Safety

Climbing is hard work for our fingers. And because the stress sometimes goes beyond the normal level, tape quickly becomes a part of everyday life; both at the crag and in the gym. 

Cleanliness

Hand hygiene is step one in maintaining properly functioning skin. Start your day and your climbing session with a thorough hand washing, and keep your mitts free of grease and oils while climbing. 

Skin varies greatly from person to person: Some are naturally drier while some walk around with constantly sweaty palms. Assess where you are in the spectrum and act accordingly: 

Dry hands should focus on adding moisture when cleaning (think: moisturizing soaps), while oily hands should focus on removing that oil with standard bar soaps, which will degrease much better. Wash with hot water, which cuts grease and cleanses more thoroughly, then rinse with cold.

Before climbing:

Trim your nails – When you trim, make sure a little bit of white nail remains. If you find yourself still scratching the wall, you didn’t trim enough. If your nails sting after you cut them, you took too much off. Make sure to round the edge all the way to the side of your finger to avoid hangnails. Trimming your fingernails saves everyone’s nerves and prevents you a lot of pain. Most gyms have resident nail clippers somewhere – ask around!

Moisturize your hands 1-2 hours prior to climbing – Moisturize your hands before the session? Yup. If you correctly time the application of moisturizer, your skin will be well hydrated and elastic by the time you start pulling on holds. Elastic skin is less likely to crack and split, while rock-hard “plastic” skin can tear and pop open like a grape (you don’t want grape skin). IMPORTANT: Do NOT use a wax-based cream. You can hardly use your phone after putting that stuff on, much less climb.

During climbing:

Pay attention to your skin – Throughout your session, look at your hands. If you see a split or a tear starting to form, file it down RIGHT AWAY. If you can’t file it then and there, consider cutting your session short. It’s better to walk away and come back tomorrow than be forced away from climbing for a few days.

Use the right chalk – Clean chalk keeps your skin healthy, protecting it from over-drying and cracking. 

After climbing:

Wash your hands – Cold water and soap. Climbing holds are gross – remember that guy you saw walk into the bathroom with his climbing shoes on just before he got back on the wall?

Apply moisturizer once again – As soon as you’ve thoroughly washed your hands, get some cream on them. Prepare to feel immediate joy and relief. It’s like a tall glass of cold water on a hot day. The essential oils hydrate and heal your skin FAST. If you apply cream on the reg, your skin will be ready to go day after day after day. Some people like to put it on again before bed, too.

Skin Care kit

Antihydral 

Antihydral is a popular but extreme drying agent that can be applied at night for dry hands during the day. It affects people differently, but it’s excellent for folks with chronically damp hands. It can be fickle, so start out slowly: Put a light coating on the tips for a few hours, over a couple of days, and you should see results.

Sander

Sanding is all about prevention. A bit of sandpaper or a dedicated sanding block go a long way in trimming down rough spots or snags, which can easily split or become a flapper. The edges of your fingernails can quickly get hard and sore, and when climbing slopers for days, the underside of your nails at the fingertip morph into a glassy plastic that can split painfully. A sanding tool helps to maintain even skin and trim down the ragged edge of a split or flapper-to-be. Options abound—most popular are drywall sanding sponges, manicure files, or just a bit of fine-grit sandpaper. Sand off any rough edges, loose skin, overdeveloped calluses (which can become large and painful), and hardened skin (particularly if you need it soft), but be wary of sanding skin too thin, which can lead to more splits. Err on the conservative side: You can always remove more skin, but you can’t grow more skin on demand.

Liquid Bandage

This is an excellent alternative to the old-school method of using superglue to close a tip. A liquid bandage is flexible, waterproof, and often contains an antiseptic, which is convenient if the tip is already an open wound. It’s not as resilient as superglue, but it’s an amazing substance to brush on your skin in a light coating before applying tape. After wrapping the digit with tape, make sure to add another little dab on top to help hold the tape together. Include superglue in your kit as well, as it can help add a thin, temporary layer to your skin for just one more go. (It’s also helpful to have for small shoe-repair issues, like delamination.) Another option is compound tincture of benzoin, which is used both to treat damaged skin and help tape/bandages stick better. It also benefits climbers by toughening the skin it’s exposed to. Keep in mind you need compound tincture of benzoin; regular tincture of benzoin does not have these benefits.

