For some reason since I started climbing I never really felt the need to use chalk so I am wondering whether it would actually improve my climbing if I did? I am asking mainly for indoors climbing and in particular bouldering but an answer covering outdoors would also be appreciated.
The vast majority of people on the wall seem to be really religious in using chalk but if anything, I've always felt that most holds are covered in chalk anyway from other people climbing.
Also as a bonus question - what's with the toothbrush obsession? Does cleaning holds really make a significant difference? I'm assuming maybe for harder routes it does but then again I tend to view holds 'as they come' if that makes sense? (i.e. if it's covered in chalk, it's just part of the conditions).
Thanks for any insight - I do feel like the odd one out at times
In reply to Simos: It a good way of pretending you're not too scared to commit to that hard crux move. Just keep dabbing your hands alternately in your chalk bag, until you're too pumped to move, then shout 'TAKE'.
In reply to Simos: At a beginner level with lovely big holds, then no. When you start climbing/bouldering hard on very small holds, even a drop of sweat or sprinkle of dirt can make the difference between slipping off and sticking a move.
I did try a few times but didn't feel it made any difference, that's why I am asking - maybe I am missing something but it felt that I could still do exactly what I could do without chalk and what I couldn't do was still out of reach.
I guess I feel I have so many things to improve upon/correct that chalk looks like the least of my problems, yet most people use it quite religiously.
I can see the difference it would make to a tiny shiny hold though - having said this some holds have a 'sandpaper' texture that feels ideal for sticking to naked skin and feels like friction would actually reduce if you applied chalk.
On a related note, I remember doing some gymnastic lessons as a kid and I had to actually apply chalk not to improve my grip but mainly to avoid friction burns and allow a bit more movement when holding onto bars etc so it was as if chalk would reduce friction and not increase it.
In reply to Simos: the same reason John gill introduced chalk, to allow easier dynamic movement from one hold to the next. Read his blog if you think other wise. Chalk is designed to reduce friction. but each to their own opinion really. apparently climbing chalk is chemically the same but magically different from gymnastic chalk.
There's lots of research out there. But try it yourself, use it for a year then don't for a year and see if it really hinders you that much.
Or remain ignorant and use it or don't without ever finding out for yourself.
Personally I'm on a year of not using it and currently climbing better than before. I have dipped once or twice over the year on sweaty humid days grabbing a sloper only to find it didn't help me. But I guess the only really answer is "it depends"
For me, using chalk outside makes a huge difference to how grippy the rock feels. That doesn't make me climb grades harder (except on boulder problems at my limit where it will have a measurable effect of a grade or more), but it does make me feel confident. Chalk makes a similar difference to having good boots instead of crappy old ones with a toe poking out, so only significant when at my limit.
Indoors, I quite often have a virtually empty chalkbag, so I can keep a tiny amount of chalk on my hands, but as you say everything's already caked in chalk so it's probably completely pointless. I do want to get the grease from my skin chalked-over though, and the caked-on stuff on the holds doesn't do this job as it's a solid made of chalk, sweat and grease and doesn't really help. I should probably stop chalking up once the slippy greasy feeling has gone after a few problems.
> My impression is that any trace of chalk makes holds slippery.
> Much more so than sweat or just we hands
Chalk is used to dry out the hands, not to make holds grippier. Excess chalk will make it slippery, but that's why most people wipe or blow off excess chalk after a dip in the bag.
Outdoors I think I've used it once, maybe twice max, and that was probably just a mental boost for a crux move. Indoors I find my hands sweat buckets and the resin holds feel like I'm trying to grab black ice. I guess outdoors all that dirt probably does the job of chalk, and the wind dries your hands faster than indoors.
I have incredibly sweaty hands that end up really greasy even when I chalk up all the time, so I tend to wash my hands a couple of times per indoor session as well. Climbing outdoors in summer just means climbing far below my grade because I can't easily wash them. Looking forward to some cold days on grit!
In reply to Simos: I climb HVS (E1 on a good day), mostly without chalk. I take my bag with me: seldom do I use it unless the rock is particularly greasy or my hands are sweaty. I tend to use chalk more indoors where the holds are generally greasy. I'd have to say that for some people it's a habit to dip like brushing holds on a boulder problem and serves no purpose other than to disguise the colour of the holds I'm trying climb!
> (In reply to Simos) It a good way of pretending you're not too scared to commit to that hard crux move. Just keep dabbing your hands alternately in your chalk bag, until you're too pumped to move, then shout 'TAKE'.
In reply to Simos: I have disgustingly sweaty hands indoor. I quite often use chalk not just to get that extra bit of grip but as a kindness to anyone else that tries to climb the problem/route when I'm done.
I'm pretty sure they don't want to push for a hold only to slide off with a handful of my sweat.
In reply to Simos:
I have been climbing about 3 1/2 years as has my friend, I have recently had to buy the 4th chalk ball to put into my chalk bag (only use a chalk bag when doing route, boulders I use a boulder bucket). My friend I think this year has already gone thru 3 chalk balls, so as you can tell it all depends on the person.
