/ SKILLS: #RespectTheRock: Chalk Use

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UKC Articles - on 08 Dec 2017
Respect the Rock Series Header, 4 kbThere is a basic rule in all forms of rock climbing: leave it as you found it. These days I'd go a little further: leave things better than you found it - pick up litter, brush off those tick marks, and have a general tidy-up before you leave. In this article we focus on chalk use (and abuse), tick marks, and the drying of wet holds.

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planetmarshall on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great, but can't help thinking of Tom Cruise in Magnolia.
galpinos on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

There is no mention of the noble art of whacking the hold with a t-shirt/beer towel......
Chris Craggs - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

The chalk isn't 'bleaching' the rock, it is alkaline so kills the lichen that give the rock is green tinge. What you see is the sterile rock showing through,

Chris
In reply to Chris Craggs:

I think we're just describing the same thing, many would describe that process (and end result) as 'bleaching'.
Chris Craggs - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

> I think we're just describing the same thing, many would describe that process (and end result) as 'bleaching'.

OK, that's fine. As an ex-Chemistry teacher 'bleaching' means some thing rather different to me


Chris
In reply to Chris Craggs:

As a pleb I basically used it as a catch-all term for killing organic matter
badmarmot - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:
Its not a great poem, but I put it together in my head while getting pee'ed off with tick marks on a sports climbing trip, its not just bouldering that has it issues with this.

An ode to the phantom ticker

That Phantom route ticker he's a clever young man
he seems to know my every plan.

He is always there just before me
he must get up early in the morning.

Casting his chalk left and right
even if the holds are in plain sight.

Doing his art like a Jackson Pollock
but does he know he’s just dropped a ……………..

I may have it wrong and it’s a femme fatale
but it’s the same message so all is well.

Casting your dabs upon the rock
you really are a little sod.

Buy yourself a brush they aren’t that much
or try and blag a free one from Metlious. (other brands available)

We get our fun trying to work out the climb’s
not just following your bloody line’s.

If you need to make a tick that’s ok
just make sure you clean it all away.

At the end of the day can we respect the rock
and try not to be a massive ………..
webbo - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:
The photos of tick marks are less of an eyesore than that poem.
Jon Greengrass on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Oh the irony of offering a bag of White Gold chalk as a competition prize.
mrchewy - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to galpinos:

Not so sure it's noble, more commonsense - just back from a month in Font and you can brush holds all you want but give them a whack afterwards with a towel and it's even cleaner.

gaz.marshall - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice one Rob. I totally agree it's time people were called out for this and that the climbing community at large made more of an issue of the way we treat our crags and boulders.

I'm based up north in the Highlands where it's fair to say there aren't that many climbers, but even up here we've really noticed an increase in donkey lines, ticks and litter at some venues in the last few years. On the few occasions that I come down to the Peak I'm utterly dismayed by the state that seems to be considered the norm down there - chalk clartered on every conceivable hold and non-hold, massive donkey lines, broken and eroded holds from climbing on wet rock, stained rock, the general erosion and 'de-vegetation' of landings and paths, fag butts and finger-tape lying around. For a sport that's only really been around for 40-odd years boulderers have absolutely trashed some areas.

A few crampon scratches in a distant coire cause uproar on UKC but we seem oblivious to the trash right under our noses.
JR - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to galpinos:

No-one does that anymore, do they ;)
Offwidth - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Excellent work Rob. I especially like Dan's thoughtful commandments. In that, he is right that brushing off chalk is becoming part of the erosion problem on worn grit or soft sandstone holds. I'd rather such holds were left to clean in rain as the rock damage is more serious to me than the visual impact. Its good to have a few brushes including something as soft as possible for soft or damaged sandstones/gritstones.
JR - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Good skills Greenwood. Interestingly, the Depot bans brushes on sticks, for injury reasons, but the holds are always caked in chalk. There's a huge volume of traffic in that wall, but brushing doesn't seem to be a thing, like it used to be. And probably not helped culturally by a lack of "hey, use this brush we've provided". I know I'm conflating donkey ticks with brushing a hold to make it easier to hold, but it's definitely something walls could provide a great channel to promote.
Post edited at 11:54
In reply to Jon Greengrass:

I thought someone might pick up on this

My hope was that the take home message of the article isn't 'chalk is bad', it's that '*too much* chalk is bad'. We're all guilty of using the stuff, so it's more a case of using it responsibly.

