I bought some new climbing chalk.
If you’d have told me 6 months ago that I’d spend even 5 minutes researching the best climbing chalk, I’d have called you a nutter. Times have changed.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know where to start. Then I remembered Brad Gobright. He was my first climbing hero. I remembered he uses FrictionLabs chalk. So, I headed over to a few sites for reviews and I was hooked. Stories of people switching from all sorts of other brands and never looking back.
Then I read “Unicorn Dust” and let’s face it, my search was over.
I let it roll around in my head, wondering whether chalk could really make that much of a difference.
Hold on – I’ve not given you the full story. The reason I was researching chalk in the first place. I have been buying chalk balls at my climbing gym. Which is great, for the first three or four sessions. Then I’m left with a sort of glooped up ball of chalk that I can’t get anything other than dust out of. That dust doesn’t stick to my hands and so, I don’t stick to the wall.
I’m gonna tell you something a bit gross now:
Whilst I am indeed (and plan to remain) a lady, I sweat. A lot. I’m talking rivers of sweat on my face and down my back. And, to a slightly lesser extent, my hands.
I’ve given this some thought – I’ve basically conditioned my body into thinking any kind of exercise is going to be high intensity, and that I expect my heart rate to go from 50 to 140 bpm in less than 30 seconds. So, it responds quickly to increased movement and therefore heat, with sweat.
There, I’ve said it. So I keep finding my sweaty self on the wall, having chalked up before starting, two holds in and my hands are slippery. Last week it happened on a pink route which looked like it had too many holds. We figured this might be a red flag and we were right. I made it up to the penultimate hold, had a big red boulder in my face from a different route and freaked out. I needed to reach laterally and I just didn’t trust my slippery left flipper to keep me up there. So I climbed down.
I didn’t fall. I still had something left to do a controlled climb down. So why the hell wasn’t I pushing myself to just finish the damn route? I told myself it was my fingers, but then I wondered…if maybe, chalk could be part of the problem.
So that’s why I was looking. Then I saw Dave Barrans in a really cool orange Bam Bam t-shirt on the British Bouldering Championships. It took me a while to place the boxing donkey in my mind, and I realised it was the super chunky FrictionLabs chalk I was really seeing. I made an impulse buy and checked out with Unicorn Dust in my basket.
Then I realised I had nothing to put the dust in and cancelled my order. More homework.
I ended up going for the FrictionLabs Magic reusable chalk ball, deciding I’d refill it with Unicorn Dust.
Then it arrived!
I tested out my chalk on my pull up bar and I was a little apprehensive heading into my first climb with my new chalk.
Note: I don’t normally use chalk when I’m doing dead hangs, crunches, etc. so it was a really bad experiment which gave me basically no information.
Time for the results
Warm up complete and it was time for the pink route with too many holds. I nailed it first time. No issues reaching right and grabbing the penultimate hold to finish. The distance felt smaller and I had total faith in my left hand – which was not slimy.
At this point, I wasn’t even thinking about my chalk. Next, we did some really tiny edges – which I held on to. I had my hands around the wrong way right at the top of one route and managed to swap my hands in some pretty tiny pockets. No slimy fingers. I didn’t finish the route, but that’s because I wasted a lot of energy on the hand swaps and I haven’t figured out how to finish it!
Another pink, on the overhang wall. I forgot to keep my feet on the wall and so ran out of puff to complete. I came off the wall, but my right hand stayed on. I hung there. Amazed I was still on the wall. Then I let go.
We tried two routes with even tinier hand holds. We are talking mega pinchy – I flashed the first route and made better progress on the second than my climbing buddy.
It wasn’t until we finished and I left that I realised how tingly my finger tips were. I started thinking about my chalk. Then I washed my hands – they looked totally different. They looked properly used, but not damaged. Sure, I had some blistery bits, but they weren’t sore.
I moisturised my hands before I went to sleep and this morning, they feel great. Nothing to pick at! Nothing crispy, just some quite satisfying lumpy bits which frankly, need to be there!
What do I think of my new chalk? I think it’s frickin’ awesome. I wish I’d thought about it earlier. My hands feel stronger – which is crazy, but I think it’s because I was using them differently, because I trusted my grip.
I am very excited for my next climb. And all of the climbs after that.