by Jullie

October 27, 2021

Why Do Climbers Use Chalk

At some point, we grip on objects, and by letting them go free, there’s always some liquid or moisture left in our palms. Humans emit moisture from their bodies. There are plenty of bodily activities that cause it to generate and secrete sweat, oils, and other forms of fluids throughout the day. 

A significant amount of it is released through your pores to the skin surface. Engaging your muscles in exercises or other activities results in even more fluid production. And it usually remains on your skin until it is removed.

The increase in wetness does not affect how some athletes function. Unfortunately, for rock climbers, a little dampness on your palms might be the distinction separating achievement of goals and disaster. 

This is now the part where the question, “Why Do Climbers Use Chalk?” comes in. Climbers smear chalk on their palms to get rid of dampness or sweat. It’s a shortcut to causing friction and enhancing grips on holds.

But, before we get into the details, let’s see what climbing chalk is made of.

What is Climbing Chalk Made Of?

Why Do Rock Climbers Use Chalk

Chalk for climbing comprises magnesium carbonate, a whitish, crystalline inorganic stone that does not dissolve in water. However, magnesium carbonate is only the starting point.

Nearly every single chalk manufacturer makes their chalk with a light, distinct texture by using various chemicals to increase effectiveness. As such, every climber will have specific choices when it comes to chalk selection. 

However, in general, high-quality chalk should improve your grip and effectively dry your hands. Further, limestone, aromatic oils, and other chemicals that promote drying may still be used along with the magnesium carbonate. 

For more information, read our detailed guide on what is climbing chalk made of.

Types of Climbing Chalks Rock Climbers Use

Chalk blocks

Purchasing a chalk block is typically the most cost-effective solution. It cuts the cost of manufacturing when it comes to filtering the chalk. However, it is quite messy as you will be coerced to crush it inside your chalk bag. 

The liquid chalk

Consider liquid chalk as a lotion. It’s simply a block that has been filtered, crushed, and then dissolved in alcohol. As such, its application is similar to using a lotion, but you leave your hands to dry in this case. 

Upon drying, it should form a lovely, thick coating of chalk that lingers on your palms for a considerably long time.

Not only is it helpful in bouldering, but it also works as a base layer for lengthy climbs. Bouldering requires switching between different climbs. A slight improvement in grip will positively impact your movement. 

What is the Health Effect of Climbing with Chalk

Powdered chalk or loose chalk

Powdered climbing chalk is what you see at the Olympics. It is quite simple to use and rapidly and thoroughly covers your hands. It is common with gymnasts before performing. They use the magnesium basin and generously apply it to their hands. 

This generates a massive dust cloud, the main drawback of powder chalks. You can’t tell what the right portion is, not to mention you get to inhale it. Considering this, it is highly prohibited in climbing halls.

Another downside is the fine nature of the powder, which causes it to escape from the zipped bag and end up coating everything. 

Chalk balls

A chalk ball is a little fabric bag filled with loose chalk powder. The benefits are self-evident: no large amounts of dust are produced, and dosing is considerably simpler. As a result, chalk balls are suitable for indoor climbing. 

Chalk balls were invented to alleviate the untidy tendency of powdered chalks. You will need refillable chalk socks for storing chalk balls. Put the chalk inside the chalk bag and squeeze it to cover your hands. 

A chalk ball requires a little more work to acquire decent chalk covering, but most climbers choose these. The main downside is that you cannot cover the exterior of your palms as you would with loose chalk powder. 

This might be an issue if you have naturally sweaty hands. Some businesses also sell non-refillable chalk balls. But believe me when I say, buying it in a refillable bag is valuable and less costly.

When Should You Apply Climbing Chalk? 

Chalk is a vital gear in climbing since it lets one climb very challenging routes for extended periods. The fundamental reason is that chalk absorbs the oil and moisture on hikers’ hands. 

Despite conflicting data on the impact of climbing chalk, climbers feel that eliminating grease and sweat aids results in firm grips. Furthermore, when your palm is moist, it becomes prone to skin-related ailments.

