One mistake that first-time climbers tend to make is to climb without preparing their hands! This can lead to serious injury and pain if they aren't treated immediately. In this quick guide, you'll know the best techniques to ensure that your hands are ready and healthy enough for extensive mountain trips.
Pre Climb Hand And Skin Care
Preparation is important for a successful climb. It doesn't matter if it's your first time or your 50th time, you need to get your hands ready for this intense physical activity. Here's how you can get prepared:
Trim Your Nails
When climbing, you don't want to have your nails extremely long as it could result in injury. When trimming them, make sure you have a small amount of white nail remaining.
If you're able to scratch the wall, you didn't trim them enough. If the nails sting afterward, you removed an excessive amount. Round the edges to the side of your finger, so you don't experience hangnails. Most local gyms have community nail clippers available - ask around!
Moisturize Your Hands!
About 1-2 hours before you climb, you need to moisturize them to prevent calluses. If you keep them moisturized, your skin will be elastic and well hydrated once you start climbing. Elastic skin doesn't split and crack, while "plastic" skin can pop open and cause severe damage.
Post-Climb Hand Care
Even after you’ve completed your first summit, you need to still take care of your hands so that you can continue to climb safely. Here are some tips that pro climbers use to keep their skin in shape for the next climbing excursion:
File Your Skin
In the beginning phase of rock climbing, everyone receives blisters. It’s inevitable - just stick with it. Eventually, the blisters will grow into healthy, strong calluses. Since you’re climbing, your calluses need to be smooth and flat. If they aren’t, they can rip, so it’s very important to prevent this problem. All you need is a bit of skin filing.
If you notice any fraying of your calluses or skin, start using a sand paper file to keep your skin. The more smooth your skin, the less likely it will rip on climbing holds. You can find them rather cheap at any local convenience store.
You should apply tape to your hands before and after you climb. If you’ve identified damaged skin areas on your hands, and decide that you’re still going to climb, taping is important to reduce its severity.
Taping your split tips (Note: cuts across the upper section of the finger, caused by high pressure or sharp holds) or on thin skin can prevent the issues being worsened.
Remember to remove the tape to bringing air to your skin. Giving your skin air prevents your skin from becoming puffed up, sweating profusely, and is more susceptible to damage.
Give yourself some rest! This might be difficult on a day with good weather conditions or a short trip, but it's important for your long-term health. Your skin is not indestructible and will bleed profusely if you're not careful.
Give yourself to extend your skin condition by giving your skin time to recover and rest. If you continue to damage your skin, it will become a recurring weak point, as with any form of repeated injury! We suggest that you give your hands at least 5-7 days of recovery to ensure to reduce damage and function properly.
What About Blisters?
A blister is a small layer of fluid that is created in the upper layer of your skin. Blisters form when the outer layer of your skin is damaged protects the skin from any further damage. However, rock climbing blisters can be filled with pus or blood if they are infected or inflamed.
While smaller blisters can be healed on their own, large blisters can be cut and drained if you can follow the right disinfecting procedures. For small blisters, place an adhesive bandage on them to prevent them from becoming worse.
How To Drain Blisters
To drain larger blisters, use isopropyl alcohol and swab the surface and surrounding areas. Place a needle in the alcohol for at least 30-45 seconds then hold the tip of the needle near the blue part of a lighter flame for another 30-45 seconds.
Poke the needle (the side that’s touched the flame) into your skin. Then, squeeze the blister and cover it with a clean bandage.
Other Common Climbing Skin Care Issues
Here are some additional skin care issues that occur when you're out in the mountains:
Worn tips is a skin condition when your fingertips become thin and pink. As a result, it can become painful because the skin starts to weep and release plasma. To heal pink tips, stop climbing for at least 2-3 days.
Like your muscles, your skin needs time to recover. Make sure that you keep the area clean and give it time to heal so that you can continue climbing!
Flappers are a climber’s worst nightmare. It occurs when the callus on your hands is thicker than the skin on the side of your finger. As a result, blood comes out of your fingers and can be very painful if left untreated.
From my experience, the best form of climbing skin care is to cut off the flappers with scissors or nail clippers. Cut down the flapper as much as possible so that it doesn't continue tearing.
If you plan on climbing with the flappers present, tape up the wound and allow it to air dry. Giving your hands time to air dry and heal is the quickest way to remove the flappers naturally.
Split tips occur when your skin layers start to pull apart. They can either take days to heal can stay there for weeks depending on the severity. This skin condition occurs due to dry skin and can negatively affect your climbing performance.
To fix this, you need to file and moisturizing your skin. When filing your skin, remove the split layers entirely until your unbroken skin layer is present. We suggest that you don't overly file your skin, but keep it balanced to ensure that your split tips are removed.
As a rock climber, hand care is important if you want to enjoy your hobby longer. This means that you should understand the problems of your body and react to them accordingly.
Thus, following these steps will help keep your hands in good shape and prepared for the next climb!