Thursday, 27 October 2011

The 7a day

Dogged persistence may get you up projects, and whilst it feels great to do things you've worked hard for, its also important to have days without any prescribed agenda, days when you actually get to do some climbing and succeed without a battle. It's days like these when you remember what a fun experience climbing is, and when i find myself envying the casual punter, for whom this is the norm.  

These days are those where the light is good, the shadows long and the leaves not yet mulch. Rustling around between boulders, bantering with friends and actually succeeding on things. Feels good to be good at something. Going for a pint afterwards, scranning down crisps and eyeing the pork scratchings guiltily over the bar. The stings of the shower on fresh grit rash. Sigh. Its a good feeling as you slump into the sofa, tired but happy at the end of this perfect gritstone autumn day. 

People I have spoken to since seem incredulous that I could never have climbed at Rowtor, but I hadn't. Been for a walk, and been for lunch in the Druid, but never actually pulled on there. Armed with a selection of top three's from friends, I drove out to meet Dr Folog, Rupert, Sarah and mini-Rupert. The common factor in everyone's recommendation was yoghurt hypnotist, so that's where we started. 

Its an amazing place, Rowtor. Carved in the late 80's by a travelling hippy commune, temporarily kettled there by angry middle class villagers. There are caves, armchairs and drainpipes all carved out of the stone. Its a cool place for a wander around if nothing else. 

Yoghurt Hypnolog climbs a hanging rib beneath one such drainpipe, and whilst it climbs brilliantly, its a tiny bit elimanate as you could lurch to the drainpipe and avoid the difficulty. Can't remember the last time I actually did anything, so bouncing around excitedly having done it, I turn my attention to the off width on the right hand side. I am PWhiddy! I think to myself as I slide my leg into an overhead leg bar (bet they would have an actual phrase for such a move) and hang sans hands from it. Rupert is tired and cross, as he does all the hard bit of Yogalog and then fails on the mantle. James does the same. Baby Ru and Sarah play with leaves. I go to look at blood falls. 

Collect original team and wander off to Quine, and who should peer through the undergrowth than king of the geometries himself - Ms Lisa Anderson. Actually in the Peak district, and apparently climbing! oh, how having a lady friend has tempered this once virile firebrand - once was the time when he would have been glued to the board, fingers thrust into the shallowest of mono pockets, his girth dangling limply beneath him, but not now, no. Another great problem, get close but don't actually do it, then Lee leaves us and we move to domes. 

At first we have no concept of what is required, ultimately having to resort to looking at the picture in the guidebook, but that's no help, as it just has a picture of the Lord Wormsdale half way through the sitter. Eventually Rupert unlocks the sequence with what I can only describe as 'concept levitation'. I cannot compute the move at all, but eventually it yields to a wild slap. We try the sitter and conclude its very hard. The day is nearly over, we are all flagging and the dusk is drawing near. Nip to Short Sean's reachy roof, and the fatigue is clear in the honourable Mr Davies who looks beaten. We look briefly at that mantle thing which we all fail on, and finish on Blood Falls. Then the pub. Ahh the pub. Lovely. Its dark when we leave and I am late home. Great day.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Mecca Mucka

Time is only wasted if you think it so. If you look hard enough there's a positive spin to be put on any situation. You can choose to bang into metaphysical obstacles and resent them for being in your way, or you can seek teaching in your blunderings, learn from them and become all powerful. 

Certainly, when one is as incompetent as I, it pays to have such a positive (some would say foolhardy) outlook on life. You could look at yesterdays attempts to rock climb as another failure on the current route of my desires, you could say that you knew in your heart that whilst you were strong enough, that that wasn't the problem and that your fitness would let you down. You could say that you knew you had a split, and that that crimp would open it again, or you could look at the whole experience as being a chance to climb with someone new, to work out the cheating kneebars don't work for once and for all, and to be outside in the nature. 

