Ice climbing has been receiving more international attention ever since two ice climbers, Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken, became the first to ascend Niagara Falls.
Ice climbing is a physically intensive sport that requires strength, endurance and agility. According to Climbing.com, ice climbing requires a wide range of strength and skills, from movement technique to placing ice screws and other protection.
"You have to put a lot of your skills to the test to make it a safe and rewarding experience, and I like the complexity of it," Caroline George, an International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA) guide said.
George is not alone in welcoming the challenge that ice climbing presents. In fact, many athletes share her love for physically pushing themselves.
"Ice climbing is a fun athletic challenge and lead ice climbing is very intense and helps you focus your energy and forget all else," Tyson Bradley, lead guide at Utah Mountain Adventures/Global Mountain Adventures, said.
There are plenty of opportunities to ice climb on natural surfaces around the world, like frozen waterfalls and mountain ice. Since these are not man-made, climbers are more at risk to natural events, such as avalanches, that can be extremely dangerous.
It is therefore extremely important to pay attention to weather and temperature conditions when you are planning a climb. According to George, ideal conditions are when temperatures are between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit so that it is not too cold, but the ice also does not begin to melt and get slick.
"You need cold temps for the ice to form, but a dramatic shift in temperature, like if there is a brutal cold snap, the ice gets really fragile and can be really dangerous to climb, so it's important to know the impact of temperatures on the ice to know when to climb it," George said.
There are also man-made parks that offer year-round opportunities for climbing, training and controlled hikes. These parks feature several different types of courses ranging from beginner to multi-pitch courses with varying levels.
Several popular parks can be found in the United States in places like Colorado and Utah, as well as internationally.
As with all extreme sports, ice climbing comes with several risks including falling rock and ice, avalanches and slipping on the ice, according to Bradley.
"I think the risks are manageable," Bradley said. "I'm sure it's more dangerous driving on an interstate freeway, and ice climbing is more interesting and memorable than that."
The thrill for George lies in using her skills to figure out her next move. Thinking about when and where to swing, and where to place her equipment gives her a satisfaction that makes all of the risk worth it.
One experience that she thinks exemplifies the magical thrill of ice climbing is when her and a friend were the first of the season to climb a 700-meter line in Norway last year. There were some scary moments where it seemed like the ice might have cracked, or that she wouldn't be able to navigate the ice.
"What made this so thrilling was that I was able to pull my mental game together despite a somewhat scary moment when I stood by this crack in the ice. Being able to quiet your mind in a challenging situation is what makes climbing so unique and special," she said.
"When we reached the top, we saw some of the wildest formations I have ever seen on ice. Being up there, just the two of us, with the setting sun shining on these formations was one of the most magical memories I have of ice climbing," George said.