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Winter Mountaineering, Mixed Climbing and Ice Climbing – What’s the difference?

Winter Mountaineering, Mixed Climbing and Ice Climbing – What’s the difference?

In our efforts to give a succinct overview of Winter Climbing, we thought it would be useful to provide other short definitions as follows:


Winter Mountaineering is generally considered to be something different to Winter Climbing and to be larger in scope or scale than ‘climbing’.

Fundamentally, mountaineering most often involves summiting a mountain.  It also often refers to longer ‘classic’ lower grade routes – usually no harder than Grade II, very occasionally graded II/III.

It is usual to climb a mountaineering route with a single axe, although on the harder ones many people now carry a second tool ‘just in case’!

P1010358Mixed Climbing is encountered when you have a mixture of iced-up/snow covered rock and non-iced rock and generally refers to climbs of Grades III and above – The hardest winter routes climbed in the UK are mixed and grades have reached as high as IX and X.


Ice climbing can be further subdivided – especially in the UK.  ‘Continental style’ ice climbing tends to refer to ice climbs formed purely from water ice – usually frozen waterfalls or water systems that flow over rocks.  Ice Climbing in the UK may also involve this but often involves ‘snow-ice’ which is formed by the rapid freeze-thaw processes so prevalent in Scotland. Short pitches of ice may be found on Grade III climbs but most significant ice climbs are graded IV or above.

The boundaries of climbing are rarely this clearly defined and often cross over.

If you feel there’s something we’ve missed, please let us know by emailing hello@womenclimb.co.uk or posting a comment below.

Emily and The Team

Thanks to CG & AS for their help collating information for our series of Winter Climbing Articles.


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