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Cold weather climbing

Original Post
Glenn Sweeney · · San Francisco, CA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Hi MP,

I’m toying with the idea of climbing near Tahoe for the next few weekends. It’s looking like it’s going to be pretty chilly! (Lows around 20s, highs in 50s across the next week). i’ve camped in the cold before and am not too worried about that, but I’ve never climbed at those temperatures. What do you wear to stay warm on the wall? Any tricks to keep toes from freezing off in climbing shoes, and fingers functional? 

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Seek out sunny climbs is the best thing you can do. Look in the guidebook for sun aspect. Shady climbs will be cold. I know this seems obvious, but it makes all the difference.

Chris Blatchley · · Sammamish, WA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 6

Stay warm in between burns. You will get cold while climbing. Shoes inside your jacket by your stomach is nice for warming them. Hot tea. Layering options.

Lon Harter · · Reno · Joined May 2018 · Points: 334

Instead of chalk in your chalk bag put in a heat pack.

Jeremy Justus · · Steamboat Springs, CO · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 0

Yeah the sun really makes a huuuuuge difference, you can climb even colder than that if the sun is on you, no problem.  Sun is very easy to chase in the north tahoe areas like donner and big chief .  Down south I know phantom spires has sun, lovers leap is a little tougher but doable.  But definitely bring some stuff for between climbs, jacket, gloves, hat, etc.  Another extra layer for multi pitch is probably a good idea as well.  And if you have some more comfortable multi pitch shoes you can wear those with socks underneath.

I remember freezing and having numb fingers while climbing in a flake/chimney once, then moving 10 feet over into the sun to be hot and sweaty on the next climb.

John Reeve · · Durango, formely from TX · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 0

One of my favorite reoccurring sensations in climbing is the one where I start up the first climb of the day, stick my hands in some below-freezing crack, struggle my ass up the pitch, get to the end, and want to hurl.

I like that cause usually after the first bout of nausia it passes and I'm good to go for the rest of the day.

I dunno if that happens to other folks...

Chris Blatchley · · Sammamish, WA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 6
John Reeve wrote: One of my favorite reoccurring sensations in climbing is the one where I start up the first climb of the day, stick my hands in some below-freezing crack, struggle my ass up the pitch, get to the end, and want to hurl.

I like that cause usually after the first bout of nausia it passes and I'm good to go for the rest of the day.

I dunno if that happens to other folks...

barfies?


for me, i lose the sensation of gripping the rock. my fingers just go numb and i have to think "eh they probably won't let go"
Jeff L · · Valley of the Sun · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 35
John Reeve wrote: One of my favorite reoccurring sensations in climbing is the one where I start up the first climb of the day, stick my hands in some below-freezing crack, struggle my ass up the pitch, get to the end, and want to hurl.

I like that cause usually after the first bout of nausia it passes and I'm good to go for the rest of the day.

I dunno if that happens to other folks...

Yes it does. That is your body's metabolism at work. After about 15 minutes of numb hands and toes I'm good to go, nice and warm.

Nathan Sullivan · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Sep 2018 · Points: 0

Ahh, nothing like grabbing a snow-filled jug too.  I get a little naseuous when that happens, kinda that same feeling I get when fording a way-too-cold river.  It must be some kind of biological response I guess.

Evan Jeffrey · · Kansas City, MO · Joined Nov 2017 · Points: 75
Nathan Sullivan wrote: Ahh, nothing like grabbing a snow-filled jug too.  I get a little naseuous when that happens, kinda that same feeling I get when fording a way-too-cold river.  It must be some kind of biological response I guess.

What's even worse is when you just get a handful of freezing cold mud.

awolf · · New York, NY · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 15

I make homemade leg warmers by cutting off the feet of worn out mountaineering socks. And handwarmers in the chalk bag as someone else already noted. Usually fine in 40 degree temps.

curt86iroc · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 74

i'll wear thin socks in my shoes if it's going to to be that cold. it's a trick i started doing especially on late season alpine climbs (like now in CO). obviously, i'm not wearing my skin tight shoes when doing this...

+1 for hand warmer in chalk bag

Glenn Sweeney · · San Francisco, CA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Thanks for the feedback guys! We'll give this a shot next weekend and see how cold we are!

Pavel Burov · · Russia · Joined May 2013 · Points: 50

There are two strategies to keep fingers warm.

1. Use some kind of hand warmers.

2. Do not use hand warmers and let your fingers freeze to complete numbness (do not get frostbites). Warm your hands in between your legs (it would be *really* painful). Repeat the exercise twice or trice. Now you have your capillaries open and fingers won't freeze for several days in a row. Do not use chalk.

Put at least one extra layer (+1 to your comfortable layering to given conditions) on in between burns. Wear very warm mittens and socks. Keep your shoes under your jacket. Bring an oversized vacuum bottle with hot tee (consider adding some rose hips or lemon and sugar or honey) and sandwiches. Warm up slow, expect it will take up to two times more time to warm up versus normal climbing weather.

master gumby · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 262

Climb face climbs. Stuffing your hands in cracks will be cold.

Or others have said here throw a hand warmer in your chalk bag and keep your core warm.

Some of my favorite days out have been in sub 50° weather climbing south facing walls in the sun. That granite will be extra sticky.

Jeff Constine · · California · Joined Sep 2019 · Points: 6
As Gumby said above I actually agree with him this time, face climb and put a hand warmer or two in your chalk bag you will be just fine or go somewhere else that’s warmer if you can’t handle it!
Glenn Sweeney · · San Francisco, CA · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

I’ll report back if I can handle it next weekend!

Chris Hatzai · · Bend, OR · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 802

Heated chalk bag made by black diamond and the extra batteries that are sold for their heated gloves. If you have a way of charging the batteries after each day it’s totally worth it. It’s about 8 hours of heat all day with using all 3 batteries. I just leave mine on and tuck it under my jacket when im not climbing. Each battery lasts about 2.5 hours on high. Thing isn’t a furnace but it’s way better than having nothing. On par, if not warmer than the instant heat packs.

Puffy pants. Or sweat pants on over your climbing pants. Both can be worn while belaying. 

Bringing hot water in an insulated container. Much easier to drink than cold water on super chilly days.
Insulted containers with any warm food is great. Soups, broths, etc.. 

Jeff Constine · · California · Joined Sep 2019 · Points: 6

THe BD heat bag weighs a ton lol

Brandon Ribblett · · Breckenridge, CO · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 80

Climbing in the CA sun with highs in the 50s sounds pretty hot.

Chris Hatzai · · Bend, OR · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 802
Jeff Constine wrote: THe BD heat bag weighs a ton lol

Training weight! 

Haha it’s probably weighs a few ounces more than a normal bag. Small price to pay for warm hands!
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Beginning Climbers
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