My first experience using chalk was in 1978. I had heard that rock climbers were ‘Buildering’ the Limestone walls on the Stanford Campus. Many of the walls around the campus had been climbed, but around 5:00 pm the Art Building seemed to act as a magnet for the best of the best. Several of the local Stanford climbers went on to accomplish amazing free ascents in Yosemite, Eldorado Canyon and beyond.
Within no time, I found that my leather Pivetta boots didn’t cut it climbing vertical limestone. The locals were wearing real rock shoes, EB’s, Robbins, and well-worn PA’s. On my third day Buildering, I purchased a used pair of PA’s rock shoes for 15 bucks. I had also noticed that all the climbers were dipping their hands into huge, colorful, chalk bags. After my first session, I walked to a local climbing shop and bought a small blue stuff-sac. Before the night was out, I had stitched a wire loop around the opening of the blue sac and knotted a 7mm cord to it so I could carry it around my neck and shoulder.
Finding gymnastic chalk was the next problem. My sister is a grade-school teacher so I stopped by for a visit and rifled through bits of broken chalkboard chalk. Calcium Carbonate… my early years as a climber were filled with blunders and the local Stanford climbers let me know that blue-smears on Limestone didn’t, ‘cut the mustard’. (Calcium Carbonate dissolves in water, which means using it on sweaty fingers leaves a mess, to say the least.)
Over the years I used whatever Magnesium Carbonate I could find, cheaper the better. The past few years I opted for the Frank Endo blocks. Simple block chalk, that works quite well. Then Bill Brooks, the founder of MyClimb threw a bag of FrictionLabs, ‘Gorilla Grip’ my way. Looking at the packaging, I stuffed the semi-chunky powder into my pack and told myself I would save it for a special project.
I found that special project this past summer in Chamonix.
It rained most of July in Chamonix, but Bill and I still managed to get in some trad and sport routes. The rain, snowstorms, thunder, and lightning kept us running for cover, which didn’t help Bill’s already sprained ankle. The combination of bad weather and Bill’s injury kept me at lower elevations, so I began searching for boulder problems. Of the many boulder problems I discovered, three in particular pushed me well beyond my limit… I had found my special projects, so out came the Gorilla Grip.
Like many climbers who use chalk, my main concern is simple. I want chalk to keep my fingers dry and somewhat tacky.
FrictionLabs claims that their lab uses a higher ratio of magnesium-carbonate in their product than any other chalk company. Chemistry concerns set aside, what I noticed right off the bat when using Gorilla Grip was that my fingers stayed chalked up, felt dry and there was a noticeable degree of friction. The formula that FrictionLabs has come up is a real game changer.
In my 39 years of climbing, I find Gorilla Grip simply unmatched. FrictionLabs use of high concentrations of Magnesium Carbonate offered me that extra 5% when redpointing my first ascents of ‘Roc Dream – V4’, ‘Raincloud – V6+’ and ‘Trente-Deux – V6’. ‘Trente-Deux’ had been a problem that I had first projected 32 years ago!
With the cool temperatures of Fall coming soon, I’m excited to try FrictionLabs, ‘Bam Bam’ and ‘Unicorn Dust’ as well as their ‘Secret Stuff’, Chalk Cream.
More reviews to come…
Reviewer: Lou Renner, International Mountain and Climbing Guide for 30 years and Contributing MyClimb Writer