Climbing is a technical sport where you really need to know what you're doing so you don't, well… die. Ice climbing is even more so. The medium of ice is more fickle and unforgiving than rock, and yet the act of climbing can be easier thanks to modern crampons and ice tools. This can lead to one overestimating one's abilities and the inherent safety of the act. So, education is even more critical than usual, and a great place to start is How to Ice Climb by Sean Isaac and Tim Banfield, now in its second edition from Falcon Guides.
HTIC has a forward by none other than Conrad Anker, who needs no introduction himself, so if you're wondering about the quality of the content you can rest assured it is top shelf. In fact, we're just going to say up front that if you only have one ice climbing book, this should be it. All the usual subjects are covered: equipment, planning approach, technique and training. It's the quality of the coverage that sets this title apart.
Speaking of quality, the photography is crazy good. There are pictures on just about every page, often more than one, and the angles, lighting and other elements are perfectly composed to communicate the concept at hand. From the writing, our favorite part is chapter six on Movement. Climbing ice, like any other climbing, relies on economy of movement to conserve energy so you can climb farther, faster and safer. The authors start with crampon and tool placement and quickly move on to actual movement. There are a lot of photos of incorrect technique, which are invaluable in troubleshooting your own movement patterns and coaching those of your partner. The chapter progresses through movement drills – awesome – and advanced techniques, including a really scary photo on page 130 of a climber on a cracked pillar.
Uber-alpinist Steve House makes a guest appearance to write the chapter on training. We appreciate his calling out the importance of raw strength – we have been known to evangelize on this occasionally – although we would advocate for general strength training using a barbell, a la the Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5×5 methods. Either way, House's point that "training is not a random process," is gospel. So pick up the book, find someone competent to climb with, gear up and get out!