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Ice climbing is one of the most unique ways to get out in winter. As snow and water arrive in winter and the temperature fluctuates, water melts over cliffs and forms ice. You can use specialized gear to climb up it. Like rock climbing in summer, you will be attached using a harness and ropes while a belayer on the ground keeps the tension in your ropes. When you go ice climbing with the Outdoor Adventure Program, we will use a guide service who provides all the gear (ice climbing axes, mountaineering boots, crampons, harness, helmet), as well as guide instruction. The day typically consists of gearing up with all cold-weather gear, hiking out to the site, then taking turns climbing. You will have moments of exhilaration as you climb yourself, and moments of cheering on your fellow participants.

Small bits of ice fly as a person in a helmet jams his ice tools into the ice wall while climbing. Image by DJ Cremin


North Conway, N.H. is home to some of the finest ice climbing in the region! Experience winter ice like you never have before with expert ice climbing instructors from International Mountain Climbing School! “This course is best suited for novice winter climbers. The first half of the day will be spent learning about the equipment, crampons, ice axes, anchors and belays. The second half of the day will be spent climbing to gain a practical appreciation for efficient movement over moderately angled snow and ice terrain. IMCS provides all technical gear. Course participants will need to provide a day pack and appropriate clothing.” Whether you have had a chance to try climbing on rock or not, this experience will be highly accessible and enjoyable. With the right gear, knowledge, and activity the Outdoor Adventure Program has an awesome opportunity for you to get vertical on some of Ice Climbing in North Conway, N.H.

The following is included in the cost of this program:

  • Instructors/Trip Leaders
  • Activity Equipment
  • Transportation
A Belay climbing team dressed in winter gear and holding ropes looking up.


Ice Climbing will be at your own pace. This is a full-body activity which will require short stints of moderate to vigorous intensity. You will be wearing heavy boots and required to hike 1-2 miles / 1.5-3 kilometers to the climbing area with the weight each participant carries ranging from 20 lbs. / 9 kg. Temperatures below freezing are likely to be present throughout the day. Participants will belay each other with instruction on the ice wall. You will alternate between climbing and belaying, and will have plenty of time during break to enjoy your lunch, snacks or hot drinks.

*Exertion levels are estimates based off of individuals who regularly fulfill the US Department of Health & Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines and have no major limiting conditions. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding the physical exertion level of any of our trips.


No previous ice climbing experience necessary. We will have professional guides showing us the ropes… and the ice and the tools.

An ice climbing ice wall. Image by Julia Boucher

Tentative Itinerary

Due to the nature of outdoor trips and uncontrollable variables, all itineraries are subject to change.

Pre-Trip Meeting: 5 Lawrence Drive, Lowell, MA 01854; meet to discuss gear, safety, logistics, clothing layers, etc.

Activity Day:

  • 5 a.m. - Meet at the Outdoor Adventure Center & Bike Shop: 5 Lawrence Drive, Lowell, MA 01854
  • 5:15 - 8 a.m. - Drive to North Conway, N.H.
  • 8 a.m - 5 p.m. - Instruction & Climbing: Meet with guide, receive gear; bring your own lunch and snacks; remember to de-issue all borrowed gear
  • 5-8 p.m. - Drive Back To UMass Lowell: 5 Lawrence Drive, Lowell, MA 01854; pit stop for food; bring money and/or food with you
  • 8-8:30 p.m. - Debrief: Arrive back at the at the Outdoor Adventure Center/Bike Shop, clean up, review course content/answer any remaining question, etc.

Curriculum Topics

  • Leave No Trace
  • Cold Weather Comfort and Layering
  • Ice climbing equipment and technique
A person smiles while looking up and climbing ice with two ice tools in the ice. Image by DJ Cremin

Packing List

The following is from the International Mountain Climbing School website: "Clothing is as important a piece of equipment as your boots and ice axe. Hypothermia is the leading cause of death in the White Mountains. Being properly dressed is essential to enjoying your outdoor adventures. Layering is an important part of winter. If your sweat isn’t wicked away from your body for quicker evaporation, your body core temperature rises, producing more sweat. Sweat is what causes chills, chafing, and excess use of energy. When your body is not wasting energy producing heat to warm you up or producing sweat to cool you down, you will have more energy to hike and climb. This means more energy and endurance to go further, faster, and more comfortably in all types of weather. Remember, you have to carry all your clothing with you, so packing efficiently is important. If you can’t wear it all at once, don’t bring it. We expect that you will be dressed and ready to go upon arrival to your lesson."

The items on this list are strongly recommended for your ice climbing trip. The weather forecast and your thermal perception should be considered when packing.

  • Online medical questionnaire and waiver
  • Lunch/Snacks Cold lunch (peanut butter & jelly, leftover pizza, etc), plus other snacks, like trail mix and/or energy bars
  • Sunglasses or Ski Goggles for eye protection; a keeper strap is recommended
  • Base layer Cold Weather; Underwear layer; wicks sweat off your skin; synthetic, long base layers recommended; no cotton
  • *Middle Insulating layer; retains body heat to protect you from the cold; fleece and or flannel recommended; sweatshirts are okay
  • Outer Shell Layer, Soft Shell or Rain Jacket Warmth on the hike in and dry during and after the climbs, shields you from wind and rain
  • *Insulating Jacket Big, Warm Jacket or Puffy Layer, your winter coat - one that is easy to throw over your other layers when you are not climbing
  • Gloves or Mittens 3 pairs if you have them: 1 pair ski/ice climbing gloves, 1 pair of mittens, 1 pair of fleece or liner gloves Waterproof/breathable is ideal
  • *Wool or Fleece Hat Medium-thin hat to wear under your helmet, plus an extra thicker one
  • Warm Wool Socks Warm feet make for a warm body - comfort and safety. Some people like wicking liners, too
  • Balaclava or scarf Fleece or wool is preferable
  • Neoprene Face Mask if you have one
  • Fleece hat one that will fit under a helmet
  • *Gaiters should fit around entire calf and be able to fit over a plastic ice climbing boot including your pant layers
  • Activity Specific Footwear Snow or Hiking Boots: bring extra shoes to wear when you are not wearing the climbing boots; these should keep your feet comfortable, warm, and dry
  • *Backpack to carry your gear in to the ice climbing location
  • *Headlamp
  • Chap Stick/Lip Balm
  • Sun protection
  • *2 Water Bottles Hydration
  • Personal Medications
  • Medical Insurance Card
  • Method of Payment For snacks/meals on the road or in town
  • Extra dry socks and shoes for the car ride; recommend wearing dry socks/shoes on the ride there and back to start outdoor activity with warm, dry feet

*These items may be available through the Outdoor Center prior to the trip.

One person climbs on a large wall of solid ice. Image by DJ Cremin

Optional Items:

  • Camera
  • Lightweight thermos (with a hot drink in it)
  • Water bottle insulator (clean old socks work well)
  • Hand/foot warmers
  • Trekking poles

Provided by UMass Lowell Outdoor Adventure/International Mountain Climbing School:

  • **Activity Specific Gear: Mountaineering boots, crampons, ice tools, helmets, harnesses, and climbing gear.

You are welcome to bring your own activity equipment. All participant equipment is subject to trip leader approval.

Register for upcoming trips on our Trips and Events Calendar webpage