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The abrasive nature of the rock combined with the moisture-absorbing properties of chalk will dry your skin out. When your skin is dry it is more prone to wear and cuts. As soon as you finish climbing, wash your hands and use a skin moisturiser as often as possible. Creams with healing vitamin E and a moisturiser can be be bought at any chemist. The best creams contain Shea butter. Popular are CLIMB ON's creams and bars, SYPELAND's Climbers' Balm and PALMER'S Cocoa butter.
Cuts and flappers
Flappers (or avulsions) are a more serious proposition. This is where a thick flap of skin rips usually due to much pressure on a sharp hold, quite often when it is cold and your skin isn't as sensitive. The end result is a lot of blood, a gaping hole and a flap of skin that makes further climbing impossible. In the old days an assortment of remedies were used to enable us to continue climbing, including the use of superglue (a carcinogen) to stick the flapper back. The risk of infection is great with a deep flapper, so it is best to wash with disinfectant, cover in gauze and await healing.
A large volume of climbing, especially on rough rock, will remove layers of skin from your tips until they are sore, sweat easily and even bleed. Typically, worn skin will leave an abrupt 'step' between skin layers, this will tend to roll if you climb on it, making things worse. Treat this skin step by filing it down so that there is no edge to catch and moisturise when you are not climbing.
The first step in looking after your feet is getting a well-fitting pair of climbing shoes . High-performance climbing shoes are very anatomical, with curved and asymmetric soles and rands that pull. While they do need to be snug, if you get a pair that is too tight they will impede your performance and also encourage, calluses, bunions and corns.
Fitting climbing shoes
To avoid the smelly-rock-shoe syndrome and prolong the life of your shoe, only wear climbing shoes when actually climbing.
Store your shoes in a dry airy place to dry out. Consider placing a natural aromatic cedar block in them which absorbs moisture and unpleasant odours and contains a natural fungicide.
Like callused hands, feet also benefit from application of a moisturising cream and sanding down over callused areas on a regular basis.
Preventing athlete's foot
Sport CLIMBING +
The Rockfax book Sport Climbing + includes many more useful tips like this which will help you climb better and safer. For example, have you ever wished to know how to get down from mid-route by abseiling off a single bolt without threading it or losing any gear?
The book is not just about rope techniques though. There are chapters on technique, onsighting, redpointing, the mind, training, mutli-pitching, self-care and destinations.