Skip to content Skip to navigation

An activity that’s still not widely practiced but continues to spread, ice climbing is an adrenaline-filled discipline that’s gaining more and more fans. But when such an ephemeral element is involved, nothing can be taken for granted or improvised. Those approaching the activity for the first time must do so with awareness — relying, if necessary, on qualified instructors or a mountain guide.

The first thing to say when talking about ice is that not all falls can be climbed in the same way, and not all guarantee a pleasant and fun climb. The most famous are described in guides, essential bibles of the ice that suggest to enthusiasts where to look for the most spectacular falls, the highest pillars, or the safest and most stable walls for a first approach. Generally, they are places that are cold and sheltered from sunlight, at least in the winter. Often there are hundreds of frozen waterfalls in the same area; other times only a few routes, and maybe not even easy ones. They exist for only a short time, and you need to know how to seize the opportunity. In the Alps the places where you can practice ice climbing are potentially infinite. Let’s investigate the most iconic ones together.

Looking at the Alpine arc from west to east, here are 10 unmissable ice climbing destinations:

1. Briançon (France)

2. Valle Varaita(CN)

3. Valle di Cogne (AO)

4.Ceresole Reale (TO)

5. Kandersteg (Svizzera)

6. Val di Scalve(BG)

7. Val Masino(SO)

8. Val Brandet (BS)

9. Val Badia (BZ)

10. Carinzia (Austria)

1. Briançon (France)

The ice capital of France. In the winter, Briançon becomes a magnet for ice climbers, for enthusiasts eager to test themselves on the most difficult climbs. Here there are hundreds of possibilities — just go look for shade and cold in the valleys that are just a few minutes’ drive from the town. Natural waterfalls can be found in the valleys of Fournel, Fressinières, Cervières, or Ceillac, and in many other places.


2.Valle Varaita (Italy, province of Cuneo)

The history of ice climbing has deep roots in Valle Varaita, at the foot of Monviso. It’s no coincidence that one of the first Italian waterfalls to be climbed, the Canale Ciucchinel (R. Isaia, P. Marchisio; December 18, 1977), was in Valle Varaita. Thanks to its exposure and freezing temperatures that continue into late spring, it’s possible to find highly distinctive waterfalls and spectral couloirs. There are hundreds of falls that can be encountered while climbing toward the upper valley, many of which have been conquered by Gian Carlo Grassi, who has spent much of his time exploring the valley in the winters since the early 1980s. The ice amphitheater on the shores of Lake Castello, in Pontechianale, is an enchanting meeting place for all enthusiasts.

3.Valle di Cogne (Italy, province of Aosta)

Cogne is a real mecca for ice climbing enthusiasts, a must-visit destination for climbers from all over the world. There are many falls here, more than 150, and the degree of difficulty ranges from the easiest to the most difficult, allowing everyone to find their ideal playground. Most of the falls are in Valnontey, where ice climbing takes on Canadian dimensions, as Gian Carlo Grassi often says. He’s a true pioneer of the discipline who has left an indelible mark here in Valle di Cogne. In the upper valley you can find iconic falls that were among the first climbed in Italy, such as the famous Repentance Super (G. Grassi, F. Conta, F. Damilano; February 3, 1989), at the time the most difficult waterfall in Italy.


4.Ceresole Reale (Italy, province of Torino)

The ice of Ceresole Reale is a real must for any passionate ice climber. We find ourselves in a true temple to climbing, in the place that shaped the history of Turinese mountaineering. The X-Ice Park is an ice climbing gym created by the diversion of a stream over rocky cliffs. The result, thanks to the winter cold, is a frozen wall with around 30 waterfalls that can satisfy all tastes, with grades from III to V+, and with the possibility to try dry-tooling.

5.Kandersteg (Switzerland)

They say that the most beautiful ice in Europe is here, in Kandersteg. Even better than Canadian ice. It’s a quality that has transformed this corner of Switzerland into a true mecca for the best ice climbers in the world. They come here to test themselves on dizzying falls, but not only that. Kandersteg’s real innovation lies in dry-tooling, which sees the world’s elite arrive every year, ready to put themselves to the test. If you think you have what it takes, this is the place for you.


6.Val di Scalve (Italy, province of Bergamo)

The falls in Val di Scalve are little frequented and not well known at all. They’re a real treasure trove of ice hidden in one of the wildest corners of the Bergamasque Alps. In the summer the Vò waterfalls are a destination for tourists and lovers of the outdoors, and in the winter they transform into a location sought out by ice-climbing enthusiasts, who, armed with crampons and ice axes, enjoy themselves on the frozen structures. Via Mala, the region’s Grand Canyon, becomes a paradise for ice climbers in the winter. Beautiful to experience on foot, in its fragile vertical dimension it becomes even more imposing and dazzling.

7.Val Masino (Italy, province of Sondrio)

Known for bouldering and sport climbing, in winter this valley transforms into a prime location for ice climbing. The streams of water and waterfalls crystallize into real ice castles to be explored with an ice ax and crampons. “Durango,” “Merdarola,” “Pisarot,” and “Magic Mushroom” are the most popular structures, together with many other less challenging waterfalls, so everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle that ice climbing offers.

8.Val Brandet (Italy, province of Brescia)

The pearl of the ice in Valle Camonica. With the arrival of the cold, Val Brandet transforms into a paradise for ice climbing lovers. Some decidedly challenging climbs stand out, such as the welcoming falls that extend up the entire valley: 1,000 meters in length, 600 meters of vertical gain. We’re talking about Canadian-style dimensions, for sensational ice.

9.Val Badia (Italy, province of Bolzano)

On the north side of the Sella Group, facing toward Val Gardena, three magnificent falls form on which ice climbing can be practiced. This is one of Angelika Rainer’s favorite places in the Alps. The three waterfalls are just a short distance apart and have a length of about 100-120 meters and a high probability of freezing, which makes Val Badia one of the most popular ice-climbing destinations in the Dolomites. Especially because of the famous “La spada di Damocle” and “Solo per pochi.”


10.Carinthia (Austria)

It’s called Maltatal, and in Carinthia it’s synonymous with ice. An easily accessible valley with a multitude of waterfalls of all levels, so as to satisfy every level and ability. But there’s more, because you can just wander through the valleys of the Hohe Tauern National Park and encounter falls of all types, from easy ice canyons to challenging mixed routes — not to mention the famous 28-meter-high ice tower of Mauthen. A real playground for ice climbers and for those who want to learn. It also hosts the Austrian ice climbing championships.


We’ve discovered some of the most beautiful and iconic places where you can practice ice climbing in the Alps. Starting from the west with Briançon, in France, and Valle Varaita, in Piedmont, up to Carinthia, in Austria. In between, the history of ice climbing with Cogne, where the discipline evolved, and Ceresole Reale, one of the contemporary hot spots. As well as Kandersteg, in Switzerland, a world-class ice mecca. And again the valleys of Lombardy, small pearls for connoisseurs of the region and the activity, such as Val di Scalve, Val Masino, and Val Brandet. Without forgetting the beautiful and elegant Val Badia, at the foot of the Sella Group.


You can compare a maximum of 5 items at once. Please Remove at least one product before adding a new one.