Be smart, be hip, be cool! Protect your hands by wearing belay gloves
I started climbing in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1996. Back then, “the Hills” were not particularly known as fashion forward. However, we had our standards. For example, if you wore belay gloves, you got the suspicious side-eye.
Work gloves signalled, “rookie.” They meant that the person could not belay. And, this fashion faux pas was considered common knowledge.
Perhaps it was the movie Cliffhanger that made leather, half-finger gloves cool for climbing and rope work.
I’m not sure how it happened. But somewhere, somehow, something changed and a few companies like Black Diamond began making leather gloves with a keeper-loop. This loop, a small hole in the Velcro cuff, allowed climbers to store the gloves on their harness by clipping them on with a carabiner.
This caribiner keeper-loop was a game-changer for the reputation of gloves.
Today, gloves are the sign of a competent and knowledgeable belayer.
I wear gloves when I belay (both indoors and outdoors) because I find that when my hands are protected, I can control the rope more smoothly. I also wear gloves every time I rappel and coil the ropes.
I’m a big fan of Black Diamond’s Transition Gloves, preferring the full finger version to the half-finger one.
- Full finger gloves protect my hands as well as my fingers.
- Full finger gloves add warmth on cold days, which further improves the performance of my belay.
- And, I especially prefer full finger gloves when I’m using a gri gri.
I fit my belay gloves to be worn over tape gloves. If you never wear tape gloves you can fit them a bit smaller.
However, tape gloves are standard issue for crack climbing, especially desert crack climbing.
Sandstone is as abrasive as sandpaper. To get purchase you need to jam the backs of your hands against the rock. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, but it sounds fun, check out one of our Indian Creek clinics.
In the desert, ropes get particularly trashed. There’s coarse dirt, cactus spikes and other prickly things that want stick to it. This is especially true when pulling and coiling the rope.
Wearing gloves protects my hands from the environment and the climbing goo.
If I don’t wear gloves, my hands turn black with a mix of pulverized sand and ground aluminium. I call this black substance climbing goo. When I wear gloves this goo ends up in my gloves instead of my skin.
Over a lifetime of climbing, nasty goo embedded into our hands cannot be good for anyone’s health!
So, be smart, be hip, be cool, and goo-free. Protect your hands by wearing belay gloves!