Written by Lucie
Ice climbing is a special type of climbing connected with winter, cold weather and lots of frozen water formed into fantastic blue and white shapes. When the temperature drops down below zero and your fingers would get frozen on a cold rock, the time for ice axes and crampons comes. Waterfalls and wet rocks change into a frozen playground. Ice climbing is a very chilly sport and sometimes it might be guite complicated. Anyway it is beautiful and if you have enough equipment, it can bring you a lot of fun.
Czech Republic is not a typical mountaineering or iceclimbing destination, because the climate is pretty mild and mountains are not that high. There are no extermely steep and technically difficult icefalls to satisfy the top expert. But if the season is good, the conditions are favorable for many wintersports, including ice climbing. There is a surprising number of possibilities where to find a single-pitch natural icefall or even an artificially made one. The popularity of the sport is growing, so in general, there is no difficulty to rent gear.
So if you would like to go ice climbing, here I recommend you some of my favorite places where to do ice climbing. Places where I go very often with my friends when the conditions are good. Enjoy! Lucie
Labský důl, Krkonoše
Krkonoše (Giant Mountains) is the highest mountain range in Czech Republic and my favorite in general. It forms a part of the czech-polish border, in the north. Labský důl is one of the best and biggest natural icefalls located within the KRNAP (Krkonose national park). The area is not recomended for beginners, as you have to know how to use all gear by your own and there are no top ropes prepared like in the case of an artificial site.
The acces is limited by the national park administration. When the conditions are good they open the registation on their website, available only in czech language, but very easily done with the help of google translator. (Or you can ask us at Biko, to make the reservation for you, we will be happy to help, just drop us an email). There is a limit of maximum 16 climbers per day on “who comes first” basis and is free of charge. Be aware, that weekends are usually full for the next two or three weeks. After successfully reserving, you will get an e-mail confirmation and when you go climbing, you have to stop at KRNAP information center, in the town of Špindlerův Mlýn, to pick up the paper permit prepared for you.
Špindlerův Mlýn is one of the most famous Czech winter resorts about two hours drive from Prague. There is also a public bus, which will take you there in about three hours (the bus leaves from Praha Černý Most terminal station, for timetable check the website www.idos.cz). There are many parkings along the main road in Špindlerův Mlýn. First one has always been for free, but you have to walk a bit more. Others, connected to skiing slopes are paid. Wherever you park or leave the bus, continue up the road in direction to Špindlerova bouda. One of the last houses on your left is the KRNAP information center, where the permit is waiting for you. From here follow the road to the tourist place signed “U Dívčí lávky”, where you cross the Labe river and join the Labe valley. It climbs very slightly following blue marked path (direction to “Labská bouda”), which is also usually prepared for crosscountry skiing.
Right at the spot, where the trail is getting narrow and steeper, the forest opens to a beautiful view. Look up at your left and there it is. After crossing the footpath, there is usually a foothpath up to the wall.
The main wall is about 25-30 high (60 m rope is a minimum). There are usually smaller and less steep icefalls on the left. If you don’t want to lead your route, or you don’t have enough ice screws, there is also a possibillity to walk up (right side facing the cliff) and make a toprope. Sometimes walking up might be tricky because of deep snow and icy fallen trees and you still need your own slings and other gear to make it.
There are no facilities in the area, so you will appreciate having hot tea in a thermos and some food. Do not underestimate warm clothes, because no sun comes here throughout the whole day. You are in natural park area so you have to follow all the rules, which basically means to behave in a way not to destroy the nature, be quiet, pick your rubbish and leave nothing and stay on marked trails.
Velký Štolpich in Jizera mountains (Jizerské hory)
Another natural icefall is in Jizera mountains, also north of Prague, westwards from Krkonoše. Due to special cold microclimatic conditions of Jizera mountains, you can find many small icefalls in this area. Velký Štolpich is a frozen waterfall, which is also a very nice destination for a summer hike. It is also a natural protected area, but climbing here is not restricted. Compared to the one already described it is smaller, easier and less steep. The bigger challenge might be to reach the wall which is not visible from the road.
It’s about two hours drive from Prague, because it’s on the remote side of Jizera mountains. From Prague, follow the highway to Liberec, then head to Frýdlant and just before Frýdland turn right to Hejnice. From there, a small road goes to Ferdinandov, where you can leave your car. Here the tourist marked trail starts and your 2,5 km hike to the ice fall also. First follow the green trail and then yellow direction “Velký Štolpich” walking upstream a creek called Černý (black) Štolpich.
On your way you will see some other small icefalls, which are sometimes also possible to climb. After passing a bridge, in proximity of a small cross called “Maiwaldova smrt” (Maiwald’s death) which commemorates a fatal accident of a wood worker almost 90 years ago, the road makes a turn right and then a sharp turn left. This is where you must leave the main road and begin to climb steep in the wild forest with some rocks and fallen trees, just after the stone guard rail finishes. Sometimes, there is a foothpath in the snow from other climbers but keep in mind this part is not marked. Walking up and a bit rightwards, you’ll get to a ragged rock covered with variety of ice climbing routes. This map will help you locating the exact spot.
As for any natural place, you need to bring all the gear needed for a safe climb. Especially waterproof clothes are recomended here. The source of water is quite strong and unless the temperature is not very low, you might by surprised by some wet spots.
Foto: Helena Veselá
If you just want to try the sport, artificially made ice walls are easier to reach and there is usually a rental, where they give you the gear you need. They also usually have ropes already prepared, so you don’t need to lead your route handling with ice-screws. Here my tip for the best option we have:
Horolezecká aréna Liberec (climbing arena)
There are not many ice climbing possibilities within a city in Czech Republic. The biggest artificially made ice-climbing wall in Central Europe is in the center of Liberec. Not far from a shopping center, few steps from a tram stop in a former granite quarry, there is a Horolezecká aréna (climbing arena).
Couple of years ago a group of enthousiasts discovered the potential of this place and started to change it to a mountaineering training area. They opened for the winter in 2013 with a wide and more than 20 m high wall covered by ice. Since then they are working on that place to include more possibilities. There is also a drytooling area and a training via ferrata in summer.
It’s a bit more than one hour drive from Prague and there is also a very good and frequent bus connection between these cities. It is highly recommended to make a previous reservation or to check the availability on their website. It is only in czech, but if you need some help, just contact us. There is a wide range of rental of climbing gear, but don’t forget to dress warm and wear proper shoes.
If you are beginner, it’s a good place for you, because you can hire an instructor to teach you basic of the sport and safety rules. After a climb it takes you only couple of minutes to find a restaurant to get warm, eat and share you new experiences with your friends and a glass of beer.
Foto: Horolezecká aréna Liberec