Thursday 26 February 2009

Knuckle Down

That has been the mantra of the month. The amazing freeze of the highlands last month has been replaced by a bit of a miserable thaw and damp weather. These things work out in good timing sometimes.

It’s less than a month until I move house and working super hard and saving every penny has been the main thing to worry about. It’s worth worrying about too since a couple of unexpected setbacks have meant I’ve needed to drop some other plans and work even more than I expected. The recession bites! Must bite back...

The prize though will be worth it. A good place to live for Claire and I, and my own personal domestic dream of having space for a training board in my house for the first time. Good motivation to work hard.

The great thing about working is that there is also plenty of time for uninterrupted spells of training after work. The ratio of elbow rehab:training time is lurching gradually in favour of training, and as is normal for coming out of an injury I feel pretty good and strong.

Between showers (week long ones) I caught the Glen’s boulders dry and returned to the roof sloper project on the Heather Hat. I finally managed to stick the second sloper after a million tries last winter. A good feeling to have made irrefutable strength gains. This for me is one of the feelings from training – new possibilities, where before it was the same old impossibilities.

So it’s another month of hard work, hard training and putting in the hours for payback later. Such is the way with creating good stuff – the long slog in the middle between starting out and the end is the hard, but crucial bit.

Some stuff happening right now:

I’ve been writing a series of introductory articles for the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s site and magazine on improving at climbing. They are focused very much on concepts that apply to everyone from beginners at climbing to those who have been climbing for years. The articles are here with more to come in the next few months.

On Tuesday (March 3rd)I am in Leeds giving a lecture on risk, climbing and Echo Wall. I’m giving this lecture again on March 8th in Aberdeen as well as a talk on improving at climbing. Details and tickets for these here.

Claire has just finished editing the showreel for this year’s Fort William Mountain Festival which is a couple of weeks away. It’s got the best bits of many of the films showing this year. I’m lecturing there on Thursday March 12th. Check the showreel:

Friday 20 February 2009

Claire nominated for a Bafta!

I got home the other day to find Claire on the phone looking very cheery. Turns out it was Bafta Scotland on the phone saying she had been nominated for best director in the Bafta new talent awards for Echo Wall. Both of us were fairly dumfounded by this news to say the least.

It’s brilliant though that the quality and commitment of Claire’s work on Echo Wall has been recognised at such a high level. Claire has been creative all the time I’ve known her. But with Echo Wall she did what most others wouldn’t manage, she took it to another level by shooting footage that was extremely arduous and ultimately frightening to get, not to mention a year of long days and nights of work and all our savings and earnings to turn it into a finished film. I’m really pleased for her.

So next month the kilt will be coming out for the Bafta ceremony in Glasgow!

Friday 13 February 2009

New Lectures in March

Claire and I have just organised some extra lecture dates in March, presented by Mountain Equipment:

March 3rd: Leeds, Mountain Intelligence. Safe is Risky lecture 7.30pm. Free beer! 

Full details and online tickets at my lectures page or at the Mountain Intelligence store.

March 8th: Aberdeen, Transition Extreme.

5pm – Training for climbing

7pm – Safe is Risky

In ‘Safe is Risky’ I talk about my two year preparation for climbing Echo Wall, centred around how my attitude to risk in climbing and life developed and allowed me to be 100% sure I was ready for the hardest trad route in the UK.

The lecture on training for climbing will be my first of this type. Many years ago when I’d not long started climbing I heard that the famous training guru Marius Morstad was giving a lecture on training for climbing at the Kendal Mountain Festival. I had to go to it! It made me go to the festival for the first time and I loved hearing what Marius had to say about a subject I was massively interested in. So now I’ve been immersed in this subject ever since I’m going to try and do something similar and pass on the most important elements that I’ve seen help climbers continue to break into new grades as the years go on.

There won’t be too much about tweaking the fine details of climbing training (because these only become important for the very few). Instead I’ll be talking a lot about how the attitudes, influences and habits you bring to climbing play out in how you improve at it, in lots of unobvious ways.

My aim with this talk is to pass on a useful insight for any climber, beginner or expert about how there is a linked chain right through from your general approaches to the changes in muscle that make you stronger otherwise. Most climbers don’t ever get good because they start in the wrong places and head in the wrong directions or get stuck in cul-de-sacs. I’m hoping to make the subject a bit easier to navigate.

There will be some time at the end to ask specific questions you have and I’ll be around all evening if you want to ask things. Tickets for both the training and Safe is Risky lecture are £8 or £12 for both. You can buy your ticket online from my lectures page here or from Transition Extreme.

But before all that a wee reminder I’m in The Cragg climbing wall next Sunday Feb 22nd doing technique masterclasses during the day and Safe is Risky lecture in the evening. Full details at the lectures page.

