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Wet Sandstone
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By Kenny Miller
From Durango, CO
Dec 19, 2009

Last weekend, I got bitched out for climbing on sandstone 36 hours after a rain storm. I have heard that climbing on wet sandstone is not a good idea because the rock is weaker. So my questions are:

1. Is wet sandstone weaker than dry? If so, explain why.
2. If this is somehow true, how long is appropriate to wait for wet rock to dry?


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By J. Thompson
From denver, co
Dec 19, 2009
Trundling a death block. Photo by Dan Gambino.

Yes wet sandstone is weaker than dry sandstone.

Sandstone is very poreus(sp?) think of a sponge....when it's dry it hard and doesn't bend easily. But when its wet...
It also depends on the type of sandstone....Eldo doesn't count.

36 hours should be more than enough time.
There are alot of different factors to consider....how long and how much did it rain? Is the rock in the sun? Was there wind?
What kind of climb is it? Cracks are not as big of a deal as faces.

Your best bet is to let it dry out a day or so...depending. 36 hours is plenty.

josh


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By Malcolm Daly
From Boulder, CO
Dec 19, 2009

Don't forget that there are different kinds and formations of sandstone. The soft, edgy sandstone in Red Rocks is particularly fragile after rain and you should stay off of it for 2-3 days after a soaker. The Windgate in Indian Creek is equally soft but its lack of handholds may lead to to want to climb it. Resist the urge. The rock is very soft and repeated traffic will accelerate wear in the cracks and on the edges. Go hiking or mountain biking for a few days after the rain there, too. The rock in Eldo is Fountain sandstone but seems to be pretty impervious to the effects of water. I'd be careful (as always) about monkeying around on the creakers but other than that, I think it's okay. Any other observations from Eldo prancers?
Mal


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By Spider Savage
Dec 19, 2009
Spider in Taboose

Yes. Find some gneiss or granite in damp conditions.

In SoCal we have sandstone too. Climbing your favorite route when damp can lead to heartbreaking damage.


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By Andrew James C
From Portland, OR
Dec 19, 2009
Wide abgle!

Malcolm Daly wrote:
Any other observations from Eldo prancers? Mal


As solid as any granite I've seen as far as weather is concerned, the Flat Irons and New River Gorge are also examples of bullet proof sandstone. I heard the stone has quartzite mixed in or something that gives it it's solidness. Then you have Garden of the Gods or Red Rocks that is super soft and porous that need a thorough drying before it's safe to take big falls on those 20 year old pitons.


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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Jan 6, 2010
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wall.

Andrew C wrote:
As solid as any granite I've seen as far as weather is concerned, the Flat Irons and New River Gorge are also examples of bullet proof sandstone. I heard the stone has quartzite mixed in or something that gives it it's solidness. Then you have Garden of the Gods or Red Rocks that is super soft and porous that need a thorough drying before it's safe to take big falls on those 20 year old pitons.

I'm not a geologist, but isn't sandstone the source material for quartzite? Just add zillions of tons of pressure and cook at a zillion degrees?

I think of Eldo as half-baked quartzite.


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By Timmamok
From Durango, CO
Jan 6, 2010
crack at undisclosed location - my little proj

I believe quartzite is a metamorphosed sandstone with a high silica content.


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By jmeizis
From Colorado Springs, CO
Jan 6, 2010
The Beginning of Mr. Clean (5.8) at the Barkeater Cliffs in Adirondack Park NY.

Kenny, the matrix that holds the sand grains together becomes mush when it rains so as long as the moisture content remains high it would be a positive life choice to stay off.

There are a couple of good tests that I use in the local areas (Garden of the Gods) to decide if it's too wet:

If the ground is still moist.
If there are wet spots still on the rock.
If the sand in pockets is still moist.

I'm not a geologist so I don't know if those are foolproof methods but I have yet to rip off any major holds on sandstone climbs. Sometimes you have to dig down a little to see if there's moisture. Also if it rains for a long time or you have really moist days, or snow that sticks around on the rock, you may have to wait longer. Cloudy days or climbs in the shade don't always dry out as fast. I know it can be a pain but it behooves everyone to err on the side of waiting too long otherwise those sandstone climbs will turn to junk.


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By Cpt. E
Jan 6, 2010

Hey Kenny- The stuff up at east animas is particularly sensitve to fragility after rain/snow.

