Wednesday 27 April 2011

Seven of Nine

Seven of Nine V14
I still can’t believe the Sky Pilot project went down last night! I was buzzing so much I was unable to go to bed until 5 am, and lay wide-eyed until Freida burst into life at 7. The crucial difference after all those sessions? Several small but crucial ones.
First, I had genuinely detached myself from expectation of success. When it’s at your limit, time and time again this seems to be crucial for realising true focus of energy at the right moment, free of interference from the conscious. I read with interest Chris Sharma’s comments about also having to re-learn this lesson over again during his recent project victory at Margalef. I find that in order to achieve this state, it’s impossible to focus on ‘not being attached to success’. I’m not sure you can think in negatives like this easily, if at all. Rather, I found that focusing completely and exclusively on enjoying the effort, movement and routine of each and every attempt, that I could relax and begin to really climb.
Second, I went back to the sequence. No matter how well you think you know the holds and the moves, when it’s limit and your a hair’s breadth from success, there is nearly always something new to find after going back to basics with the sequence. In this case a simple change in order of foot movements and a tweak of timing tipped it my way.
Lastly, I’d clocked up the necessary hours to be all over it. Daily training for several hours, careful diet, careful rest, careful thinking over time and the destination finally appeared.
Nothing new here, but still important.
Cubby climbed the original route here ‘Sky Pilot’ (E5 6b or these days a very highball V5) in 1981. He also tried the project a decade or so later, but didn’t do the moves. He was the catalyst for me looking at it, telling me it would be a brilliant short solo and hard compared to other short routes in the UK -  harder than Hubble, which he had done the moves on. 
It’s a funny climb, somewhere between a highball and solo. I certainly wasn’t at all keen on falling off above the crux, and had to go all out to avoid doing just that. Grade wise I don’t have much to compare it to since I haven’t bouldered much for a couple of years, except that it’s definitely harder than any of the V13s I’ve done and seems harder than some V14s I've played on a good while ago now. Or is it? I’m not sure if it’s my style or not. 
Anyway, what a great feeling to be able to pull hard on holds and do some training again for the first time in a couple of years. A big milestone for me..
A little video below from my compact propped on a stone of the first ascent and another new line just right of Sky Pilot:

Three new books and DVDs in the shop today

Three new products just added to the shop which provided me with some excellent climbing entertainment of very different types! I hope you like them too:
Climbing philosophy for everyone: A book that has been needing to be written for some time. Stephen Schmid has brought together a series of philosophers who are also involved in climbing to take a head on look at the philosophy of various aspects of climbing. It’s quite a big task, and this book definitely errs on the accessible side. In highly readable and easy going style, it examines in turn aspects of the climbing experience such as freedom, risk/reward, the enjoyment of climbing several aspects of climbing ethics, styles of climbing and climbing culture. 
Far from being a hardcore academic style book, it’s a fine door opener to the world of attempting to understand climbing on a slightly deeper level. Your next heated post climb debate or forum rant will be less without it under your belt, but in places it is certainly a source of climbing controversy itself! Entertaining stuff. The book is right here.
Reach DVD: The latest in the genre of skate/MTB inspired bouldering flicks coming out of the US. If you enjoyed the likes of Core from last year, you’ll love this one too. A host of talent is squeezed in, cranking out V13 plus boulders with good music and a feel good style. The beasts Dave Graham and Daniel Woods are of course the highlight. Inspiring as usual with their jaw dropping feats of strength. One to make the boulders tremble. Right here.

The Fanatic Search 2… A girl thing DVD: Yes that’s right, Laurent Triay’s latest film creation is all about the girls. And well impressive they are too! Charlotte Durif (8c onsight), Daila Ojeda, Lynn Hill, Robyn Erbesfield (plus 9 year old 7c+ climbing daughter), Martina Cufar, Berta Martin and others in full flow on the best crags of Spain France. Inspiration aside, it’s an education to watch - whether you are a male or female climber. I was particularly interested to watch Charlotte Durif and see her style on the rock. She is one of the best performing onsight sport climbers in the world but there is very little footage of her around. It was just as interesting as I hoped! Right here. 

