Thursday 31 January 2008

Training resumes in earnest

Claire recovers from an ice bashing session in the ice factor fridge. She is learning to ice climb for some activities we have planned...

A week of rest and treatment for a developing injury in my finger seems to have worked really well and training resumed with a vengeance this week after I got home from lecturing and coaching in Devon.
It felt really good to be training, like REALLY good. For sure it's like a drug sometimes, and I love it. I felt strong, healthy and psyched to be pulling really hard on small holds again. Unfortunately the inactivity last week has meant I have gained a little weight which I will have to reverse. That is quite a bummer seeing as Claire just made a batch of the legendary iced gingerbread (she blogged the recipe here).
A pleasingly large amount of it was responsible for fuelling the attempts on Ring of Steal during the summer, but then we were spending 8 hours a day at the crag. It doesn't work so well when you are spending 14 hours a day in front of a computer screen and only 2 hours hanging from your fingers.
Nevermind, in three days I have some time off work, and its snowing outside right now...

Thursday 24 January 2008

Fresh Snow this morning

Fresh snow falling today on Ben Nevis after a week of thaws. Don't worry another thaw is coming tomorrow : (

Recovery/research time

Last week I picked up a wee injury while training my fingers like there was no tomorrow. It was probably down to the fact that it already was tomorrow as most of my fingerboarding sessions were at about 2am when I was not at my sharpest. Just a niggle though I’m hoping and it seems to be ok after a bit of cold water and a long warm up.

Claire and I just had a jetset trip to Birmingham where I was coaching and lecturing. It is always a full on experience meeting psyched climbers back to back all day long. Very energising and great fun. The amount of energy expended during the day only hits you about three hours after lecturing as you drift into a sleep where you can literally feel your muscles recovering from the training. 7 hours continuous coaching followed by a 60 minute lecture is good training for the voice too! I blogged some general thoughts about technique coaching on my online climbing coach blog here.

Now I’m home and taking a couple of days rest this buys me much needed time to do all the research I need to prepare for my work in 2008. Yes I know it’s 2008 already, but I am rarely on schedule. I am learning all about film and publishing, and finalising plans to do some!

9b, the new 8a?

It's not hard to see that the internet is changing pretty fast. These days a lots of folks are using facebook instead of email to keep in online contact with other folks. But is it just me that finds facebook a bit of a pain to use at times?

I got an email yesterday inviting me to join a new social network site thats just geared towards climbers called 9b

It's quite similar to facebook, but i seems like potentially a nice aggregator of of climbing info and youtube videos of climbing. Good aggregation of stuff you want to see is the way forward on the web these days. Any site that does it really well is going to be big.

Maybe this one will do well, or maybe someone psyched will think of and even better way?

I hated school

I nearly got kicked out of school at 16 for truancy. I went to Dumbarton Rock and read for my exams near the end of term, in my bedroom. I stuck it out (just) and decided to keep going. I wish I had left earlier.

I don’t know if it’s the same everywhere, but the school system I experienced revolved around a very dangerous and wasteful system of dumbing everything, and ultimately, everyone down to conform and produce a predetermined product or result. The problem comes in that young people are people, not ticks in boxes.

It seems ironic, but the reason underlying my truancy (climbing) was the driving force behind my education. But it was stifled.

The ideals of school were ‘average is good’ and ‘different is bad’. They reasoned that if I wanted to do things a bit differently, then all the kids might expect to be able to do the same! God forbid. I certainly don’t have any easy answers for exactly how it should have been. Sure, it isn’t easy to educate a huge amount of young people with little resources. But here are some thoughts from my experience.

Before I found a focus, I was in the same situation as many kids. I went to school and sat in classes where teachers spent a big proportion of the time keeping order and not developing interest. I didn’t enjoy it, and even as a kid I could recognise there was much time being wasted.

Once I started climbing, and began skipping school, I was the opposite from a draw on resources. I learned by myself, eagerly. Where before it took teacher time and resources to force feed me learning, now I took it in as fast as I could with no additional help at all. In an ideal situation, school should have been a place that focused this energy, and facilitated even faster, deeper and broader learning. But my teachers were too busy trying to get me to fit the straightjacket to get near this opportunity.

