I mostly climb at a rock climbing gym, and I can climb for hours until my forearms run out of gas.

However, when I climb outdoors, usually the reason I have to stop is because the skin of my palms and especially my fingers become red and sensitive, meaning whenever I touched a rock the pain is so bad that I am not able to continue climbing despite I still have a lot of gas in my forearms.

I thought about avoiding warming up on V0~V1s because I want to save my skin for harder climbs, but at the same time I feel like skipping warmups is asking for injuries.

I tried wearing gloves but it just didn't feel right and according to the videos on YouTube of people who climb outdoors, no one wears it.

Can someone tell me how to solve this? Currently I feel climbing indoors is more enjoyable because I can actually fully exhaust my muscles, but I read at so many places that climbing outdoors is supposedly to be more fun and cool, and I really want to experience that.

Is the material of the gym holds more skin-friendly? I don't recall myself running into skin problems when I first started to climb in the gym.

  • 4
    What kind of rock are you climbing on? Out here, the gym is definitely harder on the hands than rock outside.
    – Qudit
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 3:27
  • I think it's granite and sandstone. Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 15:15
  • Have you been tested for allergic reactions? And take it from a real man (not me but a friend) men do wear gloves when their skin needs it. You will not climb bare feet either.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 19:25
  • You can't really climb wearing gloves. There is too much slippage between the gloves and your skin, and the rock and your gloves, to provide a sure grip like your actual flesh can. Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 18:53
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of How to toughen up hands?
    – user2766
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 8:17

1 Answer 1


Outdoor rock is more abrasive and wears your skin off much faster than the plastic holds in the gym. For example: The rock I climb mostly is considered to be the oldest stone in the Canadian rockies. It is old, weathered, and in places feels like holding onto sharks teeth or a saw blade. It makes your flesh thin in a hurry.

What you are experiencing is not unusual, especially if you are a boulderer who has trained in the gym and is looking for a challenge in the outdoors. Hard climbing, especially inclined climbing where your weight is being borne by your hands and fingers will eventually make you tender wherever you are holding the rock. We've got group pictures from bouldering trips with everyone in a circle showing off their red and raw finger tips. It happens, and there's doesn't seem to be a callus thick enough to prevent the rock from wearing through to near the tender dermis of your finger tips.

After enough climbing outdoors though, you will learn how to grab holds different in order to avoid wearing your skin away as much. Different types of stone are less abrasive than others, sandstone for example is like climbing on pillows compared to karst. Don't skip your warmups, just learn how to take a hold without it taking much of your skin.

  • Red and raw/tender finger tips is precisely what I am experiencing. I think it happens a little bit too fast for me. I cannot imagine someone climbing outdoors for a full day. Can you let me more details on "how to grab holds different in order to avoid wearing your skin away as much"? I am super interested to know. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 16:54
  • @user3667089 It comes with more coordination and control. Climb enough and it'll happen naturally. It's hard to avoid it if you're climbing dynamically or grabbing onto closed grip holds. Pinches and slopers are your friends, they're the easiest on your skin, but also the hardest to hold onto.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 17:36
  • @user3667089 the worst is when you try to hold a hot mug of cider when you're tips are still raw and tender from a day of hard climbing. They become hyper-sensitive to heat.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 17:51
  • 1
    "Climb enough and it'll happen naturally"... there has to be more concrete details to it, right? Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 1:33

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