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Crack gloves and grading

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 McHeath 23:17 Wed

Just came back from the bouldering wall, where they’d completely reset the whole main room with a fun competition for all: routes to be climbed as a pair, ropes for swinging between holds, slabs to be climbed with a plastic beaker on your head etc. And a really good pure hand/fist crack. I tried it and failed low down, the friction was crap and painful and I lost some skin. Then I saw that a pair of crack gloves were provided, put them on (I’ve never owned or even tried a pair before) and just murdered the route, it was pure pleasure.

So that got me thinking: what’s the situation, do crack gloves officially lower the grade? I know that there have been niggles about knee pads being used at the highest level, but I’ve never read anything about grading and the use/non-use of crack gloves. They cut out the pain, they increase the friction, they increase the thickness of the hand which could obviously be an advantage for some depending on the individual climber and route.

For me, it felt like what I would imagine the difference between climbing in modern climbing shoes or in hobnailed boots would be like (not that I’ve ever had the pleasure of climbing in the latter). So what’s the general take on this?

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 remus Global Crag Moderator 08:06 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

I think they definitely make things easier, but people have been wearing them for a long time (particularly for hard cracks) so the grades are pretty well adjusted already.

 AlanLittle 08:19 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

You don't get a higher grade for choosing not to use the current generally accepted standard equipment. See also Charles Albert barefoot boulder grading.

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 Sean Kelly 08:30 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

Call me old fashioned but crack gloves are cheating. I winced in pain up Liar's Dice yesterday and have the battle scars this morning to display. It's all about trying to hold an insecure jam whilst attempting to site a good piece of pro. That battle and suffering is all part of the climbing game.

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 ebdon 08:43 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

When I bought a pair I tested them out by leading a HVS jamming crack at Curbar without, and then climbing it again with gloves, and I have to say it felt a grade easer. That's not to say it was a grade easer, you don't get to claim big numbers by climbing in hobnail boots! But they certainly make a big difference.

Saying that it's not always the case, I fell off outang at stanage as the glove made my had not quite fit the slippery marginal jam (and i'm crap at climbing). It whent next go without gloves though.

Post edited at 08:44
In reply to McHeath:

Depends on the crack. One move may be much easier with the glove, the next you might not be able to get your hand in with the glove on. I like them for that wide-hands to fist sort of size where they save me a lot of skin, but for anything narrower a few turns of tape is usually better. 

 Gwinn512 09:01 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

As Steve Bechtel said, any rubber above the ankle is cheating and should not only lower the grave, but invalidate the whole send.

youtube.com/watch?v=RLiHsowmo5Q&

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 afx22 09:08 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

Is wearing two pairs of gloves at once cheating?

OP McHeath 09:53 Thu
In reply to Gwinn512:

Great video, took me a while to realize what was going on

 Darkinbad 10:39 Thu
In reply to Sean Kelly:

> Call me old fashioned but crack gloves are cheating. I winced in pain up Liar's Dice yesterday and have the battle scars this morning to display. It's all about trying to hold an insecure jam whilst attempting to site a good piece of pro. That battle and suffering is all part of the climbing game.

Fair enough. Although I would be more impressed if you had also climbed it barefoot.

1
In reply to McHeath:

As with developments in sticky boots, cams and chalk, taping & crack gloves have filtered down from the upper grades where many harder climbs have never been done without these developments and just like these other developments crack gloves are becoming normalised across the grades, they seem to be the current must have accessory.

Just as if you use a pad under a bold route that was originally and regularly done without a pad, climbing a test piece crack route that was originally and regularly done without gloves or tape it changes the original challenge. Cheating is perhaps a provocative term (I often refer to them as cheat gloves in logbook comments) especially when peoples hand sizes are different and therefore grades are subjective anyway.

However when I have tried crack glove they often remove a lot of the pain out of moves and allow for throwing into jams and swinging on jams that would be too painful and destroy ones skin too quickly without. But for many not wearing gloves or tape prohibits the enjoyment of these experiences just doing a bold route without a pad might. Conversely as those looking for that original challenge might do something 'sans pads' or perhaps "sans gloves' as long as you enjoy the experience and don't damage the rock both are valid ways to experience a climb but not necessarily equal. One of the beauties of climbing in its many forms is that it is often up to a individuals to decide on their personal challenge.

Post edited at 10:45
 Alkis 10:50 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

I do feel they make things easier, but I also feel that the difference of using them vs tape gloves is much smaller than bare hands vs tape gloves. Plus, they drastically change what jams your hands fit into, they can make one move easier and the next impossible.

Regarding grading, it’s an interesting question. We don’t give different grades for people with different size hands. For example my hands are pretty small, I’ve tried to do routes where my mates had absolutely bomber hand jams and I was getting nothing at all. I didn’t get a higher grade than them.

