Metolius - Eco Ball

Many of us are fully aware that bouldering does increase the chalk build-up on sandstone and this can stand out quite considerably at places like Bowles.

The ethics has always been that chalk should be cleaned off the rock once finished, but with popular boulder problems the chalk build-up has almost began to impregnate the rock, especially on areas that are sheltered and do not get washed by the rain.

A major issue with chalk is that the build-up and potential impregnation of chalk, tends to encourage people to use abrasive repetitive cleaning methods on holds, which will eventually wear away the surface of the stone and making them unusable.

We went away and had a think about this issue to see if there were any alternative products to chalk on the market.

With standard chalk, ‘Chalk Balls’ have been adopted at some walls to reduce the amount of chalk build-up, but even though this helps to a degree, people tend to still over use the chalk to the same degree as standard chalk is used.

Liquid chalk is also a good alternative but only proves popular with deep water soloing and ‘Redpoint’ sport climbing. Some people find the application of liquid chalk on the hands to be a little bit overwhelming and perhaps a bit over the top for standard climbing.

Metolius Eco Ball
The Metolius Eco Ball promotes itself, as a friction-enhancing, non-marking alternative to chalk that is also environmentally friendly. The product is recognised by the Access Fund in America  (The American version of the BMC) and seems to offer or at least goes some way towards solving this problem.

What is it?
The Eco Ball contains a substance called ‘Cabosil’. Cabosil (AKA  Fumed Silica) is a non-hazardous food grade material used to thicken many products such as toothpaste, aspirin, cosmetics, adhesives and lubricants. It simply dries your hands, acting like a drying agent and does not require you to cake your hands with chalk what so ever.

What is the Eco Ball good for?
We have been testing them over the past couple of months in various environments to see how they work.

Our initial experiments began indoor in a hot and humid climbing wall somewhere in London.
When first trying it we instantly treated it as chalk, trying to coat our hands to dry them out. We just felt that we had to have a visible layer of something for it to work. We were wrong. In a standard ‘chalk’ bucket, Eco Balls create a nice hand-drying environment. With one application of Eco Ball dust, depending on conditions, we found it would last through a number of boulder problems.

With regards to using the Eco Ball in a standard chalk bag, we found using it to ‘chalk-up’ mid-line on say a sport climb, was very difficult and we could not produce the same drying effect as we could when ‘chalking-up’ in a chalk bucket.

Eco Ball Hand Slap
Chalk Hand Slap
Outdoor use on sandstone
On the sandstone we introduced them to a number of climbers, who like us tried to apply them like traditional chalk but soon began to understand there is a different method needed and not as much substance required to coat the hand. Where a normal coating of chalk would over time reduce the contact between your hand and the rock, this Eco Ball would not. So those micro sand grains you so desperately hang on to, are now more stickable than before.
Eco Ball (Blown Clean)
Eco Ball dust 'Sitting on the Surface'
Environmental Impact
With the Eco Ball we really did struggle to prove in photographs that it does not leave much of a  mark on the rock. We managed to leave an ever so slight discolouration over time, but this was easily wiped off with a soft brush and a blow.
Our methods were simple. We took the Eco Ball and tried to cause an impact mark, both with the ball and also with a hand slap, only to find that the residue just sat on the rock surface. We did the same test with standard chalk using the ‘slap of the hand test’ and immediately could see the remains of a blatant handprint.

Eco Balls leave little or next to no visible marks on the stone depending on the amount of substance you use and if marks are left they are easily removed. The Eco Ball is not much use in a standard chalk bag for sport climbing but showed its true potential when placed in a bouldering bucket to help create that drying environment. They offer better friction due to the lack of chalk that builds up on your hands with normal chalk. It is not a chalk replacement as chalk still has its place for sport climbing, but on sandstone Eco Balls work very well for bouldering and very much holds its usefulness on many of the top-rope lines at say Harrison’s and High Rocks.

How Much?
The ‘Metolius Eco Ball’ is priced around £4.50 each and will last you as long as a standard chalk ball (maybe longer) and can be found at all good climbing stores.

The left hand is an Eco Ball hand ready for use. The right hand is a standard chalked hand ready for use. 

Singletrak Pack Low-Profile Hydration Review

Review by Emma Harrington 

Your dog is part of your family. If they could, they would probably choose to be with you 24/7. Either leave your dog home alone all day or bring him/her out with you to the great outdoors on your sandstone climbing trip? I know what one I would choose! Don't forget to keep your dog on a lead as to not disturb other climbers, belayers, walkers or other dogs. Also not everyone is keen on dogs running up to them at full speed, even if your dog is friendly.
If you are out for a full day on the sandstone then you will need to take your dogs essentials (food, water, poop bags etc), or maybe get your dog to carry their own stuff... Now there's an idea...

