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Cliff Cleaning Guidelines?
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Dec 7, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: bouldering
A Cliff that I climb at has a wall that is completely overrun with vines, lichens, and moss. A good cleaning could open up some route potential. What is viewed as an acceptable way to clean the cliff? Brushes, soap and water, power washer? What do you do or heard of what other people do to clean the cliff face and how long did it take you? This area could turn into my winter project. Mike-R
From springfield, Mo
Joined Dec 3, 2011
59 points
Dec 8, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: V3, Castle Hill, NZ
I've never cleaned a cliff before (just mossy boulders in the Pacific NW) but my suggestion would be to clean line by line, leaving as much biology intact as possible (for this reason, I'd guess that a powerwasher might be heavyhanded and soap would leach into the surrounding soil). You'll probably have to inspect the whole cliff for loose blocks and rocks but try to preserve the ecology... despite the fact that its in the way of our sport, it probably serves some function we are yet unaware of. e.g. lichens break down rocks which might actually aid in the formation of features years down the line. Not trying to undermine your stoke for discovery, just some friendly precautions.

Depending on the type of rock and the strength of the vines, my guess, based on landscaping experience, is that a corse brush matched with some elbow grease should clean up the vegetation nicely. Dunno what to suggest for hazardous blocks though.
From San Diego, CA
Joined Mar 15, 2012
69 points
Dec 8, 2012
no soap no chemicals please. Clayton Knudson
From Moab, UT
Joined Oct 16, 2011
19 points
Dec 8, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lich...
It depends on the location and the rock. The first thing you have to do is make sure that it is legit to climb there and that cleaning aggressively is not going to make problems by pissing off other users. Second, figure out if there are any rare plants that shouldn't be disturbed. Then, make a judgment whether the routes are worth the destruction.

Once those preliminaries are out of the way and you still think the routes will be really good, get your tools and have at it. I try to be really aware of the aesthetics of the cliff, but I also like my routes to be well cleaned. Be prepared for a lot of work if you want to do it well. On granite I may use anything from wire (steel, not brass!) brushes with scrapers to pruning saw, clippers, a maddock and 5 ft prybar if needed. Get in deep in any cracks with a screw driver and small bar and scrape them out. Take off any loose flakes that will eventually rip off from climbing anyway. On softer stone you have to be more aware of if your cleaning is wearing the stone away and leaving ugly marks.

There is an art to it all that you learn from experience and feedback from others and sometimes it is a gray area of how much tenderizing to do. Some people are fanatical and insist that you only use a soft bristle brush, which in my opinion is impractical and ridiculous when doing FAs. A little bit of mild tenderizing can make all the difference between a fun climb and something nasty, so, yes, run your scraper over that scale, maybe dull those sharp crystals and pocket edges that will just rip up unsuspecting hands (if there is no aesthetic reason to keep them). Take your hammer to any sharp edges that will slice people's ropes.

Take any debris like branch trimmings and moss clumps and piles of murdered lichen and drag it away and spread it in the forest so it doesn't make as much of a jarring appearance to others. You want a nice clean route while maintaining the magic of the outdoor setting as much as possible.

BTW - no soap
M Sprague
From New England
Joined Nov 9, 2006
6,251 points
Dec 8, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: bouldering
A.Javi.Gecko wrote:
. Not trying to undermine your stoke for discovery, just some friendly precautions.

That is why I asked. I want to do as little damage to the rock.
From springfield, Mo
Joined Dec 3, 2011
59 points
Dec 8, 2012
Rock Climbing Photo: Thats Me
Ive had good luck with a cordless drill and a steel brush type wheel. clay meier
Joined Dec 24, 2008
386 points
Dec 10, 2012
Ditto for M Sprague's comments. I use an array of tools from wire brushes, scrapers and my faithful Chouinard hammer to clean cracks. Take a pry bar along and remove all suspect loose rock, if it doesn’t come out with a three foot pry bar it’s usually safe. Spend the time to clean it properly the first time if you want people to climb it.

More importantly , don’t botch the bolting on sport routes. TR it with a few experienced climbers and discuss the best and natural clipping spots before you even consider drilling that first hole. The bolt placements should be safe and incorporate obvious rests or stances, the crux shouldn’t be clipping a bolt.
Rolf Rybak
From Vancouver BC
Joined Dec 10, 2010
26 points

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