On another, semi-related note: I’ve long learnt to never ever jam indoors without protection. What would have been standard mild grit rash had it happened outside, turns into an infected mess in a day or two when it is inside, even if you clean it. My theory is that there is a lot of human debris on indoor holds and the pressure pushes it under the skin.

I’ve even had a couple of sessions where I went “it’s only one jam, it’s fine”, caused basically no visible damage, and still ended up with a green oozing mess the day after.

I still have a few scars from this.

Post edited at 10:50
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 john arran 10:58 Thu
In reply to Gwinn512:

That's a cool (if a little drawn out) way to show the ridiculousness of (religious) fundamentalism.

It also shows just how little distance sportclimbing technology has progressed in the last 40 years. Once sticky rubber and quickdraws had become available, we were really very close to where we are now in terms of technology. Almost all the progress in terms of difficulty has come from better training methods.

 C Witter 11:26 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

If you spend half a moment thinking, you realise that crack grades are incredibly personal, given that they depend on your ability to wedge bits of your body into the rock. A 5ft person with small, slim hands and a 6ft person with shovels for hands are going to have radically different experiences. A testing wide finger crack may be bomber handjams for one person, whilst a casual hand crack may be painful fists for another. So, debate about gloves affecting the grade seems pretty beside the point to me. What using gloves for sustained jamming does allow is for you to avoid the waste of taping and to avoid the lasting damage to your hands that comes with repeated wounds, scarring and risks of infection. Seems like a no brainer that they should be a tool at your disposal.

1
 C Witter 11:32 Thu
In reply to Alkis:

Yes, a good point about indoor jams and infections: I've seen it a few times too! I think this may prove the biggest obstacle to setting indoor jamming in the future. Multiple people's dirt, bacteria, viruses, sweat, blood and skin on the same holds is really not a good thing to be rubbing into your own abraded skin.

 Sean Kelly 11:35 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

What people forget is that crack gloves were developed in America for the long sustained cracklines that are found in Yosemite and similar, not 20 foot problems on British crags. Hell Crack at Stanage would be Heaven 2.Trashed hands at the end of the day were a badge of honour!

Post edited at 11:37
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 C Witter 13:15 Thu
In reply to Sean Kelly:

An easy 8m grit crack is one thing... Dartmoor granite is another! Some of those crystals will happily slice your arm off!

1
In reply to C Witter:

>What using gloves for sustained jamming does allow is for you to avoid the waste of taping and to avoid the lasting damage to your hands that comes with repeated wounds, scarring and risks of infection. Seems like a no brainer that they should be a tool at your disposal.

Yeah, I got some and now enjoy the odd jamming climb. I tried before but but ended up just avoiding them because irritation on my skin from scarring would be really unpleasant at work where I sometimes wear nitrile gloves for long periods. I don't want to be in the ridiculous situation at work of having to explain that I can't do a task because I didn't want to look like a softy in front of my climbing mates.

 TobyA 13:38 Thu
In reply to Sean Kelly:

> What people forget is that crack gloves were developed in America for the long sustained cracklines that are found in Yosemite and similar, 

Taping up I think was first done in the US, but the first commercial crack gloves as far as I know came from Czech companies.

I take it you wear shoes? If so, I can't really see a logical argument as to why shoes are ok if gloves aren't.

Lighter gear has made climbs easier, better designed rock shoes help us, cams made many very dangerous routes relatively safe, better ropes and harnesses made falling off possible etc. etc.

The biggest thing for me when I first tried tape gloves, some years before commercial crack gloves became available, was the realisation that I could I could climb multipitch granite crack routes day after day, because my hands didn't become so sore and bruised. If you've gone on holiday somewhere for a week - that's just amazing.

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 Sam Beaton 14:18 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

My take is that we now grade routes for using cams and chalk because they are almost universal. We don't yet grade routes assuming a pad at the bottom and crack gloves because they're not yet universally used in this way. We might, one day, grade for one or both, but equally we might not.

In reply to Sean Kelly:

> Call me old fashioned but crack gloves are cheating. I winced in pain up Liar's Dice yesterday and have the battle scars this morning to display. It's all about trying to hold an insecure jam whilst attempting to site a good piece of pro. That battle and suffering is all part of the climbing game.

That's a perfectly reasonable stance to take, provided it's also applied to using tape. Never quite understood why crack gloves get decried as being a soft option, but taping up hands has connotations more towards getting ready for battle. They both do the same job, just that crack gloves are more convenient / easier to reuse again and again. And both undeniably make a lot of routes easier and can be the difference between success and failure.

