Why is the Instructed Induction course mandatory?

Even if you are an experienced rock climber, ice climbing is a totally different discipline using very different skills and equipment. Our overriding concern must always be the safety of our customers and staff. The induction course will therefore ensure that every user of the wall has been equipped with the skills to ice climb safely to an appropriate standard.

Can I cut the Induction Course short?

The quick answer is NO. But if you are an existing winter climber it will become quickly apparent to the assessor. The focus will then shift onto giving you additional coaching tips before progressing your registration.

Why do I have to register?

Our sister site is the National Ice Climbing Centre, and we are full members of the Association of British Climbing Walls. This means we implement and follow industry best practice with regards to new members. Registration ensures that every member is aware of the risks associated with climbing and mountain sports, and has personal proficiency in the required areas.

What is the registration process?

Once you have completed the induction your details will be recorded on our data base (we never pass these to other companies) and you will be issued with a member’s card. When you next return, you show your card, pay your entry fee and climb. Registration also qualifies you for membership at our sister site at Ice Factor at Kinlochleven.

How long do I get on the wall for my entry fee?

Up to you! You are welcome to stay on the walls as long as you are able and we are open. Should demand require, we may ask those who have been on the wall for an extended period of time to take a break in order to let new climbers use the wall too. (We have such a large wall that this has yet to happen, but we feel it would be the fair way to deal with this should the situation arise)

Can I take a break and go back up?

Yes absolutely, feel free to take a break at any point. Bar Varia Bier Halle and Restaurant serves hot and cold drinks, food and snacks but please be aware that if you have more than one alcoholic drink you will not be permitted to return to the wall.

I’ve got my own kit – can I use it on your walls?

Yes. However, all equipment must be fit for purpose. Helmets are compulsory within the Cold Zone, boots must be B3 (fully rigid) and crampons must be C2/3. Ice Axes must be technical winter climbing axes (with the hammer and adze capped with resistant stopper / material to prevent injury from bounce back) and although we positively encourage dry tooling techniques, for operational safety these must be attached using leashes / clippers or springers to the rope to stop them falling onto other climbers or belayers. Please ask a member of staff if you are unsure that your kit is in compliance.

I’ve got my own harness and helmet, but I don’t have any ice kit, can I hire it?

All equipment will be provided as part of instructed courses but for competent climbers on uninstructed visits you can hire individual pieces or full kit as you need. You can also buy a wide range of climbing hardware from Ellis Brighams who are located in the centre.

Please Note: ID will be required to hire equipment. (EG. Drivers Licence, Passport, Household bill etc)

How many ropes are there?

There are more than 20 ice climbing ropes on the walls. We do not allow lead climbing and we limit the number of climbers to 30 in any given times to ensure that there are always lines in operation.

Do I need to pre-book?

Yes. Pre-booking is essential for all Courses and Taster Sessions. We will do our best to accommodate you, but to avoid disappointment, please book ahead on 0141 885 7000.

What about clothing?

We recommend, 2-3 warm layers of clothing and, if you have it, a waterproof outer layer. The temperature in the Cold Zone reaches -6 so sufficient clothing and multiple layers are important.

We suggest multiple layers as one bulky layer will get in the way and several lighter layers give you the opportunity to shed one if you become too hot. You must wear gloves at all times when using the Ice Wall; you can bring your own or purchase a pair from reception if required. Should you need it, suitable clothing can be hired from Snow Factor for a nominal fee at the ticket desk.

An example of good layering:

  • Base Layer (vest/long-sleeved top)
  • Mid Layer (long-sleeved top/fleece)
  • Outer Layer (fleece/waterproof jacket, depending on how cold you normally feel)
  • Outdoor trousers (normal or waterproof) and a pair of leggings or tights underneath should be sufficient
  • Gloves and warm socks are essential, and a hat for under your helmet is recommended
  • Remember, if you are too warm you can always shed a layer

Where do I change and put my belongings?

There are changing rooms, showers and toilets. Lockers are also available for a £1 non-refundable fee.

Can my friend teach me?

No. For everyone’s safety and our insurance purposes we only allow qualified Snow Factor Instructors to teach on our walls.

Can I take pictures?

Yes, if you fill in a disclaimer form when you arrive to check in. We also ask that you try and photograph only the people in your party.

Is there somewhere for spectators to watch?

Yes. Bar Varia has panoramic balocny lined with windows if you prefer to stay inside in the warmth. It also has cosy couches, a wood-burning stove, Wi-Fi connection and a gourmet coffee and cake menu.

Please Be Aware: Only registered climbers or students under instruction can enter the main Cold Zone. spectators are not allowed past the main balcony for their own safety and that of our slope users.

How was the Ice Wall built?

The indoor wall at Snow Factor was designed by Jamie Smith, founder and MD of Ice Wall. Keith Johnson (Slope Manager, Engineer and all round good guy) played a seminal role in creating the wall, along with Jamie Bankhead (former Ice Factor manager) and the engineering team who all worked tirelessly for 4 months to get the Ice Wall into shape.

Rigorously tested by an external structural engineer, the wall was built using galvanized triangular steel, overlaid by a mesh of Glycol Coolant Pipes to cool the wall from behind. To absorb the weight, the steel rests on concrete pilings and a heat coil layer was applied under the floor to prevent ice and frost damaging the building foundation.

Heat Transfer pads sit between the galvanized sections of steel to prevent thermal transfer and two layers of steel mesh lie over the structure and are packed with hard / glacial type ice. On top of this, a layer of water, ice and neve (deep fresh snow) is added, and a further rebar metal grid then protects the ice.

On top of all this is the ‘sacrificial’ climbing surface which is then soaked to ‘proof’ the wall. We have 16 snow cannons in the roof gantry which fire atomized water into the air at very high pressure to create fresh snow every night. The sheer size of Snow Factor facilitates the very dry, cold atmosphere and allows us to create a near perfect environment for the Ice Wall.