Alcohol or Hydrogen Peroxide

Both of these remove the grease from your hands, so a little spray bottle of either is a great addition. Coat your hands and rub them together; you’ll notice they dry almost immediately. Apply chalk afterward. Folks with oily skin can use it in intermittent doses throughout the day, but a caveat: Alcohol and hydrogen peroxide both stimulate circulation at the surface of the skin, meaning your hands might feel hot after an application, especially if the weather is warm. Available in several strengths (any are fine, more alcohol content means more drying capabilities); alcohol is more powerful than peroxide. Witch hazel is a good and less harsh alternative because it’s a strong astringent that actually narrows blood vessels, thus cooling your hands.

Nail Clippers and Razor Blades

Long nails don’t cut it for rock climbing, so trim them regularly with clippers, which are also useful for emergency “surgery,” like trimming the loose skin on a flapper. The razor blade is very valuable because you can trim down split tips and flappers to a fine edge, which can speed the healing process in addition to making taping easier. Keep a couple of clean, new (this is very important) blades wrapped up in a safe place in your kit, not running wild in your bag, and throw them away as soon you get any blood on them.

Tape

Apply climber’s tape (aka standard white athletic tape) before, during, or after climbing or injury. If you’re prone to split tips, consider taping before bearing down on needle-sharp holds. Otherwise tape up as your skin wears down during a session, or after you get a split, in order to keep climbing. There are many options of climber’s tape to choose from, but the brand Mueller is a go-to, as it’s extremely sticky and durable so you don’t have to constantly retape. One secret weapon that’s different from climber’s tape is friction tape, like 3M or Ace brands that are used on hockey sticks to increase grip. It has rubber in the tape, so it’s excellent for covering up worn-out tips because it will increase friction instead of decrease it like climber’s tape does. Mueller and the Australian Elastoplast are the best climbing tape brands, so consider investing in several rolls at a time. There are a lot of methods for taping against splits and tears, usually determined on a case-by-case basis. For split tips try concentric X’s (see below).

Liquid chalk

Liquid Chalk is another option that can be applied liberally before chalking up with loose chalk; it lays down a sort of foundation to keep your hands drier longer. However, it’s just alcohol and chalk, so you can make your own. 

Different Skin for Different rock

Your skin responds differently to each type of rock. Several factors are at play here, including temperature and humidity, but the texture and grain of the stone have a major impact. 

The more time you spend climbing in a particular area, the more the unique rock will “farm” your skin into the appropriate state. After a week of climbing, you’ll be in tip-top shape for the area’s demands. Skin tends to get softer for sandstone, quartzite, and most limestone, and much harder for prickly rocks like granite, volcanic tuff, monzonite, and the syenite porphyry. One easy way to prep for both is to climb in the gym as much as possible. This will build friendly calluses and harden your hands for granite and volcanic tuff. To get your skin soft but tough for sandstone, keep climbing in the gym, but make sure to sand down calluses and hard spots before each session so hands feel smooth and supple.

No matter your skin type, it’s always advisable to moisturize 

After a day of climbing. Salves like Climb On, Joshua Tree, and Giddy are excellent options, packed with herbs and soothing oils. Put it on (extra on damaged areas) before bed to get maximum results while you sleep. Never apply this stuff right before climbing! Pure vitamin E is similar. Buy a gel cap, poke a tiny hole in it, and distribute among your fingers.

Keep a clean, healthy diet. 

You are what you eat, so avoid greasy foods like bacon and donuts. Consider adding fish oil, which helps maintain healthy skin thanks to omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) that regulate oil production and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Drink water!

Pinch the back of your middle knuckle. If a little ridge of skin stands up, you’re on your way to being dehydrated. Hydrated, pliant skin is more resilient to tears, especially in dry environments, so do your whole body a favor and drink more water.

Finger injuries: what you need to know about taping

Climbing is hard work for our fingers. And because the stress sometimes goes beyond the normal level, tape quickly becomes a part of everyday life; both at the crag and in the gym. 

Not all tape is suitable for climbing

When your fingers start to hurt and your skin can no longer withstand the constant punishment from rough holds, many climbers go straight to tape. 

This special roll of fabric has become a general-purpose remedy that can be used on cuts, abrasions, and on more serious injuries.

There is a big difference in the types of tapes available. Probably the most common type you will find out there is elastic Kinesiology tape which is not suitable for climbing.