Still, there is no denying it is ironic!
galpinos on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to JR:

Your comment was firmly in mind as I posted!
steveriley - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Nice work Rob. As Roosevelt almost said: "Tread lightly and carry a soft brush."
In reply to JR:

Interesting. I've got a meeting with them in a few weeks time and might bring this up, it'd be interesting to get feedback from a wall perspective on how this campaign might be better promoted. I wonder whether this is something we could get the Association of British Climbing Walls behind?

Funnily enough I proposed that the BMC do a poster on this back when I was sitting on National Council, but it never seemed to get off the ground. Then again, do posters actually work?!? Irrespective of whether they do/don't, I doubt that having the message communicated in another medium would do the cause any harm.

Thoughts on the back of a postcard...
The Climbing Academy - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Give me a shout Rob and we'll see what the ABC can do.
Rich
Alkis - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to JR:

From memory, that happened due to insurance reasons, the brushes being considered tripping hazards, but I could be wrong.

There's a cultural issue around many of the less experienced climbers at the Nottingham
Depot, where they will liberally chalk handholds, footholds, their hands, even their shoes (!!!). I've had to brush the living hell out of every hold of a climb literally half a day after it was set.

I wonder whether inductions even mention what chalk is for and how it should be used.
rgold - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

The fact that chalk was going to be a problem was clear to us in the US 40 years ago. John Stannard did various tests with different rock types and found that a light dusting of chalk on the hands provided more friction than bare skin, but that heavy dustings actually reduced friction. Stannard invented the chalk sock as a way to provide appropriate amounts of chalk to the hands.

The chalk sock had the very substantial advantage that far less chalk is left on the holds. Far less as in almost unnoticeable in many cases. Meanwhile, holds that get repeatedly chalked are permanently marked and suffer from reduced friction. The chalk does not wash off in the rain and resists far more vigorous clean-up efforts.

Meanwhile, we've all developed stupid habits. It is actually pretty normal to excessively overchalk and then clap one's hands or blow on them to reduce the excess just applied.

Chalk socks never caught on. One reason is that you have to apply the chalk more often. But part of that problem is that no one cared enough to experiment with materials. Most of the chalk socks sold by chalk purveyors are too dense and don't let enough chalk through. We need some help from the materials folks here.

Another problem is that many of the commercial chalk bags are stapled shut and can't be reused. How dumb is that? And the ones that aren't stapled have a simple drawstring closure that lets chalk leak out, so soon you have an ordinary chalk bag with a half-empty chalk sock.

Although I periodically fall off the wagon, I've tried to be a decent steward of the landscape by using chalk socks. An excellent combination is liquid chalk + chalk sock. The liquid chalk is mostly chalk dissolved in alchohol. When applied, the alcohol evaporates and you are left with a thin but surprisingly long-lasting coating that doesn't come off right away, and the coating is easily replenished with a dab of the chalk sock.

I think that if someone cared to make chalk socks out of a suitably permeable material and furnished the socks with an effective closure, there is still a chance of getting enough adoption to decrease the blight.

Tick marks are another story.
FactorXXX - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to rgold:

Another problem is that many of the commercial chalk bags are stapled shut and can't be reused. How dumb is that?

I cut the steel closure off and re-seal with a ty-rap/cable tie.
Coel Hellier - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to rgold:

> Chalk socks never caught on.

