The UK may not be known for its towering mountains, but for ice climbers, it offers plenty of incredible routes and challenges. From Scotland’s classic gullies to the frozen waterfalls of the Lake District, these are 5 of the best ice climbing spots in the UK that every climber should try.
The Ben Nevis Gullies, Scotland
As the highest peak in the UK, Ben Nevis is a mecca for alpinists of all kinds. The North Face holds numerous gullies and buttresses that come into icy condition through the winter months. Test Piece Gully, Tower Gully and Point Five Gully offer thrilling climbs up thick ice on steep pitches. For those seeking truly extreme challenges, Orion Face Direct and Gardyloo Gully should be on your tick list. Just be warned, the combination of poor weather and avalanche risk means Ben Nevis winter climbs require high levels of skill, fitness and caution.
Raven Crag, Lake District
Nestled above the picture-perfect Thirlmere reservoir in the Lake District, Raven Crag is one of the most popular ice climbing venues in England. When conditions are right, the crag bursts into a frozen wonderland of long, multi-pitch ice routes. The dazzling frozen waterfalls of Central Gully, Left Edge Gully and Cutlass offer sustained climbing on axes and crampons. For those new to the ice, the tiered pitches of Lower, Middle and Upper Curtain provide great introductory climbs. Just be ready to battle the crowds on weekends.
Hell’s Lum Crag, Perthshire
Carved out by an ancient glacier, Hell’s Lum in Perthshire packs a punch for such a small crag. Situated above loch’s edge, the crag’s north facing aspects means it retains ice well after other venues have thawed. The iconic frozen waterfall of The Vent offers one of Scotland’s most sought-after ice leads. For those seeking a multi-pitch odyssey, The Chasm presents over 300m of sustained grade IV ice climbing. This crag really comes into its own in frigid mid-winter conditions when the dripping stalactites and cavern-like venues are frozen in time.
Alum Pot, Yorkshire Dales
The main pot hole of Alum features an immense natural ice chamber that comes into full frozen glory in cold winters. Situated on the North Yorkshire Moors above the town of Appletreewick, the journey into the depths requires abseiling 35m into the darkness. The Alum ice chamber presents an eerie amphitheatre of shimmering ice bulges, curtains and smugglers’ hole-type climbs. Routes like Razor Rip and Moonshadow test technical skills with bulging walls and thin ice. A descent into Alum Pot is an otherworldly ice adventure. Just make sure you have experienced cavers along for such a committing trip.
Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia
The icy realm of the Glyders above Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia remains popular with ice enthusiasts. Perhaps the most striking feature is the Big Gully with its green frozen cascade visible from the valley below. The 200m route provides stunning axes and crampons climbing. Nearby Titanic Gully, Moon Gully, and Hobgoblin’s Chimney all offer great shorter routes to get the blood pumping. Idwal is also great for mountaineering practice with snowy scrambles like the Devil’s Kitchen. Though beware – the winter weather turns from fun to furious quickly on these exposed summits.
So there you have it – five of the best ice climbing spots across the UK for you to conquer. From the grandeur of Ben Nevis to the caverns of Alum, these iconic venues will test your mettle on frozen waterfalls, gullies and caverns. Just be sure to check conditions, take safety gear and never underestimate the fickle nature UK winter weather. With the right amount of caution and preparation, a thrilling icy adventure awaits! Let the axe and crampon season begin!