Ice climbing

Includes: Winter mountaineering, winter climbing Indoors, Outdoors, Adventurous activities, Snow

Age:
10+
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Brrrrr-ave new heights!

Scale the ice and take your climbing skills to new heights.

Overview

Ice climbing involves climbing up or across ice formations – like frozen waterfalls, and cliffs and rock slabs covered with ice. Climbers use ice-axes and crampons to keep themselves in place.

You don’t need to have access to outdoor ice in order to give ice climbing a go, as there are a number of centres in the UK that offer it as an indoor activity.

Although ice climbing is open to both Guides and Rangers, some activity providers may have additional age or height restrictions.

Ice climbing is an adventurous activity and should follow the adventurous activity policy and procedures.

Approved: 13 March 2024
Version: 2.1

Content owner: Adventure team

 

Planning checklist

If you or another member of your leadership team is running the activity at an external venue/location, follow these extra steps:

  • Arrange for a home contact. Leave any route or other relevant details with your home contact and complete a home contact agreement form. Let them know about any changes to your plans.
  • Tell your commissioner.
  • Get a copy of the public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
  • Check you hold the relevant qualification (if one is needed) to run the activity and let your commissioner know you plan to run it yourself. If you aren't sure, speak to your local adviser to check.
  • Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the needs of your group.
  • Get any specialist equipment or clothing needed to run the activity not provided by the venue, and make sure this is in good condition and fit for purpose.
  • Check that any equipment is suitably insured by the provider and agree what happens to the equipment if it gets damaged.
  • Ask for a copy of the venue's safety guidelines and risk assessment (if relevant).
  • Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls, leaders and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity if a qualification is needed). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
  • Consider the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions and plan the session accordingly.

Some venues might ask for a disclaimer or waiver to be signed for each person taking part in the activity. This is something which parents and carers must sign on behalf of their child. You can do this along with the consent form. Parents and carers should be given sufficient information from the provider along with the waiver so they can make an informed decision to sign it or not. Leaders can only sign disclaimers and waivers for their own personal participation. 

Guidance on weather warnings

Leaders are responsible for completing a risk assessment for the walk and deciding if it's safe for a group to complete it. If a weather warning is issued for the area where your walk is due to take place, you must update your risk assessment. The result of this risk assessment will inform you as to your next steps which may include cancelling/rescheduling your walk, considering an alternative route that may be safer or proceeding with your initial plans with additional mitigations in place.

Risk assessments should be updated, and a clear plan of action agreed in regard to the weather warning to ensure the group’s wellbeing and safety. If re-routing the walk due to a weather warning you should ensure that you have thoroughly risk assessed the alternative route and recorded this risk assessment – normally we would expect ‘escape route’ options to be identified in advance.

If the weather warning is issued during your walk or is worse than expected, you must do a dynamic risk assessment. That will result in whether you continue, cancel, or re-route your walk to keep the group safe. A deviation from a planned route due to unforeseen circumstances does not require a recorded risk assessment.

If you're working with an external provider or external instructors to run this activity outside the unit meeting space, follow these extra steps. 

  • Arrange for a home contact. Leave any route or other relevant details with your home contact and complete a home contact agreement form. Let them know if you make any changes to your plans.
  • Tell your local commissioner.
  • Tell the activity provider about the ability and experience of the participants and any disabilities, access needs or health conditions that need to be considered when running the activity.
  • Choose a reputable and licensed activity provider (where applicable).
  • Check the qualified adults hold the correct qualification to be able to run the activity (see the information below).
  • Get copies of the instructor qualifications and public liability insurance of the activity provider before you book.
  • Ask for a copy of the providers' safety guidelines and risk assessment.
  • Make sure you have the correct ratio of participants (girls and volunteers) to qualified adults (those running the activity). This is different to the ratio of leaders to girls.
  • Check with the venue that they have the correct equipment and, if needed, specialist clothing that will meet the requirements for your group.
  • Source any specialist equipment or clothing needed to run the activity not provided by the venue, and make sure this is in good condition and fit for purpose.
  • Check that any equipment is suitably insured by the provider and agree what happens to the equipment if it gets damaged.

Some venues might ask for a disclaimer or waiver to be signed for each person taking part in the activity. This is something which parents/carers must sign on behalf of their child. You can do this along with the consent form. Parents and carers should be given sufficient information from the provider along with the waiver so they can make an informed decision to sign it or not. Leaders can only sign disclaimers and waivers for their own personal participation.

When ice climbing outdoors, the activity instructor must hold a Mountain Training UK (MTUK) Mountain Instructor Certificate.

When doing indoor ice climbing, the activity instructor must be assessed by someone who holds a Mountain Instructor Certificate.

If you are unsure about climbing qualifications, consult your outdoor activities adviser or contact [email protected] to ensure the instructor's qualification is suitable.

The instructor must ensure:

  • Helmets are worn.
  • Access permission has been gained if appropriate, and any seasonal restrictions are observed.
  • You avoid any rock formations with recognised archaeological, geological or wildlife interests.
  • That the equipment is provided by the professional body running the activity.

If climbing in the natural environment with any participants under the age of 18, the provider must be licenced by the Adventurous Activities Licencing Authority.

You can verify the quality of a provider by checking it has one of the following endorsements: Adventuremark or LotC Quality Badge for Adventure.

AALA and the above endorsements are not applicable in Northern Ireland, where you should ask your local outdoor activities adviser to recommend an approved provider.

The British Mountaineering Council provides environmental guidelines which must be followed.

We advise that the equipment is provided by the professional body running the activity. Helmets must be worn when doing this activity. 

The ratios below are given as a maximum and ratios must be considered as part of the risk assessment, this may lessen due to any medical conditions, physical ability or other factors. 

 Leadership team ratio 

As this activity will take place outside of your usual meeting place the leadership team adult: girl ratio is mandatory.  

  • Rainbows: Not a Rainbow activity 
  • Brownies: Not a Brownie activity 
  • Guides: 1:12 
  • Rangers: 1 Girlguiding leader 

Qualified adult/participant ratio 

Girlguiding expect a minimum of qualified instructors to participant ratios for different terrains:

  • On grade 1 winter terrain: 1 qualified instructor to 6 participants 
  • On grade 2 and above winter terrain: 1 qualified instructor to 2 participants

Ratios should be agreed with the instructor. Where ratios differ, you should follow the stricter ratio.

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