Anti-climbing paint

IMG_1865.JPG The wall surrounding Oxford Castle has anti-climb paint on it. At least that is what this ominous sign warned me of as I walked past it late one Friday night while I was stranded under the ash cloud. Of course, the rock climber in me was tempted to climb the forbidden wall; a few seconds later, the cops were yelling at me to get down, and I had to apologize so they wouldn't arrest me. "What is anti-climb paint, anyway?" I asked them as I ducked away into the darkness. "Does it work?" After all, I did get up the wall without much of a problem.

The cops (who weren't really that mad) told me that anti-climb paint is kind of like pigeon glue; it has a long-lasting viscosity that makes surfaces sticky, slippery, and just plain unpleasant to perch on. It also sticks to human skin, so back in the day you'd be able to identify burglary attempts by checking the suspects' fingers. But, they said, "it might not be working anymore"; it's been a long time since people actually tried to break into Oxford Castle, which is now a tourist destination.


  1. In all fairness to Lisa, the sign doesn’t actually SAY not to climb the wall, just that a (evidently ineffective) preventative paint has been applied. It seems the Oxfordshire County Council isn’t working all that hard for you.

  2. I’ve touched this paint somewhere. It’s like tar crossed with pine sap, very sticky and difficult to get rid of.

  3. “Speed checked by Radar.” That one was always phoney unless there was a police car with radar out there on the highway.

    Back in the 60’s, it was a scare tactic that worked. People thought that they could be tracked and identified miles down the road.

    Now, with gps looming, it’s going to be a reality. Turnpikes punched a ticket when you entered one and if you turned in the ticket at the end of the run with too fast of a transit time…you got a ticket for speeding.

    Truck drivers are now getting nailed by their companies for driving too slow and taking too much time on the road. Some of them have gps tracking equipment installed and their companies are playing with their safety.

    Ok, I’m bored now.

    1. Actually, a good deal of trucking companies are tracking their drivers to make sure they’re not driving too fast. Schneider, for instance, limits their trucks to 62 mph via software. The reason is that fuel consumption goes way up as drag increases significantly as you speed those trucks up.

    2. Technology is already in use in Australis to do just this automatically. A gantry across the motorway (interstate) photographs all the vehicles going underneath it on the roadway. Clever computer technology identifies the number plates, and deciphers the numbers. If that vehicle goes under another gantry down the road before it’s time, a speeding ticket is automatically generated. There are gantries hundreds of miles apart. So a truck going interstate between Melbourne and Sydney – an overnight drive – might speed along the road, but if he goes under the gantry at the other end before the time he’d be going under if he was doing the speed limit, he can lose his driving licence.
      The technology was introduced to combat the problem of trucking companies putting unreasonable pressure on drivers to deliver ever faster. This resulted in drivers staying awake too long and using drugs to keep awake.

  4. My bouldering/buildering sense would have forced me up there as well, much to my wife’s dismay ;)

    Interesting to know, I had no idea such a thing existed. Nice to know that it doesn’t work all that well (and/or can be foiled)

  5. I also saw this sign in Oxford while trapped by volcanic ash! I had a similar urge to immediately try climbing the paint. I am glad one of us had the gumption to actually attempt this feat.

  6. You’re were lucky. The stuff does last for years and it is a complete pain to get rid of. Much better than a set of railings for putting off drunk students.

  7. It’s essentially paint that takes years to dry, and I think it was invented accidentally while a paint company was experimenting.

    It certainly makes climbing a little more difficult, as everything is slimy and not conducive to gripping, but it’s not too much of a problem.
    The main problem is that after climbing you will be covered with black, sticky gunk that is a right bugger to clean off.

  8. Also known as ‘Vandal Grease’, it seems to be unavailable in North America. I’d be curious if anyone knows a manufacturer who can actually supply it here.

  9. I totally love that you tried to climb it, that for me is the best part, too bad there aren’t stats on how many folks do

  10. #12 – probably not used here in the US any more since it’s carcinogenic. Not a big deal to the climbers who aren’t exposed to large enough amounts to add up really, but not cool to give painters leukemia y’know?

  11. I used to live in a public building and we had problems with people climbing on the roof to nick the lead.

    Funny thing was we weren’t allowed to put anti-climb paint on the building because it might cause accidents, but the most vicious razorwire I’ve ever seen was fine. Looked like the roofline was permanently decorated with silver tinsel!

  12. If you want to keep paint from drying add in a little bit of heavy motor oil (to oil paint, it’d probably just separate in acrylic).

  13. If they’ve got anti-climb paint on an obvious wall, I’d still be that there’s a more challenging (==fun) way in round the corner that won’t get you covered in gunk.

    @anon #6
    The French toll roads have had time based speed limits for years, you don’t need GPS, just a distance between the start and finish. The standard technique is to drive as fast as you like, then stop in the last service station before your exit and have a cup of coffee etc. until your average time is legal again.

  14. I was always really happy with the cops in Oxford when I lived there.

    Mind you, I’d just moved from Bradford in ’96, and I was a bit culture shocked by the whole thing. First sights out of the station were: a bus with a URL on it; a group of people of all creeds and colours walking along laughing; flowers in baskets along the street; and a police woman. Not just a police woman, but one out on her own without an escort or riding a horse or wearing a protective vest or *anything*. I’d have thought she were off duty or something, if she weren’t so obviously “proceeding” along the pavement. Then someone called out to her, she stopped and chatted and laughed with them, and my brain quietly exploded.

    Oxford was quite lovely.

    [Then I moved to London, and there as a fatal shooting, a two-gang shootout, two armed holdups and an armoured car heist within a block of my house within a year.]

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