Fecal Matter & Climbing Gym Holds

Climber on Shitty Holds

This 2014 study analysed the genetic sequences of micro-organisms found on climbing holds in several gyms. Guess that they found? Shit! That’s right. All of the holds in this study were covered in a thin veneer of feral matter. The source of it is most likely climbers bringing it in on their shoes after climbing at crags outside. Another major source of micro-organisms was human skin, which makes sense given that climbers sacrifice some of their skin to the holds on every attempt.

The good news of course is that liquid chalk should be a good guard against all those nasties found on the holds. There’s about 70% alcohol in liquid chalk which should be plenty to kill off anything that lives on those holds. Also, next time you go climbing, wash your hands, please!

Abstract, emphasis ours: Artificial climbing walls represent a unique indoor environment in which humans interact closely with a variety of surface types. Climbing wall holds may mediate transmission of organisms between individuals, and yet there are no studies that identify microorganisms present on these surfaces. In the current study, the microorganisms found on climbing wall holds were characterized by analysis of amplified SSU rRNA gene sequences. In contrast to many other studies of built environments, the majority of microorganisms on holds were most closely related to microbes annotated as being recovered from environmental sources, such as soil, with human skin also representing an important source. Regional patterns were evident as rRNA gene sequences from the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus were abundant in gyms found within 16 km of the ocean. Enterobacteriaceae were present on 100 % of holds surveyed, and the members detected are commonly associated with fecal matter.

PubMed Link - Picture by Stephanie Cook