Catch you there.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

North West adventures

Ben Nevis looking chilly. I should have been bouldering instead of taking pictures, but it was baltic!

I have been in the north west with Blair. I was keen on a look at the uber hard lines on Ben Bhan. In a scene rather typical of our most frustrating climbing discipline, we waded through the deep snow in the dark to arrive at the giants wall to find all the snow had been neatly blown off the wall by the northerlies. Damn it! That it would be too cold, too warm, too wet, too dry, too windy, not the right kind of wind, not the right kind of snow or other such reasons is nothing new to anyone who tries to do hard Scottish winter climbing. The harder grade you want to climb, the harder it is to catch the climb in good condition.

Sunrise on Ben Bhan

Blair eyes up Giants Wall, Coire am Fhamair

We went for a nice jaunt on an easy route instead (the Fowler classic Great Overhanging Gully VI,7). The aerobics of swinging tools and pulling in ropes all day was good therapy for my creaky elbow, compared to pulling on a Font 8c project in minus 4 conditions the day before. The scenery of the highands has been quite amazing of late though, especially at night with clear skies, full moon illuminating the snow buried mountains in strange light and all the lochs frozen over with temperatures down to minus 18.

Blair ventures up Great Overhanging Gully, VI

Sunrise on the Skye Cuillin

A nice looking piece of ice in the distance - lets check that out!

Next day we headed for Sgurr a Chaorachain, hoping to find some ice. And some ice we found. A lovely hanging fang, unclimbed. I grunted my way up overhanging rock towards this and found a nice body wedge behind the fang for some claustrophobic respite. I forgot my ice screws so a sling around the middle of the fang was the only protection to pull round onto the front face of the fang. Leaning back and eying this up from a seemingly secure placement in the ice, I was relaxed and looking forward to blasting up the ice above. All of a sudden the chunk of ice around my axe decided to part company with the rest of the icicle and I went flying. It was all over before I could blink but my sling held and I suffered only a bash on the arm from the bottom few feet of the fang which broke and hit me as I swung in. 

Next time there were no such antics and I blasted up the headwall of ice to bag a nice new grade VII. Every time I go to the north west I see so much more to do. It’s quite amazing how few routes have been done on the cliffs there. The question is, will I be good enough to climb them?

Jerry's Revelations

One of the nice things about running my webshop is that I can choose exactly what I think are really cool films or books that are worth reading or seeing for climbers. Something I got pretty excited about was Jerry Moffatt’s biography which is just out. Of course I read everything Jerry wrote in the climbing magazines and watched all his films when I started climbing. It was pretty obvious to me then, even as a youngster that Jerry was who he was because he had something a bit different, a bit more. It was the single minded determination that helped him overtake everybody else, and then stay at such a high level through the injuries and upsets that would knock most other athletes down a few pegs. 

Reading stories like Jerry’s are always inspiring because it reaffirms what can be done with the right attitude, and just how critical attitude is. I just got my stock through yesterday, so I haven’t read it yet. When I do I’ll get a review up. In the meantime, if you are as keen to read this as I am, you can get it in the shop here.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

New possibilities

With my elbow demanding another rest day after recent exertions I cheered myself up after work by looking for new projects in the glen. As usual, it came up with the goods, in the shape of this strange cave. It's actually quite a well known cave, but I'd assumed it would be of the damp and unhelpful type. It actually turned out to have a bone dry and weatherproof roof with a rather nice ships prow feature in it. I worked on this today, seems maybe V12 although I couldn't do the first two moves just yet.

I also went back to this daddy boulder I'd looked at some years ago and was biding my time before feeling strong enough to even try to climb on it. There are some easy things to go at here too V0-V4, but the main event are three projects that all look between V11 and V14.

Today I had to be careful as my elbow is inflamed and complaining because I've stepped up my training a little too early and not been disciplined enough with rehab. BTW whenever I talk about my own injury rehab on my blog many of you email to ask for advice on the subject. I've been working hard on a book about this and getting through it. I will of course be shouting about that as soon as it's ready which won't be too long.

Sunday 1 February 2009

For Sale - our house!

Claire and I are hoping to move up the road, so we are selling our house. There are some pictures of it below but the full schedule pdf is here. We are looking for offers over £75,000 for the house. It’s a one bedroom cottage in excellent order.

It’s been a great place for us and we enjoyed getting up every morning to the view up Glen Nevis and seeing it and Ben Nevis change through the seasons. We are not moving far ourselves, just to another place nearby.

We really enjoyed this view from the living room glass doors through the seasons.

Meall an' t Suidhe appearing through the clouds, Ben Nevis still hiding behind and the river Nevis catching the light through the trees.

The forest directly across the river from the house is pretty stunning in autumn. This is also taken from the living room glass doors.

Full schedule and house details here