Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Of course...

Climbing in the winter, irrespective of temperature, definitely requires conditions to be dry...

Well this is the 11th consecutive day of rain in Glasgow, and I think the wettest too. Screw this shit, I'm going to paint toy soldiers instead.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Winter climbing.

Fuck snow and ice, let's rock climb.

Sure it's colder, days are shorter, weather is generally worse - but there's still dry spells, accessible suntrap crags, and short technical climbs. Trad climbing continues throughout the year on gritstone, I've had plenty of t-shirt days mid-winter sheltering from the northerly breeze on sunny high pressure days. Scotland has worse weather overall but I can't imagine it's too different in principle - the few hundred miles north being compensated for by plenty of crags a few hundred metres lower than the grit plateaux. It's just about keeping an open mind and waiting for the right time - our ludicrous weather is so unpredictable who knows what (occasionally good as well as bad!) could be coming up next?? So I intent to keep giving it a try whenever is suitable...

Advantages to going away rock climbing during winter:

1. No midges.

2. No seabirds nesting.

3. Less vegetation and easier paths.

4. Suntrap crags won't be too hot and sweaty.

5. Crag choice is narrowed down and easier.

6. "Tourist" roads will be quieter and quicker.

7. Accommodation, where available off-season, will be quieter and cheaper.

8. Early nights and shorter days mean:
a. Plenty of time to relax and sort out logistics in the evening.
b. Plenty of time to get back from anywhere on Sunday and get ready for the week.
c. More motivation to make use of days.
d. Encourage early travelling which avoids morning traffic.
e. Less tiring overall.

Ways to deal with the cold during winter rock climbing:

1. Maximum amount of clothes including accessories (gloves, scarf, etc)

2. Belay trousers!!

3. Always take windproof, gloves, hat etc up on harness.

4. Flask of tea.

5. Remembering how easy it is to warm up by running around etc.

6. Keep moving to avoid getting too cold.

7. Emphasis on choosing routes for likely speed of ascent.

8. Abseil and strip routes to reduce the time between action and ensure each person gets the most leading done.

Anyone got any more?? All tips and tricks appreciated...

Monday, 16 November 2009

Regression, progression.

Yesterday I failed on a route I quite fancied, and got rather (i.e. very) cross. It was a fairly insignificant route but it was the main route I wanted to do in a whole (albeit very short) afternoon. Plus: Each and every climb, irrespective of quality and worth, is an opportunity to show what quality one's climbing is worth - one practises and forms habits on the insignificant to be ready for, and deserving of, tackling the significant.

I failed in part due to encroaching darkness, but mostly due to fear of falling, fear of commitment, getting pumped, getting scared, going for a foolish clip rather than a sensible move. The same old story, the same old bollox I've been fighting against for the last decade or so, with varying success, and as such a regression.

However, I didn't fail due to: having my heart pounding so badly it juddered me off the rock, being so out of breath I couldn't survive on the route any further, having my vision go funny or feeling nauseous and faint from exhaustion, nor from still being exhausted from short walk-in hours earlier. Thus, in physical terms, a progression!! I was crap because I'm crap not because I'm crippled ;).

The message being: my body can probably take a more aggressive approach on overall improvement, and my mind certainly needs it!!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Improving at Ibrox.

Sorry for another wall-related post, especially one about a more mundane wall, but it is winter, it is Scotland, and physical progression is crucial to me at the moment.

Tonight definitely felt like progression. It felt like bouldering last weekend at Hepburn woke my muscles up and reminded them of what they could do and what was expected of them, and tonight I could feel and measure some progress in that area. I had a mixed session doing routes then bouldering, a rarity for me and even rarer it feels vaguely successful and I don't feel vaguely like death afterwards. Although the routes at Ibrox are pretty much boulder problems compared to Ratho ;).

Routes went fairly well, warming up felt easy (despite feeling a bit tired from wrestling a recalcitrant and oversized coffee table through the city), I managed to pull down okay, and also did some steep stuff okay and without much of the gibbering panic I usually display. I still felt a bit sketchy clipping (why?! it's not like I've been doing trad and sport for the last decade or anything....oh wait, I have...), and still got a bit dizzy if I was hanging on hard for too long. But not as bad as previously.

Bouldering was a bit more of a milestone. I got on several problems I hadn't managed to do after working in a previous pure bouldering session, and crushed them in a one or two goes - including a couple of good fights. I didn't feel too tired after routes (interesting, because my fitness is currently so poor), and I tried properly hard (without things feeling too tweaky, which is nice). It feels good to get some results, but better to feel I'm able to put the effort in.

Of course, I still need to work a lot on my routes stamina and my trad leading head....big challenges still to come...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Having fun at Hepburn, keeping training at Kirrie Hill.

After a series of minor but continual catastrophes recently, I got out climbing this weekend. Which was nice, as it always invariably is.

