Thursday, 30 April 2009

Fear of falling

I am scared of falling. Utterly completely "handbrake ON" "simply can't do this" terrified of falling AND of getting in any situation where I might fall or might be so committed falling might be an option. This is safe falls onto good gear on clear terrain, BTW. Not terrified all the time, but enough of the time to confirm it's my default state. I've got side-stepped this fear on many occasions, almost always by cunning, tactics, working things out optimally, and generally stacking the odds so far in my favour that falling simply doesn't feel like an option.

However it is still an issue - no, THE issue - that holds me back the most, holds me back from the most climbing pleasure. A "lack of committment" as I once described it is simply a fear of committing to a possible-falling situation....a "fear of ending up unable to place/clip protection" is simply a fear of of falling onto the previous protection. I can committ quite well on moves to a big ledge or bomber gear slot!

Some might say "this happens to everyone". Well, aside from that being factually wrong, I'm not interested in everyone. I'm interested in my climbing, what I can do to progress, and getting the most pleasure out of it. The most pleasure will come from being less scared of falling and being able to enjoy inspiring high quality climbs without being held back from actually climbing them. This is not rocket science and I've been aware of it for many years, nevertheless that awareness ebbs and flows and it is quite clear at the moment that I need to, and would like to, keep trying to deal with this issue.

Thus, I sentence myself, for my own good, to falling practise each and every time I go to the climbing wall. This - as intimidating as it is to me - has helped before (another way I managed to , well, not side-step it, but actually tackle it) and I expect it will work again. Thus, a plan for progress.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Battered like sausage, beaten like egg.

Result: Fiend omelette. Delicious, nutritious, and with all your essential saturated fats guaranteed.

The recipe for turning Fiend into mincemeat was demonstrated this weekend. Take an overhanging slanting jamming crack, arrange the crack so that many good hand jams are visible in the first half, and arrange the rock strata to give the impression of being slightly overhanging, all to imbue the victim/ingredient with a sense of awe and confidence. Stir said ingredient into the mix and slowly puree along 15m of mild hand crushing. As things start coming to the boil, widen the crack and increase the angle to ensure upper limbs are adequately tenderised, then briefly simmer in a traumatic leg searing niche, allowing the exposure and exhaustion to pulverise any firmness left in the meat. Serve hanging on the rope....and for dessert ensure that the only method of retrieving ropes is a 2 hour epic of abseiling, retrieving ropes, prussiking, and semi-seconding said horror.

For a digestif, finally abseil off and realise the whole crag overhangs by many metres, including the so-called slabby niche that is merely overhanging slightly less than the rest.

Next time I'm taking a sodding protractor or surveying equipment so that when insidious thoughts like "it overhangs a little bit" and "that niche looks like a good rest" bubble up into my mind, I can get a grip on REALITY first!!

Suffice to say, I was beaten fair and square. I tried hard, but it was too hard. Too exhausting overall, too wild, too blind and committing a finish to deal with when I was that knackered....and stressed.

In fact, in common with the previous weekend's debacle/failure (yes, there was one, obviously), the key factor was discomfort/stress. This week it was overall exhaustion, arm pain from the climbing and leg pain from the hideous niche that meant I couldn't recover. Last week it was extreme foot pain on a slate slab that meant I could not stand around and work out crux moves. Both situations required time - time spent in one area, working out moves (and letting limbs recover) - and a clear head to deal with the challenges. And in both situations there was unavoidable discomfort, discomfort that made spending that time increasingly hard, AND created stress and that stress clouded my mind so I couldn't work out how to progress.

Clearly there is a lesson to learn there. Dealing with discomfort and stress: partly by preparing better, but mostly by dealing with it as it happens, accepting and allowing the discomfort, but not succumbing to it, keeping the mind calm even as the body is pressured. Not easy at all, but recognising the issue, it is something to work on.

But there is also another lesson....both situations may have been resolvable by pressing on quickly, in an uncertain and unlikely way, with a chance of progressing to somewhere to recover, but with a high risk of falling why didn't I do that...

Monday, 27 April 2009


Alas, poor slate, I knew it well. Not very well, as an outsider and a relative youth, but intimately in my own way. I knew it as a fascinating and obscure medium, a venue of mystery and magic, of brilliant climbing amidst industrial wreckage, of climbing quality masked by the rainy day tag and the lure of the mountains, of eerieness and quietness and exploration and intrigue.

