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Sandstone and rain question


Original Post
nonames · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 5

Made my first trip to Indian Creek this weekend and got rained out. After all, its common knowledge that climbing wet sandstone is a terrible idea. Or is it?

On our way out of the Creek we saw no less that 6 parties climbing WHILE is was raining and after three days of scattered showers.

I was under the impression that there is no good time to climb sandstone in the rain. It seems others may know something I don't. Is this some sort of myth told to noobs like me to keep crowds down at popular areas?

So what am I missing here? Is light rain acceptable to climb in? Would this be a judgment call based on experience climbing on Wingate sandstone? At a place like the Indian Creek, where there aren't many 'holds' to break, what is the point in staying off of wet (damp, drying) rock?

Simon W · · Nowhere Land · Joined May 2013 · Points: 70

Is this some sort of myth told to noobs like me to keep crowds down at popular areas?

That's definitely not the case.

The sandstone at Red Rock is much weaker after it rains. The rock at Indian Creek is pretty different than red rock, but I'm not sure what cements it so I'll let someone who knows comment.

If I'm not mistaken the sandstone at the New River Gorge is not weakened by rain.

In any event this guy know what he is talking about (from the thread Wet sandstone) :

As a climber it seems some sandstones are weaker after rain. As a geologist I dont know why. Sandstones come in many varieties depending on the sand it's made of. Sand from ground up rocks like volcanics, granites, metamorphics, even limestone and is called lithic arenite. Sandstone composed of well rounded quartz would be quartz arenite, and can be aeolian (from wind, like the Navajo), fluvial (from a river), or marine or mixed (like the Dakota). Quartzite is a pure quartz sandstone with a silica cement (originally the term meant metamorphic). Sandstones are held together with cements, which can be clay, calcite, iron, or silica. Lyons sndstone in the Garden of the Gods is an aeolian/beach sand with clay and iron cements. The Fountain Formation in Eldorado and the Flatirons is arkosic conglomerate with silica and clay cements. Silica cements are very hard, not easily water soluble, and shouldnt weaken after a rain. Sandstones that are much weaker after a rain, like the Dakota or Lyons, seem to have more clay cements so I speculate that the clays (which can take up water in their crystal lattices) are the part that weakens when wet.
20 kN · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348

The risk is real. If the ground is wet at the base of the climb, stay off. You can pull gear. While it's not 100% clear, some believe this incident was the result of climbing the route a day after it rained:

youtube.com/watch?v=GQ854rw…

Jon Frisby · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 110

It's extra stupid, especially with the regulatory issues swirling around the area.

nonames · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 5

The sandstone at Red Rock is much weaker after it rains. The rock at Indian Creek is pretty different than red rock

So at no climbing in the rain at Red Rock, but Indian Creek may be ok?

It's extra stupid, especially with the regulatory issues swirling around the area.

What regulatory issues are you speaking of?
Mike Marmar · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 71

Wingate sandstone (Indian Creek and much of the climbing in that area) has the same issue. You are right that on a perfect splitter there are not really any holds to break. However, your cams can track out of wet weakened sandstone.

Also, loading anchor bolts when the stone is wet will likely loosen and weaken the bolts over time.

Don't climb at the creek when it is wet.

Edit to add: Don't climb on any southwestern sandstone when it is wet. It is all susceptible to weakening when it is wet.

ShireSmitty · · Boulda · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 70

I was at the creek Friday morning through last (monday) evening. We had intermittent showers throughout that period including a heavy soaking rain for about 4 or 5 hours Saturday night. I personally observed multiple parties climbing at multiple walls including Supercrack, Donnelly, Scarface, Cat Wall, and Reservoir wall. The ground, grass, and even the rock was wet. This kind of behavior is what makes me ashamed of climbers as an outdoor user group, and in human beings in general. When we make trips to the desert and to the creek, we do so knowing that weather may change our plans. Our group was responsible, and went hiking and did other things. It never ceases to amaze me, the selfishness and stupidity of people. Frankly it's depressing to think that access can and will be jeopardized by the selfish and the responsible among us (the minority, seemingly) have to bear the consequences of selfish peoples' actions. Even worse is to realize that our children, the next generation, may miss out on the magic of these places we love entirely.

manuel rangel · · Arizona · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 3,888

Well said.