As for the question about the toothbrush obsession, I have a Lapis brush on my chalk bag and on my boulder bucket have a Lapis brush and a M15 brush. I feel that removing the caked on chalk that everyone else has put there does make a difference, as I can therefore use the grip/texture that the hold manufactors had intented.
I hear you on the toothbrush and I'm sure it does make the route easier especially when you have tiny holds but what difference does it really make in the grand scheme of things, even if they're caked on chalk it would basically only make the real difficulty perhaps more than the intended one when the problem was set but that only matters if you care about grades or comparing yourself against others (e.g. in a competition).
In reply to Simos: some people's hands get sweatier than others, i sometimes have to use a bit if i'm doing something really hard or crimpy, but don't really like to as it makes my hands too dry then my skin starts to rip!! If you're pressing really hard on rough holds your body will make your hands sweat as the moisture protects your skin which is why the chalk drying your hands is a bit of a double edged blade!! Indoor holds get slimy and over chalked coz of the amount of people who use them hence the scrubbing!! My husband can climb 6b/6c indoors and HVS/E1 outdoors and very very rarely uses chalk so it won't necessarily make you climb any better
> (In reply to ashley1_scott)
> I hear you on the toothbrush and I'm sure it does make the route easier especially when you have tiny holds but what difference does it really make in the grand scheme of things, even if they're caked on chalk it would basically only make the real difficulty perhaps more than the intended one when the problem was set but that only matters if you care about grades or comparing yourself against others (e.g. in a competition).
If you're bouldering, then you want to climb the problem, so if you're being stopped by the state of the holds, it makes sense to clean them. No one brushes holds on routes (unless they've been falling off the crux due to smeggy holds) it's too much faff.
True - I guess I never felt I have been stopped by the state of the holds (yet), when I fall I always assume that I need to climb better.
I see the point for sure for much better climbers than me but at my level, I am 110% that there are just so many people that would easily do the problems that I am struggling with without cleaning the holds either that it feels a bit illogical for me to focus even a bit of energy or time cleaning the holds - prefer watching how others do them instead.
I don't know about you but I'd probably find it funny if I saw someone turn up on their first day of climbing with a toothbrush and similarly to start cleaning holds when I am still way off using proper technique feels funny too. Admittedly if I kept on trying a problem until I got my technique 100% and kept on slipping on a tiny hold that was not clean, I'd probably reach for the brush too!
In reply to Simos: Yeah you'll know it when the toothbrush needs to come out. It's one of these things like anything in climbing, getting the perfect shoes, cleaning holds to perfection at the moment, you'll know when you need to do it because you'll realise that it's limiting you.
In reply to Simos: I once had a rule that I did not use chalk on anything under HVS I am older now and only use chalk on VS or above. I think its a personal choice but I think it should only be used in moderation just for the sake of the look of the crag. I will admit to just the odd dab on lower grade routes in hot weather.
Funny as it sounds, and I don't know yet if it holds for climbing, but in other sports (eg freediving) these things/habits can end up being detrimental as you develop a mental habit/fixation on having perfect conditions and end up not believing you can achieve the goal the moment things are not as expected (say you drop your chalk bag and lose the chalk or the sea is choppy before you dive etc).
One coach in freediving (which is a sport i know better) described this as the 'spoilt freediver' condition where one over the years comes to rely mentally on creating perfect conditions and preparation and that ends up being limiting because in real world situations or even competitions conditions are often far from perfect and definitely not like training. It was definitely starting to happen to me too so I took a stepback and now just 'go' without thinking about it too much or mental preparation.
In reply to Simos:Personally never found it makes that much difference for the hands. Most chalk users I climb with dipping it seems is more like a nervious twitch. However I have used it myself at times to mark foot holds in case of down climbing when onsighting first ascents.The ability to see small footholds when using bifocal glasses is difficult.One thing for sure pre chalked holds greatly reduces the grade of the climb.
> (In reply to Simos) the same reason John gill introduced chalk, to allow easier dynamic movement from one hold to the next. Read his blog if you think other wise. Chalk is designed to reduce friction. but each to their own opinion really. apparently climbing chalk is chemically the same but magically different from gymnastic chalk.
> There's lots of research out there. But try it yourself, use it for a year then don't for a year and see if it really hinders you that much.
> Or remain ignorant and use it or don't without ever finding out for yourself.
> Personally I'm on a year of not using it and currently climbing better than before. I have dipped once or twice over the year on sweaty humid days grabbing a sloper only to find it didn't help me. But I guess the only really answer is "it depends"
I remember once soloing a easy E1 in my local quarry, I had left my chalk bag on the ground not thinking. I came up the crux and I was completely stopped dead in my tracks by a damp hold. The route wasn't very reversible but I got a mate who was bouldering to throw a mat under and I managed to climb down to the ground. It was very worrying at the time. Being quite embarassed I had another look at the route with my chalkbag and completed it. The route was very trivial to me due to the amount of times I have climbed it so no psychology involved here, no crutch. But hey ho, feel free to call me ignorant as I haven't gone without chalk for a year.