Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Tipping point

There must come a point in your climbing 'career' (Is there something presumptuous in calling it a 'career'? Climbing isn't a career, it's fun) when you stop getting better, and start getting worse?

From an athletic point of view there's definately a peak physical fitness age, when one can be the most beastly, but with climbing its so much more than beastliness (or should be). Perhaps that's what keeps us interested? Such a complex activity - so many facets, variables, opportunities and things to get wrong - its rarely just a simple question of strength (although be under no illusion, that helps).

I wondered whether i had reached my tipping point. I'm sure I used to be better on the board, more bouncy, better at comps and so on. But on consideration - i don't know that that is the case. I haven't been on the board as much as i used to go on it - I've been out rock climbing. So I might not be as strong, but am I a better climber? possibly (hopefully!). I think I've done more things, and I feel more competent, but where in the past I would have done some reet hard moves to get up something hard, now I have to climb it more efficiently. Within us all there is a ceiling limit of how good you can be with the resources (time, genetic muscle makeup, ability) we have. Or is there?! I'm all for boundless optimism, but realism creeps in, undermining my aspirations of burning Neddy off or doing one armers on the belay of Mecca!

Ah Mecca, Mecca, Mecca. Object of desire for so many, and more busy than the M62 on a friday night just lately. What does one do when confronted by the prospect of sitting in traffic? One does something else and waits for it to calm down. Then I saw Char's video :

(Sexy guy at 20m - for 10s)

and that got me all psyched to go on it again! It's a cool route, and I dont like to leave things undone. But I dont lie awake at night thinking of the moves on it. That I think is because its already turned into too much of a siege. I should probably have gotten my head down and sorted it out already, but for various reasons - time, skin, fitness, child, fear - I've so far managed not to do it. But, watching the above, and being reminded of what I consider the halcyon days of limestone sport climbing, has made me want it again. 

Perhaps because of my advancing years my project desire (i.e. the drive to get stuck into projects) has been tempered by a love of getting to the top! what I mean here is that I like doing hard moves, but I like succeeding more. So whilst I would like to climb 8c, i recognise that the effort required to make that happen would detract from the fun i could be having climbing more temperate things. Maybe then, this is the tipping point? instead of getting on dead hard things with blind optimism, maybe now I'm more realistic in my goals???

Friday, 24 May 2013

The curse of being too into climbing

All these people desperate to work in climbing or do something to do with it for a job - don't you get bored? doesn't everything always being about climbing all of the time get to you? It's nice not to have all your eggs in one basket. When you see young punks strutting around the climbing wall, 'cock o' the wave', and they aspire to being outdoor pursuits instructors - i always think - what's your exit plan though? i mean, do you still see yourself doing it at 50? I don't know, I obviously haven't and don't do that job, so maybe its great and really fulfilling, but its not something that immeadiately appears to tick all the boxes.

Then there's roped access. The preserve of the hard core rock jock, but again - do you really think after a 12 hr day on the ropes you're gonna be bustin out the big moves on the wave? Its gruelling dirty work, often with a few hours drive at either end of a day. Malcy famously would still train after the day described above, but this is Malcy we are talking about - one of the most driven dedicated human beings, with a proven record in hard work. Certainly, rope access isn't for everyone.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do these things, or that they are worthless careers, just that you should go into them with your eyes open. Be realistic about your prospects and what will make you happy. You're a long time at work, so doing something you hate just because its not office based is a mistake. Whats so bad about the office anyway - at the end of the day, at least you're gagging for action! Of course, most of the time people slip into these things because they think that they will make them happy which may or may not be true.

I have created a chart of climbing occupations ordered by desperateness :

  1. Roped access worker L1 - the lowest of the low, grinding out the hours, being the lackey for the L2 and L3 workers. Considered by everyone to be a goon. 
  2. Climbing Wall reception slave - face of the climbing walls, to the punter you are cool because you made the choice to work in climbing, but you're bored.
  3. Climbing Instructor - see above. You stand by miserably as legion after legion of bored children come through having to feign enthusiasm
  4. Gear shop worker - you still have to talk to punters. Its hard work. You have to talk to punters again. limited scope for drinking tea. 
  5. Roped access worker L2 - still hard dirty work, but with measurably more standing around and drinking tea. 
  6. Climbing wall cafe slave - in my day this meant covered in chip fat, hung over, in a hot broom cupboard and able to see your mates having fun through the window, but nowadays it means baking nice cakes and looking at the internet, hence its position in this list. 
  7. Climbing wall manager - You get to do all the hard work the wall owners dont want to do, but there are a lot of perks. Plus, you get to boss 2, 3 and 6 (and possibly 4) about. Long hours, and do you really want to stay at work after youve finished doing rock climbs? 
  8. Route setter - Hard work, you get to be a virtuoso and some people will actively hate you because of your work! 
  9. Roped access worker L3 - standing around, drinking unfeasible quantities of tea, telling people off. Still grotty, and long hours. 
  10. Climbing film maker - Your fastidious nature means you spend hours agonising over the detail, but then the goons will scrutinise your work, so you need to. 
  11. Roped access trainer - sitting around, drinking unfathomable quantities of tea, eating biscuits, paying for Alex Puccio's internet and telling people off on internet forums. Oh, and running climbing soft goods companies on the side
  12. climbing soft goods manufacturer - you work really hard, but dont have to do too much goon liason, and besides - you are Ben Moon, so none of this matters, you were the best in the world! Go and look at that picture of agincourt again. 
  13. sponsored hero - you get to go climbing all the time, but everyone always expects you to be on it, and then you have to go to boot demoes and talk to people - Pretending that you care that they want to do their first 7a this year.
  14. Gear rep - you drive around the country in a fast car someone else has paid for, getting to go to the gear shops and burning their staff off on their projects. A young single man's job (excepting Paul Craven ;-))
  15. Climbing Wall owner - the cream of the crop. 

