Sunday 30 January 2011

First winter route of the season

Fine high pressure weather on Ben Nevis this week

Snow bunting enjoying the views and climbers sandwiches on the summit

Lovely morning in Observatory Gully

Ines leads off up an excellent thin ice slab on Triple X VIII, 8

With physio exercises commenced on my hernia I felt OK to try a day out winter climbing. So I teamed up with Ines Papert and Charly who are visiting Scotland and headed up the Ben. After a brief wander about with me pointing out various new route possibilites, we settled on a look at a new icy mixed line based on the summer route Rolling Stones.
Charly set off, getting past a slightly sketchy thin crux bulge and embarked on a long traverse above our heads. It looked tricky. It was kind of bold to second as well as lead after I (being last on the rope) took out the backrope runner at the start of the traverse.
Next up it was Ines’ turn and she headed off across a very thinly iced slab which looked great fun. Ines was looking very at home on the ice and we enjoyed following a lot more than the previous pitch.
Last up it was my turn and I joined Ian Small and Ian Parnell’s new route from last year, Faith Healer VIII,7 at the start of it’s crux pitch. The steep chimney was great fun and nice to be reacquainted with the absorption of winter leading again after ten months or so since I last wielded my ice tools on a mixed route.
Triple X, VIII,8 gave us three nice pitches and satisfied an urge to open a new line on this nice little face that I’d spied while wandering about near Echo Wall in the past.

The line of Triple X

Next day it was back in action on the bouldering front. I managed to do the crux move on my highball project in Glen Nevis again which is getting me excited. I feel like I have a good sequence for most of it now and all I’m needing is a few more kgs worth of raw crimping strength. Next week’s forecast looks good for concentrating on the crimping strength, rather than braving the storms...

Monday 24 January 2011

Seismic shifts in Lochaber

My alarm had just gone off at 6am and I was working up to getting myself moving after another late night working till 2 when there was a bump in the night. Well, more of a shaking. As everything around us started to shake more and more, we looked at each other and Claire was the first to come out and say “Is that an earthquake!?”
A bit of vibration was all it was and it took the BBC news later on to confirm it was indeed an earthquake of 3.4 magnitude. Their news report said some peoples cats around Lochaber had gone mad. Ours wasn’t fussed at all, but I’m not sure what that says about the cat...

On Carn Mor Dearg yesterday with the Mountain Equipment winter skills course.

Friday 21 January 2011

May be spared the knife?

The consultant reckons I have an internal oblique tear but the damage is in the muscle belly or MT junction, so I may yet be spared surgery. Good news, although I’m not 100% convinced he’s right. For now at least it’s an all clear to try some winter climbing and see how I get on. 
Meanwhile I still feel good in training, although cabin fever is reaching breaking point. It’s amazing how daily exposure to the outdoors and empty spaces becomes so hardwired it drives you quite nuts in even the most temporary withdrawal from it. I sometimes say in lectures that I love training so much that if I was somehow restricted to only climbing on my board I wouldn’t mind too much. Hmmm, maybe that’s not true after all! It’s nice to know that a balance of both keep mind and body healthy.
That said, aside from the finger strength gains, the time at home has been great to get everything in order for the coming year. It’s so true that if you don’t take time to sort stuff out and get organised, it tends to get in the way later on when you need to be in full focus. 

I'm an obsessive type and cant stand to leave things unfinished unless it's unavoidable (hence I have a respectable ticklist in redpointing). But that's only half of it. I remember listening to the Forum's 60 second ideas to improve the world while driving down Glenfinnan and one related very strongly with me. It was to abstain from multitasking! I do my fair share of multitasking and occasionally it's totally the thing to do, such as when working with slow computers or mundane tasks. But most of the time, it actually slows everything down rather than adding efficiency. And usually, you end up with crap work into the bargain.

People often roll their eyes, or criticise my all or nothing, drop everything else approach. But I must say that every accomplishment I've made in my life has come via this approach. I'm addicted to it and have yet to find a better substitute for focus.

Friday 7 January 2011

Mega training session

Yesterday we completed our journey home from my lecture in Shrewsbury and we were both feeling kinda knackered. But after two days enforced rest, mostly spent driving, I was in severe training withdrawal.
The rest had certainly allowed my body to bounce back from the previous long stint of daily training. I had my strongest session ever, climbing all my hardest problems on the board in one session. Three weeks ago, I was barely managing any of them. Brilliant. 
I gouged my finger open from a loss of concentration while going for a sharp hold and bled everywhere. Emerging from the boardroom at 1am half covered in blood seemed a fitting end to a mega training session. Bring on today’s session.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Evidence of improvement

With the crags looking drier I went out rock climbing for the first time in several weeks today, to my project next to Sky Pliot, Glen Nevis. I’ve totally enjoyed the past three weeks of focused training and writing. I feel like I already have a good base of strength for the coming year.

That project was ideal as a wee tester of how I was getting on after this little spell of uninterrupted training. At my strongest ever, in October 2009, I was getting up to the crux with difficulty, and could do the crux move in isolation a few times in a session. I had just done an intense month of training on my board then as well. But right as I was going my best I made a couple of training errors and got injured. I never went back to Sky Pilot, not feeling strong enough really.

I’m pretty sure the project is at least V14 and I know I need to be a few percentage points above that 2009 strength highpoint to be in with a chance. Most of 2010 was taken up with trad, partly because that just what I fancied doing, and partly because I was still struggling a bit with one or two injuries. I normally spent the whole autumn, winter and spring bouldering, but I only started in December this year.

But armed with the knowledge I’ve gained about elbow injuries from the past year of study and all the physio work I’ve done, I’m feeling able to train at full pace for the first time in over two years. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be limited by full body tiredness from training instead of going at the pace of injured tendons. It’s also great to be able to move with confidence too.

So today it was great to feel as strong as I’ve ever felt on the rock. On a few of the moves I maybe felt a little stronger than before. But nothing dramatic. I feel like I’ve just caught up my bouldering strength to where it was. More weeks on the board are needed. Days where you realise some real progress has been made are still the best.

Well excited.

Diagnosis, sort of

 Today I got up, drove a few hundred miles, saw the physio, then the doctor, dowloaded about 20 research papers and read various relevant chapters from the textbook tower. Stuff it. After the diagnosis I’m breaking open the Christmas biscuit tin from Marks and Spencers and necking a few cups of tea before I head into the wall for training.

As suspected over the last three weeks it seems likely I have annoyed/torn the aponeurosis of my external oblique. In other words a ‘sportsman’s hernia’. Damnit. Just a little niggling pain on cutting loose which disappears once warmed up. But I don’t want it getting any worse. And if the surgeon confirms it in a couple of weeks time I might need a wee bit of ‘invasive’ treatment involving knives, bits of polypropylene mesh and my abdominal wall. I’m going to bite the bullet and get a private consultation to make sure I get prompt treatment from the right person. They told me dourly on the phone to “bring my credit card” Gulp!

Causes? Who knows… Could have been the roof aiding mission in prep for the Great Climb. Could have been over energetic wood chopping, or heavy rucksacks, or training, or genes or whatever. Lessons for others - don’t let rectus abdominus (six pack) get too strong while neglecting the obliques. Don’t train when you’re knackered. Don’t carry three ropes and three racks up a mountain in one go. Chop wood like a samurai, not a caveman. Actually I’m sure even cavemen would be disgusted at my technical prowess with the splitting axe.

At least it’s still a small problem. I’m set on keeping it that way. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I felt stronger on my board than I’ve ever done last night. All I need to do is keep my feet on and all is fine!