What is Mixed Climbing?

mixed climbing

About Mixed Climbing

  • Invented: 1966
  • Founded By: Brian Greenwood and Chic Scott
  • Highest Governing Body: International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA)

Mixed climbing is a climbing variant that combines techniques from ice climbing, sport climbing, and traditional climbing into a single climb. Mixed climbing originated in the Canadian Rockies in the 1960’s and 70’s, in tandem with the advent of ice climbing, as both sports utilize similar gear. The defining feature of mixed climbing is the use of dry-tooling, a technique in which a climber uses an ice axe to get a firm grip on a bare rock hold. Rather than striking the axe into the surface, like in ice climbing, the climber will gently rest the tip of the axe on a small ledge and pull down. Dry-tooling has been criticized by some for its potential to damage rock. However, the rock present in most mixed climbing routes is a jagged, porous variety called choss; most styles of rock climbing avoid this type of stone. Another unique feature of mixed climbing is that mixed climbers must carry protection anchors for both rock and ice applications, as they will cover both surfaces during an ascent.


What is mixed climbing?

Mixed climbing is a specialized form of climbing in which climbers navigate sections of rock, ice, snow, and turf as they ascend. Mixed climbing originated in the sport of ice climbing, and some specialized equipment, such as ice axes and crampons, are shared between the sports. However, gear made exclusively for mixed climbing is available, such as boots with built-in crampon spikes. A technique that characterizes mixed climbing is dry-tooling, which is the use of ice axes on bare rock.

Where are the best places to go mixed climbing?

Mixed climbing requires perfect weather and rock conditions. The weather must be cold and stable enough to sustain ice, which must form over rock faces in a manner that leaves some of the rock exposed. Therefore, the best places to go mixed climbing are high in the mountains where these conditions are found naturally. The Dolomites in Italy feature a range of mixed climbing routes. The Canadian Rockies and the Cascades in the Western USA and Canada are also great options for mixed climbing.

What equipment do I need to go mixed climbing safely?

A combination of ice climbing and rock climbing gear is required to go mixed climbing safely. You will need ice axes and boots with crampons, as well as a climbing harness, carabiners, belay device, ropes, and protection pieces for anchors. A selection of protection pieces for both ice and rock is required, such as ice screws, ice pitons, stoppers, nuts, and hexes. Depending on the location or thickness of the ice, you may also want to use a load limiter strap to minimize the stress on ice anchors in a fall.