Rock climbing in Central Oregon for extended stays can really wreak havoc on the skin. The arid climate often means extreme temperatures, drying out the skin, and with a low annual precipitation rate, little vegetation exists to shade one from the sun. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun can lead to the development of multiple medical conditions, both acute and chronic. Sunlight in excess leads to sunburns, premature skin aging, and DNA damage. Genetic mutations, generated after the damaging load from UV radiation exceeds the body’s antioxidant defenses, in combination with the sunlight’s suppression of the skin’s immune system can lead to deadly skin cancers.[1,2]
Sun protection is an important part of any outdoor activity. Rock climbing specifically, has its challenges because preservation of the hand’s ability to grip rules out the effective use of self-applied traditional sun screening lotions. Sunscreens additionally require much more application, both in amount and frequency, than what is typically applied by most users. Many people within the rock climbing community also avoid chemical additives in conventional sunscreens, leaving organic based lotions that are especially difficult to handle. Included below, are five rock climbing safety tips to adapt to adequately prepare for a journey into the desert sun laced and geared up.
Begin your day early, or late when the sun is lower in the sky and the intensity of radiation is reduced. Hiking with the sunrise can not only provide protection from overexposure to sunlight but can also result in some spectacular views that make the four or five A.M. wake-up call worth it. Usually, in addition to timing, you must carefully pick your location to assure it will provide adequate shade. In the desert, the absence of many large trees means researching ahead to assure a shadow will be cast by the wall that you are climbing.
Wearing protective clothing is seemingly obvious, but frequently average outdoor enthusiasts are caught inappropriately outfitted for the conditions. One of the most important pieces of personal protective equipment is head cover. It is critical to find a sun hat with a brim that encompasses the entire circumference of your head and additionally covers your neck.
Take into account that a morning climb might also require returning during the hottest part of the day. Sunbathing can bring pleasure. In the early morning, it can bring warmth, and studies have shown that hormones like beta-endorphin, associated with pain relief, are generated as a product of UV exposure. Consider how much sun exposure you can afford knowing that the hike out might require a significant amount of exposure. Sunscreen application during this time is appropriate and will not interfere with your morning of climbing.
Much of the damage is reduced with the body’s defenses in the form of antioxidants. Studies have shown that supplementing powerful antioxidants such as vitamin C and E as well as other plant-derived antioxidants can help patients withstand larger doses of radiation without the development of sunburn.[5-7] Packing antioxidant-rich foods such as goji berries and drinking green tea is also an excellent idea.
After returning from a long day of climbing, include in your routine of skin and handcare, an application of topical treatments such as aloe or shea butter. A healthy meal full of antioxidants will also help to mitigate the oxidative load on the body from sun exposure. A tasty treat after you’ve depleted your blood sugar levels is cold watermelon, full of antioxidants that, when supplemented in studies, reduced the harmful effects of sun exposure.