Ever arrive at a boulder problem to find the (very obvious) finishing jug ticked in thick, white chalk? Or climbed a route that is caked with gooey chalk on each and every hold?
Despite the obvious benefit of chalk for climbing—its drying effect on sweaty hands—climbers can often get carried away with it. Over the years, chalk gets caked onto holds, forming layers, which affects the texture of the rock and the friction of that very poor sloper. Too many ticks can also cause confusion on a route, botch on-sight attempts, and ruin the self-discovery and problem-solving aspect of climbing.
Too much chalk can also have a negative visual impact that can be a deal breaker for landowners and other recreationalists. This visual impact of chalk and tick marks can lead to chalk restrictions (take Garden of the Gods or Arches National Park, for example).
It’s in every climber’s best interest to minimize tick marks and overly chalked holds. Here are a few things to keep in mind next time you’re out at the crag:
• Keep ticks to a minimum. This might seem obvious, but to many it’s not. If you are going to tick (and we’ve all done it), take a few minutes to brush off the tick marks before you leave.
• Choose the right kind of brush for your rock type. Certain bristles can negatively affect certain types of rock. For example, nylon brushes can damage sensitive rock like sandstone. The best go-to brush is a Lapis Boar’s Hair Brush, which doesn’t polish or erode the rock.
• Use chalk lightly in areas where it won’t be cleaned off naturally by rain, like overhangs, caves, and desert environments.
• Consider using Eco Chalk by Metolius, an alternative that can lessen the visual impact.
• Get involved with your local climbing organization. Help initiate a chalk cleanup day at your local climbing area.
Photo courtesy of © Andrew Kornylak
Special thanks to guest contributor Whitney Boland