Matt N · · Santa Barbara, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 278

From their FB page recently:

Friends of Indian Creek
May 22 at 11:56am ·

Friends! So we are looking at some more funky weather this weekend. Please be judicious in your climbing and use restraint on wet rock! We know it sucks—we feel the pain too! Most of didn't move here as a career choice ;))) but we are suffering injury to both routes and humans! On a light note, we've been trying to generate some mnemonic phrases for dealing with wet rock. Below are some of our faves. Send us yours!
"A little drizzle is nizzle, but mud on the feet, you must retreat!"
"Find a rock, pick it up, if it's wet it brings bad luck!?!?"
"Back's wet... let it set?"
"wet rock grab your socks ... "
"rain today...stay away ... "
"dry back, get on crack ... !"
"flip a stone, hold the phone; wet dirt, hold your skirt; damp ground, no climbing to be found; ground is dry, get real high"
"if it's slick, don't be a dick..."
"if wet's the look.... read a book..."

facebook.com/friendsofindia…

Douchebags exist in all circles. Shame that they can selfishly damage the rock we all enjoy.
Sam Keller · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 30

I feel your pain. I'm a Zion local who has been suffering through this wet May without any chance to head towards greener pastures.

This Friday we beat the rain and got in a few quick pitches at Cerberus. In the morning when we hiked in I noticed a party on the ledge of lunar extasy, right next to moonlight buttress.

We went, we sent, and right as the tempest approached we bailed to the big bend bus top.

As the tempest opened up on us I noticed the party was two pitches up from the ledge getting battered by the storm. In high winds Their portaledge was flying around and their leader was luckily just finishing a lead.

They were soaked, an being blown about in an epic storm.

I feel no pity for them. Theforecast had called for storms days in advance.

I did have a small feeling of satisfaction watching them get hammered though.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

depends on the sandstone and what holds the grains of sand together. if the "glue" that holds the sand together is water soluble then its a bad idea. since the creek is almost exclusively protected by SLCDs, i would say it's a bad idea because they are more likely to pull if the rock is wet, especially if the water causes the rock to be weakened and more likely to break. on the other hand, climbing is all about weighing risk against reward and making your own judgement call. if you have no other options than to climb at the creek, the additional danger may be warranted to some people. regardless, though, "YER GONNA DIE!!!"

Sam Keller · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 30

There is always the option to NOT climb at the creek. The rock is a community resource, and if we want it to be around for future generations or even next week we shouldn't be jeopardising it's integrity by climbing on it when it's wet.

Jim Corbett · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 10

Climbing western/desert sandstone when it's wet is just stupid. However, SE sandstone, particularly in the TAG (TN/AL/GA) area I'm most familiar with, is bullet, no worries climbing that in the rain. In fact, I can testify from personal experience that it is harder to hand drill bolts in TAG sandstone than it is in NC granite.

mediocre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 0

So Eli are you saying that just because you feel the reward for climbing on wet rock is worth the risk it's ok? You can permanently damage the climbs for everyone but just because you felt the benefit outweighed the risk it's acceptable?
Please tell me that I've been working all night and I'm misreading your post because I'm exhausted. I don't even climb hard enough to climb at the creek and that pisses me off.
Yeah, I just re read that and I'm pretty sure that's exactly what you're saying. Go back to Tennessee.

