Chalk & Coefficient of Friction

This study from 2012 explores the effect of chalk and humidity on friction in a simulated climbing setting with an inclined hangboard. This study shows that chalk does increase friction, especially on sandstone. Surprisingly it does not show a correlation between temperature/humidity and friction. This post is part of a series where we highlight the existing research around chalk.

The effect of chalk on the finger-hold friction coefficient in rock climbing.

Abstract, emphasis ours: The main purpose of this study was to examine the effect of chalk on the friction coefficient between climber's fingers and two different rock types (sandstone and limestone). The secondary purpose was to investigate the effects of humidity and temperature on the friction coefficient and on the influence of chalk. Eleven experienced climbers took part in this study and 42 test sessions were performed. Participants hung from holds which were fixed on a specially designed hang board. The inclination of the hang board was progressively increased until the climber's hand slipped from the holds. The angle of the hang board was simultaneously recorded by using a gyroscopic sensor and the friction coefficient was calculated at the moment of slip. The results showed that there was a significant positive effect of chalk on the coefficient of friction (+18.7% on limestone and +21.6% on sandstone). Moreover sandstone had a higher coefficient of friction than limestone (+15.6% without chalk, +18.4% with chalk). These results confirmed climbers' belief that chalk enhances friction. However, no correlation with humidity/temperature and friction coefficient was noted which suggested that additional parameters should be considered in order to understand the effects of climate on finger friction in rock climbing.

PubMed Link Photo by Elahe Motamedi