Monday 26 June 2006

reality bites

I'm afraid I don't have much climbing to report of late, none in fact. I haven't been out climbing (apart from training circuits) for nearly a month which is the longest gap for about 8 years. It's been quite frustrating really, I hoped and naively expected that after climbing the hardest route of my life I might be able to climb more, not less. But anyway, my lack of work during my Rhapsody training has caught up and full time climbing, or indeed any climbing is a memory at the moment!

It's been a blessing though, a long break from mountains and cliffs is always good for renewing the psyche (and its WORKING!!!) and through nightly abuse of the fingerboard, I am gradually feeling stronger. Previous summers of fingerboard abuse have always been passports to high grades for me and these days my finger joints seem to be able to handle more punishment than ever. So we'll see what happens when I emerge pale faced from my flat in October, dragging huge forearms behind me... I wish.

My website is nearly finished so have a peek back here over the coming week and hopefully It'll be up. I've got some articles ready about dealing with training injuries, trainng, oh yeah and climbing.

Monday 12 June 2006

Why do YOU climb?

Rhapsody, attempt #3. A couple of seconds later I took a 70 footer. Its worth making sure you know why you do it!

Following on from my last post, knowing why you go climbing is a useful exercise not just for getting better at it. Climbing has so many avenues, shapes and sizes, sub-disciplines, whatever you want to call it. If you ask yourself often why you do what you do, you sometimes find out that you are in one field out of nothing more than habit or what your mates do, and would enjoy something else better. I like to put everthing I've got into whatever I'm doing (not just climbing) as much as I can. I think you can see this on my face in the photo above. So I like to constantly ask myself if I really want what I'm trying to get, because it is taking a lot of effort. Its also nice when people ask you why you climb, to be able to answer them well. So, could you make a list of your five top reasons for doing climbing? post them below! it would be cool to hear them. Mine are (possibly in order, but they change with my mood):

1. Advenuture (danger, exlporation and uncertainty)
2. Athleticism (movement, strength, fitness)
3. Beautiful places (like Scottish mountains, or just nice bits of rock)
4. Social (climbing is a cool way to meet other psyched individuals!)
5. competitiveness (I like the way it makes you push harder)

what are yours?

Saturday 10 June 2006

Training notes #1

I will post up some notes of mine on training for climbing as regularly as I can. You might be expecting some advice containing words like 'sets', 'reps' and other stuff to do with the nitty gritty of physical training. But there is loads of that stuff out there and most people go wrong for basic reasons rather than small details. So the first few posts will be general but hopefully a little enlightening before the hardcore stuff later.

Most of the training that makes us better at whatever we are doing happens in the mind. Its important to see thinking as training. The more you think about what you are doing, the more you tend to learn about it. The other really good thing about training in your head is that your mind takes much longer to tire out than your body – if you apply yourself, you can go very far in a short time.

So, the very first piece of training to be done when you decide you want to get better at climbing is to ask yourself “what for?” Why is getting better a good idea? Answering this question will probably be the hardest bit of training you’ll ever do, but believe me, if you can even nearly manage it, the rest will fall into place.

Unfortunately, only you hold the answer to why you climb and what you get out of it. But there are a few things you can do to help. Reading about the experiences and thoughts of other climbers in magazines and books can help you identify with things that motivate you like adventure, getting a buzz out of doing scary things or just hardcore cranking for the pure pleasure of it.

Different people see the rewards from doing any sort of endeavour differently. For me, the reason why its worth it to put in a huge amount of effort into getting better is because the reward comes from breaking barriers – making something that seems impossible, possible. Climbing motivates me because the barriers are obvious, in your face and intimidating.

When you are deciding why you think you would get more reward by getting better at climbing, its important to be able to separate out the different strands of your motivation. For instance, I enjoy the act of climbing because I like being in the mountains, I like working out moves, learning what moves I can do and how subtle they can be and many more aspects besides. However, these are not the aspects that make me want to get better, I only need to participate in climbing at any level to enjoy them. The aspects that drive me to get better are breaking barriers (as I described above), adventure (the buzz of not knowing if you can do something) and the process of physical training itself (the simple pleasure of using your body – I like to call it ‘athleticism’).

Not many people are very aware at a deep level what makes them train or climb. This makes them drift in and out of motivation. If you can get it clear what you’re in it for, you will never have this problem and can get on with the nitty gritty of chasing the rewards you are looking for.

