I felt nothing, but the sound was sickening: A soft ripping. I looked up, mid-fall, suddenly not caring where my feet hit. My hair, ripped in half, now dangled from the quickdraw I’d just been next to.
It was an atypical December day in Rumney, not because I accidentally created the worse side-swept bangs I’ve had since sixth grade, but because it was snowless and unseasonably warm at 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Consequently, I’d thrown my hat off mid-climb as I began to overheat in the puffy I’d mistakenly kept on. Inevitably, my hands still numbed out on the cold rock, just now coming into the shade, and I fell. Unfortunately, the braid I’d tied six hours earlier and repeated stuffed into and pulled out of hats, hoods, and headbands had come half undone, leading to the side-swept bangs mishap.
DO NOT LET THIS BE YOU.
Instead, let this be you:
Here are some tips for those of us with shoulder-plus length hair to avoid unnecessary bald spots and unfortunate “bangs” while belaying and climbing:
WHEN IT’S WARM:
Start by tying your hair back in a ponytail, your favorite (man) bun, or single or twin braids. DO NOT use a side braid—this is a great way to accidentally suck the end into your ATC. To reduce end-of-the-day tangles, especially if you anticipate pulling up your hood while belaying or are wearing a helmet, go with a single French braid or a ponytail braid.
If you have bangs, wispies, or other pieces of hair that otherwise fall out of your hair tie, then pin back sections with bobby pins or use a bobby-pin-reinforced bandana or headband to hold them back (especially if you have fine, slippery hair like me).
WHEN IT’S A LITTLE CHILLY:
Utilize the winter headband. It’s just warm enough to take off the mid-forties chill without causing you to start sweating by the chains while holding back anything that might fall into your face on the ascent. My favorite, for snug, breathable, sweat-wicking comfort is the Skida Nordic headband. I still recommend tying your hair back in a braid, ponytail or bun before sliding on the band to protect your hair while belaying, but no extra bobby pins or headbands are necessary.
WHEN IT’S COLD:
Same deal as when it’s chilly, but this time go for the full hat. Make sure to pick one that’s snug enough not to fall into your eyes when you glance down at footholds and not so itchy that it becomes distracting. As above, I recommend still tying up your hair first to ensure its safety while belaying.
And, just to be safe, check your hair after you check your partner’s knot. There’s no reason to pull your hair out over a climb, let alone a belay.
Originally published December 28, 2015, on coffeetapeibuprofenclimb.blogspot.com.