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Ice climbing (FS120455)


This page looks to give the facts a person would need to know to run ice climbing for a group of young people, or to do it for themselves if they are a young person. It should be read in conjunction with scouts.org.uk/a-z, and Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR) of The Scout Association.

Climbing guidance can be found here.

What is Ice Climbing?

Ice climbing generally refers to the climbing of ice formations such as icefalls and frozen waterfalls, although there are now also artificial ice climbing walls available. Ice climbing is climbing done using ice climbing equipment and/or on ice surfaces, this includes dry walling.

What is an Ice Climbing Permit?

The adventurous activity permit scheme is designed to ensure that only people with the relevant skills and experience lead adventurous activities for the young people. Therefore all activities classed as adventurous can only be lead by someone holding the appropriate permit. Additionally young people (under 18) can take part in adventurous activities for themselves with personal activity permits.

An Ice Climbing Permit is required for all ice climbing activities.

Levels of Permit

There are five levels of permit available for ice climbing. These are:

  • Artificial Top Rope
  • Natural Top Rope
  • Artificial Lead
  • Natural Lead
  • Multi-Pitch

Definitions of Top Rope, Lead and Multi-Pitch Climbing can be found later on this page.

Each permit can be restricted (such as through specific locations etc) to end up with an individual permit to the level of the competence and requirements of any person.

Types of Permit

There are three types of permit available for ice climbing. These are:

  • Personal – Allows a young person (under 18) to take part in ice climbing with others with a personal ice climbing permit.
  • Leadership – Allows the permit holder to lead ice climbing for a single group.
  • Supervisory – Allows the permit holder to remotely supervise more than one ice climbing group.

Permit Limitations

  • Personal – If you hold a personal ice climbing permit you can go ice climbing with others who hold the same or lower personal ice climbing permit. It does not allow you to go ice climbing with anyone not holding a ice climbing permit.
  • Leadership – If you have a permit to lead ice climbing you can lead one rope system at a time.
  • Supervisory – If you hold a permit to supervise ice climbing then you can supervise up to three rope systems at a time. You should remain in a position to be able to effectively supervise and assist all rope systems. You remain responsible for all the groups you are supervising, but can designate someone with the appropriate skills to be the rope leader of each group.


When supervising more than one rope system the holder of an ice climbing supervisor permit needs to designate a rope leader for each group. This rope leader can then act as the belayer. This designation lasts only for the current activity while the permit holder is supervising.

People designated as rope leaders should hold the skills, including being able to competently belay, and be responsible enough to lead the rope system that has been set up. There is no problem with making young people rope leaders if they are up to the role, and it can be used as a useful development tool.

Ice Climbing and Hill walking

Where any element of ice climbing involves walking on Terrain One or Terrain Two then the relevant Hill Walking Permit is required by a member of the group. This includes walking to or from a climbing area.


Top Rope refers to a climb where the climber is belayed either by a person at the top of the climb, or by a person at the bottom of the climb when the rope runs from the belayer through an anchor at the top of the climb.

Lead Climbing refers to a climb where the climber places protection devices into the rock face, or uses pre-installed protection devices, to clip their rope into as they climb.

A Multi-Pitch Climb is one that cannot be completed without any intermediate stances, or from which the climber cannot safely walk off unroped from the top, or cannot be safely lowered to the bottom of the climb.


The weather can create risks for all adventurous activities, but it can present particular dangers for ice climbing.

Permit holders should know where to find local weather information and should take historical weather conditions into consideration. Knowledge of weather conditions relevant to ice climbing is included in the assessment checklist.

Useful Links

FS120100    Adventurous Activity Permit Scheme


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