Wednesday, 24 February 2010

And now??

Time for another general state of play update (after the above short dog interlude ;))...

In a nutshell: Leg fitness bad, climbing fitness fine, strength fine, trad leading okay but not so smooth, confidence okay but still needs more training, climbing partner situation still lacking but slowly improving. Slight shoulder niggle and slight finger niggle but manageable. Syke present and correct!

Really I'm doing okay at the moment. Training and sport climbing trips have paid off, and sporadic trad outings are really not bad for this time of year and how little trad I've been able to do.

So I'm wondering where to go next. I'm working up for proper cragging in spring and summer, and there's so much cool stuff out there to go at. What should I do to be as ready as possible for this?? I think pretty much more of the same:

  • Keep climbing trad whenever possible.

  • Aim to get trad leading / gear placing as smooth as possible.

  • Keep in touch with good climbing contacts - important!

  • Boulder outside for strength and technique.

  • Build up confidence on sport climbs.

  • Do more falling practice down the wall - important!

  • Train stamina down the wall.

  • Train fitness - important!

Seems pretty sensible to me. Trad is a great all round challenge, with many and varied aspects to work on, all of which will be beneficial in their own way. I don't think I need to be too rigid with this, just keep putting the effort in and keep enjoying doing so (well apart from the leg fitness thing....a necessary evil).

Edit: Blogspot seems to turn my list dots into little flowers. Oh well!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Grasping lichen at Glen Lednock.

Yesterday, after a fruitless quest failing to persuade anyone to go out cragging despite the glorious sunny weather, I went for a bouldering circuit at Glen Lednock (scene of last year's debacle). When I got to the car park, it all seemed a bit strange. Lots of the familiar aspects of Scottish hill bouldering seemed absent... Where was the hideous (and woefully underestimated) slog up a hillside? The man-eating vegetation? The obscure boulder jumbles? The ankle-breaking tussocks? The dank shade? The seepage?

An easily accessible boulder field scattered above decent landings on an open sunny hillside with a quite splendid view...

...this isn't what Scottish bouldering was all about!

However, there was a wee catch. The bouldering was okay, but not that great. Definitely too many sit starts, a few too many eliminates, and a bit too much lichen. Not a place to go for mega-classic lines, but quite good for a steady circuit, which is what I did, and in a great location. The best problem I did was a high-ish thing with a dodgy landing, I liked the committment on that. Hopefully all good mileage in the end, although I need to get a bit more focused on flashing easier stuff (better training for Easy Trad(tm), you see). On the way out I doused my hands in an icy mountain river which was, errr, fun, and made my arms ache with the returning chilled blood!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Crushing at Cambusbarron.

Just managed to do the hardest boulder problem I've ever done, Monkey Spanking:

11 hours
6 days
7 worn down fingertips
3 bleeding flappers
1 strained hamstring
1 brass brush destroyed
1 bag of super chalk
4 camera batteries

...and I did it.

I started working it in the deep freeze in January, as it stayed completely dry - definitely a good use of Scottish winter conditions ;). I thought it was a new problem as I'd asked about it online and no-one knew anything about it, despite it being an brilliant and blatant line. After 4 days effort I found out (through the obtuse and impenetrable Scottish bouldering scene) that it had been done already - the pressure was off but I'd put in too much effort to give up. After a few longer rest periods I did it today.

Quite a strange experience, at first it took a while to even get off the ground, so making incremental progress was interesting, but at times I dreaded getting back on it due to how hard it felt. I still didn't fully understand the body positions involved, the holds are quite clear - there aren't any - but how I was positioned in space to use them was still a bit of a mystery.

To celebrate I also did the right side of the arete, the original Spanking The Monkey which is a better problem and great fun and I had a smile on my face when I slid down from near the top a few times:

P.S. I must confess the real reason I managed to do Monkey Spanking today was an inspirational spotter in the form of a passing Julian Lines' dog, who was so determined to remain a spotter rather than traipse around the quarry scouting out new lines that Jules had to pick him up and carry him away:

Thursday, 18 February 2010

So this is me...

...fucking crippled.

