Saturday 26 April 2014

Holds going on my wall, and new routing on Harris

Some holds going on the climbing wall at last!

After a month straight of 16 hour days on average, my climbing wall is finished. Well, apart from getting all the holds on. I must admit that after completing the build and various other jobs that needed doing at my place, I was a bit too broken to even climb on it. I just wanted to sleep! But now there are some holds going on it I’m getting more and more excited as it turns from a building project into what I had originally envisioned - a brilliant place to train.

However, rather than jump straight on it, I opted to take advantage of the dry weather and head to the Outer Hebrides for a couple of days new routing and prospecting with Calum Muskett. We did a handful of new lines from E3 to E5 and I worked on this immaculate 40m wall of perfect Gneiss that has been on my projects to look at list for a few years. It was just as good as I hoped, if maybe a little hard.

There were a couple of different ways you could go. The best, and hardest looks upwards of 8b+ climbing with adequate gear. But the crux is super hard. On the first day I was climbing all day in a Citadel jacket and still had numb hands in the wind. In those conditions I could get some purchase on the crux crimps, but couldn’t see how to use them. The next day it was much warmer and I needed a bit of help from the rope to stay on, but did get a sequence that may work. So now I have something great to direct my training, and an excuse to get the ferry back to Harris pretty soon.

A very very hard project to go back to.

4 new titles in the shop.

We’ve just added four great new books and DVDs to the shop. The first three books are all major contributions to the literature on improving at climbing and I’d recommend getting hold of all three. Well done to the authors of all of them who have made a great contribution here and no doubt these books will be the first step to many hard ascents and goals realised in the future.

Gimme Kraft: The Cafe Kraft gym (Kraft = strength btw) in Nurnberg, Germany has gained a great reputation for coaching a string of fantastic climbing talents over the past few years, most notably, Alex Megos who became the first climber to onsight 9a. Their coaches have put together a new book and DVD detailing the principles and exercises they have used to help their talented young climbers become super strong and fit beasts.

So the book is very focused on physical strength and endurance training, both on and off the climbing wall. It provides a great and easy to follow manual for sharpening up weak areas in your strength. This is particularly useful since it can be hard to choose or adapt core strength routines from other sports for climbing.

Both the book and DVD show clearly how to do the basic strength and endurance exercises and the DVD contains many interesting interviews with climbing legends about training and climbing performance. 

Training for the new Alpinism: Steve House and Scott Johnston’s new book on training for alpinism is a much awaited and weighty addition to the available literature on training for climbing. It is the first book to focus solely on alpinism and brings the field right up to date. It is very much training focused (as opposed to skills focused), which is both it’s greatest strength and weakness.

It contains clear and extensive sections on the basic principles of sports physiology, but with the discussion relating directly to climbing in an alpine setting. So you no longer have to learn and then adapt the principles used in other endurance sports to effectively plan your training regime. It also has great and focused sections on strength, mental skills, nutrition, altitude, schedule planning and choosing your training goals. It also contains some fantastic contributions from other world class alpinists, sharing what they have learned about the most effective ways yo improve your alpine climbing.

Its focus on physical rather than technical skills training means there should probably be more than just this book in your training library. However, it joins a collection of titles that are essential reading for climbers who are serious about improving.

The Trad Climber’s Bible: The skills for trad climbing are about as broad as in any sport. This is especially true if you wish to climb in many different settings - hard, technical single pitch climbs, big walls and and alpine faces. The Trad Climber’s Bible comes at the challenge of passing on these skills from a different angle from most instructional manuals.

I jumped at the chance to order it in for the shop simply because it was authored by the American trad legends John Long and Peter Croft. I was fascinated by how they had approached the challenge of writing about trad skills. They have written the book in a narrative style, with many stories and anecdotes from their combined 70 year experience of pushing their limits on trad all over the world.

Some of the sections, such as those on ‘fiddling’ and ‘embracing the weird’ made me smile as they highlighted the sheer range of unusual skills that are nonetheless essential to be a successful trad climber. It’s a big, thorough, entertaining and inspiring book which will provide much food for thought and arm you with many more skills to throw at your next big lead. Excellent photography throughout and great value for what has clearly been a huge project for the authors.

Wideboyz II: The Wideboyz, Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker, have decided to turn their hand to finger cracks, with the goal of repeating the hardest and most famous of all finger cracks - Cobra Crack (8c) in Squamish. In their own Wideboyz style, they convert their offwidth training den into a finger sqaushing setup and proceed to train, hard. Still, Cobra Crack put up a good fight! Entertaining as ever, and a reminder that focusing and trying damn hard goes a long, long way.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Climbing wall, week 3.

I was hoping to keep posting some daily, or at least frequent climbing wall progress updates. But the chain 16+ hour days working on it kept me rather busy. It has come on a lot over the past week.

All the ply is now on and tidied up with a mission of long hours and going for it with Scott Muir from Dream Climbing Walls. Now the structure is built, it’s up to me to get it all finished. Last night was a bit ridiculous, still washing sanding dust off it at 4am. But today the first coat of paint has been going on and it’s looking great.

I took a couple of days off after Scott left and went to Glasgow. I managed to get my hands on some of Malcolm Smith’s new resin holds which are launching in a couple of weeks under the brand Stonesmith. They are pretty cool and I’ll post up some pics as soon as the paint dries on the wall and I can get them on.

I’ve also been making some of my own holds from hardwood. I’ve never had the tools for working with wood before, but have accumulated some better tools over the past year and I’m really keen to get better at making nice holds. Well made wooden holds are something a bit special. 

Not too long now before I can get rockshoes on and start training on this beast!