March 14, 2022

How to Start with Mixed Climbing: Grades, Techniques, Gear

by Bernice

Mixed climbing is a mix of both ice and rock climbing. It necessitates the use of ice climbing tools such as crampons. Besides, it has its own set of boots that nearly take the design of climbing shoes but have inbuilt crampons. Mixed climbing is also a climbing form that involves dry-tooling. 

What Terrain is Used in Mixed Climbing?

Mixed climbing uses mixed terrain, usually a blend of rock, turf, and varying quantities of snow and ice.

Mixed climbing is considered a sport climbing form of winter climbing—classic mixed terrain with steeper angles and crag areas fitted with bolts. 


Table of Contents

Mixed Climbing Grades 

The mixed climbing grading system adheres to the WI rating system regarding the techniques and physical approaches.

Scaling begins at the M4, and minor grades of “-” and “+.” Distinctions are subjective. The grades are a rough indication of relative difficulty. 

  • YDS values of 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7, respectively. These grades typically need no equipment except crampons.
  • The M4 5.8 WI4, which are slabby to vertical and need dry-tooling techniques.
  • The M5 5.9 WI5, which is managed through vertical dry tooling.
  • The M6 5.10WI6 has difficulties if vertical overhangs are present and dry tooling skills are required.
  • The M75.11 WI7 involves overhangs, skillful dry tooling, and nearly 33 feet of hard climbing. 
  • The M8 is 5.11+. These involve somewhat horizontal overhangs, which necessitate dry tooling, bouldering, and longer cruxes.
  • These are progressive routes with vertical and slight overhangs, with marginal holds. Some have juggy roofs of about three body lengths.
  • M10 5.12, all involve 30-meter overhangs or 10-meter horizontal rocks. All of which require powerful movements with no rest.
  • M11 and 5.13 grades require a ropes-length overhang gymnastic skill.
  • These grades require bouldering, dynamic moves, and powerful holds.

What Techniques are Used in Mixed Climbing?

The techniques listed below are used in mixed climbing.

  • Mixed climbing techniques are a blend of ice climbing and rock climbing. The type of terrain also allows the integration of other techniques, such as dry tooling. In general, you may have the lists below in your repertoire.
  • Steins says, “on overhangs, this is a dry tooling move that involves flipping your ax inverted and wedge blade upon the rock” move by pulling on the handle and locking the blade in place.
  • Torques are created by jamming the blade into a small crack and pulling sideways. This is useful in vertically narrow spaces.
  • Underclings: An undercling is an upgraded stein, but it only works when one hangs below the tool and presses downwards. There’s upward movement difficulty. You lock the blade in an opening and hold on to it until you get traction.
  • Figures four and nine involve locking your left leg on your left arm or the right leg on the right arm and using it as a foothold. As for figure four, you lock your left leg in your right hand. The move is effective depending on how close you get to the back of your leg to the wrist. 

What Equipment is Used in Mixed Climbing?

A climber chooses their equipment based on the exact conditions and terrain that will be encountered and their climbing style and personal preferences. But in general, you will need the mixed climbing equipment listed below.

  • Mixed climbing involves ice climbing, and it’s a bad idea to fall on ice. You need at least a 60-meter long rope to protect you from falling.
  • Anchoring tools: these range from cams, bolts, pitons, and carabiners.
  • A harness is your mixed climbing seat, and it’s worn around the waist area.
  • A sling to make knots to be attached to the carabiner.
  • Ice climbing gloves to help with the cold and rope gripping.
  • Ice axes for the parts with ice.
  • Crampons for ice climbing.

What are the Best Crampons for Mixed Climbing?

According to our guide on how to choose crampons, the best crampons for mixed climbing and waterfall ice are crampons with step-in or hybrid binding, made from steel. The construction must be semi-rigid, the frontpoint type modular vertical with 14 or more points.

