Top Gear #28 - Ocun Crack Gloves
Crack climbing is one of those activities that is highly addictive and yet the pain to pleasure ratio can sometimes be questionable. There are many times where the best thing about it is when its over!
There are solutions. The first is to avoid jamming (!) and the next logical choice it to protect yourself. You see many climbers top out after battling a crack route with bloodied stumps that once resembled hands and you also see some that choose to massively reduce their pain (and improve friction) by taping their hands.
When done well taping is very effective and I have used the method quite a number of times in the past. The uninitiated will soon realise it is actually quite a science and there are definite techniques you need to know to do it well. I by no mean claim to be an expert, but I was once trained by a degree level afficiando during time spent in the states and would claim to be able to do a passable job. Having said that, I rarely tape up for gritstone routes despite it potentially being very useful - it takes a while to tape up well and there just isn’t a general ethos of taping up in certain areas or on certain rock types - and gritstone seems to be one.
Recently, however, I was introduced to a simple and effective alternative and, having tested some out quite a lot over the summer, I am going to stick my neck out (*please see note below) and offer up Ocun Crack Gloves as our #28th Peak Mountaineering Top Gear choice.
The Ocun’s are, in essence, pretty simple - they combine rubber pad with leather loops to fit over the fingers and a velcro strap to secure them around the wrist. Infact, when I first saw some I really wondered how well they would stand up to the rough and tumble of crack life. The reality, I have since discovered, is that they are both extremely effective and very durable. They have stood up to a selection of gritstone classics with aplomb and, while I certainly won’t claim I have yet used them enough to comment fully on their long term durability, they have shrugged off everything thrown at them and look as good as new.
The other thing about them is that they are really comfortable. Despite wondering about whether they would affect the way I could use my hands, that hasn’t been an issue at all - fine motor skills and finger use is exactly as normal.
The big thing, though, is that they really work. While ultimately the quality of the hand jam is still down to effective technique, the grippy rubber really holds well and, because you are protected from the normal pain of a gnarly jamming move, you will find those tough crack routes flow better and are actually a pleasure while you are doing them and not just once the pain subsides after you’ve finished! I also think they are great value at about £25.
I suspect the use of these kind of products (Ocun aren’t the only company making these) will rapidly grow in popularity as people see how effective they are and, if you are climbing in the Peak District and want to give them a pre purchase trial, just get in touch and we have some here that I am very happy for you to trial (no cost of course). I really don't think you will be disappointed.
Posted by Paul
*I said 'stick my neck out' above as there are some who would say using crack gloves is, somehow, cheating. Infact, on the very first time I pulled some out below a gritstone crack one of my friends gleefully reprimanded me for using ‘cheat gloves’ and he was keen to point out that the first ascentionist of my chosen route wouldn’t have been using them. I’m not going to get into a debate about the relative ethics, but I would just say that I’m sure the first ascentionist of that classic grit crack also wasn’t carrying a rack of high tech Camalots like I was or wearing my model of sticky rubber shoes either. I personally see no issue with them and, as climbing for me is about challenging myself rather than competing against others, as long as I’m not harming the rock or causing anyone else a problem then I make my own choice about the style in which I climb. Damn….and I said I wasn’t going to start talking ethics!