4 Famous Ice Climbers You Need to Know

4 Famous Ice Climbers You Need to Know

Famous ice climbers, often overshadowed by their rock-climbing counterparts, embody a unique blend of knowledge and courage. With its demanding conditions and remote locations, the ice climbing world is a testament to their bravery. While rock climbing may be more prevalent, it's essential to recognize the fearless ice climbers who continue to push the boundaries of human achievement.

Whether or not you're interested in climbing ice, this group of climbers should be recognized for their incredible ascents in the cold. Remember that many ice climbers are mountaineers pushing their bodies to the limit with lower oxygen in remote regions.

The logistics of being a renowned ice climber stack afar against being a famous rock climber. Injuries or accidents can't be solved with a quick hike to the car. Most of the time, mountaineers can only rely on their experience and knowledge to keep themselves safe.

Check out the four famous ice climbers you need to know.

ice climber
  1. Ueli Steck

This Swiss-born climber, Ueli Steck, is one of the most popular alpinists in history. He started climbing at a young age, driven by a passion for the mountains that was instilled in him by his father. His achievements are not just a result of his physical prowess but also his mental strength and determination. In 2007, he set his first speed record on the Noth Face of the Eiger, climbing it in 3 hours and 54 minutes. Then, in 2008, he beat his speed record, repeating the climb in 2 hours and 47 minutes.

In 2013, his solo ascent of the Lafaille route on the South Face of Annapurna was called "one of the most impressive Himalayan climbs in history." Many questioned the validity of this climb due to the lack of photos or GPS tracking data. Still, two sherpas from Steck's team supported it.

Ueli Steck has an outstanding resume as an ice climber and mountaineer. Unfortunately, he died in 2017 while acclimatizing for an attempt on the West Ridge of Everest without supplemental oxygen.


  1. Catherine Destivelle

As a professional French rock climber, you wouldn't think her early years would've led her to be included on this list. After an impressive climbing career and being compared with Lynn Hill as one of the strongest female sport climbers, in 1990, she focused her attention on alpine climbing.

She is known for her incredible first-female ascents of big mountains. In 1990, she made the first-ever female alpine ascent of Bonatti Pillar on the Petit Dru, a challenging route known for its technical difficulties and steep terrain. The following year, she became the first female to create a new extreme alpine route on Petit Dru. She named her route Voie Destivelle and will live forever in history with her daring 11-day free solo.

Destivelle pushed the boundaries of climbing. Her ascents and achievements broke records and crushed stereotypes that said top-level climbing and alpinism were reserved for men. As one of the most well-rounded climbers in history, her contributions to the sport and influence on future generations cannot be overstated. That is a famous ice climber you need to know.


  1. Conrad Anker

Conrad Anker may be the most famous ice climber from America. He has climbed worldwide, including the Alaska Range, Patagonia, Antarctica, Pakistan, and Nepal. As an all-around climber, he's completed many first ascents and numerous alpine adventures.

His resume includes the first ascents of the Northwest Face of Mount Hunter in Alaska and Badlands on the southeast face of Terre Egger in Patagonia. He was included in the first ascent of Shark's Fin on Meru Peak, which can be seen in the widely popular film Meru. He's also led multiple expeditions to the top of Everest.

Anker was the team leader for The North Face's climbing team for 26 years. He retired from high-alpine climbing after suffering a heart attack in 2016 while attempting an ascent of Lunag Ri with David Lama. Since then, he's continued working and climbing and is a prolific member of the climbing community.


  1. Alex Lowe

American ice climbers can't be mentioned without the name Alex Lowe. Lowe is remembered for his tenacious climbing, incredible workout routine, and positive attitude. Conrad Anker is quoted as saying, "We're at this one level, and then there's Alex." He could be said to find a pull-up bar in any airport.

Lowe is famous for climbing mountains and skiing down them. He holds first ascents in Antarctica, the Baffin Islands, and new routes in Nepal, Wyoming, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan.

In 1999, Alex Lowe, Conrad Anker, and David Bridges attempted to ski down the 8,000-meter mountain Shishapangma. As they tried to find a route up the mountain, a large serac above broke and brought an avalanche onto the team. Anker survived and led a 20-hour rescue.

Almost 17 years later, Ueli Steck and David Göttler found the remains of two climbers emerging from the glacier, believed to be Lowe and Bridges.


Whether or not you’re an ice climbing enthusiast, these famous climbers deserve recognition for their significant contributions to climbing history. Their daring first ascents in remote corners of the world are a testament to their confidence, skill, and courage. By acknowledging their achievements, we honor their legacy and inspire future generations of climbers.