Right, i think i have offended nearly everyone there. Back to work

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Winter round up

Often, in quiet moments on the motorway/toilet, I think to myself - I really should write something on the internet. By now though its almost been so long that any post would be a massive rambling monolog which you don't want to read, and I don't want to write. And besides, why should I write anything? that was always the good thing, I didn't have to do it, there was (and is) no agenda, I can say whatever the fuck i want. Or not. The thing with the internet is that you get out of it what you put in. If you lurk quietly reading things, you've invested your time, and you might come away with some knowledge (which may or may not be lies), but by contributing you get so much more back. In my writing this its an ordering of thoughts, and a bit of catharsis. Putting some things down so they get out of my head. The thing is you see, that if I dont write anything, the thoughts and rants still happen, they just get internalised, and I have to deal with them. Why not share the pain?

So then, lets get to it. I had said i wouldn't go to Switzerland this year, and so as expected, when the boys booked their trip i was jealous. Bendy challenged my reasons for not coming, and i had one of those epiphany moments where you think 'actually, yes - thats a good point'. My reasons were that it wouldnt be fair to leave her with the boy whilst he didn't sleep through, only he pretty much does now. I opened negotiations, and because whilst she wasn't back at work - it kind of made sense to go. So, i find myself with a month to train, suddenly about to go on a trip, fat and weak and pudgy after christmas. The last time we went, noone had been able to get out for weeks because of the weather, so we all had shit skin. This time I overcompensated, going buck wild and grinding sheets of skin off in the process. And that's where plans started to become unravelled. On the Thursday before we flew out on the Saturday I went to Earl - possibly the sharpest grit crag in the uk, and it was a bit damp to boot. Then on the saturday night after we had arrived, I applied Uncle Hydral to my already thin dry skin.... If you're not slapping your forehead with your hand now, you should be. First day, we go to Cresciano. I get two deep fissure splits in the pads of both index fingers. On the first day! Major error. Still, you live and you learn hey? We did some fun rock climbs, had a nice trip but really truly and deeply, i didnt come back having done what i wanted to do. However, i believe you only loose out if you choose to think that you do. I prefer to look on the bright side. I got close to doing something i really wanted to do, and did some cool climbing and had a nice time. The end.

Got back, did Famous Grouse. Felt dead hard, hilarious video on Faceache with gravity defying leg flick. Nearly did Walk on by, but nearly is nowhere, and ultimately I didn't. Got quite excited about art of white hat wearing, but also came away empty handed. That was a problem where I got to the top with one plan in mind, only to realise that there was no way it was going to work.

Started trying Ben's groove sit at caley. Left it too late in the year to get on that one really, and although thought i was gonna do it, basically climbed up to the crux, fell off, then could do from there to the top. i.e. i didn't actually do the move. Mina tried to rope me in to careless. Blew her out to go on WoB with Neddy. That was the day she did it! error.

Went snowballing which was cool, but lets be completely clear - you are still soloing, just from a bit higher ground. Remembered about wanting to do chip shop brawl just as the snow all went. Had massive revelation that the only reason anyone does trad is because its all piss, just a bit scary.

Finally, jasons roof. Mina did it in a session (good effort!). I went on a mission after work and thought it was 8b. Couldn't do some of the moves. Watched her video and slowly it came together. She climbs it really well. Went from not being able to do sections to having two overlapping halves, and then to redpointing, and to actually nearly doing it. Went back a week later, which was too soon. Skin scabbed over from the week before, scabs fell off, i bled and it was just too painful. Imagine the scene, Neddy, Jon Fullwood, Sam Whittaker and the Folinator all wanting to know what to do. I style out to the lip, getting to the jug but slipping off, and we all think that its definately on for me. Neddy then nearly flashes it. Sam and John pull it out of the bag, James forges a path, and I get out there another 4 times but never finish the deal! Beautiful walk out. John and Ned do a new problem. Neddy does sidewinder.

Have a week off from trying, to go to the county, where I finally manage Cubby's lip. The yorkshireman is still 8b. We go to Hepburn, and I wish we had gone there first. Preparation H is possibly the best problem in the country! I wobble up Northern Soul which is super cool.

Manage to get back to crookrise the week after, and expect to smash Jasons straight away. Not so, still have to fight for it, and in the end when i do it, it takes its toll of flesh and I climb it really badly! you will see when i get round to the video. So now thats that, the end of the brown rocks (???). Pretty psyched for bolt clipping. we will see what the summer holds.