Rockclimbing in the cold


Original Post
Kees · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

It always amazes me when I read about those top climbers who seem to prefer to climb extremely difficult stuff when it is really cold, freezing or almost freezing, when the friction is better, the fingers don't sweat and the skin stays intact.

But as soon as the temperature drops below 5 degrees or so, MY fingers get numb, my toes are freezing and I can't kling to anything anymore.

What's the secret?

I suppose these guys could teach me something:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EZRvlxeJOg

sherb · · Loveland, Ohio & Wheat Ridg... · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 0

I can't even climb well when it's 40 degrees. My fingers/hands have less mass than men's hands so the cold easily penetrates (my hands don't keep its temps well) and touching cold stone the freeze transfers to my hands turning me to stone starting from my fingers. Not being able to feel fingers makes me feel like sharp rock will slice right through and hesitant to place weight on it. I have wondered about people waiting for cold weather also. I'm not at a level where the extra friction matters.

Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 305

Climbing shoe rubber has its highest coefficient of friction around 40 degrees. Also, it's stiffer and won't deform off of small holds.

But keeping the fingers warm enough to feel the rock is a challenge.

Sean McAuley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 10

I'm certainly no cold weather expert, but I have picked up a couple tips for sub 40 degree rock and sub zero ice days. Hand warmer in the chalk bag is a no brainer, as is a pre warmed pair of mittens (I throw a hand warmer in my mittens as soon as I get out of the car). I find that my hands get really cold right off the bat (during my warm up), then once warmed up are good to go all day. Basically just deal with the screaming barfies within the first half hour, then a quick warm up in the mittens and I can climb the rest of the day without a problem. Feet in rock shoes are kinda rough, but keeping my shoes in my jacket while belaying takes the sting out. That and a hydroflask of tea keeps me warm all day (and maybe a flask of bourbon for good measure).

Takes some getting used to for sure.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

40s are ok if you're in the sun. 50s are perfect. Under 40, the problem is usually more moisture than temperature.

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 200

I think it's a highly individualized issue. I have sweaty hands, so I can only climb hard (for me) when it's cold. Unfortunately, I also have dry skin (maybe climbing is just not for me?!). When it's too cold (low humidity), my skin gets dry and glassy, so it actually has less friction on rock. Same with shoe rubber. When it's hot the rubber is softer, better for smearing but not so good for edging. When it's too cold, the rubber also gets hard and become slippery. Good for edging but not so good for smearing. For me, 40 degrees is about the perfect temperature for both skin and rubber.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

I have horrible circulation in my hands, so I rarely climb below 45-50 degrees (T-wall is the exception). I've heard a lot of people will tape a hand-warmer to the wrist to keep the blood warm and flowing. I'll also climb easy stuff with glove liners on or aid climb with real gloves on and a puffy. It also helps a lot if the rock you're climbing has been sitting in the sun all day.

that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

For granite bouldering ideal temps are IMO between -2c (28F) and 8c (46F) at -2 things are better than one might expect for bouldering as while you are resting for the next attempt you can just warm your hands. For sport and limestone trad 8c-16c, about 12c for granite trad is best for me.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 165

It is all a balancing act. If it gets to cold I can't feel my fingers and toes and I just want to go home. I have been out on cold days where we almost went home and it finally got warm enough and we sent multi projects with ease, one of those days where multi people walk up V5s like they are V2s.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136
ViperScale wrote:It is all a balancing act. If it gets to cold I can't feel my fingers and toes and I just want to go home. I have been out on cold days where we almost went home and it finally got warm enough and we sent multi projects with ease, one of those days where multi people walk up V5s like they are V2s.
Well what good is sending a V5 if it feels like a V2? If it being cold makes the problem easier, isn't that aid? I call your send a pinkpoint brah!
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Well, no...pinkpoint is already taken. Bluepoint? Since your hands are blue from the cold?

aikibujin wrote:I think it's a highly individualized issue. I have sweaty hands, so I can only climb hard (for me) when it's cold. Unfortunately, I also have dry skin (maybe climbing is just not for me?!). When it's too cold (low humidity), my skin gets dry and glassy, so it actually has less friction on rock. Same with shoe rubber. When it's hot the rubber is softer, better for smearing but not so good for edging. When it's too cold, the rubber also gets hard and become slippery. Good for edging but not so good for smearing. For me, 40 degrees is about the perfect temperature for both skin and rubber.
I don't find that the rubber gets slippery in the cold...quite the opposite, in fact...or at least this is offset by greater rock friction. Same thing with heat...can't smear for shit when it's hot because the rock gets slick. I guess it depends on what temps we're talking about...40 is rather cold!
aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 200
Ted Pinson wrote:I don't find that the rubber gets slippery in the cold...quite the opposite, in fact...or at least this is offset by greater rock friction. Same thing with heat...can't smear for shit when it's hot because the rock gets slick. I guess it depends on what temps we're talking about...40 is rather cold!
Again, 40 is about perfect for me. In the low 30s (yes I do climb in the low 30s) I find the rubber start to get too hard and slippery. In the 40s the rubber is hard but edges well. In the 50s and 60s the rubber starts to get soft but smears well. I don't bother climbing anything hard above 60, so maybe you have a point: when it's too hot everything is slick.
Kees · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

Lots of good ideas, thanks, I'm gonna try them.

And for sure, the sun makes a lot of difference. I have even climbed in freezing wheater in the sun, no wind, and it was doable. But put your fingers in a crack and it feels like a freezer.

On my last trip it was rather wet, cloudy, around freezing and climbing was misserable.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45
aikibujin wrote: Again, 40 is about perfect for me. In the low 30s (yes I do climb in the low 30s) I find the rubber start to get too hard and slippery. In the 40s the rubber is hard but edges well. In the 50s and 60s the rubber starts to get soft but smears well. I don't bother climbing anything hard above 60, so maybe you have a point: when it's too hot everything is slick.
Ah, ok...now it makes sense. My reference point for "hot" was 80-90s and "cold" would be 40s-50s. Haven't climbed in the 30s but I'm not opposed. I agree - 40s are optimal.
rging · · Salt Lake City, Ut · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 30
Kees wrote:It always amazes me when I read about those top climbers who seem to prefer to climb extremely difficult stuff when it is really cold, freezing or almost freezing.... But as soon as the temperature drops below 5 degrees...
Let's get our math straight. In the United States freezing is 27 degrees above your 5 degree threshold so it appears you are better than most.
Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 234
rging wrote: Let's get our math straight. In the United States freezing is 27 degrees above your 5 degree threshold so it appears you are better than most.
Isn't 5 C more like 40 F?
Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 1,875
Mark E Dixon wrote: Isn't 5 C more like 40 F?
At 4 degrees helium becomes a liquid.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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