Northumberland is not in Scotland and I have climbed there lots already. However it is also a lot closer to Glasgow than it is to Sheffield, a lot closer to gritstone than most rock types in Scotland, and I haven't bouldered there lots already. Thus despite desperately desiring to do trad at the moment, when I was invited down on the annual lads bouldering weekend, it was enough to tempt me. I'd never even heard of Hepburn, but it was pretty inspiring: Nice rock, some good problems, and some sloping landings. I did a couple of things that tested me, improved my footwork a bit, got some inspiration for the future, and climbed until my skin and muscles were sore. Although it's not the sort of training and progression I need at the moment, it was a good wake-up call to my body.

The weather was glorious winter sun on Saturday, and glorious winter sun on Sunday, but the latter wasn't in Northumberland, which was wetter than a monkfish's minge, but rather in Scotland (an unusual reversal of the usual weather). The lads beat a retreat down South and I beat a retreat North-wards for many many hours - the drive being somewhat alleviated by Scotland, usually so dank and grim, being utterly gorgeous in the sunshine - to reach Kirrie Hill. Also a sandstone crag but miles away in rock and line quality. In fact pretty much a bolted chossheap, but that's not likely to put me off is it ;). Maybe the lowest of Scottish climbing experiences, but nevertheless some decent moves, decent training, and plenty of winter sun. I did a couple of routes, got a bit pumped, and pulled on a small hold I thought I might ping off. My fingers got a little bit sorer and I got a little bit better trained. That'll do ;).

Monday, 2 November 2009

State of play.

Summarising mostly for my own benefit:

1. My short-medium term desires are (in order of desirability but probably reverse order of effect):
Explore as much further afield Scottish outcrop climbing as possible.
Progress with my outdoor leading back up to a normal level.
Explore and utilise the closer-by Scottish outcrop climbing.
Progress with my climbing fitness up to a normal level.
Progress with my overall fitness.

(Scottish big in-the-mountains climbing is a longer term desire due to the season)

2. I am now living in Scotland. There is a vast amount of big in-the-mountains climbing available for weekend trips, a lot of outcrop available for weekend trips, also a lot of outcrop climbing available for longer trips, and a bit of outcrop climbing available for day trips.

3. It is nearly the start of winter. The days are shorter and colder, restricting any climbing to more accessible sun trap outcrops (which is all I can walk to anyway).

4. The weather is likely to be variable and often poor from now on, and at least unpredictable. This will further restrict climbing areas and necessitate flexible or last minute plans.

5. I have a reasonable amount of free time and could take 3 day weekend trips if I could find a partner for such.

6. I know plenty of people to climb down the wall with, a few people to go sport climbing with, a few people to do single day trad climbing with, and so far almost no-one to go on full weekend nor long weekend trips with.

7. My current level of outdoor climbing is approximately as follows:
(Taking into account reduced psychological ability and all dependent on type of climbing)
Trad adjectival: 2-3 grades below desired
Trad technical: 1-2 grades below desired
Sport climbing: 3 grades below desired
Bouldering: unknown, estimate 1-2 grades below normal
Redpointing: 3-4 grades below normal

8. My current level of physical ability is approximately as follows:
Technique: 90%
Flexibility: 90%
Upper body strength: 80%
Lower body strength: 60%
Overall fitness: 35%
(Upper body fitness: 55%)
(Lower body fitness: 15%)
Walking ability: max 45 mins flat, 15 mins uphill.

9. I have access to one very large but rarely changing "double size" climbing wall, and one normal climbing wall.

10. I have the opportunity to regularly run, swim, use weights machines etc etc.

The question of course is: How do I best use, or take into account, 2-10, to achieve 1? I.e. this is what I've got, how can I use it?, This is what I'm faced with, how can I deal with it?

So far the best plan would seem to involve plenty of fitness training, a fair amount of climbing training, plenty of looking after myself since I'm still recuperating, discipline to maximise the preceding, good organisation, particular diligence in finding suitable partners, and particular readiness for any chance to take advantage of breaks in the weather.

[Edit: This of course refers to "local" i.e. Scottish climbing desires. Obviously I still have very strong desires for inspiring climbing abroad, but that might have to wait for a little while. Although I really definitely should fit something in over Christmas - I haven't been on a single climbing trip abroad this year which is a shocking waste!!]

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Actually quite a bit of action and progress this month, unfortunately most of it being the "two steps forward, one step back" faffing around to retrospectively sort out the logistical mess left by my hospitalisation in August, and unfortunately most of it involving very little action, progress, nor indeed fun with my climbing.

Thankfully things have finally settled down a bit so I intend to settle a bit into a better routine including a lot more training of my fitness and hopefully progress in my climbing (as well as progress in other areas that are mercifully outside of the scope of this blog) - I have a long winter ahead of me to utilise well...