For climbing, you need an inelastic sport’s tape, which does not yield under load but rather provides support for injuries such as ring bands .It is important to pay attention to good quality; sweat, chalk, and friction mean that tape with weak adhesive quickly slips off your fingers. 

Tape can help with injuries but it rarely prevents them

A climber who has never had a flapper or aching fingers are few and far between. If used right, the tape can be a useful way to prevent dreaded rest days – be it to compensate for skin loss or to support ligaments – but its effectiveness is often limited. Instead of mummifying your fingers with dense layers of tape, simple, properly applied tape that relieves pressure is far more effective.

How to Handle Skin Injuries

All it takes is a quick slip, a small section of skin on your finger tears open and exposes the sensitive, deeper layer of skin. If you choose to ignore it and keep climbing, you will most likely experience an unpleasant burning sensation. If the tear is deep enough, it may even bleed. Time to stop? Not necessarily! With the right taping method, you still have a chance at ticking your project!

It’s annoying, but it’s not a broken leg!

Cracked calluses and blisters are perhaps the most common climbing injury. It can affect anyone at any time without warning! 

The risk is higher if you are relatively new to climbing. Sometimes the strain on your skin is simply too much. This frustrating injury is what climbers like to call a “flapper”, because of the way the loose skin just flaps around. As annoying as it is, your session does not have to be over; the right tape can protect the injury well enough to allow you to get back on the wall.

Split Tips

Stop the bleeding, and then clean it up well. If it’s small, dab on a little liquid bandage, tape it up and carry on. 

The bigger the split, the fewer goes you have left, and the more you try, the more you will enlarge it. After the event, have patience: A split can take up to a full week to heal. The weaker, healing tip will be more susceptible to re-injury on the same type of holds that gave you the injury in the first place. 

Worn-down tips 

After a couple of days if you find your tips going all pink and shiny, eventually weeping a clear fluid like morning dew. 

The only way to halt this erosion is to stop climbing long enough for your skin to recover and grow back.

Luckily, your skin grows fast, so even a single rest day or a morning of rest after a night of solid skincare can be enough. The longer you let it go, the longer it takes to come back. If you absolutely must carry on, consider taping with friction tape.

Flappers

Stop the blood, clean it up, and proceed into “surgery”. 

You can tape it back down and carry on, but this depends on your situation. If you have time, chill out and do proper care and maintenance. 

If you elect to do “surgery”, carefully trim the flap away and clean again (this will hurt). Apply an antibiotic ointment, a Band-Aid, and, if you’re still climbing, a protective layer of climbing tape. That finger will be sensitive, so make good decisions.

Taping a flapper: 

The easiest way to treat a flapper is to tape it. All you need is a ring of tape to place over the open area. Usually, a 10 cm strip of tape will do the trick. 

Your goal is to protect your skin, so you won’t need to make the tape very tight. It’s best to tear the strip of tape completely off the roll before you start putting it on. Otherwise, the tape may become uncomfortably tight and affect the blood supply to the finger.

  • To prevent the tape from sticking to the flapper, fold over one end at the beginning so that the adhesive surface lies on the adhesive surface (1a). 
  • This end covers the flapper (1b). 
  • Then you pull the tape ring around your finger. (2) 
  • If you wrap it around twice, it should hold well. Make sure that the tape ends on the top of the finger. (3) 
  • Otherwise, the end piece will quickly come loose again whilst climbing. If you tore off too much tape, you can easily cut or tear off the excess.

Treatment of palm skin injuries

You can tape a split callus on your palm using the following method. This method is a little more complicated than taping flappers on your fingers.

Step 1

Wash and dry your hands first. Be sure to clean the back of your hands and your wrists because this is where you will secure the tape.

You don’t need to cut off the loose skin. If you fold it back on top of the wound, it provides additional protection when climbing and can also prevent the deeper layers of the skin from drying out. 

For fresh flappers, you should make a wound pad by tearing off a small, square piece of tape that you will use later. If the injury is already a few days old and almost healed, this step won’t be necessary.

