Types of climbing rock


Original Post
· · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 1970 · Points: 0

What are typical types of climbing rock and their characteristics?  Here I've tried to document what very little I know.

1) Quartzite -- Found a lot in BCC, but no so much in LCC.  That's all I know.  Not sure how it's formed.

2) Granite -- Found a lot in LCC.  Though LCC's granite might actually be a quartzite-monzonite.  Seems much less featured than quartzite, and more prone to crack systems.

3) Slate -- Impossible to climb when featureless because of low friction.  Looks sharp.

4) Sandstone -- Wait a few days to climb it after a rain-storm.  More brittle than other types of rock?

5) Limestone -- Pockets seem to form more often in this kind of rock.

6) Plastic -- Typically found in climbing gyms.  All sorts of shapes and textures.  Non-biodegradable.  Unpopular with some people.  (Okay, not a rock type.)

That's my pathetic knowledge, which may have some misconceptions.  Anyhow, what other kinds of rock do people climb on?  What's your favorite type of rock?

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190
Spencer Parkin wrote:

What are typical types of climbing rock and their characteristics?  Here I've tried to document what very little I know.

1) Quartzite -- Found a lot in BCC, but no so much in LCC.  That's all I know.  Not sure how it's formed.

metamorphized Sandstone.

2) Granite -- Found a lot in LCC.  Though LCC's granite might actually be a quartzite-monzonite.  Seems much less featured than quartzite, and more prone to crack systems.

Yep, cracks and slabs are the norm.  I believe granite is igneous (cooled lava).

3) Slate -- Impossible to climb when featureless because of low friction.  Looks sharp.

4) Sandstone -- Wait a few days to climb it after a rain-storm.  More brittle than other types of rock?

Depends.  Compare Eldo or New Sandstone to Fisher/Creek...it's basically a completely different kind of rock.  Desert Sandstone tends to be very porous, allowing it to soak up water after a rain, which makes it more friable.  Oh, and it is sedimentary rock made up of...wait for it...SAND.

5) Limestone -- Pockets seem to form more often in this kind of rock.

Also sedimentary, but made of the remains of tiny organisms and shells.  Tends to be very soft and fragile.  Pockets form from water erosion.

6) Plastic -- Typically found in climbing gyms.  All sorts of shapes and textures.  Non-biodegradable.  Unpopular with some people.  (Okay, not a rock type.)

That's my pathetic knowledge, which may have some misconceptions.  Anyhow, what other kinds of rock do people climb on?  What's your favorite type of rock?

There are a bunch.  Boulder has like 10 different types.  Biggest misconception is that rock types are only that broad...there are subcategories with very different properties.  Overall I'd probably say sandstone...the variety is amazing.  You get overhanging jug hauls at the Red, huge desert towers, splitters...all technically the same basic rock type.  Plus, it's beautiful.

20 kN · · Hawaii · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348

You're missing about five times the number you have on your list. Google would be your best friend for this one, but for now I'll add one: basalt.

jktinst · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 55
Ted Pinson wrote:

metamorphized Sandstone.

Yep, cracks and slabs are the norm.  I believe granite is igneous (cooled lava).

Nope. Basalt is cooled lava (starts extremely hot and liquidy-pasty and cools fast under little pressure, like glass, so no time for crystals to form)

Granite, gneiss and quartzite (and others I think) are metamorphic rocks created by subjecting sedimentary deposits to high pressures and temperatures, causing partial melting (not flowing lava) with crystallization occurring during cooling under pressure. If I remember correctly from brief and very distant geology classes, higher pressures and temperatures and slow cooling make the smaller crystals typical of granite and less pressure and temperature make the larger crystals of gneiss and quartzite.

Wikipedia should have tons of info (but probably more from a geological perspective, rather than climbing)

Edit: there's probably a bunch of geology experts right now reading this and shaking their heads wondering "where do I even start"

Adam N · · Lexington, KY · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0

Volcanic Tuff- Horizontal slot pockets

Conglomerate- rounded cobbles

Gneiss- similar to granite, but has foliation, so more uniform edges

Basalt & Rhyolite-

There are tons of rock types that people climb on that a geologist would differentiate, but doesn't make significant differences in climbing. But it terms of climbing what you got so far are the major ones I can think of!

Adam N · · Lexington, KY · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 0

Melange too- I think theres some sport climbing in Alaska on this stuff?

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 95

rockclimbing.com is as dead as Trump's presidency right now, but check out this three-piece series on rock types for climbers (full disclosure, I wrote it):

http://www.rockclimbing.com/Articles/General/Geology_for_Climbers_Part_I_Igneous_is_Bliss_1585.html

Also, Sarah Garlic wrote a really cool book about geology for climbers called "Flakes, Jugs, and Splitters."