I've had some medical check-ups in the last few days - vascular surgeon and haematologist appointments, with the usual anti-coag and doctor's appointments in between. I had some long discussions with the vasc and haem specialists, following a second MRI Venogram in December, and the summary is:

- My IVC (main vein from my lower body to my heart) is sealed and there is no possibility of opening it (this was to be expected).
- The clots in my legs are dissolving slowly, and will continue to dissolve over the next couple of years but...
- ...they are still present and are likely to be there for years if not lifetime (this is contrary to what I was told in Sheffield).
- The iliac veins in my pelvis are completely blocked and could remain blocked permanently.
- The surrounding collateral veins are taking up the blood flow and will develop over time (a long time?).
- There is nothing chemical nor mechanical which can be done to open these veins up nor speed up the process.

All of which explains why:

- I'm currently at 30% of fitness for running, and 20% for walking uphill, there has been little progress with this.

Which fucking sucks.

As if ONE fucking sealed major vein wasn't enough.

I asked a lot of questions and got the same answers each time: There is nothing that can be done, and my body will dissolve some but probably not all of the clots over time. What fitness I'll get back is completely unknown - it is likely to be more, but no-one can predict how much more. I'll be on warfarin for life, and continuing exercising a lot will be beneficial in helping clot dissolution and over-developing the collateral veins.

All of this encourages me to train hard, push myself harder, go on more trips, explore more, and tick BIGGER FUCKING NUMBERS. As much as my often-fragile mental state will allow - but whilst this might have ruined my leg fitness, it's not ruining my life nor my climbing.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Fitness shitness...

A big deal for me at the moment for obvious reasons. I've been thinking about my climbing and general physical activity plans and progression at the moment, and fitness - or the lack thereof, in fact not only the lack thereof but the seeming inability to regain any - plays a big role.

Not least because I've got to get up to Sron Na Ciche Eastern Buttress, Stac Pollaidh, Beinn Eighe Far East Wall, Bonaid Dhonn, Garbh Bheinn, Aonach Dubh, and The Cobbler (and maybe some of that Ben Nevis and Cairngorm granite nonsense too) somehow.


Walking 20 minutes uphill (40+ minutes for me including rests) recently was murderous and little improvement over previous months. Walking 2 hours (5 for me?) is hard to imagine.

For many years I've stuck to roadside outcrops through choice and personal preference. Now I have to stick to them through necessity. But although there's hundreds of inspiring places to explore like that in Scotland, I don't want to be restricted to that, and to be clear, I don't want to be permanently crippled.

I'm going to see the vascular surgeon tomorrow. In an ideal world it would go like this:

Mais oui Monsieur Fiend! Now that the clots should have fully dissipated, we have this new exercise regime that will get you back to full fitness in a few months...

Oh bien sur, we can operate and drill out that stupid spasticated IVC in your chest and replace it with a piece of vein that actually works, pas du problem...

I doubt that's going to happen though :S. But I do really need to find out how things can proceed and progress from here.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Getting cold at Glen Croe.

My winter cragging plans went somewhat, but not entirely, awry today. I planned to go to the "roadside" crags in Glen Croe, a mere hour from Glasgow weegopolis, on the basis that they had some short technical routes, were easy to walk in to, and were south-facing to benefit from the glorious sunshine forecast all day.

In the event it turns out the short technical routes were a bit seepy, thus forcing an expedition to something drier but longer, the walk-in was short-ISH but steep enough to verging on climbing itself, which was utterly exhausting for me and also gave a misleading impression of how warm it was, as I crawled to the crag base, delirious and sweaty. And the sun, did it come out even once?? Did it FUCK.

Anyway, I jumped on a fairly challenging route on the basis that it was fairly slabby, had some good rests, and should be reasonably dispatchable. However I'd forgotten just how damned intricate climbing Arrochar schist slabs can be. Not a hint of chalk, a smattering of dusty lichen, a sea of undulating rock that perfectly hides the few useful holds - but not gear because there was scarcely any to hide in 40m (10 bits in 6 clusters), sustained run-outs and a committing technical crux. A great onsight experience but perhaps not so great on a cold February day. I did it, which was good, but the amount of faff (apologies to my climbing partner, I owe him one) made it a slightly hollow victory. Nevertheless it's useful trad mileage and useful learning about the rock and conditions.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Dodging drips and dead deer at Dunkeld.