It gives my dog a job to do and a purpose when out on hikes or the long walk to the crag.  By carrying her own essentials such as water bottles, poop bags and snacks, it leaves me with more space in my own backpack for more of my climbing gear.

What sold this pack for me is that it’s streamlined and low-profile, it still looks like a harness without the bulk of big packs either side. It’s good for small loads as I didn’t want my dog to carry too much weight.

The Ruffwear Singletrak Pack contours close to my dog’s body giving the pack a streamlined effect, so she can still run through narrow spaces, up gullies and through vegetation without any problems of getting caught up. It doesn’t shift to one side as much as a bigger pack would, although it will shift a little if one side is heavier than the other.

The Ruffwear Singletrak Pack features an easy grip handle on the back, which gives me more control when assisting her up awkward terrain and the lead attachment loop is located on the back.

The Ruffwear Singletrak Pack consists of 4 zipped pockets. Two of which includes 0.6 litre collapsible water bottles in each pocket. These have a pop-up squirt lid that makes it easy to fill her water bowl. I would recommend emptying the water bottles evenly, to ensure both sides of the pack are an even weight distribution. It makes my life hassle free as I don’t have to search for the water bottle and bowl in my backpack every time she needs a drink. In the other smaller pockets I store her poop bags and sometimes her food and snacks, depending on the length of our outing.  

She doesn’t seem to notice when wearing it and the harness is easy to adjust. The straps under the belly and for the chest are padded for extra comfort. The straps clip in using snap-on plastic clips, making it easy to unclip and take the harness off quickly. Jayda the Labrador is modelling the L/XL Singletrak Pack.  

The pack is great and there are only a few minor inconveniences worth noting.
One is having to lift my dog’s right leg through the chest strap before clipping the pack on. This could be solved by having an extra buckle.

Secondly the harness comes in grey with green trim, the light colour is designed to reflect heat from the sun and looks great when it’s clean. Although on muddy days in the UK, the pack can get pretty dirty in all that tempting mud she likes to run through.

Thirdly once the straps are adjusted, there can be some long loose straps dangling, it would be convenient if these loose straps had somewhere to tuck away more easily.  

Overall the harness is robust and practical and is the best low-profile pack I've found so far. Giving my dog a job to do by carrying her own essentials, leaves me with more space in my own backpack for more of my climbing gear. She can wear it all day with no chaffing or marks appearing. I would recommend this harness but do check what the maximum weight your dog should carry before loading the pockets. This will vary depending on your dog's size. As a guide it's recommended that a healthy fit dog carries no more than 25 - 30% of their body weight in their dog pack.

Low-profile saddlebags ride close to the body, allowing dogs to be agile.

Two soft-sided 0.6L collapsible water bottles are BPA-free and taste-free.

Customizable fit with five points of adjustment allow for full range of motion.

Foam-padded chest and belly straps for comfortable, extended wear.

Light color is designed to reflect heat from the sun.

Low-light visibility with reflective trim.

RRP £94.99 - Initially this may look pricey but it's worth it for a good quality pack.

Black Diamond Credo Pants - Women's

Practical and stylish with the Black Diamond logo clearly sewn onto the back of these trousers, they are a multi-purpose trouser for climbing as well as casual everyday use.

Lightweight and great for summer climbing with a slight stretch in the material which is made of 97% cotton and 3% elastane. The waist has a zip front, a small button on the inside and also a tie cord so the waist can be adjusted tighter if need be. These trousers also include a drawcord around the ankles, allowing to wear them tight around the ankles whilst climbing so you can see your feet for perfect footwork, or as a standard leg to cover footwear, or even rolled up to create ¾ length trousers.

Also to add to the praise of these trousers, they have pockets either side and two pockets behind which are cleverly disguised as a seam, and a small zip pocket on the right leg.  Although recommended  for summer climbing, they can be worn in winter with a pair of warm leggings underneath.
The Black Diamond Credo Pants being put to the test

What Black Diamond say:

“Back Diamond recommended the Credo pants use for bouldering”.

This is true but they are also great for sport and trad climbing too as they fit snug under a harness! Because they look so great, you don’t have to wear them for just climbing. They can be worn as casual everyday trousers too.

 Colours come in Eclipse (very dark blue), After Dark (very dark brown), Denim (blue denim) and Lipstick (pinky/red).

To get an idea on the sizing; a medium fits a size 10.

The price depends on the retailer you buy from and will cost anywhere in between £58 - £65