Me and that lanky streak of piss Barrows went to the tor. When I got there he was already warmed up, so I put my harness on to give him a belay. The constant random prattling continued right until he stepped off the ground. Then I thought he was going to fall off the low wall - oh good, i thought, inwardly. I'm on full cruise control at that point, and could probably chalk and blow there. He won't do it before me. Jolly good. In a wild lurch he latches two tips on the very end of the gaston - oooh, he's off I think, but he isnt, he bumps in to the hold and carries on. Ah well, there's no way he can continue far after that start, and he doesn't. Gets a hand to the groove, fluffs it and stops. Fair enough. 

The prattling starts again, then with scant rest he sets off to the top, and rinses it. I wouldn't say it looks smooth, but who cares, he's done it in two sections with next to no rest. Its fully on for him. I'm actually quite excited. When I see these things (like when Ned does hard stuff) I find them really inspiring. Its like a reminder that it is possible to succeed. Anyway, its my go, so - all about me. I feel good, strong, its cold - best ever conditions i have been on the route, and as I get the crimp beneath the groove I feel good - I could do this today I think, I hit the horn - badly. I try to move my feet, the horn is really bad and I have to ninja footkick onto a hold which is not my hold, dammit! i try to jump my foot up but it all spings off and I'm airborne. Oh well. I look down at my hands and realise I have split an old not-quite-healed split again. In the words of Ben Moon - 'Dammmit!, i'm not gonna do it'....

The baton gets handed back to Barrows. A tense quiet hangs in the air. He sets off, makes it through the bottom a bit more convincingly and is soon facing the bottom of the groove. He slaps in to the wrong place, but it's what he meant to do, and then he rolls over to the horn - interesting. Then, quickly, he scuffs his knee into the groove and starts to shake out. Little shit! with his route fitness and tenacity, he's gonna be able to get enough back to do it! the knee comes out and goes back into the higher one, still looking good. He clips, stabs his foot on a smear and moves to the crimp - got it! nice one, then cool as you like gets set in the top egyptian and reaches over. At this point, visions of Stu's video of Rich Heap coming flying off are in my head, and he does look like he's going to, I brace myself on belay, but no - he's done it, reaches into the flake, clips the chains and doesn't even stop! no, he goes for a look at the extension first! good effort! 

The kneebars. Let's talk about the cheating low life knee bars - preserve of the weak. If I could get them to work i would do. The people who tell you they are cheating are either those who have invested their time and done it a harder way not using them, or who can't get them to work. I seem to be in the latter camp, so because i cant do them, I'm saying they're cheating. But i don't mean it really. You may say that that bolt scar wasn't there when it was first climbed, and maybe it wasn't, but the edge above was, and also - the horn was a shakeout jug. Just cos you did something a hard way - doesn't mean you get extra points, or that other ways are wrong. 

Ok, so - with a split finger i wasn't going to be redpointing today, but to be honest, I knew i wasn't anyway. I know I haven't got the endurance of a sea lion and I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it yesterday. I use the session, and a happy and willing belayer, to work out the knee bars. I have gotten into the groove and clipped a few times, so if I could then wack in this knee bar and milk it, well - i could be in with a chance. The first lesson is this - there's another foothold for the first kneebar. This makes it much more viable for me. And, its not the bolt scar. SO, I get the first one and am still a bit under tension - its not good by any stretch, but its also the most comfortable I have felt there yet. I step out and up to the top one. Now this is good, and I can comfortably get to the undercut pocket and the crimp. But, I can't get out. Which suggests I am still doing it wrong. I struggle on and try to work it out, but never manage to exit the groove using kneebars. Finally, to finish I have a go from the base of the groove with my old sequence, and piss it. It feels well easy. I think I just need to stick to that and face up to the fitness issue. 