Monday 5 June 2006

Undiscovered Scotland

Ok this one is for the climbers and the non-climbers. As one of the keenest rock climbers and new routers you will come across, you'd expect me to be surprised that more people don't take up climbing. But it really does! Now that summer is here and a LOT of tourists join me and lots of other year-round visitors to the highlands, I'm always wondering what all these people do to keep themselves occupied. Sure you could level the accusation that a 'pro' climber would struggle to understand the concept of just chilling out and letting the time pass in tranquil surroundings. I suppose that what holidays are for. Dont get me wrong, I know you only have to take a peek on Visit Scotland or suchlike to see that there is plenty going on in the glens these days, but I find (on the rare occasions I take a rest day and go into tourist mode myself) that most of these require money and sometimes defeat the actual point of driving northwards for hours; to escape crowds. Climbing is a 'basic' activity that doesn't need much in the way of special equipment or knowledge (for bouldering, scrambling, and sport climbing at least), but is high on interest and excitement. It has the crucial component of taking you into some adventurous and quiet places (to find the cliffs) that you wouldn't otherwise think of going to, with more unique experiences than you could fit in a lifetime. Walking and following flora and fauna of the outdoors are really the only other activities that can match climbing in this respect. But I'm sure anyone can understand why walking and wildlife trails might not be for everyone. You can experience all that they can offer on a climbing venture, but also the excitement of climbing something of any shape or size that suits your abilities and disposition. You can have long and scary, short and safe, hard and athletic, remote and wild - whatever. Look at the picture above. It's a nice view. But through a climber's eyes it's a thousand corries full of big cliffs, little cliffs, classic routes, unclimbed routes boulders and above all interest. So why don't more people do it? I guess we aren't shouting about it, we are too busy doing it most of the time.

PS if you dont climb but want to see how easy it is to seek out and climbs a lot of nice climbs in the wildplaces around you, have a look through Stone Country

Sunday 4 June 2006

slapped again (yesss!)

big roof, tiny holds. hardcore.

Cassidy on Shadowlands 7b+
A bit of Friendly Fire 7a

Its great to be back into the Anvil's horizontal landscape of roof projects. Getting slapped around by projects is the best part of the whole process. It's exciting to see if you can turn a line of miserable holds into a solid sequence you might grunt through with a pump on, one cold day sometime in the future. The Anvil seems to be upholding it's reputation for providing a good slapping and a hardcore workout to all comers - it's reassuring it's not just me having a hard time. Another repeat of shadowlands by Cassidy who rated it. And Consensus is definitely that Spitfire is Scotland's best 8a. Roof project number two was seeming more like 8c today, but at least number three went down a notch from 'ridiculous' to 8c and the (exquisite) moves done. I crimped until my fingers felt like they'd been stamped on. Good day. Tomorrow I'll pull on some slightly bigger holds on a huge prow I've seen from the road. Tweedley tells me it's 'Dalriada the 2nd'. But this one might actually be E8. I hope so, will let you know what I find.

Thursday 1 June 2006

Nice little find

Akita Boulder (NC 203 577)
This superb gneiss boulder sits below a small outcrop on the headland south of Oldshoremore. Steep on three sides with excellent quality, clean rock, crimpy and powerful climbing. The landing is assorted rocks which is great for keeping feet dry but not so nice to land on so a big mat is useful. Approach: Turn off for Oldshoremore and take the left hand fork immediately after. Follow this to the end of the tarmac and park in a small lay by. Ascend the slope above the road and walk due south, crossing a couple of faint ridges crowned by curious small erratics. The boulderfield and outcrop above is obvious in a small valley not far above the shore. 15 mins.

1 90’s Rock Font 6b+ ***
A first class problem taking the steep crack and right arête, starting from the obvious incut jug. A little scary at the top.
2 Project about Font 7b/c.

3 Something Worth Crimping For Font 7a **
The leaning wall left of the arête. Sit start as for Kobi then move left and crimp your way up the wall. Superb.
4 Kobi Font 6b+ *The arête. Sit start using a nice undercut. Pull past the good jugs and make a couple of thin moves.
5 Akita Font 6b+ *
Just right of the arête. Sit start as for Kobi, reach a small pocket and finish directly.
6 Growlers Font 6c
Start as for Akita, get the pocket with your left hand (more difficult) and finish rightwards.
7 Rubbish Guard Dog Font 6b+ *
Low sit start on good crimps. Lock off for a good incut and continue direct. Only 6a+ starting at the incut.