ShireSmitty · · Boulda · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 70

Hey Eli, it sounds to me like you are a part of the problem, not the solution. If you are thinking like that, and making comments like that on public forums where the consensus is to preserve the rock for all of us, it seems that you are pretty likely to also be behaving like that. Pretty lame buddy.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

the only reason i suggested that it may be okay for a climber to choose to climb at the creek is because, to my knowledge, there aren't really any holds that may break off when it's wet. i don't really climb at the creek because i like more variety in my climbs than just 100 ft of pure crack climbing. i didn't think i needed to say that, as always, the local ethic for climbing when the rock is wet should also be considered. the local ethics of a crag should *almost* always be respected, other than when putting up new routes. if you're developing a climb, how you do so is 100% your choice. would i climb at the creek when it's wet? no because i don't trust SLCDs in wet rock. however, somebody mentioned that many other parties were climbing there despite the wet rock. this led me to believe that it is acceptable because climbers should always respect the local ethics.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,091

the only reason i suggested that it may be okay for a climber to choose to climb at the creek is because, to my knowledge, there aren't really any holds that may break off when it's wet. i don't really climb at the creek because i like more variety in my climbs than just 100 ft of pure crack climbing. i didn't think i needed to say that, as always, the local ethic for climbing when the rock is wet should also be considered. the local ethics of a crag should *almost* always be respected, other than when putting up new routes. if you're developing a climb, how you do so is 100% your choice. would i climb at the creek when it's wet? no because i don't trust SLCDs in wet rock. however, somebody mentioned that many other parties were climbing there despite the wet rock. this led me to believe that it is acceptable because climbers should always respect the local ethics.

and there you have it folks, he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about...
Highlander · · Ouray, CO · Joined Apr 2008 · Points: 255

the only reason i suggested that it may be okay for a climber to choose to climb at the creek is because, to my knowledge, there aren't really any holds that may break off when it's wet. i don't really climb at the creek because i like more variety in my climbs than just 100 ft of pure crack climbing. i didn't think i needed to say that, as always, the local ethic for climbing when the rock is wet should also be considered. the local ethics of a crag should *almost* always be respected, other than when putting up new routes. if you're developing a climb, how you do so is 100% your choice. would i climb at the creek when it's wet? no because i don't trust SLCDs in wet rock. however, somebody mentioned that many other parties were climbing there despite the wet rock. this led me to believe that it is acceptable because climbers should always respect the local ethics.

Even though the creek is crack climbing and there are few holds to break, the rock is very soft and jamming hands and feet in a wet crack just causes it to erode or widen at a faster rate and also round the edges of the crack.
Beyond that, weighting the anchor bolts and top roping off them while the rock is not 100% dry will cause the bolt holes to widen and eventually the bolt placements will lose their integrity and become loose. This is already a problem even when the rock is dry with top rope abuse at the creek and anchor bolts getting loose, but it is even compounded more when the rock is not dry.
Boissal · · Small Lake, UT · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 1,345

this led me to believe that it is acceptable because climbers should always respect the local ethics.
You would be wrong. They're climbing there because they're assholes and are disregarding the local ethics. It's not only about holds breaking, it's about soft rock getting even softer. Think widening cracks and massive rope grooves. It doesn't take too much looking around to see some of that damage.
And what's this nonsense about FAs? You'd better be respecting the local ethics when you're putting something up... What do you think would happen if you bolted a crack line at the Creek?
Inarticulate fool.
Bob Dobalina · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 140

Your cams leave permanent track marks in the cracks when they pull out of wet sandstone.
The ground leaves permanent marks on your body when you deck from your gear pulling in wet sandstone.
Climbing on wet sandstone is selfish and stupid.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456

And what's this nonsense about FAs? You'd better be respecting the local ethics when you're putting something up... What do you think would happen if you bolted a crack line at the Creek? Inarticulate fool.
if one bolted a crack at the creek, it would probably get chopped. the right thing to do, though, would be for the community to have a conversation with the developer and, hopefully, come to the consensus that bolting a crack is a mistake and the bolts would be removed and the holes patched. i may disagree strongly with this hypothetical developer but i respect his/her right to develop a route in their own personal style, just as an artist uses his/her personal style when painting a picture. if you want the route to be developed in your preferred style, maybe you should have put in the effort to develop it yourself. climbers have to make decisions for themselves, and this includes whatever potential consequences may result from those decisions, whether it is decking because your protection pulled, or getting beat up or publicly shamed for disrespecting local ethics.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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