5 Things – Nails
One of the most underrated aspects of climbing is nails. As in fingernails and toenails. They aren’t something that we notice on a regular basis, but the moment they are just a little too long, their importance becomes painfully obvious. The discomfort added when putting on an especially tight pair of climbing shoes is dreadful. Trying to crimp down on something only to have your fingernail get in the way is frustrating. Crimp too hard and there goes a fingernail…now that is pain.
Nails, like a leaky roof mostly go unnoticed, but when it rains…ouch! In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Speaking of nails, here are 5 things you might like to know.
- Nails are a part of the integumentary system which happens to be the largest organ of the body. It forms a barrier that separates the external environment from the internal environment. In short, the integumentary system is the body’s outer layer which is made up of skin, hair, and nails, as well as the glands and nerves that go along with them.
- Your nails are a byproduct of three platforms working in unison. There is the nail plate (what we typically think of when we think of a nail), the nail matrix from which the nail grows, and the nail bed which consists of the skin beneath the nail plate. The nail matrix which is just behind the cuticle continually produces new cells, pushing older cells up and forward. The cells which move forward undergo keratinization, a process in which cytoplasm is replaced by keratin protein, thus killing the cells. This new protein called alpha-keratin is the tough protective polymer that we have come to call the nail. It is the same protein found in hooves, claws, hair, and horns!
- Okay, let me nerd out on one more section of the process. The Lunula! The Lunula is the only visible portion of the nail matrix. It’s the light-colored crescent at the base of the nail plate. That light color is because the cells in the lunula have not yet lost their nuclei as opposed to the keratinized cells of the nail plate further along in the nail growing process. LUNULA!
- Nail facts: The longer the finger (or toe) the faster the nail will grow. Thus, people with longer fingers have faster growing nails. Nails grow faster in the summer than they do in the winter. Fingernails grow an average of 3.5mm per month, and toenails grow about half as quickly. The record for longest fingernails belongs to Lee Redmond 8.65 m (28 ft 4.5 in). Naglfar is a ship from Norse mythology that was composed entirely of fingernails and toenails of the dead. It’s carrying monsters sent to destroy the gods thus signaling the submergence of the world into water.
- An ounce of prevention! In order to avoid the problems drafted at the outset of this piece, my recommendation is to carry an extra pair of nail clippers in your pack1. That way when you get to the hike or the wall you are no longer torn between the decision to either go home or tear off the keratinized cells of your nail plate exposing the nail bed and lunula to the elements while hiking or climbing in shoes that are too tight.
This is more than I ever really cared to know about nails, but it has inspired me to toss a pair of clippers into my pack. I learned a cool new word “lunula”, and I learned that if I ever see a ship made entirely out human fingernails, then it’s time use my finely trimmed nails and climb to higher ground.
5 Points 1 Topic!
- If you are thinking that toiletries can’t withstand the abuse of a daypack, have no fear, Black Diamond makes a pair nail clippers that look pretty burley.