Thursday 26 November 2009

My book is off to the printers!

Phew! At long last, I finally uploaded the files of my finished book to our printer’s server this afternoon. For the last month I’ve done absolutely nothing except work on it 12 hours per day and then train. So both body and mind are feeling a little raw right now. Thankfully, some climbing outdoors is coming next week. Anyway, the lowdown is I might have stock of the book available by the second week in December if the printer runs on time. I’ll keep you posted of course, but I’ll put it up in the shop for pre-order as soon as we hear our stock is on the way.

It started out as an idea for a fairly small book centred around a theme in my head that formed throughout my study of sport science, my own attempts to get good at climbing and coaching others. That theme was that people get lost in details and settled in comfort. In doing so they lose the perspective needed to see much bigger areas to improve their level with less effort. This idea was certainly the biggest single piece of learning in my head after my education in sport science. So my book communicates that as clearly and directly as I can, with thorough explanation of all the ways this plays out and interferes with climbers’ progression.

But along the way I could see I would be able to add a lot of the detailed answers to the questions that climbers keep asking coaches and each other about how to improve. So there is a lot of detail too - information, instructions and help with just about all of what climbers need to know to improve or break out of a plateau in improvement. 

My approach has been to directly point out the mistakes that climbers make in each of these areas. I can see that there are quite a few books out there now that list all the possible exercises and activities that climbers could conceivably use to help themselves. But there is precious little to help them choose between all of this, and I hope my offering will be very useful here.

In fact, the subtitle of the book is ‘navigation through the maze of advice for the self-coached climber’.

More on this shortly. In the meantime, it’s a day off for me...

New stuff in the shop

Some news from our webshop:

Echo Wall has been out a year now, so we’ve dropped it to half price. We’ll be selling the rest of our stock of the DVD at £10.

Mountain Equipment hats - Loads of you emailed over the past year to ask where you could get the ME hats that are never off my head when climbing. So after a bit of persuasion with ME, we’ve got some in red, black, yellow and various blues at £15.

Arriving hopefully any day is our stock of the new Welsh Connections DVD. I’m looking forward to seeing this myself, especially Mr  Robins on Liquid Ambar but also all the rest of the trad and bouldering madness from the best of the Welsh scene (Dawes, Davies, McHaffie etc..). We are taking pre-orders for it now at £15.

The other week we changed our postage charges to free for orders over £30. A bit later on we twigged it would be kind of handy if the various things we sell for £14.95 or thereabouts were actually a nice £15 for obvious reasons. So for example, now £30 gets you Welsh Connections and an ME hat or T-shirt and free postage to anywhere on earth. More sensible.

Sunday 15 November 2009

My own board report

Many of you have emailed or commented asking me to talk a bit more about my board and  the structure of my sessions. The details are a bit intense for some readers here, so I’ve posted a fuller version of this post on my training blog for those interested. The short version is that I have been using it most evenings after work and I’ve made really good strength gains in the past 5 months or so. I’ve also been almost constant on the edge of getting injured - climbing in there is pretty damn intense. I’m used to training for several hours at a climbing wall, so I’m conditioned to keep going. But 1 hour on my board equals about 2 in a climbing wall and 4 outdoors. I just completed a couple of projects on it I’d been trying for about 4 months which are in the wee youtube above.

It’s really kept me going since I’ve been writing the book. Btw progress with that is going great guns with 12 hours a day working on it. Right now it’s mid way through being edited. I’ll keep you posted how it goes...

Creag dubh on the Cobbler in '78

Paul Cunningham points me at another new youtube of John Cunningham and Creag Dubh club friends rock climbing in pretty wintery conditions on the Cobbler in 1978. What really struck me watching this was how dramatically rock climbing in Scotland was about to move on in terms of attitude, tactics and standard shortly after this. Just one year after this on the same cliff Dave Cuthbertson was making a massive step forward in standard with Wild Country at hard E6 6b (sparsely protected F7b or 7b+). This video really shows an end of an era of an approach to climbing, and the start of a completely different one.

