Tuesday, 31 March 2009

And now...?

So....what now?

My injuries seem, at last, to be managable. My climbing seems, at last, to be going well. This is good! Hopefully I can follow some inspirations and enjoy some good climbing this year.

What I intend to do for now is to be smart and stick to what inspires me (proper trad, bit of sport, bit of bouldering projects), I shouldn't be climbing too much but want to make days out count... In the meantime, fit in some good training: Indoor routes or outdoor sport routes for stamina and mileage (and hopefully the dreaded but obligatory falling practise...), and definitely keep up with the running for fitness. I feel on reasonable form with strength and ability, but stamina and fitness have always been weaknessnes - thankfully training those is fairly obvious and logistically simple so I should be able to do that steadily to support days out.

Seems like a sensible plan...

Edit: And now... I've got a tossing throat infection :S. Still I've caught it early and am on Penicillin. 3 illnesses in 3 months, not a great track record this year, boo hiss. So I guess this is a useful rest week then *rolls eyes*.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Excuses and reasons.

1. Climbing ability.

2. Skin conditions. Sweat. Toughness. Weather conditions. Sun. Wind. Temperature. Humidity. Rock conditions. Rock quality. Chalk type. Shoe type. Shoe rubber. Tiredness. Illness. Injury. Diet. Warming up. Days on / days off. Light. Time. Atmosphere. Distractions.

There are many factors involved with challenging climbing and pushing personal potential. Actual ability (and all that entails!) is one. Temporary or external factors are many others. These factors can be present or absent, real or imaginary, effectual or exaggerated, reasons or excuses. They can be genuinely stacked in the climbers favour and the climber can crush or fail (maybe because of them), they can be genuinely stacked against the climber and the climber can still crush or fail (most likely despite them).

A climber may be foolish by ignoring such factors. A climber may be foolish by believing those factors have more of an effect than they do (there is no weighting given in the two lists above). But also a climber may be foolish by dismissing and disbelieving such factors.

On the other hand, a canny climber uses all the tactics and planning their armoury to stack all the odds in their favour. The canny climber also honestly knows when those factors have a genuine effect - and also that knows they still may crush....maybe.

Incidentally, a fair amount of the climbing I have done, I've done because of stacking the odds in my favour - often to overcome any shortcomings in No. 1. ;). But occasionally I've done well despite No. 2., and of course part of the learning process is to learn to deal with - or outwit - any odds stacked against oneself...

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Changing inspirations.

Inspiration is a funny factor: fundamental, but fickle. For the dedicated, passionate climber, it is the finest motivator, true inspiration from amazing lines, intriguing rock, personal tastes, the climbing journey and the challenge of the route, and of course a large dose of anticipated pleasure and fun.

It's certainly what drives me. That and the inscrutable exhortations of my soul, of course.

What makes it curious is that I can define, write down, and explicate my inspirations, but they are still an opaque driving force. Recognising and admitting I am inspired by X doesn't mean I'll do X and it doesn't mean the inspiration will last and it doesn't mean that when I'm ready or able to do X that I'll actually want to then. A goal may be set down but it is not set in stone, the whole point of inspiration is to follow it, not to dictate it.

Thus in recent months my motivations have changed from esoteric mileage to bouldering circuits to hidden grit gems to highballs / solos to general rest and finally to bouldering projects and proper trad. I had vague plans and desires over the winter which I pretty much entirely failed to do, and now I feel more capable of tackling them, I have little or no interest!! And there's a part of me that thinks I'm missing out, that thinks I should be doing what once inspired me....but then I realise it doesn't matter: I'm doing what I'm inspired by NOW, and what I was inspired by THEN is less relevant and warrants no regrets.

So whatever tomorrow's inspiration brings, that will be the one to follow...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Questions, questions...

This is one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen and tried:

Yes it's a rubbish photo, but even if it wasn't, most people would rightly be appalled at my claims of inspiration. It's an obscure mossy, lichenous slab that's so far off most peoples' climbing radar it could be on a separate planet - as in "What fXXXing planet are you on Fiend??"

It's in the Forest Of Dean (why??) at Huntsham Crag (where??) and it's called Shadowlands (okay, great name for a start). And it's amazing. Slicing diagonally through the moss is a line of large but spaced pebbles stretching the full height of this 9m slab. There's hardly any other holds, very little respite, no escape and no gear. It is bizarre and brilliant, and even the moss adds to the surreal seduction.

I heard of it several years ago, looked at it a couple of years ago, and tried it a few days ago. Despite being a fair esotericist, even I find the Forest Of Dean too specialist for my tastes - too soloey, too dodgey rock. However I cannot resist Shadowlands, and the promise of a whole new experience. And by "whole new experience" I mean "whole new realm of fear". Because, despite the short height and good "Don't worry you'll only break your lower limbs" landing, the level of commitment required is unduly high: Commitment to inescapability, commitment to increasing height and increasing danger, and most of all, commitment to those bloody jutting pebbles, the pebbles that make it so awesome and so appalling.

Needless to say after several tentative attempts and a lot of slightly less tentative musing, I walked away. Walked away because I didn't want to take the risk of NOT walking away... And walked away with questions in my head:

Why would I want to do this??
Is it worth it??
Am I prepared to take the risk??
What is my motivation??
Is it ego??
Or desire??
What experience do I want??
Do I trust myself??
Do I trust those sodding pebbles??

