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Tips for Rock Climbing in Scorching Heat

Stay hydrated and find shady crags to avoid getting burned out

Rock climbing in Banff in summer

During any heatwave, the challenges of rock climbing in summer conditions are obvious. From dehydration and sunburn to heat stroke and exhaustion, we look at ways to beat the summer heat.

Avoid the Sun: It sounds obvious, but many climbers don’t do their research to find the best places to avoid the sun. Climbing in the direct sun on a 40 degree Celsius day can make you sweaty, your hands swollen, your climbing shoes tight and the rock holds greasy. You don’t want to be pulling a hard crux with sweat dripping from your brow. Head to Google Earth and look at the aspects of the cliffs you want to climb. Find north-facing rock or crags below big shady trees.

Layers and Sun Screen: Wear light clothing, approach crags in as little as possible, and bring a layer for the climbing. You don’t need jackets or hoodies in a heat wave. Be sure to bring sunglasses, squinting all day can make you feel ill. Good sunnies help prevent UV damage, and you don’t have to buy the expensive ones. We don’t suffer from tropical sunshine here in Canada, but it still burns. That’s why you want to apply sunscreen liberally throughout the day. Bring a towel to dry your hands after.

Expectations: Heat will impair your performance by making you feel heavy and sluggish, that’s why you need to keep your expectations low. Be realistic about what you can climb, maybe leave the projects for a cooler day and just focus on easier climbs to have fun. Don’t rush the approaches, there’s no point in being competitive on hot days.

Keep the Shoes Cool: Climbing in the sun makes your feet sweet, and your shoes will feel tight and uncomfortable. The black rubber of the shoe absorbs the sun and can affect the friction and stiffness. Keep your rock climbing shoes cool to optimize their performance. You can do this by slipping them under a rock where the sun can’t reach, or by keeping them in your pack.

Water: You want to bring more water than you usually do to the crag, and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Dilute fruit juice or isotonic sports drinks into plain water. Sip water throughout the day instead of chugging half a bottle after 10 laps to optimize absorption. Bring a water bladder with spare bottle that you can refill it to be sure you always tacking sips. If you pass a creek or lake, go for a dip to cool down. If there’s nothing to plunge into, consider soaking your hat or shirt with cool water before the approach. There’s also evidence that it’s possible to reduce core temperature by cooling an area of the body known as an AVA (your hands and feet).” Start your day hydrated and aim to finish hydrated to enjoy these heat-wave temps as much as you can.

Finding shade at Lion’s Head in Ontario