Crazy Shit Climbers Do: Sanding Calluses with Pumice

Climbers have a love-hate relationship with their calluses. You don’t want them to be there when they inevitably rip & cause a massive flapper, often signaling the end of a climbing day. Yet you need them to get up rough rock that will tear uncallouses skin to shreds. Protecting your skin against friction and pressure is the reason calluses exist in the first place.

Generally speaking there are two main methods of honing your calluses: sandpaper & pumice stone. Sandpaper is most commonly used by climbers. While ordinary sandpaper from the hardware store will do most climbers use repurposed nail files or finger files custom-made for climbing use.

Pumice stone is a natural alternative to sandpaper and has been used for thousands of years in personal care. It’s a naturally occurring stone that is mined in a fairly environmentally-friendly process because it tends to occur in the upper layers of the earth & is so porous that it is easy to mine.

Traditionally pumice stones are used to remove calluses from the feet, but climbers quickly caught on & started using them on their hands. A pumice stone is best used wet so shower & bath make natural places to use them.

The big advantage of a pumice stone over sandpaper or a nail file is that you can use it in the shower to turn honing your calluses into a daily ritual instead of something you do when you happen to have sandpaper or a finger file nearby. A wet pumice stone is far more effective & easier to use than sandpaper.

Generally speaking there are two types of pumice stone: natural & artificial. While natural pumice comes from the crust of the Earth & has uneven pores, artificial pumice is man-made to have predictable pore sizes. You can buy them in different pore sizes just like you can buy sandpaper in different grit sizes.

The big thing to remember about pumice is that it is best used on wet skin. While handy at home, pumice is often not the best choice for traveling dirtbags who don’t necessarily shower every week, let alone every day.