I heard that Kevin Jorgeson used Super Glue up on the Dawn Wall. What for? Was he gluing his mitts to the wall?
—NTS, via rockandice.com
Anyone except Jorgeson or Tommy Caldwell would need to glue their
hands to the rock to free The Wall of Early Morning Light, but neither of them used glue for that purpose. They instead used KrazyGlue, a
type of glue you can brush on, to hold finger tape down, and for minor finger repairs such as closing splits or attaching a flapper.
Climbers have used Super Glue in this way for at least 20 years. Super Glue is an acrylic resin that rapidly hardens when it contacts bodily fluids, making
it a great body glue. The principle component in the glue is either methy-2-cyanoacrylate or ethyl-2-cyanoacrylate. Neither has been tested to determine
whether it causes cancer or affects reproduction. A report by OSHA does note that both chemicals have low toxicity, and are mostly skin irritants.
Super Glue was used during the Vietnam War to close wounds—though never approved by the FDA because of its unknown toxic effects. A safer-for-humans
version was eventually approved as medical glue, and is sold under the brand names SurgiSeal, Dermabond, GluStitch, and Surgilock, among others. Costing
over $200 for the glue, I doubt any climber would consider these.
Instead ... there is Vetbond, basically the same glue, but packaged and sold for use on animals. Vetbond costs about $12 on Amazon, and has N-butyl cyanoacrylate,
the same ingredient in the human version, GluStitch. N-butyl has been noted as “safe” for medical use by the National Institutes of Health.
Some climbers do—wrongly—think that Super Glue is safe while KrazyGlue is poisonous. Actually, they are the same, using either methy-2 or ethyl-2
cyanoacrylate. Personally, I don’t want either of those swimming in my bloodstream. The ingredient in Vetbond, meanwhile, has no known toxic effects,
unless you count an insatiable urge to chase tennis balls. Next!
This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 225 (April 2015).