How NOT to Use Chalk for Rock Climbing

Let’s start by clarifying something that all climbers know: chalk matters. It’s a simple truth and one that drove us to make the best chalk out there. Chalk is to climbing what words are to books. Books don’t really work out when there aren’t words on the pages. And have you ever climbed without chalk? You might as well go stare at some blank sheets of paper ;-)

Because chalk is such a prevalent material in the climbing world it is also – shockingly – one of the most commonly misused. Of course, we’re not talking life or death here: the difference between misusing some chalk and misusing a rope/harness is huge. But it’s still an issue, particularly in crowded gyms and outdoor bouldering spots.

To complement our other post, “How To Use Chalk For Rock Climbing”, let’s go over how NOT to use chalk for rock climbing. Read on, and bring your newfound knowledge with you the next time you hit the gym or the crag.


Do you ever walk into the climbing gym and feel like you’re entering a fog bank? Do your eyes start watering and you develop a sudden, raspy cough? This is likely because all the gals and bros in the gym are overusing their chalk supplies.

Man in cloud of chalk dust

Photo courtesy of

When you zealously thrust your hands into a chalk bag, slapping them around like fish in a bucket to achieve an optimal chalk-to-hand ratio, chalk dust goes everywhere. Get 50-100 people doing this at once and the gym becomes nearly uninhabitable. At FrictionLabs, we strip out all the nasty stuff you don’t want to be breathing, but chances are not everyone in your gym uses our chalk. No matter what chalk you’re using, be conscious and try not to create chalk clouds.

Additionally, lathering your hands with a thick layer of chalk is, sadly, very unlike lathering your food with a thick layer of sriracha. In this case, more chalk is not a great idea. Over-chalking causes your hands to lose friction and slip off of holds more easily.

A little bit of chalk – especially our chalk – goes a long way. Try dipping one hand gently into your bag and grabbing a pinch of chalk between your thumb and fingers, rubbing the chalk onto the surface of your fingertips and palm. Grab enough chalk so that you can simply rub your chalked hand against your unchalked hand for a fine coating on each. Boom – you’re the most efficient and environmentally-friendly chalker in the gym. This technique applies to outdoor climbing as well.

Also, be aware of chalk spills in the gym. They are inevitable. If your chalk pot overturns, help clean it up or tell an employee. The less chalk on the ground, the less people kicking it up into the air.


You’ve just hiked 30 minutes up an icy trail to your project. This beauty is the type of climb that gets printed on the cover of a magazine. Except when you finally turn the corner and reach the block, you see that it’s been etched and soiled with the dreaded lines of a thousand tick marks. It looks like unskilled, unresourceful cave people attempted to transform your precious boulder into a piece of art, and failed.

Chalk tick marks on bouldering problem

Photo courtesy of

A tick mark is essentially a line of chalk you draw on the stone to direct you to holds that require precision or are difficult to see. Some people draw simple straight lines; others enjoy making two lines a fist-width apart (the classic “field goal” style); others inexplicably doodle zigzags, spirals, or two to three-foot curving lines down the face of the rock. Sometimes, a well-placed tick mark is the difference between sending your project and sailing back to the ground. On the other hand, some of us go a little bit overboard sometimes.

No matter your style preference for tick marks, proper climbing etiquette calls for the erasure of all of them at the end of the session. This is partially out of respect for anyone who may visit the climb in the future – since many climbers prefer starting with a blank slate and figuring out their own beta – and partially to preserve the natural aesthetic of the piece of rock. You could argue the latter point by noting that chalk marks are omnipresent on many climbs, which is totally valid. But come on - tick marks are just ugly.


Try taking a conservative approach to your chalk. Treat it like powdered diamond. Use it sparingly to make it last longer and to avoid suffocating yourself and others in the climbing gym. The more you learn about the surprising finesse required for efficient chalk usage, the more well-rounded you will become as a climber.

If you want chalk that you’ll love and cherish forever, we’ve got you covered.

And remember – most of the time, a tick mark is just a waste of chalk :D


You crave the moment where your grip does more than you thought it could. That split second is nirvana. At FrictionLabs, we help you find that feeling. We use science to engineer the best chalk anywhere. Try it to experience better performance, safer breathing, and healthier skin.

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