Friday 6 November 2009


Last night, seemingly out of the blue, I felt stronger in training than I ever have. The reason, in hindsight is obvious. I’d just been doing one/two sessions 5 days a week for about three weeks, and my body was shredded. An enforced couple of days off due to appointments around Scotland last weekend barely even seemed enough to feel normal again. It sounds like nothing, but three weeks is a long time to feel no improvement, or negative progress, when you are giving it full pelt every single night until your upper body can’t face another move in the wee small hours.

We are totally hardwired not to think of the long term in this respect. It takes a bit of faith that it’s working. If I’d got too frustrated (which I nearly did) and taken some rest to ‘cash in’ too early, I would have sabotaged the kickstart for the body.

Last night, two boulder problems went down that I’d been trying for four months. They felt easy. Like nothing. Last week I spent a whole hour (a long time on a board V-hard with 60 second rests between tries) just trying to do each move.

I nearly saw of the hardest project I’ve set so far, got to the last move of seven and swung my legs about wildly in confusion, eyes practically drilling a hole in the board searching for the crucial foot hold. Except I’d taken it off the board and forgotten. Idiot. The next ten attempts to move No. 5 were fair punishment.

Progression is here

Just a note to say the Progression DVD stock arrived with us this morning and is in the webshop now. Sharma’s first ascent of Jumbo Love 9b in the states, Adam Ondra making 9a+s look like nothing, the young americans destroying the hard grit classics, Patxi Usobiaga showing you what training really means. Tommy Caldwell trying to take big wall climbing to a new level of difficulty (again) and all the rest of the jaw dropping bouldering we expect from a Big Up film. You can get it here

I’ll be finishing writing early today for my appointment with the DVD player before training this evening. The board better be ready. I’m expecting this film to get me very psyched!

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Learning to write big things

Right now I am writing a book. So far it’s been a fascinating learning curve for a novice book writer. I have written one book, which I give away for free (here), but I cheated and wrote that on the bus from Fort William to Arrochar and didn’t put any pressure on myself to see it as a book until it was finished. I’ve also written about a third of an ebook about weight optimisation (sounds better than control) for climbers on my phone. I might try and finish it on my phone just for the novelty!

But this time round I’m putting a bit of pressure on myself, not just to finish it, but finish it quickly. I’m about a week away if I was locked away in a room without distractions. But unfortunately my computer serves me up distractions constantly. At least the Scottish autumn doesn’t serve too many good weather distractions. And one hour on my board equals four on the crag.

In school I felt sick at the thought of 2000 word essays. Project climbing taught me how to ride the wave of those random days when inspiration and energy coincide and make a jump of progress. It also taught me that even the bad days when everything felt ten times harder than it should resulted in valuable progress, but you only realise it in hindsight. So I’m lucky that my background has given me a lot of advantages for getting it done. 

Both my blogs got me past that awful feeling of sitting down to write and staring at a blank page for two hours. The medium tends to teach you how to just say what you need to say. My emerging book is turning out like that, which I like. It’s also arranged a bit like my blog - point by point and easier to digest than a massive chapter. Easier to write too, so it should be with you soon. 

Thanks to everyone who’s asked about it - I’ll talk about it plenty as soon as I’m done writing. For now I can tell you it’s called ‘9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes’. It’s a book about improving at climbing, but it does what all the others don’t. The books out there at the moment lay out all the possible ways and exercises to improve in front of you. They are the map. But nearly everyone gets lost and strays off the path. So my book is the compass - it shows you how to navigate through the sea of possible improvement activities and how to decide which ones you need to focus on, and which are the big priorities to keep in front of the smaller ones.

Talking of training for climbing books - The best thats out there right now is still The Self Coached Climber. I reviewed it ages ago on my other blog. But I realised it was crazy I wasn’t selling it myself, especially because you’d get my free book How to climb hard trad with it which is obviously compliments it quite nicely. So I am now, here.