/ Getting lichen off a route?

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Elrond - on 08 Aug 2012
I've found some decent rock at an undisclosed location and I was wondering how I would go about cleaning the lichen off it. Would a brush work or would I need something else?

Cheers
Dave Warburton - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Hazelnuts: A stiff nylon brush will most certainly clean off the lichen, provided its dry lichen. Wet lichen will smear. Repeated chalking and nylon brushing, perhaps over a couple of visits will very effectively dry and kill off the algal material growing in any rugosities, drastically improving the friction.

Hope this helps.
Jon Read - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Dave Warburton:
I find that it's easier to brush the fine green lichen off when it's damp; the hairier sort is best brushed when dry.
Dave Warburton - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Jon Read: Interesting, I usually chalk (repeatedly) The green stuff (that i call algae) that blocks up surface roughness. I'll check out damp brushing in the future.

Cheers.
Franco Cookson on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Hazelnuts: as above, but be careful with the green lichen in particular. It's really easy to get carried away and end up damaging the rock, due to how strongly it binds to the stone.
Thelongcon - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Hazelnuts:

The moss has taken a lichen to the rock?
Jon Read - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Franco Cookson:
Which is why I try to do it when damp, as a soft brush works really well with it then.

You two should be experts with all the esoteria you're unearthing!
Dave Warburton - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Jon Read: We generally stay well away from sandstone when its damp. Repeated chalking works very well, but perhaps isn't as fast acting as many would like.
Franco Cookson on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Jon Read: All clean up here. Come visit :)
Jon Read - on 08 Aug 2012
In reply to Franco Cookson:
Might be bringing the wire brush and spade up this weekend ;-)
Franco Cookson on 09 Aug 2012
In reply to Jon Read: seriously, would be excellent to meet up for some wire brushing.
EddInaBox on 10 Aug 2012
The Pylon King on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Dave Warburton:
> Repeated chalking works very well, but perhaps isn't as fast acting as many would like.


Or particularly environmentally aware.
EeeByGum - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to EddInaBox: I must admit - that was the first thing that came into my mind. If you are going to brush lichen, at the most, just remove from holds.
Dave Warburton - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to EeeByGum: What are you guys on about?
Franco Cookson on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to EddInaBox: Where's your local crag then? Naturally clean you delude yourself perchance?
EddInaBox on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Franco Cookson:

Swanage!
paul mitchell - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Hazelnuts: A bit of old towel with chalk on it is great. Mitch
JDal - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Hazelnuts: That's a more complicated question than you may think.

There are several basic forms:

Leprose - powdery stuff. Stiff bristle should do the trick. Or patio cleaner (joking).

Crustose - The hard crusty ones like this http://www.backyardnature.net/lichen-1.htm . Needs either a chisel or sandblasting. Don't even try and remove this stuff, it's just there. Live with it. If you try and get it off the rock will come away with it.

Foliose - flaky kinds of flat dry leaves, stiff brush usually does the trick. http://www.backyardnature.net/lichen-2.htm

The other ones 3 just snap/brush off easily.
Franco Cookson on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to EddInaBox: reckon it looked the same as it does now before anyone climbed on it?
In reply to Hazelnuts: Depends a lot on the type of rock. I've cleaned a lot of lichen of our local granite and only wire brushes do it - and you wear them out surprisingly quickly. It's really hard work as well!

This is a good way to get the looser stuff off: http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=45783 :)
EddInaBox on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Franco Cookson:

Yes, pretty much (the sea cliffs that I prefer anyway, not so much the polished sport in the quarries) but even if climbers had a hand in cleaning off a bit of flora here and there:
  • i. I didn't do it, therefore did not break the law
  • ii. Whoever may have done so did it a long time before the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 came into force
  • iii. Despite being a World Heritage Site largely owned by The National Trust and Dorset County Council there's little potential risk to future access since climbing is well established here and climbers respect the places that are designated off limits for conservation reasons.
Trangia - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Franco Cookson:

Wise words. If in doubt about the vunerability of a lichen err on the safe side and don't disturb it.
Franco Cookson on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to EddInaBox: I'm more concerned with ethics than the law- I think the chance of getting locked up for putting chalk on a route, or even brushing holds is next to zero, but I do genuinely care for our and other creatures' environment.

