8 UK ice climbing spots you have to try
From frozen waterfalls in Wales to indoor icebergs in London, get your crampons stuck into these.
Rock climbing not gnarly enough for you? Try ice climbing instead. Indoor walls are a good place to start out and, once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll be ready to head out with a guide and get your crampons stuck into the real thing.
From frozen waterfalls in Wales to indoor icebergs in London, here are eight places you can have a go at ice climbing, right here in the UK.
1. Vertical Chill London, London, England
Chill out after a hard day in the office by scaling the eight-metre iceberg in Covent Garden. Set in the Ellis Brigham outdoor store, London’s very own chunk of ice is open Tuesday-Sunday and has viewing windows so that shoppers and spectators can watch. With easy angled ‘slabs’ for beginners, and technical overhangs for pros, you can book a coaching session with equipment, or bring your own gear to test out.
How much? Beginner lessons from £50 (60 mins); supervised climbing from £25.
2. Kong Adventure, Keswick, England
Learn the ropes or push yourself to the next level at Cumbria’s indoor ice wall. Complete beginners can join 90-minute taster sessions and get to grips with crampons and ice axes without the distraction of snowfall, wind chill and avalanche risk. If you already know your stuff, after a free induction you can scale the wall yourself and have a go at dry-tooling, which involves climbing on bare rock and with axes.
How much? Taster sessions (90 mins) from £35; independent climbing from £15.
3. Great End, Kendal, England
Stuart Carter runs winter guiding and climbing courses in the Lake District through his company, Climb365. For a great day of Lakeland ice climbing, he recommends the ice-filled gullies at Great End, near Scafell Pike. Other good spots include Blea Water and Helvellyn – England’s third highest peak. The courses cover everything from climbing techniques to avalanche safety. Like the rest of the UK, Cumbria’s best ice climbing conditions usually show up in January and February.
How much? Ice climbing courses with Climb 365 cost from £240/day for two people (£120pp).
4. Vertical Chill Manchester, Manchester, England
Almost identical to Vertical Chill London, Manchester’s ice wall has the advantage of being closer to the natural ice faces in North Wales and the Lakes – so you can hone your skills inside, then progress to the great outdoors. From slabs to pillars and overhangs, there’s something for all levels. The staff here can even set up a route to suit your ability if you speak to them beforehand.
How much? Beginner lessons from £50 (60 mins); Supervised climbing from £25.
5. Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia, Wales
The Welsh are too hardcore for indoor walls, instead they head straight for Snowdonia’s frozen faces. Cwm Idwal is the country’s most popular ice climbing valley, with ice lines that descend from the rocks above Llyn Idwal. Routes like Devils Appendix (the tallest single-drop waterfall in Wales) are legendary among locals, and the valley has its own temperature gauge so you can check the conditions before you slog your guts out to get here. Snowdonia Adventures offer private guiding and winter mountaineering courses in the area.
How much? Guided winter climbs with Snowdonia Adventures cost £250pp/day.
6. Ice Factor, Kinlochleven, Scotland
The world’s biggest indoor ice climbing wall is made from around 500 tonnes of snow and ice. Twelve metres tall and almost a metre thick in parts, the wall’s graded routes range from entry-level snow slopes to mixed ice and rock for experts. This is the place to meet some of the UK’s top ice climbers, like Dave Mcleod. Whatever level you’re at, you’ll be in safe hands – the instructors here are among Britain’s best.
How much? Adult taster sessions from £30 (one hour); independent climbing from £27 (two hours).
7. Snow Factor, Glasgow, Scotland
Owned by the same people as the Ice Factor, this urban ice wall is packed with features to get you progressing fast. Warm up on the easy angled slabs, move on to 95-degree faces, then challenge yourself on expert-level aretes, gullies and overhangs. To prepare you for the real thing, several sections have been specifically designed to emulate classic Scottish winter climbing conditions – Ben Nevis here you come!
How much? Adult taster sessions from £30 (one hour); all-day independent climbing from £10.
8. Northern Corries, Cairgorms, Scotland
Scotland’s icy peaks boast the best of the UK’s outdoor ice climbs. Stevie Christie, Head of Adventure at Wilderness Scotland, recommends the Northern Corries in the Cairngorms National Park for their exceptionally easy access and full range of grades, from beginner to expert. He suggests Aonach Mor as another good multi-level option, while Glencoe has remote routes with dramatic backdrops, and Ben Nevis is the place to go for challenging climbs and big days out.
How much? Wilderness Scotland offer week-long adventures in Scotland that include ice climbing from £2,000pp.
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