Introduction to Ice Climbing

Ice climbing has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last few years and at SMC we are lucky to have ideal locations to learn and practices the skills of this fun activity in our own backyard.

Ice is a scarce commodity in sunny California but the two places that stand out are June Lake and Lee Vining, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, near Mammoth Lakes.

June Lake is the ideal location to start learning ice climbing and as often as not we end up spending both days of the course here. A brisk uphill walk leads to the ice and this can take as long as an hour depending on snow conditions. The ice at this training area is up to a rope length high and up to eighty degrees in steepness, with steeper bulges, giving a perfect location to work on the basic movement skills.

After a day at June Lake our progression continues onto the steeper ice, working on skills necessary to succeed on the steep stuff, as well as anchoring and other aspects of ice climbing.

Sierra Mountain Center offers scheduled courses all winter and can also schedule a private course that fits your schedule; simply call and ask if your dates are available. We try to offer both weekend and weekday programs and suggest that you try the weekday ones if your schedule permits, since the ice is popular and can be crowded.

This is our video description of what it is like to go Ice Climbing at June Lake with SMC.

Here are some of the instruction techniques we cover during the course.



We do not include accommodation in the pricing but we suggest  the Lee Vining motels below.
Murpheys Motel 760-647-6316
Lake View Lodge  760-647-6543

We rent ice boots but have limited size runs so reserve them early on.

The best and only guidebook is our own SP Parker’s “Eastern Sierra Ice.” Get it from Maximus Press

Curriculum day one:

  • Equipment design and selection
  • Ice axe and crampon usage
  • Front pointing skills
  • American and French technique
  • Practice, practice, practice…

Curriculum day two:

  • Climbing ice from 50 degree to vertical and beyond
  • Ice screw placement
  • Equipment: placing and removing ice screws, anchoring on ice
  • Threaded holes and bollards
  • Route selection and safe climbing
  • Practice, practice, practice….
  • Where to go next

Program Prerequisites:

Participants should be in good physical condition. Prior rock climbing experience will enhance your enjoyment of this course. At a minimum you should know how to tie into a rope and be familiar with belaying. If you are not familiar with these then spend an hour or two at a local gym to get up to speed.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group climbing gear, ice tools and crampons, helmets and snowshoes (if necessary).

Local accommodation is not included in the program. Please let us know if you need assistance making reservations.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details, itinerary, and equipment list for your trip
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.