I managed to get a brief day out at Upper Cave Crag at Dunkeld recently. Only did one route due to time and a surprising amount of seepage (I guess the ground above is slowly defrosting), and that route wasn't amazing - a bit awkward, fiddly pro and okay moves. But it was a good day out for various reasons:

- I still felt okay on trad despite two months off, a bit rusty due to excessive sport climbing, a bit nervous due to run-outs and dripping bits, but got straight on something non-trivial and did it okay.

- I learnt some useful stuff about what will help with my trad, especially on mica-schist. I tend to struggle with this rather obtuse but alarmingly prevalent rock type, where you never really know what you're going to get with imminent holds and gear slots - a big change from the obviousness of join-the-dots Tenerife sport climbing. I'm just going to do more of the damnable schist and get used to the fiddly-ness of it all, which will be good training, and after which something more obvious like gneiss will feel rather, errr, nice.

- It was another confirmation about how trad is perfectly feasible during Scottish winter. Despite it being -2'c in the morning, forecast to rise 4'c, and it soon clouding over at the crag, it was still fine climbing in a t-shirt and the vibe of the crag, drips aside, was quite pleasant. If the sun had stayed out I could have worked on my tan!

- It was good and interesting to check out Cave Crag. At my standard it's one of the most important day-trip crags so I can see it getting heavy usage. And indeed it was quite inspiring, some good towering lines above a very pleasant flat crag base. Plus some really decent looking sport climbing to get rotpunkting on - a useful training arena all round!

And the deer?? 3 of them between Cave Crag and Polney, all distinctly dead but mostly intact apart from their eyes having been pecked out. Hmmm. Not sure how nice that will be when they defrost!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Fucking hillwalking.

Yeah what FUN. Legs and lungs burning after 5 minutes, every step feeling like I'm going to puke my lungs inside out, having to collapse and rest every few minutes before my pounding heart knocks out my balance and I fall over. Whose fucking great idea was this??

Oh yeah, it was mine.

And all of the above crippled flailing around indicates I do really need to do it.

My climbing fitness has come on well, general walking is okay, strength is good, swimming fine, skiing fine too despite my legs getting a bit achey, running is....bad....but not nearly as bad as hillwalking. Hillwalking sucks and I suck at it. However climbing doesn't suck and I don't suck much at it, and unfortunately a lot of climbing is found on top of hills, so really I need to be able to walk up to get to it. So I'm going to have to keep trying I guess...

I think next time I'm gonna take my discman, I've got enough death metal and gabber to fit my mood. This will help take the pain away...

Friday, 5 February 2010

Slippery white stuff.

[An exposition to compare and contrast two different sorts, one of which is distinctly more suitable for it's chosen purpose than the other.]

Had another day skiing recently - a day trip up to Glen Coe which is small enough (and was quiet enough) to get a good amount done in a single day. Pricey but a good experience. As well as quiet slopes, the main attraction was often very good snow - some of the unbashed pistes had as good piste snow as I've skied on. Some nice steeper bits and the excellently named "Haggis Trap" run were fun too. It might be small but the terrain is quite interesting. I think it would only be sensible to try to tick Nevis Range and The Lecht this season too. I'd also like to go back to Glenshee when I can see something.

Whilst lounging around on the dinky single person chairlift and letting my aching legs recover, I came to the realisation that Scottish skiing roughly equates to Peak District limestone sport climbing, in the following escalation of comparisons:

Dry slope skiing is comparable to indoor wall climbing - nasty, plasticy, unrealistic, but can be rewarding and good if well designed, and good mileage.

Indoor snow slope skiing is comparable to indoor wall climbing on feature panels - semi-realistic fun for a few times, but vastly limited with little mileage to be gained.

Scottish skiing is comparable to Peak Lime sport climbing - distinctly minor, poky, internationally insignificant and a particular laughing stock for those who have experienced the activity in Europe, suffering from overuse, relatively ugly, shoddy and badly placed equipment, and at the mercy (or lack thereof) of the British weather. BUT for all that, it's outdoors, it's the real thing, the actual movement is still good fun, and it's good relevant training for the greater ranges, whether that's Courchevel or Creag Dubh, Val Thorens or Torridon...