Monday 31 December 2012

Ploughing on with the recovery road

I’m continuing to plough on with the work of building back up to climbing fitness. Before Christmas, I had some weird sessions. On the boulder wall I could do certain moves that would have been hard for me before my accident, especially if they were close to the ground and didn’t need much work from the foot. As soon as I got above head height, my standard inevitably crashed since I’m not yet safe to jump down from the boulder wall. Over Christmas I spend a few sessions climbing halfway up most things and just downclimbing again as if I was on a trad route! That was quite demoralising. It’s just totally against the grain not to be able to try hard.

However, on the circuits and routes I have been back up to doing a few 7c+s and I can feel my movement and confidence improving with every session. I’m also beginning to increase the load. I’m currently back up to 2 on/1 off, 2 on/2 off. It would be so easy to keep adding more, but I’m so anxious not to overdo it. Running is still painful and out of the question at present, which is disappointing. So it’s a long road and I’m only part way down it. Despite more ups and downs it definitely feels like I’m going somewhere.

I’ve been trying to think of every way I can to improve how far I can go with my gradual return to climbing. Some of that is dealing with small but important details like completing physiotherapy exercises. It’s also the wider approach. I think the best way I can view what I’m doing is serving a new apprenticeship in climbing. It’s a change to re-learn the whole game of climbing from the ground up. I’ve got a strong feeling that this mindset will work pretty well.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Christmas orders from our shop

We are dispatching every day via Royal Mail first class. Last posting day for Christmas delivery is Thursday 20th. So get your order in. If you don’t make it in time for Thursday, will be dispatching orders right through the Christmas period.

I have just added two new climbing DVDs from Hot Aches Productions to the shop.

 Wideboyz tells the story of Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall’s crack climbing adventure from training in their ridiculous but effective home climbing wall to making the first ascent of the world’s hardest offwidth under the noses of the Americans. Good story! It's also available for download.

Odyssey follows a hardcore team of James Pearson, Caroline Ciavaldini, Hazel Findlay and Hansjorg Auer on a trad road trip around England and Wales onsighting and redpointing many hard and famous trad routes. Also available for download.

Fort William Mountain Film Festival masterclasses

Since I’ve been working on a book, I’ve not been able to do personal coaching. I still get asked a lot, so I run a few days a year of group masterclasses, which are always very popular. I’m doing a day of classes during the Fort William Mountain Festival in February, at the Ice Factor.

The classes are on Saturday Feb 23rd, 10-12noon, and 3pm-5pm. (the lunchtime session lasted one night on my events page before filling up). Places are £40 plus your normal wall entry. Give Claire a phone on 07813 060376 to get a place.

Later that evening I’m introducing the climbing night at the festival with film and a Scottish winter climbing theme for Andy Cave’s lecture.

See you there!

Monday 17 December 2012

Post surgery week 5

Every day is feeling like a little milestone right now. On Saturday, before my lecture at TCA, I tried a little bouldering. It was inspiring and demoralising in equal measure. It was great to complete some easy problems and feel like I was really climbing again. However, I couldn’t do any remotely difficult moves and was using mainly upper body strength to try to control my way through moves and take pressure off my feet. Even the things I could carefully climb, I had to jump off from head height, or climb up as if I was soloing and reverse back down.

After a post lecture drink, I walked back from the pub, a total of 5 miles, which was fantastic. So today (Monday) I decided to make a small venture into the hills, walking up to the Iron Age fort of Dun Deardail above Glen Nevis which is a few miles and 350m of ascent. Although my foot was quite achey, it was more that both feet and legs felt equally stiff and out of shape. Plus, there was no pain from the joint itself, only the plantar fascia was complaining.

A good day or progress and I’m looking forward to the next little step forward. In the meantime, back to roof climbing on my board and then the wobble board.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Bongo Bar film from Norway is up

The full film of our first free ascent of Bongo Bar on Blamman in arctic Norway is now online. A lovely reminder of a great route and trip and somewhere I'm definitely going back to! In the last week I’ve just been talking with Gore-Tex about the next Gore-Tex experience tour I’m planning. 

By the way, not all the tours are rock climbing based - there are opportunities to win places on trips in all sorts of mountain sports. Right now there are two comps with closing dates in the next month.

1 month post surgery

My house this evening.

It’s now a month since my surgery. My ankle is getting ever closer to a normal size. However, it’s still stiff as hell and I feel a good way off getting into the mountains. There should hopefully now be some fibrocartilage cells growing over the defect that was drilled in my surgery. I experimented with a 5 mile cycle the other day, and it felt a little raw after that. The following day I walked the best part of a Km on the flat and it was fine with that. Early days? Hopefully. In another couple of weeks the fibrocartilage should be a little more mature and I should get a better idea how I’ll be fixed for proceeding to longer walks and climbs into mountains.

In the meantime, I’ve progressed from easier moves on near vertical terrain to a proper session of bouldering on my own board. The first session was shaky but OK and I managed one medium and one quite hard problem, although the hard one had a foot-off crux so it doesn’t really count. On the second session I could make some quite difficult moves, but some moves that I normally find easy were not possible just yet. Strength, stability and confidence will need many sessions over the coming weeks to build up. Great to be doing the whole routine of climbing though.

It’s quite a nice reminder of how much power you apply through your lower body on hard moves, even when the footholds are very poor. Being able to test this on board problems I’ve done before is an eye opener. Where my foot normally maintains body tension and pulls really hard to stay on, right now it just lifts off without me being able to do anything about it. The priority is to get mileage on problems and routes I can onsight or do in two tries for the time being to reeducate the motor patterns as well as gain the strength right through the chain to my toes.