That’s not so much of an indictment as a sympathy vote for teachers.

The solution for youngsters – skip school and go climbing? Of course not! Try lots of things and find something that makes you want to stay up at night and read about video compression algorithms for whatever you want to shoot and get on youtube or something, or training for climbing, or… – whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. If you can find the psyche, you will need the skills. Like pure magic, gaining them won’t feel like chores anymore. But until you do find that passion about something, keep turning up…

NB: When I use the word ‘passion’ to describe a level of psyche, I mean a level of commitment that makes a lot of the people around you think you are pretty strange. A level of psyche that makes you think this is normal behaviour.

The solution for teachers? Find a way to communicate the power of the ideas, rather than force feed the detail of a world youngsters can’t connect easily to. It is possible, even within the constraints of ‘the system’. If you don’t dig deeper to find a way to achieve it, who will?

Wednesday 16 January 2008

I found what I was looking for (I think?)

Today I went for an extended stroll in Glen Nevis with the Watson, after our arms faded on the Heather hat projects. John had explored the hillside before and wanted to show me a roof he thought might, maybe, possibly could be climbable. The whites of my eyes were showing as we approached. It looked fantastic. Indeed it might be too hard. But for sure I will spending a lot of springtime on this boulder, and a hard headpoint route I discovered nearby. Right now my list of boulder projects in the glen gets longer. But it’s a real psyche to find an uber hard one that looks only just possible.

The past weeks have been spent doing many deadhangs and pull-ups, with some gains in strength to show for it. Looking at these roofs made me feel weak again.

That was exactly what I needed.

See you in Birmingham or The Mill

Tomorrow we leave to travel south to coach climbing at the Creation centre in Birmingham and give a lecture on Friday (18th). There is still some space on the coaching clinics and the lecture is at 8pm. I’ll be talking about dangerous trad routes and perspectives on dangerous undertakings in general.

The following week (26th) I’m at the Mill in Devon coaching and giving a lecture in the evening. The details are here

See you there if you can make it along

Winter sun on the Buachaille

Saturday was a perfect day to be in the Scottish mountains; clear, snowy and windless. After working through Christmas I figured I could manage a days climbing and headed up the Coe to go and do Cubby’s big route Guerdon Grooves.

Everything seemed good, but as I started up the first pitch I quickly realised that underneath the insulation of snow water was running and the turf was not even pretending to be frozen. So I climbed down and we made do with a nice day outside and went home for tea and pull ups. Next time.

Entering Great Gully at first light

A large chunk of ice with a mossy hat that formerly resided halfway up the first pitch of Guerdon groove. The unfrozen moss was holding the ice onto the cliff, but seemed unwilling to support the additional weight of Macleod plus rack.

Kev Shields dondering down towards Alltnafeadh.

Ben Nevis looking good

Thursday 3 January 2008

Rediscovering the Glen

I’ve been getting excited about some bouldering projects in Glen Nevis right now. On the Heather Hat boulder I’d always looked at the nice line of slopers coming out of the right side of the roof. Years ago I’d climbed through the first rail and reached out to the lip. This time I managed it a bit more direct, throwing at an incut jug and taking the swing one handed with a staved thumb as the consequence of just not letting go. About Font 7c.

Now the challenge is to stick to the slopes all the way out. Seems like an 8a or 8a+ challenge right now but I still can’t complete one desperate pinching move in the roof. I’ve also been trying to leap horizontally for the good rail in the middle of the roof, at an even harder grade I suspect. Success on this will require the ability to do a dynamic one-armer whilst your body swings past underneath.

In between throwing myself across the roof I’ve been back beavering away researching for various projects for 2008. Lots of new things to learn.

Hey and as we start 2008 I should say thanks for coming to visit here in the past year. I’ll try my best to make this blog bigger and better again in 2008.

Claire's icy pics

Claire took some nice pictures of the deep frost that kept us somewhat chilly last week in Lochaber. There are some ore nice pics of the river Nevis frozen over on her blog.