Ice Climbing In Switzerland: Where to Experience It Best

With many glaciers and perpetually frozen summits, Switzerland is an excellent destination for ice climbing. There are countless areas in the country that appeal to ice climbers from all over the world, and they’re great for everyone.

Whether you’re just getting into climbing or you’ve already got numerous ascents under your belt, you’ll find the perfect ice climbing destinations in Switzerland right here. Keep reading to learn more about the best ice climbing spots in Switzerland, and find the one that sounds perfect for your next adventure!

Best Spots for Ice Climbing

Interlaken

rhone glacier
Rhone Glacier

Ice climbing on the Rhone Glacier near Interlaken is excellent even for climbers without experience. Ice climbing tours in the area are available between June and October, and they all include pickup at your hotel and all equipment you need.

This is an excellent option for people just getting into ice climbing or those who’ve never done it before. Don’t expect to find some very challenging climbs here; the focus of these tours is having fun and learning from experienced mountain guides.

The prices of ice climbing tours near Interlaken are around 220 CHF per participant for a full day with included equipment and transfer.

Zermatt

Gorner Glacier
Gorner Glacier

Zermatt is one of the most popular destinations for winter sports in Switzerland, ice climbing included. Vertical climbs, frozen waterfalls, and countless opportunities for both veterans and newbies in ice climbing are some of the reasons why Zermatt is a popular destination for climbers in Switzerland.

If you want a unique ice climbing experience in Switzerland, climb the Gorner Gorge. This adventure is available every couple of years when the temperatures drop enough for the entire river to freeze. When that happens, climbers are taken to the base of the gorge and can then climb its walls vertically.

There is also a fantastic private guided option where you can learn to ice climb in either Blatten, Furri or Schweigmatten, high above Zermatt. Your guide shows you where and how to climb for 2-3 hours, giving you lots of time to learn the ropes!

CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY

Brunnital

Brunnital
Brunnital – Image courtesy of WIkimedia

How does climbing on frozen waterfalls in the Swiss Alps sound? If it’s precisely the challenge you’re looking for, then this is an excellent ice-climbing adventure to consider! Brunnital is in central Switzerland close to the southern shore of Lake Lucerne, and it offers some of the most challenging ice climbs in the country.

The climbing conditions are the best in February, and this is the busiest season for ice climbing at the frozen waterfall. Long queues are to be expected, but it’s worth it to be patient and wait if you want to complete one of the most exciting climbs in Switzerland.

Kandersteg

Kandersteg Winter
Kandersteg in Winter

Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland is the best destination for ice climbing in Switzerland. The area boasts a huge terrain variety, with ice climbing opportunities for everyone’s skill level. Plenty of climbs are perfect for beginners and an equal amount of climbs that can be (safely) completed only by the most experienced ice climbers.

Oeschinenwald has some of the easiest climbing sectors, while Breitwangflue attracts veteran climbers. Ice walls and frozen waterfalls are just some of the most exciting climbs that await here, so sign up for a tour early enough to secure your spot.

Chamonix

Chamonix
Chamonix

With more than 200 ice climbing routes suitable for everyone’s skill levels, Chamonix is the perfect destination for adventurers who want to spend several days (or even weeks) perfecting their ice climbing skills. Ok, it’s not exactly in Switzerland, but it is just a stone’s throw over the border!

The conditions for climbing are the best from December to February, so you’ve got a pretty big window to plan your trip. Chamonix has plenty of tours you can do on your own if you’re confident enough to maneuver an ice axe, and you can also sign up for guided tours if you prefer climbing in a group.

Les Diablerets

les diablerets
Les Diablerets

Les Diablerets is home to Glacier 3000, one of Switzerland’s most exciting ice-climbing areas. The high elevation means that ice climbing in the area is possible between November and March, making this the perfect destination for climbers who want to avoid the peak season crowds.

The most famous ice climb here is the ascent on Col du Pillon. With many challenges and obstacles that will test your climbing skills, the imposing frozen waterfall is the least of your worries.

Adelboden

Adelboden
Adelboden

Head to the beautiful mountain village of Adelboden in the Bernese Oberland for some of the most thrilling ice-climbing opportunities in the region. The opportunity to climb the Engstligen waterfalls is what attracts most of the climbers who come here.

