The cryosphere provides multiple services to society, but mountain cryosphere is shrinking at an alarming rate worldwide due to climate change, threatening natural and human systems. Adaptation to cryosphere change is essential to avoid irreversible damage and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Although documenting adaptation actions and challenges is vital for preparing and implementing adaptation strategies, efforts to document and understand current adaptation practices specifically in response to cryosphere change have been limited. This paper synthesizes adaptation actions currently practiced in the mountain ranges of the Andes, Alps, Pamir, Tien Shan and Himalaya in response to cryosphere change, discusses common constraints and suggests actions for creating an enabling environment for adaptation. It identifies various adaptation measures adopted by different actors. These range from changing current practices and behaviour at household level to collaborative monitoring at regional level. However, most adaptation measures are autonomous, narrowly focused and short term, without adequate planning and government support. The physical challenges of mountain terrain, low adaptive capacities, limited knowledge and high uncertainty about future risks constrain widespread adoption of adaptation measures. Further research is needed to better understand factors influencing adaptation actions, and the policy options and responses that can overcome existing barriers. © 2019, © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.