Your crampons for mixed climbing should be able to work on rock, ice, and snow. The crampons should be sturdy enough to support a variety of terrain types, but also have enough flexibility to allow for use in more technical terrain.

Our top recommendations for the best crampons for mixed climbing are listed below.

  • Petzl Dart Crampons
  • Grivel G20 Crampons
  • Black Diamond Serac Clip Crampons

Last update on 2022-10-03 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

What is the Best Ice Tool for Mixed Climbing?

The ice tools are the most important equipment for mixed climbing. They are especially crucial for protection, as they can be used to place ice screws and ice picks.

Choosing the right tool is a personal preference, and what’s best for one person may not be best for another.

There are many different ice tools for mixed climbing available on the market, but the three ice tools listed below stand out from the rest.

  • The Petzl Quark   
  • The Black Diamond Raven Pro   
  • The Grivel G1

Last update on 2022-10-03 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

All three of these tools have their pros and cons. For example, the Petzl Quark has a very lightweight design which makes it ideal for long routes; however, it is not as durable as other models such as the Black Diamond Raven Pro or Grivel G1.

What are the Best Mixed Climbing Boots?

The best mixed climbing boots are those that are designed to provide the best comfort, support, and performance for a wide range of climbing conditions. They should be able to grip on rock, ice, and snow.

The following is the list of the best mixed climbing boots.

  • La Sportiva G5
  • La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX
  • Asolo Eiger GV
  • Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro
  • Scarpa Phantom Tech

Last update on 2022-10-03 // Source: Amazon Affiliates

To find the best mixed climbing boots for you, consider the following characteristics for mixed climbing boots.

  • What is your budget?
  • What kind of terrain will you be using your boots on?
  • Do you need a boot that can be resoled?
  • How much ankle support do you want or need?
  • Do you prefer a flat or curved last shape?
  • What size do you wear in street shoes?

How Do You Train for Mixed Climbing?

Training for mixed climbing, especially if it is your first time, should take around three weeks. Mixed climbing requires overall body strength, which means you have to work on your back, grips, calves, and core.

  • For calves, you have to stand on a raised object and raise the back of your feet while standing in your region. Repeat this several times, and if possible, hold a barbell with a reasonable amount of weight at your shoulder while doing more calf raises.
  • To improve your grip, you will have to use dead hangs. It is advised that you hang on to them for as long as you can, but ten minutes still suffices.
  • Lastly, while doing pull-ups for upper body strength, remember to do back rows. Now that you have the strength, you need to work on your skills.

That means spending around 2-3 hours in the climbing gym, working with your teammates to build your foundations well. It is the only way you get to know how to use ropes, carabiners, and climbing maneuvers as well.

What is the Hardest Form of Climbing?

Sport climbing is currently considered the most difficult form of climbing. That is based on grades. As of now, the world’s hardest sport climbing course is the Silence, rated 5.15d (9c).

However, it was previously rated in the same category as the La Dura Dua and Vasil Vasil-5.15c (9b+). It was established as a new grade by Adam Ondra in 2010. 

What is a Mixed Route?

A mixed route is a course used in the mixed climbing discipline. They are usually a blend of rock, turf, and varying quantities of snow and ice as well.

Some may have steeper angles and crag areas that are fitted with bolts. Mixed routes are generally graded using the WI rating system, where M4 is a minor distinction, and 12 is the highest. 

What are the Four Levels of Climbing Difficulty?

The difficulty levels in climbing are graded from grade 1 to grade four and they are listed below.

  • First grade: these are straightforward glacier courses.
  • 2nd grade: they are not technical but expose the climber to both knife-edge ridges and rough altitudes.
  • 3rd grade combines moderate climbing with cutting through difficult and also technical climbing.
  • 4th grade: these are difficult routes that necessitate technical approaches.

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About the author 

Bernice

Bernice often jokes that she is better at climbing than walking. With avid parents of climbing, her first encounter with the high vertical rock walls was at the age of one. Her favorite style of climbing is bouldering.

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