And now?? The rock is still there - if you can see it past the crowds and bolts - but the magic is going.

This may be due to retro / re / grid bolting and the seemingly determined attempts to turn it into the Portland of Snowdonia, but also due to fashion. Fashion and trends and crowd following and suddenly a once mystical area is swamped by hordes of braying Londoners and Brummies, gangs of students and beginners who can't resist the newly bolted 4+ slabs, girls who like crimpy bloody slabs, and vapid UKC sheep full of internet information and empty in soul and spirit, all queuing for routes and blethering on about their latest big ticks and big numbers, all overgraded and overbolted of course.

Why was I there? Convenience, guilty as charged for that, but also my partner's desire which I trust is an older and purer one than many. Still, I will keep coming back, with partners when they need to, and maybe the new guide will highlight some interesting options and spread the load...

Friday, 24 April 2009

"Exploration, and maybe sport climbing"

Or indeed both.

One day I went to Slaley Brook Quarry near Matlock for some sport climbing, this was fun. In the grand tradition of such quarries there is a lot of appalling rock but also some distinct sections of quality climbing. Indeed at Slaley the appalling choss is truly horrifying, and the more climbable Marble Wall is really rather nice, with a surprisingly amount of flowstone and a nice selection of steady, crimpy wall climbs. I did a few and they were jolly nice really. I felt happy.

Another day I went to Pallet Crag near Barnard Castle for some esoteric exploration, this was fun. In the grand tradition of such minor venues there is a fair amount of scruffy bits and signs of underuse but also some definite hidden gems to be found. Indeed at Pallet there is only one climbable buttress, and it is really rather nice, a small but proud pillar of well featured gritstone and a nice selection of varied mid-grade routes. I did a a few and they were jolly nice. I felt happy.

Hurrah. The latter day also reminded me that - as a professed esotericist, I do enjoy these jolly jaunts to obscure hidden gem crags :). Not as much as I enjoy exciting and massively inspiring routes that I can't get out of my mind, but at times like this, odd little curios keep the fun going...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

False start.

There has been one. After a perky March, April has been somewhat more foolish for my climbing. As always, the fool is me. With weather, experience, and fitness stacked in my favour, my state of mind has let me down. A certain amount of depression and doubt has been more conducive to gazing at climbs in a state of terror and worry and walking away, rather than actually climbing them. This is the way it sometimes is with me....I have issues....those sometimes affect my climbing.

Last spring I had to be careful and cunning with my climbing plans as my body was weak and fragile.

This spring I have to be careful and cunning with my climbing plans as my mind is weak and fragile.

Thus....I've realised that when I feel this way, I should stick unintimidating climbing - climbing that suits me, is within my comfort zone, is not so dependent on inner confidence. This doesn't have to be mundane - Gogarth Red Wall for example is unintimidating as although it's adventurous, the climbing is piss. But in general, exploration (the obligatory exploration = route choice!!), and maybe sport climbing too, seem like good plans. And if I have moments of confidence, I can follow my higher inspirations then....go with what I feel, knowing that my feelings are pretty important in my climbing...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

General and various aims...

I only write them down because my memory is so rubbish I actually forget what I want to do :)

England and Wales only. Scotland Ireland and the rest of the world are many more kettles of fish. You get the gist I think.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Wank Holiday


Maybe I didn't want to go climbing that much?? Maybe I got so confused by the unpredictable weather that I lost motivation?? Maybe I'm just lazy??

I don't know, I've realised I don't fully understand climbing yet - well, I understand myself as a climber and a person even less...!!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Takein - Intake.

I've found a new training ground for the summer: Intake Quarry (link to Gary Gibson's delightfully archaic, haphazard, and fairly broken website - entirely appropriate for the venues described! :)). Although partially featuring in the Rockfax Limestone Guide, I've been unduly intrigued by this particular one of the numerous Peak Limestone Quarried Shitheaps - mostly because of the large number of trad routes featured on the site.