That being said, the climbers that frequent that area are even more sensitive to the issue.

yeah, you can tear holds right off the watch crystal if its still moist, and it seems to hold the wetness longer than other kinds of sandstone.

its happened before, so it doesn't surprise me that you were nawed on....


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By IanA
From Durango, CO
Jan 6, 2010
Durango Bouldering Guide Cover

+1 on what Capt. E said. But to add to it this includes all Durango sandstone not just East A. If its wet climb inside if its snowing go ski or ice climb.


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By J. Thompson
From denver, co
Jan 6, 2010
Trundling a death block. Photo by Dan Gambino.

Shawn Mitchell wrote:
I think of Eldo as half-baked.



Taken out of context just to remind the senator that there are goofs out there.....
Shawn...did you back the Medical Marijauna laws 2?

Cheers my friend!

josh


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By Tradster
From Phoenix, AZ
Jan 6, 2010

We have some nice, dry sandstone down here in AZ in Sedona. Saddle up and come down for a nice visit.


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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Jan 6, 2010
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wall.

Thanks Josh! If someone is going to butcher my quotes into insults, aiming them at locations or inanimate objects is better than unleashing holy hell at puppies or school teachers or something. :)

Nah, I'm doobious (heh) about medical pot. The debate and its advocates feel like a mass movement of anti-prohibitionists to make it pretty much universally legal and accessible. If that's the case, then let's just have that debate and make that decision. Better than creating a bureaucratic exception that spawns a whole "medical" industry based on an institutionalized lie and flaky prescriptions and what not.

Cheers to you too!

EDIT: I think there are some people with real suffering that can benefit from pot. I think their needs could be met by adjusting the regular avenues of medical prescription. But this whole cottage industry/garage supplier thing is just legalization in drag. Let's do it or not.


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By Greg Twombly
From Conifer, CO
Jan 6, 2010
Edge of Time, Jurassic Park

As a climber it seems some sandstones are weaker after rain. As a geologist I dont know why. Sandstones come in many varieties depending on the sand it's made of. Sand from ground up rocks like volcanics, granites, metamorphics, even limestone and is called lithic arenite. Sandstone composed of well rounded quartz would be quartz arenite, and can be aeolian (from wind, like the Navajo), fluvial (from a river), or marine or mixed (like the Dakota). Quartzite is a pure quartz sandstone with a silica cement (originally the term meant metamorphic). Sandstones are held together with cements, which can be clay, calcite, iron, or silica. Lyons sndstone in the Garden of the Gods is an aeolian/beach sand with clay and iron cements. The Fountain Formation in Eldorado and the Flatirons is arkosic conglomerate with silica and clay cements. Silica cements are very hard, not easily water soluble, and shouldnt weaken after a rain. Sandstones that are much weaker after a rain, like the Dakota or Lyons, seem to have more clay cements so I speculate that the clays (which can take up water in their crystal lattices) are the part that weakens when wet.


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By Andrew Fulton
Mar 4, 2010

I know I'm a bit late on putting in my two cents on the subject of wet sandstone but I just joined Mountain Project and this is an important issue for my home bouldering area.

This winter has been a wet one here in Southern Nevada, good for the desert, bad for the sandstone. Not only have we had lot's of rain this season, but Red Rock Canyon has been covered with snow several times as well, and currently there is still lot's of snow on the north facing aspects of the canyons and the big peaks.

The boulders at Kraft Rocks definitely suffer from this winter's wet weather. It's not often that it snows on Kraft Rocks, but this winter the snow did make it that low at least twice. The sandstone at Kraft Rocks is wet right now, at the moment if you pull off a chunk of rock on some indiscriminate boulder, guaranteed it'll be moist at it's breaking point, even if the piece has patina on it.

Throughout this winter their have been many day's when the boulders have simply been out of condition, so on those day's I hike around Kraft Mountain. Several times on these day's when I thought it best that I not climb on the wet rock, I have encountered people bouldering at Kraft. Throughout my hike I always approach and politely ask individuals to please give the rock some more time to dry out. The "Pearl" is a fine example of a must tick problem and even with snow on top and at the base of the boulder people are trying to send, despite water dripping down it's face! There are some boulders that are okay to climb the day after it rains, such as aretes.

For the most part climbers are fairly receptive when I talk with them about the wet rock. I explain that the sandstone actually does not fully dry out in the winter, especially a wet winter, it appears to be dry on the surface but underneath it's weak. I cringe at the thought of walking up to the Pearl someday and seeing the flake that provides the key edge has been broken off. I don't want that day to happen!