When Should You Apply Climbing Chalk

Marking

Climbing is a difficult activity not just because of the physical power needed but also the key strategy. Because not all rocks provide suitable footholds, climbers frequently use chalk to mark the ideal areas to grip and step. 

It serves as a warning to other climbers who may end up using the route. And to some extent, it helps one to be prepared for forthcoming trouble. It can also be used to mark progress or new records. 

In mountaineering, this is called the tick mark. Tick marks are extremely useful for climbers attempting to recall a specific sequence of maneuvers or beta. 

Always keep basic mountaineering etiquette in mind and ensure you sweep away your tick marks once done with the route. A toothbrush will suffice for the task. Tic marks prepare you both psychologically and physically.

So should you ever come across spots on a rock marked within a white, then you know the reason? 

Climbing chalk for sweaty palms

Naturally, most of us wipe our hands on our clothing before shaking hands with others. Sweaty hands are annoyingly bothersome and should bother you. When your hands are wet with moisture, you might slip off the rock surface, so most climbers use chalk.

If you sweat further after applying the chalk during your climbing sessions, you need to do more than just apply the chalk. Some solutions offer lengthier dryness, like Antithydral Lotion. 

But you have to apply it to your hands three times a week. When using Antithydral Cream, sand your calluses down carefully and care for them properly to not dry out your skin.

Climbing chalks for injury prevention 

It’s a shock when you realize that climbing chalk can aid in the prevention of skin lesions, including flappers. If your palms become too damp, the skin becomes glued to the grip holds and rock faces, which is a typical source for flappers.

Again, when your palms are excessively dry, particularly if the calluses are dry, the epidermis will break more easily, increasing your chances of getting a flapper. Mountaineering chalk works by reducing the quantity of dampness on your palms. 

Regardless of whether your palms are wet or dry, see that you wash and rinse off the climber’s chalk at the end of each session. Doing so helps your skin to rebalance and repair.

Types of Climbing Chalks 

The effective use of climbing chalk

The way you apply climbing chalk depends on the type of chalk you are using and your taste. For example, if you use the powdery form, you have to place your hands inside the chalk bag and turn them for a few seconds to ensure coverage on both the palm and the exterior region. 

Remember to rub the chalk inside your palm and blow off any excess chalk. This applies to both loose chalk and block chalks. When using a chalk bag, simply immerse your hands in the bag and smack it a couple of times. It is important to note that it might take some time to achieve a thick layer.

Lastly, all you have to do with the liquid chalk is apply it before climbing and wait for it to dry up. It should take seconds to one minute, depending on how wet your hands are. 

What is the Health Effect of Climbing with Chalk?

Climbing chalk is usually considered to be safe for people. You can consume modest amounts of it and be OK. However, inhalation is a cause for concern for human health. 

If you are climbing in a poorly ventilated area, powdered chalk will cause significant quantities of particles in the air. As a result, the potential to cause damage to people with asthma and allergies has increased. 

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the quickest ways for germs to spread from person to person. As much as bacteria have difficulty moving in the air when in contact with dust, they will move freely. To put it succinctly, inhaling a small amount of chalk isn’t harmful, but more significant amounts can be harmful. 

Final Thoughts on Why Do Rock Climbers Use Chalk

Climbing chalks are a vital component of your climbing arsenal. You are good to go as long as you follow the climbing etiquettes. Too many tics marks in a climbing route result in debris that creates eyesores. 

So, if you are using your chalk for marking, always remember to wipe it off once you are done with the climbing route. On injury prevention and outdoing wetness, you have to find the right chalk brand and use the chalk in appropriate amounts.

The rankings on rappellingequipment.com are curated to save you time by aggregating the best reviewed products from the most reputable companies. We may receive a commission if you buy something using a link on this page.

About the author 

Jullie

Jullie is a professional indoor climber. She loves speed climbing competitions. This style makes her feel like she's flying. Maybe because her other passion is flying airplanes. Obviously, high speeds are her thing.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

DOWNLOAD

eBook: Rappelling Equipment Guide

 $ 29.99  FREE

Download our Rappel Rapport eBook: a Rappelling Guide for Beginners. It's free.

>