In reply to McHeath:

To answer your question, I'm not sure grades need adjusted. If the cracks are smooth (thinking, say, dolorite or quartz) then they often don't make a lot of difference anyway. If it's large grained granite, just accept that it's going to feel really hard without.

OP McHeath 18:06 Thu
In reply to Michael Gordon:

 As has been noted, what’s one climber’s advantage on a specific crack makes it harder for another because they can’t get their hand in any more if wearing gloves. So in a sense it’s kind of similar to a height advantage, which can turn into a handicap if you have to get bunched up for a move. Re-grading climbs if gloves are used would definitely seem to be fairly pointless, and the great thing about climbing is that you can basically choose your own ethics as long as you’re not spoiling anything for future ascentionists and that you’re honest about your choice of style. I’ll definitely be getting a pair, if only to prevent the messy pools of pus on the backs of my hand for days after I’ve run into one of the rare crack problems at the wall.

 TobyA 18:23 Thu
OP McHeath 18:34 Thu
In reply to TobyA:

Thanks, that’s a great review!

 alan moore 18:38 Thu
In reply to Sean Kelly:

> What people forget is that crack gloves were developed in America for the long sustained cracklines that are found in Yosemite and similar, 

First time I saw a picture of them being used was not for jamming but for palming up some desperate 5.13 bridging corner. It was the latest desperate, near the entrance to Yosemite valley. Might have been Randy something climbing it...

 TobyA 18:42 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

I'm still regularly using both pairs 7 years on! The OR ones look knackered and have tape on them but won't finally snap it seems. The Ocun ones just keep truckin'.

OP McHeath 20:21 Thu
In reply to TobyA:

>The Ocun ones just keep truckin'.

That´s good, they´re the ones I was planning on getting

 DaveHK 20:44 Thu
In reply to McHeath:

Crack gloves are definitely cheating but I don't care. 

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OP McHeath 20:48 Thu
In reply to DaveHK:

Neither do I

 top cat 21:03 Thu

I lost my job as a male model in the mid 80's because of the state of my scarred hands.  It was paying £20 an hour too!  (A lot in the 80's).

I was also refused entry to a ballet class because my hands gave the game away.......obviously I was a climber wanting to improve my climbing by doing ballet, not really interested in ballet as such.  Though I do still go and watch it from time to time......

I wish I'd had gloves back in the day.

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In reply to McHeath:

> >The Ocun ones just keep truckin'.

> That´s good, they´re the ones I was planning on getting

However, they make thin hand cracks  harder - at least to me.

 Bulls Crack 10:21 Fri
In reply to Alkis:

People seem to be wearing them on routes that require very little jamming too which can't be that helpful, particulalry on slopers!

 TobyA 10:28 Fri
In reply to Bulls Crack:

> People seem to be wearing them on routes that require very little jamming too which can't be that helpful, particulalry on slopers!

I'm sure this is true, I know that I'll often put them on for a route on grit then either forget or choose not to take them off regardless of what route I do next. Although they are of no help palming up a slopey slab, I've never found they cause any problems either.

I'm pretty convinced they keep my hands warmer climbing in winter on gritstone - this is particularly when jamming, as the back of your hand at least isn't again damp, green cold rock, but they also seem to keep the wind off reasonably successfully. 

In reply to Sean Kelly:

> What people forget is that crack gloves were developed in America for the long sustained cracklines that are found in Yosemite and similar, not 20 foot problems on British crags. Hell Crack at Stanage would be Heaven 2.Trashed hands at the end of the day were a badge of honour!

I stopped feeling that way (actually never felt that way) when I started to find my grazes were turning to nasty infected wounds that took a fortnight to heal.

 wbo2 11:21 Fri
In reply to McHeath: My experience has been that the strap eyelet on the Ocun gloves was pretty weak, but I tihnk they've changed it I tihnk , and you can reinforce it with tape. The Wideboyz ones are sturdier, but much more of a glove (?).

They make some things easier , I guess they make a few things harder, but at least you don't get wrecked finding out.  Crack grading is totally subjective anyway as people vary in hand size so much

 Howard J 12:18 Fri
In reply to Sam Beaton:

> My take is that we now grade routes for using cams and chalk because they are almost universal. We don't yet grade routes assuming a pad at the bottom and crack gloves because they're not yet universally used in this way. We might, one day, grade for one or both, but equally we might not.

A lot of routes now done in sticky shoes and with cams and chalk are now graded harder than when they were climbed in EBs with hexes and MOACs, so by that logic using crack gloves should increase the grade, not reduce it

I was disparaging about gloves at first, regarding them a substitute for poor jamming technique. However now I'm older I've found the skin on my hands is more fragile, and I've gratefully adopted them to avoid leaving puddles of blood wherever I've been.


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