During the summer you can climb as soon as the rock drys out, even after even the most torrential down pour the rock can be dry in an hour. But during the fall, spring, and especially the winter, the rock should be allowed at least a full day to dry out. But when it's been a wet winter, as has already been written, sometimes two to three days is what the rock needs.

I love Kraft Rocks!!!







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By John J. Glime
From Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 4, 2010
...

Andrew Fulton wrote:
I don't want that day to happen!


But it is going to. The sooner you come to terms with that the better...

Ah sandstone, it is made of sand, like sands through an hourglass so are the days of our lives...


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By Joseph P. Crotty
From Broomfield, CO
Mar 4, 2010
Maltese cross.

Malcolm Daly wrote:
... Any other observations from Eldo prancers? Mal


From experience I have broken a few Eldo holds over the years when the rock was moist and/or wet. Typically, this rock will have an ever so slight "grainyness" to it. Case in point, I broke off the bottom part of body sized upside down dagger that you use to lay away on a seldom done route up near Rincon. The dagger seemed super solid, but a bit moist and the broken piece was the size of my head.


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By ShaunG
From Petaluma/SF, CA
Jun 30, 2010
First day on. This is what it's all about.

I climbed on wet sandstone less than 24 hours after a storm in a climbing area in so-cal to remain undisclosed for fear of retaliation. This place is pretty well traveled and I was climbing under a popular overhang area and figured the holds were all dry b/c they were shielded from the rain. Sure enough this crucial bomber pinch hold exploded in my hand and I took a dump on my back. I was so freaked out b/c this hold was such a great one and I knew it would surely be missed. Lesson learned, really give sandstone time to dry. It's porous rock that absorbs much of the water that it comes in contact with. I won't be doing that again.


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By Dylan Colon
From Eugene, OR
Jun 30, 2010
Me fishing for gear on an onsight of Mung.  Photo by Gokul Gopal.

I went climbing two days after a moderate rain at Cannibal Crag at Red Rocks. We found that the north (shady) side of the boulder was still damp to the tough even after perhaps 45 hours since the rain, so we avoided it. The other side seemed totally dry but I saw some nonessential foot chips break on the lower slab, and was spooked about what would have happened if a hold on one of the cruxes had broken. Lesson: 36 hours is definitely still the red zone for soft desert sandstone. Give it two days at least for rock in the sun, probably three for shady crags.


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By Scott Grover
Dec 21, 2011

Kenny Miller wrote:
Last weekend, I got bitched out for climbing on sandstone 36 hours after a rain storm. I have heard that climbing on wet sandstone is not a good idea because the rock is weaker. So my questions are: 1. Is wet sandstone weaker than dry? If so, explain why. 2. If this is somehow true, how long is appropriate to wait for wet rock to dry?

36 hours should be good, as for question #1 it's already been answered.
A good way to judge, if the dirt below the boulder is still wet don't climb it.


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By Jake Jones
From The Eastern Flatlands
Dec 21, 2011
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.

Greg Twombly wrote:
As a climber it seems some sandstones are weaker after rain. As a geologist I dont know why. Sandstones come in many varieties depending on the sand it's made of. Sand from ground up rocks like volcanics, granites, metamorphics, even limestone and is called lithic arenite. Sandstone composed of well rounded quartz would be quartz arenite, and can be aeolian (from wind, like the Navajo), fluvial (from a river), or marine or mixed (like the Dakota). Quartzite is a pure quartz sandstone with a silica cement (originally the term meant metamorphic). Sandstones are held together with cements, which can be clay, calcite, iron, or silica. Lyons sndstone in the Garden of the Gods is an aeolian/beach sand with clay and iron cements. The Fountain Formation in Eldorado and the Flatirons is arkosic conglomerate with silica and clay cements. Silica cements are very hard, not easily water soluble, and shouldnt weaken after a rain. Sandstones that are much weaker after a rain, like the Dakota or Lyons, seem to have more clay cements so I speculate that the clays (which can take up water in their crystal lattices) are the part that weakens when wet.


Hands down the best and most sensible theory I've ever heard.


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By Wil Sterner
From Topanga, California
Dec 10, 2012

As a So-Cal sandstone climber I agree with the theory that has been said here a few times now. If the dirt that is underneath the climb is still wet the sandstone is probably still too wet to climb, I too have ruined a great climb.

As for a drying time, I think 36 hours is a minimum and I have seen sandstone that has taken weeks to dry.


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