Taping the flapper onto the palm of your hand

Once your hands are dry and clean, you can get started:

  • Tear off a strip of tape that is 1,5 cm wide and is the same length as the distance between your fingertip and your elbow. 
  • Take this strip in the middle and put it around the base joint of the finger, closest to the flapper. This creates a loop that pulls from the back of your finger to the palm of your hand. (1)
  • In the next step, you can place the wound pad in position (the glue-free side towards the wound) and stick both strips over the flapper. (2) 
  • The two ends will continue diagonally across the palm in the direction of your wrist and on the outside of your forearm. There, they should cross again. (3) So that the bandage does not slip later, you can fix it at the end with a tape ring on the wrist. 
  • For this, you tear off another piece of tape that is long enough to circle around your wrist twice. Wrap it around your wrist so that it covers the ends of the tape strips on your wrist and holds them in position. (4) 
  • The ring should be relatively loose so it doesn’t cut off circulation when your wrists get pumped.

Tape consumption that is worthwhile

If you are unlucky enough to have a flapper on the palm of your hand, this taping method should be your first choice. 

Even though it uses more tape than a simple tape ring around your palm, said tape rings quickly slip when you grab holds.

Although the tape will come off your palm during climbing, it is pushed back into position when you grab a hold. Even if it loosens completely, usually only the tape ring on your wrist has to be redone. 

Pulley injuries: fast help for a painful injury

Skin injuries during climbing and bouldering are annoying, but they heal with proper care within a few days. It becomes much more uncomfortable when you “do a pulley” (injury an annular ligament). An inflammation or a tear can cause problems for weeks or even months.  Tape can provide some relief, support healing and in some cases, allow you to keep climbing.

How pulley injuries happen

Pulley injuries are a widespread problem among climbers. You probably know someone who has struggled with one, or you have been affected by one yourself. 

The reason it is so common is the function of the pulleys and the stress we put on them during climbing.

Each of your fingers has five pulleys. Their job is to press the flexor tendons to the bones when you close your hand – like the rings of a fishing rod that hold the fishing line to the rod when you get a bite. 

When climbing and crimping, your pulleys work hard – your tendons pull harder than normal against the pulleys. 

A short peak load to your finger, such as slipping with your foot, may be all it takes to trigger an injury. When this happens, the best-case scenario is an inflammation and the worst case a tear, which you will most likely hear a cracking noise.

Injuries to the A2 and the A3 pulleys are the most common. You will quickly notice the pain on the inside of your finger, which is more severe when you press on the pulley or try to bend your finger against resistance. If you want to keep climbing, you can use the so-called H-tape to relieve pain and support your pulleys.

The H-tape method

All you need for an H-tape is a strip of tape about 10 – 12 cm long and 1,5 cm wide. Tear it down the middle from each end, but don’t completely tear it in half; leave a 1 cm “bridge” in the middle, making an “H” form, as the name suggests.

  • Place the centerpiece on the inside of the middle joint of the affected finger (2) 
  • Wrap each of the ends around the finger in a ring (3) 
  • One of the ends will go above the knuckle and the other end will go below the knuckle (4). 
  • To stop the tape from loosening up again during climbing, you will need to apply the tape quite tight, which will also support your pulleys during climbing.

Taping pulley injuries is not a miracle cure

The tape will take over some of the stress on the injured pulley by holding the flexor tendons in position, but it will not completely relieve pain or act as a replacement for a pulley. 

If you are unlucky enough to sustain a pulley injury, you should avoid any movements and holds that cause pain. This is especially true for crimps that really strain your pulleys.

If your injury was accompanied by an audible crack, you should assess the severity of the injury or have it looked at before considering taping it with this method. 

It may require an MRI and a visit to a doctor. If a tear is confirmed, you are looking at the dreaded forced break from climbing. It will take time to heal and be able to bear load again. When you get the green light to return to the wall, the H-Tape method is a useful method to allow you to ease back into climbing

EMER­GENCY CALL

Anyone out in mountains must be able to provide first aid in case of an emergency. The important thing is to stay calm and act intelligently. An emergency call must be made immediately depending on the severity of the emergency: Knowing the correct emergency number is essential for every climber.

In the case of insufficient cell service at the site of the accident, the procedure used to be: 

Turn off your cell phone, turn it back on again (without entering the PIN) and instead type in 112 to place a call to emergency services in Europe. Your phone can now locate sufficient cell service from another network provider. These days all smartphones have an “emergency call function” that can be accessed without unlocking your cell phone – and is shown even without a roaming signal. If there is still no cell service and it is not possible to make a call using the emergency call function, the only thing that will help is a change of location.

111 – Child Protection / Domestic Abuse

  112 – Search & Rescue

  113 – Police

  114 – Fire 

 115 – Ambulance / First Aid

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