The two waterfalls are 97 and 165 meters high, for two epic vertical ice climbs. The frozen falls feature a total of 23 routes for climbing that vary in difficulty, so there are plenty of opportunities for both experienced and beginner climbers. The climate in this area allows for ice climbing any time between December and March, making it easier to avoid the peak season crowds.

Grindelwald

Grindelwald
Grindelwald

Grindelwald is a very popular destination in Switzerland for all sorts of sports and outdoor adventures. The icefalls of Schwendi are the most popular destination for ice climbing in the area, with courses that are suitable for everyone’s skill levels.

Multiple guides and sports centers operate ice climbing in the Grindelwald region, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a tour that’s suitable for you. The available courses vary from short and easy ones to long and challenging routes, with options for multi-day climbing sessions. December and January are the best seasons for ice climbings in the Grindelwald area.

Davos

Davos Ice Climbing
Davos

Head to the Sertig Valley in Davos to explore even more ice-climbing opportunities in the Swiss Alps. here you will find another frozen waterfall that you have to climb slowly and carefully, without getting distracted by its glistening blue cascades.

The season for ice climbing in Davos lasts from December to March, so you’ve got plenty of time to plan your adventure. If you want to sign up for a guided tour be sure to do it at least a couple of weeks in advance, because most mountain guides don’t do climbing sessions in large groups.

Verbier

Verbier
Verbier

Val de Bagnes in Verbier is another destination in Switzerland where you could spend multiple days honing your ice-climbing skills if you wanted. With frozen waterfalls that offer courses of varying difficulties, Verbier is an excellent destination for ice climbers of all skill levels.

It’s possible to do the climbs on your own, but this is recommended only to veteran ice climbers. Those without years of ice climbing experience should sign up for a guided tour as the safest option. It’s worth noting that some guides in Verbier even offer group lessons, which are really good for outdoor enthusiasts who are just starting to get serious about ice climbing.

What to Wear When Ice Climbing

Comfortable sportswear is the best for ice climbing. It will keep you warm and protected while allowing for a great range of movement.

The first thing you should put on is warm and breathable base layers. Start with leggings/long underpants, and a thin t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt (preferably woolen) as a warm base. Then put on a soft fleece hoodie, before the waterproof and insulated winter jacket. Waterproof pants are also necessary, and they too should be insulated if possible.

Sturdy mountain boots with crampons are another must for ice climbing. You need something with a lot of grip on slippery surfaces, and crampons are the only thing that can guarantee that.

Other warm gear to put on for ice climbing includes gloves, thick socks, some sort of scarf or neck warmer, and possibly a balaclava or a helmet liner cap. And don’t forget your helmet!

In terms of materials, stick to wool for the base layer and polyester/nylon for the outer layers. Avoid cotton clothing; it’s highly absorbent and if you sweat a lot during the climbing sessions (which you likely will) you can get clammy and cold quickly.

Map Of Ice Climbing in Switzerland

Tips for Ice Climbing in Switzerland

Be diligent about checking the weather and course conditions. Ice climbing is a dangerous sport, even more so if the weather conditions are suboptimal. Extreme colds and heavy snowfall can also change the difficulty of any given course, so make sure that the conditions for ice climbing are optimal before setting out on the adventure.

When in doubt, sign up for a tour. If you have any qualms about reaching the destination, weather conditions, or necessary equipment, just sign up for a guided climbing tour. It will take a load off your shoulders and allow you to immerse yourself in the ice climb fully, without having to worry about the little details.

Always pack food. Most ice climbing tours in Switzerland don’t include a free meal, so you should always remember to pack a picnic lunch or some energy bars at the very least.

Frequently Asked Questions

How safe is ice climbing?

Ice climbing is considered an extreme sport, but it’s perfectly possible to do it safely. Make sure to check the weather and conditions before going out, and bring all the necessary gear. This includes appropriate clothing, mountain boots, ice axes, ropes, and more.  

Which is harder: ice climbing or rock climbing?

Both are challenging sports, but ice climbing is considered more difficult because the conditions are tougher and more dangerous. Rock climbing is dangerous and physically challenging even when it’s not done on an icy surface, where the chances of slipping and losing your grip are much higher. The mental challenges of ice climbing are another factor that makes it the more difficult sport.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *