Rubbing dirt on your hands is not an ideal situation in the UK (its often wet and muddy) or even in your house in Prestwich, Manchester (dry, not muddy, and relatively clean). So I started to use gymnastic chalk (light magnesium carbonate MgCO3, bought from Boots The Chemists. This was  not CaCo3 calcium carbonate). I once tried using calcium carbonate for sweat on fingers and found myself slipping off finger holds, so using school chalk or ground up limestone  (a favoured rock to climb up), was not a useful option for  sports performance enhancement.

Several times I tried using calcium carbonate and found myself slipping off finger holds. Somehow it  then came to the group of climbers that it would be a good idea to try something else not just rub dirt from on the ground to stop sweating (OK when it was hot and dry in the UK which wasn’t that often). The trick was to put the newly discover magic powder (Mg CO3) in a bag clipped onto your fashionable climbing shorts or pants (mine were particularly revolting, old clothes in hindsight! But I was young then and didn’t care what I looked like). So with magic powder Mg Co3 in a bag, if your hands got sweaty on a longer boulder problem or even on a full on roped rock-climb, you could take your personal supply of magic dust with you. We used to go to banks and beg  for cash money bags as they were just about the right size to contain enough chalk for a series of moves. Hence was born the (free) chalk bag. 

The other hidden benefit of magic dust (Mg Co3 climbing chalk) was you could tell that someone had been climbing and touching the holds (to aid not slipping off them). This caused issues with the “old guard’ – of which I was a sort of member, on account of having been a climber since I was 16,  but that’s another story, for another time. 

Other revelation’s came from France. We would stop off at Fontainebleau to go bouldering on the masses of sandstone boulders in the forest. The French were climbing really hard and fingery climbing problems, and they did not slip off as much as us Brits because they were using “pof”(some were using pot as well but again, that’s another story). From our broken Franglais we discovered that pof was essentially a natural rosin (as used to make violin bows grippy). The use of pof by the French also caused great controversy with the old brigade- yet another story! Because it allegedly polished and glazed finger holds.  Whether it does or not is up for debate or scientific investigation, but pof certainly seemed to help the French to climb well. 

To be continued….