Is a chalk sock the same as a chalk ball? Aren't they pretty standard now, both indoors and out?
Michael Gordon - on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to rgold:

> Stannard invented the chalk sock as a way to provide appropriate amounts of chalk to the hands.
>

Not the feet? Sounds like something gymnasts might use.
haworthjim on 08 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Unfortunately over chalking and ticking is the norm now and seems to be accepted.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dtta58DcezQ has over 42k view, 349likes and hardly a mention in the comments about the hundreds of ticks.


mhawk - on 09 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

I really struggle to understand this business of over chalking, particularly from a performance point.

Tick marks, I understand their use but personally I’d rather learn the moves.

Chalk on foot placements, for the best results on foot placements, you want clean rock and clean boots (squeaky clean boots!). As well as the best possible friction, clean boots and rock also reduce erosion.

Hands, chalk is there to remove moisture, I’ve always found plenty of chalk applied to my hands, followed by brushing the excessive chalk off provides the best friction.

If you must apply chalk to holds, again, the less you use the better, there is a tipping point where it becomes counter productive.

The one area I disagree with your article Rob, is that in some situations, chalk on rock can look attractive. I don’t think it ever looks good. We are interacting with nature. I believe that the closer to a natural state we can maintain the rock the better.
andi turner - on 09 Dec 2017
In reply to mhawk:

Yes, it always amazes me that it doesn't get more comments from non climbers. If there was another activity which had such a visible impact I'm sure we would be up in arms about it.
Tom V - on 09 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC Articles:

Leave it as you found it/take only photographs, leave only footprints.

Absolutely in favour of this behaviour.
Where do bolts fit in ?

Offwidth - on 10 Dec 2017
In reply to andi turner:
It's likely the Cratcliffe vandal was reacting to heavily chalked features.

I agree with Alkis about the Notts depot... really good wall but boy do some of the newer climbers need educating. In recent visits it's the first time ever I've consistently used a brush more often than chalk. I use chalk for two reasons indoors: most obviously (as outdoors) for improved marginal friction on sloping hard stuff (hard for me), where I just need dry hands (these days I usually pick up enough from just warming up there!). I find the overchalking of these friction problems a real pain; some muppets actally chalk these holds! Secondly, I use it a bit more liberally to reduce friction and protect my hands from flappers when on juggy rough holds climbed quickly (for stamina.... especially on the easier circuit board sets).
Post edited at 14:22
thepodge on 11 Dec 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

Regarding indoor chalking of holds, I've seen people rub chalk into holds then brush it off, I can only assume that the idea is the chalk drys out a wet / greasy hold and brushing it gets rid of the chalk.
Offwidth - on 11 Dec 2017
In reply to thepodge:

The idea is they are clueless.
Robert Durran - on 11 Dec 2017
In reply to FactorXXX:

> I cut the steel closure off and re-seal with a ty-rap/cable tie.

I cut the steel closure off and tip the chalk into my chalk bag where it's actually of use.

Fakey Rocks - on 13:35 Thu
In reply to FactorXXX:
I've tried a couple of these "re- usable / re-fillable balls, ... 1 was ok at dispensing through the weave holes, the other not so good, but 1 person may favour one over the other anyway depending how sweaty your fingers get.
But when getting low on chalk, or empty, being elasticated, the ball is now tiny .... how do u refill 'em?
I thought maybe stretch the drawstring opening over an empty look roll card might work, but didn't get around to trying.
I wonder why a chalk ball refilling device isn't on the shelves in the shops next to them, or instructions with the refillable ball pack on how best to refill them ... perhaps they assume everyone can improvise something that does the job or there's a u tube instructional video on this?

Guess what?....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2VGL7w5LVY

Post edited at 13:41
rgold - on 17:07 Thu
In reply to Fakey Rocks:

I use a small tablespoon-sized plastic scoop to refill. No need for anything to hold the ball open, and is better than trying to shake chalk out of the bag, since avalanches are a constant threat.

I have a cylindrical weight I use to tamp down the fill. An important step.

When refilling, I put the chalk ball in a large pot so that I can pour all the chalk that missed back into the original container.

The Friction Labs chalk ball is one of the ones I don't like. Not enough chalk gets through the material, and the drawstring closure allows for significant leakage over time.

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