Tuesday 25 May 2010

Recent good stuff that happened

This week I’ve had a good lesson in making goals. On the whole I’m absolutely terrible at achieving goals. I get by with looking to those who don’t know me that I’m actually okay at making goals because of two workarounds: I have lots of goals, I work really hard and I work all the time.
Working really hard and working all the time are good in small doses. But in the long run, it’s really really bad for you. It’s been really really bad for me. I can’t tell you how bad. In fact it’s the thing I hate about myself the most.
The smart thing to to, that I haven’t figured out how to do yet is to alternate work, rest and discerning between important and not important goals.

The root of my problem has been irrational fear, not being realistic about what I can and can’t do and being too simplistic in my approach to goals of different types.
Too simplistic? I read a nice idea about stuff that can’t fail, and it opened my eyes to a paradox. Some goals become much harder to achieve if you can’t afford to fail. Usually, you actually can afford to fail and in fact must allow yourself to fail many times if you’re going to manage it. It just feels like you can’t because of inner or social pressure.
A lot of climbing falls under this category. There’s the simple idea I explained in my book about how being afraid to fail, or fall in climbing cripples it utterly in most situations. I really took this to heart years ago in my climbing. If you watched E11 you’ll see that I really learned on that route that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t up to the job of climbing E11. I failed again and got closer to the level, one step at a time in a relentless push right to the end.
Great. But I learned the hard way that the same approach to other tasks doesn’t work. Sometimes you really can’t afford to fail, you don’t get another try. Different approach needed. Trouble for me is that I got really in the habit of not worrying about failing, having mountains of goals and not worrying if I fail on most but succeed on some in the process. So it’s an uphill struggle to adjust.
Irrational fear? Like most folk, I have stupid fears and waste a large amount of time and energy acting them out. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Hard to ignore all the same.
Not being realistic is a simple one - I just have an appetite bigger than my belly.
Good to have learned more about these things, hard to put into practice. But a few days of starting and I feel a little better.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Orkney false start

With V13 fitness finally regained after the endless winter of snowy mountaineering, I was obviously keen to get back to me project on Orkney - freeing the original line of the Longhope Route. But winter, in the northern end of the UK at least, wasn’t giving in just yet. 

But we went anyway. It was kind of as bad as we expected, but worth going anyway. Donald and I spent a couple of days on the wall, one dangling about on the top and one on the bottom pitches. A lot of shivering was done, and trying to climb an F8c pitch in full winter mountaineering clothing didn’t fully work out. So we bailed without a great deal of deliberation.
Nevertheless I learned some more things about the route, namely that I need more time on it and it’s going to be damn hard. And visiting Orkney is always a pleasure. It was good to see that Donald found the lower pitches as adventurous as I think they are. I did almost have a nasty fall when a block I was holding onto parted company with the wall while a loooong way above a runner. A missed heartbeat to say the least. 
The appetite is well and truly stoked for a proper encounter when the ocean warms up to something less than arctic.

Sessions with Cubby and Mr King

Donald enjoying good conglomerate at the Mound
On the way back south from Thurso I stopped off at some conglomerate bouldering not far south of Golspie with Donald that Cubby told me about. We spent a nice couple of hours climbing here. Worth knowing about. They are at The Mound, Loch Fleet (NH 766 978) with two separate walls, both about a minutes walk from the car and from each other through the trees.

Cubby demonstrating his traverse on a lovely May afternoon in Glen Etive. I added a lower variation to this at a burly V9 or so.

What about everywhere else?

Consider this graph from Chris Anderson’s blog. It shows air travel patterns from the UK over the recent decade.
The changes in the airline industry and the way recommendations flow is meaning that more people are going to the places you’ve not heard of before, not just the famous spots. 
When I saw this I immediately thought of climbing. I’ve always had a strange relationship to travelling to climbing destinations. Although, the famous spots around the world are such because they are (on the surface at least) good, I find that I don’t always have the best time there.
Sometimes the good climbing is offset by too many people, crap logistics, unfriendly people, bad food etc etc..
There is good climbing in soooo many places all over the planet. Folk ask me a lot why I don’t travel abroad more to climb. I sort of understand why they ask because people generally are still fairly conditioned to think about the famous places and imagine that if they haven't heard of somewhere it’s cant be good.
Lot’s of people haven’t heard of most of the crags I climb on, so they wouldn’t at first realise that just because I live in one of the ‘everywhere else’ places it doesn’t mean I don’t have just as good climbing nearby. 
In 17 years I’ve never once felt bored or short of new things to go and climb within three hours drive of my house. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Big link in the cave complete

At Eternity’s Gate, V13
Climbing tough projects that take you a wee while is always a game of balancing stakes. The more work and effort you put in, the more progress you make. The more you drop other things and focus on just that, the faster and more consistent the progress. But at the same time, it gets ever harder not to be become attached to success on it as you sense it getting close. And as you stretch your hand further, the potential for backfire gets ever larger.
In my favour, a fortnight of cold weather, an lb of body mass trimmed and an uninterrupted series of work sessions. But a broken hold, the urgency of impending warm weather and the monotonous hard physical work re-awakening just about every injury niggle I’ve ever had was making the end of the game imminent.
What to do? Ignore it and keep making hard won baby steps. Just as I was feeling like I’d have no chance of maintaining finger and toe strength through that section of little crimps just before the bat-hang, I found myself puffing and panting through them and hanging from the jug before the final V8+ section. 
I initially felt this was V14 for sure, but a couple of last minute sequence tweaks was enough to keep the flow of moves going and the anaerobic countdown just inside my capacity. Who knows though, F8c+ might be a more appropriate rating than V13 seeing as it’s 60 moves long!
I’ll get a topo up for the cave soon as I can. Meanwhile, In a fatigued state I dragged my sore arms around another hillside near Arisaig with Donald and found this:

