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Many Climbers have need to use chalk when climbing to reduce the effect perspiration has on their climbing ability. Either from the heavy workout or from any nervousness, hands tend to get slippery when climbing and one doesn't want to fall due to the fact that they can't hold on to the rock. Having a chalk bag attached to your harness is advised, especially for climbers who tend to have sweatier palms than others. The chalk absorbs moisture and dries out the hands, making the climbers grip more reliable. Chalk also ends up becoming a permanent feature of popular outdoor routes. Climbers that chalk-up heavily end up leaving residue from their hands on the best holds on a route, therefore marking it. This can either be a good or bad thing. Some climbers tend to be more "purist" and would rather "on-sight" a route (meaning that they climb it without ever seeing any other climber attempt it). Newer climbers, on the other hand, don't mind it because it gives them clear routes to follow.
Contributed by Molly Joyce