On Thursday I’m travelling to Glasgow for a coaching session with the youth squad at TCA and then my lecture there on Saturday at 6.30pm. Do come along to that. For a slightly cheaper advance ticket, give TCA a ring on 0141 429 6331.

Friday 7 December 2012 shop new stuff

Over the past few weeks we have added quite a few new titles to the shop. Of course as usual we are dispatching right up to and over the Christmas period. Early winter is of course the season for thinking about (and hopefully doing) training. As well as the full complement of the best climbing training titles on the market, our Beastmaker fingerboards are ever popular and we’ve just got another large pile of them in.

First up we have Ines Papert’s rather lovely new book. It’s really an inspiration book full of great photography of her globetrotting adventures on steep ice, rock, mixed and big mountains, together with stories of her experiences.

Nick Bullock is a somewhat controversial chap who has a habit of provoking and polarising opinion on all things climbing and mountaineering. He caused a bit of a storm recently for making some pretty strong assumptions about the folk he passes in the street; “their lives are grey”. So you can imagine his new book is not short of colourful thoughts and stories of mountaineering experiences all over the planet. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s not elitist in his climbing philosophy, certainly not trying to be anyway… Essential reading really.

Next up we have Karen Darke’s second book ‘Boundless’. It’s one thing to decide to take on a life of adventure following a life changing accident that leaves you paralysed. But what is the reality of living that life like? She shows us that fear and uncertainty do not go away, even if you decide to take life by the horns…

Finally we have Autana, Leo Houlding’s latest climbing adventure film to climb the great sandstone big wall on Cerro Autana in the Amazon jungle. It really is a fine adventure, full of some quite unexpected challenges that are both funny and renew your respect for Leo’s attitude to erm, trying new things (you’ll see what I mean). The cave systems high on the wall they visit are quite extraordinary and the whole thing is very well filmed as you would expect from an Alastair Lee DVD.

We still have a bit to go before last posting days before Christmas, so get them in. Te shop is here.

3 weeks post surgery: climbing begins!

Just over three weeks post surgery, I had a much more convincing start to climbing activity. Thanks goodness for that. The pain in my midfoot got quite worrying over the course of a few days, but then the process reversed and I was able to walk progressively better. I’m not as worried about this now. I had been trying on my right rockshoe every few days and it just felt ‘wrong’. But then it crossed a line and felt ok, so I went climbing.

I just went to the bouldering wall and did some very controlled circuits and carefully executed boulder problems. As you can imagine that felt pretty damn good! So now I do feel like I’m on a route back into climbing. Of course I’ll have to build up slowly. There’s no way I could walk up a mountain just yet. Even on the wall, my movement is quite limited and I can't go high, jump off my foot or rock over aggressively onto it. But at least I can do something.

In the coming week or two I’ll just work back up through the progression of problems on my own board, go for a few short walks if I can, and do some bike sessions to remind my body it needs to start getting fit again soon. Work has increased to a fever pitch as I’m trying to complete lots of work tasks ahead of being able to get climbing outdoors again. When that happens I’ll inevitably go mental and want to do quite a lot.

I’ve been back for a second session after a day’s rest and will have another tonight. Here’s to that.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Lecture at TCA Glasgow soon

In a couple of weeks time (Sat 15th) I’m heading to TCA in Glasgow to speak. I’ve just been putting together some stories and ideas for my talk. I guess because the talk is in Glasgow, my home city and in a climbing wall it got me going over thoughts of the path my climbing has taken since I discovered climbing. I viewed my participation in climbing really quite differently in every stage of my life as a climber. In the talk I want to share some of the important moments both of climbing and in thought that opened the next chapter of climbing adventures and challenges, which are of course still unfolding to this day.

Come along, it starts at 6.30pm. It’s a bit cheaper if you get a ticket in advance - details in the poster above.

Post surgery day 21

A few days ago I tried a little gentle climbing at Glasgow Climbing Centre. As I kind of expected, I wasn’t really ready just yet. Well, I’m not really too sure to be honest. The climbing felt really quite gentle. It might have been trying to walk from the car that was the bigger problem.

I kept a walking boot on my right foot and just did about 15 routes between 6a and 7a. I did try one 7a+ but it had some drop-knees so I just backed off. The feeling of climbing reminded me of one time the morning after a friend’s stag do, trying to climb when totally hungover! Balance, control and fitness all felt predictably novice-like. It was an odd sensation - simultaneously feeling great just to be moving up some holds, while also feeling like throwing a strop at the state of my form. The enjoyable part won out. 

The swelling around my ankle has decreased maybe 50% now and my drilled up medial talus feels a little less raw. However, now I’ve started to attempt progressive weightbearing, yet another new pain has emerged. I’m getting a severe shot of pain in my midfoot while trying to heel raise out of a dorsiflexed position. It’s painless with even slight support from my crutches, so I’ll need to keep using them yet. Who knows what’s going on there. Perhaps it’s just all part of the recovering process, or perhaps there’s some other damage in there that has not yet been seen. I’m a bit terrified there’s something going on with my navicular or even a lisfranc injury. Next week it's back to looking at MRIs and visits to hospitals all over again.

Such are the ups and downs I’m going to have to keep working through. In the meantime, It’s back to writing and exercises.