The little lean-to roof was so innocuous we almost walked past, but inside lucked a 50 degree overhanging wall covered in little positive edges like something straight out of a Swiss granite valley. 4 mini-classics between V7 and V9 later,  could only sit and watch the snow showers drifting over Skye and the small isles for the rest of the afternoon.
Tomorrow, the trad season starts for me, although there’s a chance the lingering winter might make it a false start. We’ll see...

Another snow shower pummels Eigg

Friday 7 May 2010

Devastation succumbs to the Redpath grit (and massive shoulders)

Dave Redpath climbing Devastation Generation 8c, Dumbuck. Photo: Mark Mcgowan

I was most excited and heartened to read Dave Redpath’s blog this morning of his success on Devastation Generation (8c). Not just any 8c, or any 8c ascent. It’s a victory after 14 years of bolting it, naming it with a lot of personal meaning, trying it on and off, training for it, talking about it, thinking about it and pulling on that grim sequence of flat undercuts.

Only those who are up to the pain of 14 years of struggle and uncertainty get to have a chain clip as satisfying as this. Photo: Mark Mcgowan
I first tried it with Dave in 1999 (!). Later, he passed the baton briefly to me while he did a PhD and I had a fine battle with to climb it in 2004. Malcolm Smith got a repeat in 2007. Even though I managed to climb it first, it was definitely always Dave’s route, not just because of the name, but it became important because it was important to Dave.
It’s funny - that idea. I saw the same thing happen with my own route Rhapsody. It got a lot of attention when famous climbers came to little old Dumbarton to repeat it. Folk couldn’t understand the big attraction because it was a bit of a weird line, a bit eliminate, and the crag is a bit scruffy. Was it just the grade that created the draw? No, it was the meaning created by the effort of the first ascent. That was communicated in the film E11, and it was enough to make climbers fly around the world twice and fall off that headwall countless times to repeat it. A good reason to make climbing films, don’t you think?
Of course, there are stories like this everywhere. The other week I was climbing at an obscure little crag in Yorkshire with a 9a+ on it called Violent New Breed. Looking at it, I have no doubt it’s up there with the hardest sport routes anywhere. The holds are almost invisible. Unless a curious soul takes it on, it will probably sit there unnoticed for a long time. Does it matter? Not in the grand scheme of things. 
But it is a shame that John Gaskins story of this route is essentially untold. Sharing inspiration is a good cause. The routes themselves are not all climbers can give to their sport. Cynical ‘old prunes’ (to coin a British phrase) with blinkers on think blogs, films etc are all about self-promotion and ego massage. 
All I can think reading Dave’s blog this morning was that I was inspired and thanks for sharing it! If you’d like a slice, Dave’s blog is here.

Thanks uncertainty

How you feel about adventures or stuff you’re trying but can’t yet do depends a lot on your mood. It’s not easy, but it is sometimes possible to take some control over that.
Liking this note from the Thanks Blog which is here.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

New site!

After a good bit of fiddling and long evenings I have a newly redesigned and reorganised site. Apart from changing the look, the biggest change is to our shop which we’ve made easier to use, added more products and shopping in Euro and US Dollar currencies for those whom that applies. We’ve been getting a lot of orders of your favourite climbing books and DVDs from all over the world, so we hope this helps.
Thanks for supporting our shop - it really helps us. I’m really keen to hear any feedback anyone has about the site - good, bad or problems needing fixing. Please leave me a comment. It’s hard to get time to triple check everything so it really helps to have a nudge when needed. 

PS: If you visit this blog directly, keep in mind you could subscribe to my feed so you get the posts as they come.

In the middle

Right now I’m where climbing is best - in the middle of two or three hard projects all getting serious attention from me. It’s great and I’m feeling 90% rock fit after the winter at last. 
First up I’ve been in the big cave over at Arisaig. I’ve done the big link of the entire cave in two halves now and it’s still feeling like at least an 8c+ route, if a horizontal one! It’s one of those lines that I’m certain would feel like 9a if it was on a big cliff. But it’s very easy to work as it’s a roof boulder problem. We’ll have to see how it feels when I can get to the crux from the start. Yesterday, I returned to a brilliant project I bolted in 2007. I couldn’t get near the crux moves at that time and sacked it off, feeling it was 9a+ at least and too nasty and sharp on the fingers to justify. But it niggled. So I went back with fresh eyes. After a couple of hours on the shunt a new sequence emerged - fantastic technical but aggressive moves. It went at about V10, but you have to do an 8c/+ route to get there. 
Also I am watching the weather and hovering over the prospect of returning to a big project from last year. With more snow forecast in the mountains, it might be a bit chilly just yet, but I’m feeling in shape for it and have the impatience to get through a hard lead right now.
A lot going on…
I lost my camera, otherwise I’d have some more pics of these to show you. But I should be more organised now the weight of the big site redesign is (just about ) done.