Bryce Adamson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 53
jktinst wrote:

Nope. Basalt is cooled lava (starts extremely hot and liquidy-pasty and cools fast under little pressure, like glass, so no time for crystals to form)

Granite, gneiss and quartzite (and others I think) are metamorphic rocks 

Granite is intrusive igneous as opposed to basalt which is extrusive igneous.

Schist is another metamorphic rock.

IcePick · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 100

Cool video here ^

Adam Hammershoi · · New York · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 70

Traprock: found in Connecticut. A combination of other metamorphic rocks. Typically slippery, composed of edges, cracks, and the occasional jugs. Very hard to protect with gear. 

Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 953

Phonolite porphyry makes for some fantastic crack climbing. (Devils Tower)

Dolomite is better climbing generally than limestone. (Tensleep)

Michael Swanson · · Oregon · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 0
Pnelson wrote:

rockclimbing.com is as dead as Trump's presidency right now, but check out this three-piece series on rock types for climbers (full disclosure, I wrote it):

http://www.rockclimbing.com/Articles/General/Geology_for_Climbers_Part_I_Igneous_is_Bliss_1585.html

Also, Sarah Garlic wrote a really cool book about geology for climbers called "Flakes, Jugs, and Splitters."

If someone else didn't mention the rc.com article, I was going to!

Add andesite to that list. I believe a lot of the climbing in western Oregon is andesite.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190
jktinst wrote:

Nope. Basalt is cooled lava (starts extremely hot and liquidy-pasty and cools fast under little pressure, like glass, so no time for crystals to form)

Granite, gneiss and quartzite (and others I think) are metamorphic rocks created by subjecting sedimentary deposits to high pressures and temperatures, causing partial melting (not flowing lava) with crystallization occurring during cooling under pressure. If I remember correctly from brief and very distant geology classes, higher pressures and temperatures and slow cooling make the smaller crystals typical of granite and less pressure and temperature make the larger crystals of gneiss and quartzite.

Wikipedia should have tons of info (but probably more from a geological perspective, rather than climbing)

Edit: there's probably a bunch of geology experts right now reading this and shaking their heads wondering "where do I even start"

Nope. :)  Common misconception since it's so hard, but it's igneous:

http://geology.com/rocks/granite.shtml

I'm guessing it shares properties with metamorphic rock since it was formed under ground (intrusive) based on my dim recollection of Geology class.

jktinst · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 55
Bryce Adamson wrote:

Granite is intrusive igneous as opposed to basalt which is extrusive igneous.

Schist is another metamorphic rock.

Oops. Should have checked Wikipedia myself. I remembered the slow cooling and crystallization (intrusive igneous) but not the more important general classification of granite (magma origin instead of metamorphism).

Skye Swoboda-Colberg · · Laramie, Wyoming · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 115

+1 for "Flakes, Jugs, and Splitters" by Sarah Garlick

Jim Turner · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 290

Let's see some pics!

Conglomerate sedimentary

Catlewood Canyon, CO.

Note the embedded rounded river rock.

IcePick · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 100

Let's all give the OP a big hand for finally posting a subject not politically, religiously, or emotionally charged,  And to remind us all of the beauty of the rock we so love to climb. 

Good job Spencer 

Thumbs up

Bryce Adamson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 53

And traprock is also not metamorphic. In CT it's either basalt or diabase (aka dolerite) which is the same thing but cooled slightly underground. Is wikipedia not working, people? Lol

TBlom · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2004 · Points: 360

There you go, have a gneiss day for schist's sake.  

Sedimentary are derived from sediments.

Igneous is derived from lava/magma cooled either above (extrusive) or below (intrusive) the surface.  Deeper magmas and slower cooling lead to larger crystals.

Metamorphic is derived from the above rock types subjected to heat and pressure.  Foliated metamorphic generally occurs closer to the surface and has visible banding.  

Chemically, gneiss, granite, and rhyolite are all very similar, but have different crystal structures due to where they were formed and under what pressure. 

Slate is basically cooked/pressurized shale or mudstone.

Marble is basically cooked/pressurized limestone.

Sandstone can be made entirely of weathered grains of granite, etc...

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 1970 · Points: 0
JacK CracK wrote:

Let's all give the OP a big hand for finally posting a subject not politically, religiously, or emotionally charged,  And to remind us all of the beauty of the rock we so love to climb. 

Good job Spencer 

Thumbs up

Okay, let's not thread drift, please.

jktinst · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 55
TBlom wrote:

 Deeper magmas and slower cooling lead to larger crystals.


Oh boy. I was way off the mark again. Nice geology refresher since I obviously forgot absolutely everything.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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