A chance to scale new heights: Area boarding school offers students and introduction to competitive rock climbing

St. Andrews Sewanee Sophomore Anna Fox climbs during practice.

Possible good news for rock climbers who frequent climbing gyms: the chalk that enhances grip might reduce the chances of transmitting a virus. 

Rock and Ice, one of the sport's most popular magazines, has first reported a limited study by Britain's De Montfort University that found that plastics dusted with chalk and sprayed with a virus related to coronavirus had 99% few viruses on them than a control group with no chalk. 

According to a press release by the University said,  "there were some concerns within the climbing community around how chalk on holds may act as a reservoir of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19."

Research was led by a Dr. Katie Laird (Head of the Infectious Disease Research Group), Dr Maitreyi Shivkumar (Virologist) and Dr Lucy Owen (Postdoctoral Researcher).

The researchers said that measures such as regular hand sanitisation and social distancing should still be used, "but this extra factor should temper fears that chalky handholds could be vectors of the disease."

The release explained that a model coronavirus for SARS-CoV-2, human coronavirus OC43, was used for the experiments.

"The presence of infectious virus on a plastic surface dusted with chalk was monitored over the course of one hour. The results indicated that the amount of infectious virus was reduced by around 99% immediately upon contact with the chalky surfaces. By comparison, the control test where no chalk dust was present, showed only a slight decline in infectious virus over these time periods," it said. 

Climbing gyms throughout the Tennessee were closes during the COVID-19 shutdown. Sanitizing in climbing gyms holds is less straightforward than cleaning other types of gym equipment.

Climber's chalk, like gymnasts' chalk, is magnesium carbonate. Blackboard chalk is made of calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate in the case of pastel sidewalk chalk.  

Climb Murfreesboro has reopened with mask requirements and temperature checks prior.   

John has been with the Manchester Times since May 2011. He covers Lifestyles in addition to handling education reporting and general news assignments.John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories. John is a 1994 graduate of Tullahoma High School, a graduate of Motlow State Community College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. He lives in Tullahoma, and enjoys the outdoors with his wife, Mitsy, and his 17-month-old, Sean.

Staff Writer

John has won Tennessee Press Association awards for Best News Photo and placed in numerous other categories. He is a graduate of THS, Motlow and MTSU. He lives in Tullahoma, and enjoys the outdoors with his wife, Mitsy, and his 17-month-old, Sean.

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