg in Switzerland. Arnold sent the route in less than half-an-hour. © visualimpact.ch | Thomas Senf