So let's approach this ethically... Chalk alters the PH balance on cliffs and in soils. If you're one of Steve Findlay's clean-hands chums and don't use chalk then I crumble at your ethically superior feet, but the vast majority of us do use it and this kills almost everything- especially in areas of moorland where all the plants are acidic munchkins.

Brushing, either with hands or brushes does a similar job. If you didn't climb on the rocks then they'd soon grow back under a thick carpet of all sorts of things- especially after weather like we've had this year, so yes you are having an effect on the environment by climbing- even if you're going to 'already clean' areas like Stanage.

People love deluding themselves that they have no impact on flora if they stick to already clean buttresses, but I've seen how fast moss comes back if left alone and how popular crags are indeed dependent on perpetual cleaning, rather than being in some zen end-state of balance.

I know some lichens are very sensitive, perhaps rare and take longer to get established than others. These need protecting, but often it's a choice between climbing or conservation. That's a debate worth having, but don't victimise people because they don't go to honey pots- the issues are exactly the same. There's an argument that occasional very intrusive outings on the rock do less damage than constant little bits of gardening- if a route only gets repeated every 10 years then the flora is never really removed.

We can pretend that we are doing no evil if we don't venture off the beaten track, but that is just patently untrue. Go have a gander at a once popular crag that has now fallen out of favour- you'll be amazed how quickly they return to nature.
EddInaBox on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Franco Cookson:

> So let's approach this ethically... Chalk alters the PH balance on cliffs and in soils. If you're one of Steve Findlay's clean-hands chums and don't use chalk then I crumble at your ethically superior feet, but the vast majority of us do use it and this kills almost everything- especially in areas of moorland where all the plants are acidic munchkins.

Never met the chap, certainly not a chum of his but I do not and never have used chalk.


> Brushing, either with hands or brushes does a similar job. If you didn't climb on the rocks then they'd soon grow back under a thick carpet of all sorts of things- especially after weather like we've had this year, so yes you are having an effect on the environment by climbing- even if you're going to 'already clean' areas like Stanage.

I don't dispute that but should I encounter a plant or organism that makes climbing a route more difficult I wouldn't destroy it if it was considered rare enough to be legally protected, not permitting such plants to grow in the first place is rather different in my opinion.


> I know some lichens are very sensitive, perhaps rare and take longer to get established than others. These need protecting, but often it's a choice between climbing or conservation. That's a debate worth having, but don't victimise people because they don't go to honey pots- the issues are exactly the same. There's an argument that occasional very intrusive outings on the rock do less damage than constant little bits of gardening- if a route only gets repeated every 10 years then the flora is never really removed.

Who is victimising anyone, I originally posted in this thread to draw the O.P.'s attention to the fact that certain species of lichen are protected by law, and that removing them is a criminal offence.

Aztec Bar - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to EddInaBox:
I've found a 6" angle grinder works well and also can improve any smaller holds.
Boy - on 10 Aug 2012
In reply to Hazelnuts:
I've found the most effective way to remove lichen is on a wet day, with a bucket/bottle of water and a brush. Most stuff comes off easily but quickly clogs the bristles of the brush, hence the water to clean the brush between sweeps. Very effective and minimally damaging to the rock. Unfortunately it means you get wet and filthy, and can't try the route on the day you clean it.
For those agonising about damage to rare lichens, I think itís worth remembering that the common or garden green muck that grows on north facing grit is algae not lichen and very common too, especially since the decline of our heavy industry and domestic coal use vastly improved air quality in the last few decades.

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