They are all in the shop here.

Monday 25 April 2011

Resting up, Glaswegian style

Peter squeezing the life out of Auto Roof, 6a, Sky Pilot. Moving large rocks around all day long for a living helps with climbing rocks.

Cool piece of Schist, Creag Dubh

Nice exposure on King Bee, VS, Creag Dubh
After a long stint of working hard on the project and training every day, the time came for a break. After the final session I could feel every muscle hurting. Two days in Glasgow really helped restore energy levels. I ate chips and Irn Bru for tea, slept a lot and soaked up sunshine. A proper Glaswegian break.
But coming home in 23 degree sunshine meant that resuming battle was not really on the cards, so another night of relaxing was in order. Two barbecues, some beers and some leisurely days jumping about the crags with Peter helped restore a sense of life outside of the project tunnel.
I think it was just what was needed.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Mountain Equipment Pro-Team T-shirts back in stock

I know, I know, we only got a short batch last time and ran out pretty much as soon as we got them. As promised, a big box of them dropped into the MacLeod house this morning. The reassuring ‘thunk’ nearly woke Freida! They’ve only been live on the site a few hours and already the box is getting lighter. So get them in… 

They are right here.

New horizons

Anna enjoying Sky Pilot bouldering

Spooky forest

One of hundreds - no joke

Straight out of Switzerland

Cave of granite crimps - yesterday’s prize

Progress on my project has been up and down. I got past the main crux another three times and felt like it was right there, only to fail convincingly on the next move every time. It’s well hard. And sadly, now it’s too hot. Today it was 19 degrees and it felt like I was climbing it with a rucksack on. And that’s despite feeling super fit from daily projecting or running. I’ve not had a rest day in three weeks though, so we’ll see if a day off will fill the tank again. 
To adjust on the sloper or not, that is the question… On the rope it feels slightly easier but uses a lot of energy that I maybe don’t have on the redpoint. But then I keep failing without the adjustment. A dilemma to ponder on the next run.
My runs have been great. On the past two, I’ve found more unclimbed crags and boulders than I could climb in a lifetime. Just endless new lines to do. It’s amazing! All of them are within 30 miles of my house. Only problem is that a good chunk of that is walking in some of the most remote glens in the highlands. Hence they have remained undeveloped by climbers. Could do with a bike/boat/helicopter. 
I could go on about caves full of flakes and crimps, 50m high overhanging crags lining the glen, perfect gneiss, hard granite, lovely views… Hopefully I can get to climb some of them soon and I’ll show them off.
Maybe yesterday’s run was a little overcooked. I had a time limit to be back home for engagements with the girls. My quest for the granite boulders took me 5 minutes over my turn-back time and as I turned to run the 6 miles back the savage headwind hit me. I nearly face planted on rubber legs as I got back to the car.

Friday 15 April 2011

Highpoint and psyche regained

Another good session on the project. I got past the crux again which totally regained the psyche, which had been suffering after the last four sessions. I was totally unable to execute my beta for the move after, and fell straight off. So that’s cool - I’m pretty sure it’s hard. I’m back to thinking maybe it’s too hard for me. That last hard move on the link feels just nails, even though I feel really strong on all my warm-ups. At least I learned something new about a mistake I was making on the crux. Tomorrow it’s back to running and resting.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

Nice run

Took my camera along for yesterday’s run. I went up the Loch Treig Munros - Stob Coire Scriodan, Meall Garbh and Chno Dearg. 

Mega boulder to come back to!

Peculiarly perched boulder. Didn’t understand the physics of this.

Another snow shower sweeps across Loch Treig

Looking east from Meall Garbh 

Binnien Shuas appears out of the clouds. Time to jog down for a bowl of soup..

