Friday, October 12, 2018

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 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 inot terribly common. The reason that they're uncommon is because most people don't see the need for them. Nobody really rappels or lowers anyone fast enough to burn their hands. And they certainly don't learn to wear them at the rock gym.

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 some time ago 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 our first 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 my kids and then put them back down without them looking like they've been rolling in the dirt...

(Jason and his daughter Holly in 2007, discussing the difference between hand jammies and baby jammies in Joshua Tree National Park.)

--Jason D. Martin


Dean said...

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

Jason - since there are at least two of us here, the dork climber's club can now come to order.
My GAS factor for what people think of what I use, wear fairly non-existent - so I'm OK with the dork label too.
Have worn belay gloves everywhere from Arkansas to Afghanistan and quite a few mountain ranges in between. When I graduated from the Gebirgsjager course in Germany in the late 80's one of the things you left with were new gloves, because you went through a pair, at least, during the course with all of the rappels and belays you did.
I still wear wool, wear a helmet - also a dork label these days at many places, until a rock embeds in your helmet-less skull - and even ***GASP*** still use a figure 8.
Old dog, old tricks.
When/where I started there wasn't an issue with aluminum staining as the carabiners were steel...;).
Good brought back some great memories. Keep on doing it your own way Jason...and take care. Dean

Jake said...

Since you're already unabashedly a dork, you can now wear hand jammies without fear of further ridicule! Let your freak flag fly!

Eric said...

Jason, I listened to a fascinating story about Wilt Chamberlain, basketball in his decade, and under-handed free throws, which seems related to this conversation. Essentially, he and other players could sink nearly twice as many shots by doing them underhanded. However, they quickly stopped doing so, and for the reason listed in your article: the dork factor. The same became true for Shaq: he clearly felt, and eventually articulated, that he would never shoot underhanded because of how it looked. Ironically in all these cases, such as Shaq, missing lots of free throws looked fine just as long as he shot them "normally". It's counter-intuitive, but such is the power of perception and image-management.

I'd refer you to hear the full story via podcast through "revisionist history".


Anonymous said...

A -- Belay gloves are dorky.
B -- Joseph wears belay gloves.
C -- Belay gloves are not dorky anymore.