For a beginning climber, the first calluses feels like a major milestone. At first, you think it means your future climbs will no longer be killer on your hands and they won’t be rubbed raw by the rock anymore. So you let your calluses build out of control, yellow and hardened, and then one day you’re climbing and your callus rips off completely leaving extra-raw skin below. And it hurts. Oh boy, does it hurt. That’s not say you shouldn’t build up your calluses, but they do need to be taken care if you don’t want them snagging on a climb.
What you’ll need
Pumice stone or sanding paper
Skin balm or salve
Building the initial callus
This is the easiest part of callus maintenance since all you really need to do is start climbing. After the first couple of times on the rock, you should start to notice calluses forming on your palm and underneath your knuckles—basically anywhere that rubs on the rock.
Sanding the callus
Calluses don’t grow like regular skin. They build up over time and grow a little irregularly, so you need to sand them down to be level with the rest of your skin. To do that, you’ll need a pumice stone, though even a sanding paper can work as well. It might seem a little scary taking something so rough to your hands, but it won’t hurt so long as you don’t rub your entire callus off. It’s easier if the skin is soft from a shower because the callus will rub down with less effort. Whatever you do, don’t pick at your calluses. Sand them down. Do not pick.
Salving your skin
If you do tear your callus on a climb or your hands feel particularly raw, it’s nice to have some skin balm or salve on hand so you can give them a little bit of moisture. Rub it into your hands before bed—not too much, you don’t want to oversaturate them—and let it soak in overnight.
Resting between climbs
The best way to let your hands rest is to, well, rest. Climbing too much back to back will be hell on your hands and there’s no way around it, with or without calluses.