Monday 11 April 2011

Consistently not good enough

Today was the third session in a row of things just not being quite right for making progress on the project. Well, really I have made progress as a subtle change of beta should help tip the balance in my favour if I can get past the crux again. But the last time I managed that was about 18 attempts ago now! I feel close to doing the move every single time. Consistency is good except when it's consistently not good enough.
For a collection of reasons I’ve been a couple of percent less strong. Bad skin, and just not feeling quite as steely as before for whatever reason have been the main problems. Another thing I’ve realised is that I’ve actually started to introduce some new errors unwittingly, by trying to control it too much. 
I’ve been convinced I need to pull as little as possible on the holds to save all the energy I can for the crux move. But it seems I’ve overdone it and caused myself some problems for getting my body set up in the right position for the big move. The last couple of sessions have been a little frustrating as the easier ground above seemed so close but now seems like it might still be unreachable. I’m hoping now I’ve got over this I’ll be better placed to just concentrate on focusing completely on the moves and nothing else.
Man, my arms are a mess after today. Tomorrow; running.

Monday 4 April 2011

April Showers, Scottish style

Fresh snow on Sgurr a’ Mhaim yesterday
As predicted the west of Scotland deluge has been pounding Glen Nevis. Cubby and I squinted out of the car window just long enough for an eyeful of rain and sleet and sacked it off. But on the way home the end of the first front arrived, so I hung back and read my book for a bit and then walked in. Unbelievably the severe gales had seemingly blown a lot of the rain over the top of the crag and my project was mostly dry. As the sun came out I felt good and started trying to warm up.
Today’s excuse quickly emerged from this. ‘warming up’ was not possible. The snowline was dropping with each shower that went through and the wind tunnel effect through the overhanging crag was doing great for drying it but sucking every bit of body heat out of me. I still had 7 good tries to the crux and feeling strong. But ‘glassy’ skin from the icy wind and numb fingers, together with a glassy crux sloper are not a good mix and I just couldn’t stick it. Rests between goes were spent cowering from wild blizzards of hail and snow passing through and chasing after mats and jackets picked up by the gale.
Returning home I felt totally wrecked once again. Once on the couch I couldn’t move. Before the evening was out I noticed a ligament in my knee getting progressively more painful after a bad landing on one attempt. Not sure what’s going on there yet..
Such is projecting. I’m close enough to only need one really good attempt. So I should keep the warpaint on. I think the continuing downpours will have the last word for now though. I’m expecting it’ll be wet until at least next week. So the debate is whether to go back to the board to try and top up strength levels. Or should I rest and be ready in case the rain isn’t so bad??

New playgrounds

A nod to the Flick Scotland blog for this aerial shot of the western highlands from the air above Glasgow. I blog it  as it was pretty much the view that started me climbing, seen from the Queens View in the Kilpatrick hills in the lower right foreground of the shot. In mid April circa 1993 it looked exactly as it does here, a horizon full of endless snow capped mountains against a blue sky.
I’d just cycled out from Glasgow and became aware of an altogether more impressive playground than any I’d seen so far. I got home and got a book out of the library about the Southern Highlands. In the appendix was a section about rock climbs at Dumbarton Rock. It was a few stops along the train line from my house. You know the rest..

Saturday 2 April 2011

New wall in Oban

Checking the new climbs at Atlantis, Oban

Had a fun day working in Oban setting problems at the new bouldering wall in Oban at the Atlantis centre. The wall was built by the hard work machine that is Scott Muir and his company Dream Climbing Walls. He’s the only man I know that could give Tim Emmett a run for his money in terms of sheer overflow of physical energy. 
Modern climbing walls still amaze me - they are so good! It’s great how an intricate design of tapering or expanding shapes influence the constraints for setting really interesting moves. I guess the more experience you have as a climber, and especially as a route setter, the more you appreciate this. 
There is so much room for movement variety in climbing though, and for personal tastes. I’m not sure if it’s because I climb outside a lot and digest a lot of varied, undulating surfaces, but I’m often a fan of large areas of flat panels on climbing walls. I guess it’s just a nice change. The Oban wall is the best designed wall I’ve set on that has a complex shape. It’s weird - sometimes the shapes just don’t seem to work for making aesthetic climbing moves. This one does though! Looking forward to going back for my coaching sessions there soon. 
Much as the setting day was great fun, it did my head cold caught the day before no good at all. So it’s an extra rest day today before I’m back at Sky Pilot. Cubby reckons it’ll be soaking after the deluge, but I’ll show up anyway, armed with towels and ready for a training session on it..