Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Belay Glove Confession

A few years ago I was in a Nomad Ventures, the climbing shop near Joshua Tree National Park, when a question arose.

"Do you use these?" my partner asked.

I looked over and saw him holding a pair of hand jammies. Hand jammies are a pair of gimmicky gloves that supposedly take the place of hand tape. They cover the back of your hand with sticky rubber in order to protect the skin from the sharp innards of a crack

Hand jammies seem like a good idea, but there's a problem with them. The problem is not that they don't work. The problem is not that they're too expensive. And the problem definitely is not that they're difficult to use. No, instead the problem is one of style. To put it simply, hand jammies are dorky. So lets follow this syllogism to its natural conclusion.

A -- Hand jammies are dorky.
B -- Gunther wears hand jammies.
C -- Gunther is a dork.

So my response was simple. "No, I don't wear those...at all."

My partner turned to the clerk behind the counter and asked the same question, "do you wear these?"

The clerk was a little less political in his answer. "No," he snorted. "I don't want to get beat up."

Sometime later, something happened to me. I didn't take up hand jammies. No, instead I started to wear something a bit worse. I started to wear belay gloves.

When you go out to the crag you'll notice that belay gloves are incredibly uncommon. The reason that they are uncommon is because most people don't see the need for them. Nobody really rappels or lowers anyone fast enough to burn their hands.

I don't wear them to avoid hand burns. I wear them to avoid the aluminum that inevitably gets transferred from the carabiners to the rope and then subsequently to my hands. Over the last few seasons I've found it harder and harder to wash the tiny fragments of metal out of the creases in my hands and as such it always looked like my hands were dirty.

I worked with a guide last season who was concerned that Alzheimer's disease comes from aluminum. As a result he always wore gloves whenever he handled a rope.

A short time after the guide told me about this, we had a baby. My wife felt that when I got home from work I should play with the baby, which I gladly did. But she also felt that the black smudges I left all over the baby's clothes were a bit much.

And so, I began to wear belay gloves. Everybody made fun of me, but I still wore them...

A -- Belay gloves are dorky.
B -- Jason wear's belay gloves.
C -- Jason is a dork.

That's okay. I've embraced my inner dork and so now I can wear my belay gloves with pride. And I suppose that it's also kind of nice that when I get home I can pick up the baby and then put her back down without her looking like she's been rolling in the dirt...



(Jason and his daughter Holly, discussing the difference between hand jammies and baby jammies in Joshua Tree National Park.)


--Jason D. Martin

2 comments:

Michael Doyle said...

What a cutie! And, yes, when I get home from a good day on the rocks, my wife says "Hmmm, you smell like climbing - wash your hands before you pick up the little guy"...

SolarBuddy said...

Belaying without gloves? I saw a gloveless belayer lose his palms in *trying* to stop a caver who fell then pulled the first two pitons. We were lucky the guy crashed in a pile of surface trash and didn't break anything.