I had a delightful Bank Holiday jaunt there yesterday (what a fine choice for the weekend, sir :P), and found as well as being reasonably pleasant for a chossy limestone quarry (and believe me there is a lot of choss here surrounding the "slightly" better sections of semi-climbable rock), it looks reasonably suitable to keep me route fit when time dictates only local days: Long pumpy-looking sport routes around F6a-F7a, long pumpy AND scary-looking trad routes around E1-E4, it's likely there's a good workout to be had.

Not even I will claim to be that inspired by such a place (although no doubt there's the odd gem, hidden in plain view), but I'm inspired by keeping fit, and it beats the climbing wall, just...

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Funny business - fear and failure.

Climbing's a funny business. Funny strange and probably funny haha if one is that way inclined. Maybe it would benefit me to heed the ludicrosity of it all a bit more?? Cos it still bemuses the hell after me - trad leading especially. After 12 years or so climbing, 1000s of routes, route after route after day after day after year after year pushing myself and progressing, I still don't really get it. The waxing and the waning, the ebb and flow, the maddeningly random ups and downs that see you one day cruising everything in sight and the next day struggling even to do warm-up routes. Climbing challenging routes is an admirable goal, but so is consistency and whilst I've managed the former I still don't seem to manage the latter as much as I like.

Today was one such example of this: I went somewhere with inspiring challenges (or is that challenging inspirations) for me to try, and not much else. I went with a purpose, but that purpose SCARED ME. I had THE FEAR through most of the day. Eventually I felt ready and somewhat more syked and got on a warm-up route. Autopilot took over for a bit but it didn't take much for the fear to come back: a bit of pump, a bit of scruffy rock, a bit of a crux and a lot of THE DAMN FUCKING FEAR SCARING THE SHIT OUT OF ME WHEN FACED WITH EASY MOVES AND GOOD GEAR BY MY KNEES. Jeez... Why?? I don't really know. A bit tired? A bit struggling for syke? A bit unfed? A bit of a fucking gaylord? The latter most likely ;).

There is some stuff to learn from this, and a simple method to follow: Be honest. Analyse weakness. Train it.

But although I'm not so cross now (there was a "bit" of swearing at the time), I'm still bemused. Climbing, funny old business. And who knows what it will bring tomorrow...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Climbing sandwich.

A few recent days:

Bread: Bouldering in poor conditions. Whilst recovering from my throat infection, I went to Carrock Fell for some bouldering mileage. Not quite sure what I expected but it was a particular blend of fun: hazy conditions that were dreadful for climbing on the rough gabbro slopers, new skin growth peeling off all the time, painfully breaking in new shoes, disappointing easy problems, feeling weak as a kitten, AND feeling nauseous after every single problem due to the antibiotics. YAY :). Actually I did enjoy a couple of problems and accepted all the issues around and at least the haze looked great with the evening sun...

Filling: Trad climbing in good conditions. A little while later, after some chillout time and a recuperative session of crazy putting, I went to Cambusbarron for some leading mileage. And indeed got more miles than I expected, the partner I was with fortuitously decided he'd like to second some ""harder"" routes for a change, so I raced through a few easy extremes, much fun. I also equally unexpectedly managed my main Cambusbarron tick, Chisel, which was well worth the syking up required and provided a satisfying challenge. However now I've done that there are many more challenges there....and elsewhere...

Bread: Bouldering in poor conditions. Went indoors for a brief hour of power. Not quite sure why as I'm sure I should have been running or doing routes or something relevant, nevertheless. Anyway I got my comeuppance, a decent workout but almost entirely devoid of actually success - and almost entirely due to conditions. I seemed to choose sloper problems with an unerring knack, and slide off them with even less erring. No surprises being hampered by conditions not strength, but it's all training of a form isn't it...

Monday, 6 April 2009


Bit slow with this one but never mind.

1/4 of the way through the year. Jeez. Scary. I don't mind time passing in general (as long as some of it passes well) but this is passing somewhat quickly and I have a lot I should be doing. This last month "a lot I should be doing" has gone fairly bollox (has gone? I've made it go, more like...). On the other hand, other life "stuff" has been pretty exciting... And climbing has been pretty good, in fact the best for a year, I reckon: Injuries still present but very slightly lessening and usually manageable, fitness okay, tradding good and bouldering good. I just feel ready (and syked) for climbing, without being too desperate. Where's my mofoing party poppers??

So this month has gone quickly but it's gone fairly well. Now I need to make sure I do fairly well, and soon...