And the answers....I don't them yet. But I will....when the time is right, I will go back, and try again, and hopefully climb this route, and understand it, and myself as a climber, a bit more more...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Blog Of Crush.

...maybe I should rename this?? Because I think I'm doing alright with my climbing at the moment :). Two contrasting days around this weekend demonstrated this in a reassuring manner.

On one day, I went bouldering:

...and continued my run of pulling down fairly hard for someone who has spent a year crippled by injury. I'd very briefly tried Hitch Hikers @ Kyloe In The Woods a couple of years ago, it seemed rather hard but maybe feasible. Thus I went back on a whim and on a forecast of howling winds - the latter was indeed the case, I had to wear a t-shirt + hoodie + body warmer + downie just to unpack the mats from the car. In The Woods it was more sheltered but still fresh and flavoursome. I did a really nice warm up of the looonnnng traverse at the far right, then set up base camp beneath HH.

The first goes were somewhat demoralising - initially I could barely hold the crucial sidepull for a couple of seconds, just enough time to get my feet in woefully inadequate places and fall off. Despite the conditions and vibe it all felt overly brutal. Hmmm. Weak!! Dear me. The only course of action was to fight fire with....vacuum. I lay on the mats gazing at the problem for a good while, and after this tactical chillage, pulling on felt a lot easier. Eventually I could experiment with footholds (there are many options within a square foot on this problem!), and found one that worked - straight away I could easily hold and match the side-pull. It was on...

Tick tock, the clock strikes Send O'Clock :)

Naturally, for a problem that revolves around crucial left arm tension (as well as crucial left footholds), it hardly hurt my injured left arm at all. A little bit of mild pain afterwards, and hardly any the next day. On the other hand, wringing out a wet towel produces noticeable pain during the action. Go figure!!

On another day, I went trad climbing:

...and managed to climb proper trad pretty well despite feeling fairly rusty until the last few weeks. This picture is woefully inadequate to capture the irresistible quality of Sub Station Crag, scarcely an hour's drive from the Central Belt and a gentle 1/2 hour walk-in to this superb 40m slab of sheer mica-schist, overlooking the obligatory substation but also substantial views of Loch and Ben Lomond.

Fortuitous mid-March weather ensured it was fresh and crisp, a pleasantly warm sun but a rather cool breeze. Inspiration was immediately high and I got to grips with a few classic mid-grade slab routes. All proper technical, bold, intriguing and involving slab climbing, and the two main lines being particularly bloody brilliant. The old magic was there, not just that I was climbing more okay, but that I was really feeling the sheer joy of climbing and climbing challenges (apart from a minor grumble / swearathon about ambiguous guidebook descriptions...).

My elbow / shoulder were pretty fine on this BTW - although my feet were sore!! On the other hand, I think the running might have helped a bit as I scarcely noticed the walk-in, and didn't have any leg wobbles on these mega-slab pitches.

So, Fiend might well be "back", woohoo *insert MSN-style dismally understated party hat smiley here*.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


It was a good trip, and an interesting trip...

Les Arcs (the area, not Arcs 2000 which is a bit grim) is great. Good and very varied slopes, lots to do in whatever conditions, and easy to get around. Lots of woodland runs and an inspiring focus in the Aiguille Rouge, with a classic 7km black/red run with 2km of descent from 3200 to 1200m - did it without stopping first try and my legs nearly fell off :).

The view from Aiguille Rouge on the last day, with the 5% of the entire resort that was above the cloud...

On the other hand, the snow was pretty challenging this trip. There hadn't been a dump for a while, so the first few days were pretty icy mogul fields. Then there WAS a dump and it became fresh powder obscuring ice moguls. Eventually this settled to good powder / good pistes, and poor visibility. But still there was plenty of good fun to be had. Aside from the Ag Rouge, the highlight was being the 3rd person down (after ski patrol dudes) a freshly groomed isolated red run just as the swirling mist cleared to the morning sun. Perfect fast cordrouy, ace :).

I learnt a few things this trip:

1. I haven't magically improved since the last time I went skiing, over a year of, errr, no skiing at all. Funny that.

2. It takes me a few days to warm into it but after that I can keep going well.

3. I'm still utterly crap at jumps despite liking doing them. This was partly the hard snow, but also I realised that when I was better at jumping, it was when I was regularly visiting a dry slope and practising every couple of weeks. Haven't done that for years so no wonder I'm not so good now!!

4. Despite doing running recently and being a bit fitter, I still find my legs are neither strong nor bouncy enough. Should do some more weights I guess.

5. I like powder a lot more than I did previously. Had never really got into it before, but after the ice moguls it came as such a refreshing change that I got into it this time, especially the steeper stuff. This is good.

Overall I think I'll do some more practise before going next time, to set myself up a bit better.

It's all good tho...

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Bloody hell another month. Not much comment on this one really. Some climbing was fun at the end of it. Oh and there was snow.

And this month starts with snow - I'm away skiing now for a week. Very excited!!" Very syked for skiing!! Les Arcs 2000 in a 40% discounted all-in chalet!

That's all for now.