We talk about training. He has done lots of it. I just go on the board. He tells me something I knew really, but that I needed telling. That if your training doesn't make you feel pumped like you do on your project, then its not the right training for your project. There are lots of different types of pump, and I haven't managed to replicate the powered out mecca feeling indoors yet. But, i will. Question is - have i time before it craps out?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


The problem with routes is that you get weak doing them. The problem with climbing boulders is that you loose fitness doing them. The problem with having a multitude of conflicting goals and aspirations is that you want everything at once - and you can't have it. 

Ah but you can - you just need time, inclination and propensity for hard work. The more immeadiate problem is the lack of people willing to still go bolt clipping. I've been wanting to get back to Cheedale, but news of hold breakage and potential wetness, plus it not being my primary objective have led to the realisation that it will all still be there next year, and that those rare moments where someone can be coerced into bolt clipping should now be focussed on Mecca until it really is undeniably shitstone season. 

I have to do Mecca before swamp donkey and before dylan gets back. 

However, with noone keen - I went back to Anston at the weekend, and the difference in my ability between a hot day at the start of summer and now was apparent. This, whilst it shouldn't have been, was something of a revelation. I thought I had been climbing allright. Not brilliant, but allright - certainly I thought I had done ok on the comp wall of late, so why doesn't it transmute - and that, dear reader - is the realisation. The comp wall, whilst fun, is about making big moves on reasonable holds. Its about body strength, and whilst that's what you need for comps, it isn't for outdoor rock boulderising. The board is. 

One person who seems to have leapt forwards is my celebrity belayer. There was once a time where I used to burn him off (happy days), then the next year we were about equal, then forever after he was ahead. At first a little, and now a lot. By god he is going well at the moment - there must be something in that moo moo shed. Ah well, surely I can bask in reflected glory as his training svengali agent and manager. 

Talking of celebrities, there was a rich vein of them at the Pritchard/Van der Meulen wedding a couple of weeks ago. Doyle and I were beside ourselves that we would be in the same room as Ben and Jerry, but the actual overlap was just 20 minutes, and we failed to sieze the photo opportunity. Ever the stalker of the visiting wad, I have since made it my business to foist myself upon visiting wads Alex Puccio and Chris Webb Parsons, both of whom seem very nice. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

The coaching scam

I know a little bit about hearts - there's more than one chamber, and some ventricle things, and even something called an 'Aorta'. So, I think i shall open a heart surgery shop. You can pop in at any time of day or night, and I shall minister to you with an array of tools appropriated from the kitchen. Roll up, roll up! Get your cut price heart surgery here! 

Don't think I should expect too many customers do you? It seems that if you do some hard stuff (or say you have) then you can set up a cosy little coaching business and earn upwards of £50 an hour to pass on your wisdom. Hang on, Hang on, let's play that back again, but ignoring the bit about lying, because that's another discussion entirely - I do some hard climbs, I'm a pretty good climber - well done me. I train myself to do them through endless hours on the board, campusing or whatever. Jolly good, SO, I must know a bit about training right? Not necessarily, no. You know what got YOU where YOU are and what made you able to do those climbs, but this doesn't mean you have studied sports science, understand physiology and can tailor training to another person. For the same reason copying training from PersonA wont make PersonB fit and strong. 

Its quite a dangerous precedent to set saying that anyone can deliver coaching, I mean - what about liability - could it be argued that bad coaching could be responsible for injuring a coachee? A coach doesnt have to be an 8B+ megawad, success alone does not a good climber make - over the years there have been many examples of people doing hard things through sheer bloody mindedness, and this whilst in some ways admirable does not a good climber make them. What I am saying, and what I want you to do potential coachee is look beyond first appearances and really think about who you are having coach you and understand why you think they will be able to help you be better than you are now. 

Just like all doctors dont need to be rippling adonis', so your coach doesnt need to have done harder climbs than you, but question what it is they can give you - why are they going to be able to help you be a better climber? In my head coaching should either come from someone who climbs beautifully and can explain themselves (i.e. is articulate), or who has studied and is going to help you build method into your training.