Why is it important to stay off the wet rock?
When we think of rock, especially the rock that we climb on, we think of it as being super sharp, super hard and unforgiving. The texture varies – sometimes in grainy, crystalline, chossy, vuggy – but there’s a hidden feature of all rock, regardless of location, type, origin or development status.
Here’s a brief history of rock formations. Think of it as geology 101… All rock is formed by a process. Biological rocks (think limestone) form in shallow, warm waters where you’d want to vacation. Volcanic rocks (think granite, basalt, syenite, gneiss) form deep inside the earth or from an explosive event that literally spits the rock out. Probably not your favorite place to hang out. These places are like the Wall Street pens of geology – really high pressure and temperature and no relief. Sedimentary rock (sandstone, mudstone, and limestone – yes, again) form when those other types of rock are exposed to the climate and weather. These rocks form through rocky emotional trauma. Something happened to them.
So did you guess the hidden feature? It’s pores… just like your skin. There are small spaces in the rock – no matter what kind of rock it is – that fill with fluid or air. And on a geologic time scale (read: millions of years), fluids flow through that rock and alter it.
So why do pores matter to climbers? Because pores are weaknesses in the rock. It undermines the rock’s stability and will eventually cause it to break.
Here’s how it happens. When rock erodes it gets micro-fractures (pore that start to link up to create microscopic rivers in the stone). In most climates the rock gets frozen water in those pores that expands the space by 10%. That 10% creates air gaps that fill with water when the ice thaws. Rinse. Repeat. Eventually those micro-fractures turn into larger fractures (Flakes!!) or full-on cracks in the rock face.
Along comes a climber and s/he has a crazy ape index and can pull crazy hard. The climber puts a new outward or downward force on the rock. Those micro fractures tear a little more. And eventually, the holds break. And no more climb. The climber just did what it takes Mother Nature millennia to do herself.
The result is that we damage the rock face. And anytime we climb on the rock when it’s had a freeze-thaw or rainstorm… we are damaging it forever.
So this send season, in the spirit of Leave No Trace… think twice before you climb after ice.
- Cody is the creator of Mama Dirtbag skin care products for climbers, if you’re a climber and you haven’t had a chance to try out her products you can take a look here.
- We were lucky enough to have Mama Dirtbag herself join us on a recent podcast, I’m not sure there could be a kinder more sincere guest…she is truly the best. Check it out, link below.
- theDIHEDRAL Podcast (new episodes monthly)
Photo by nappy