Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Comfort Zonas

So I went to Chulilla and punted around as usual. Actually despite having trained stamina over the course of exactly 1 week prior to the trip, I got it back quickly and did okay. I climbed 7 F7as, so I'm taking the F49g tick for that :). Most of these went smoothly, all that Culillan sport climbing for trad climbers bollox - I'm not bad at downclimbing to rests and shaking out into boredom. Numbers, schmumbers, whatever, they were all ace climbs so fuck you very much, ego. The point of all this is that Julie pointed out "You're doing these quite comfortably..." - I'd fallen off two 7as one due to heat and slopiness the other due to laziness - " should be trying harder things". She has a point, not because of the ever off-putting "should", but because I WANT to be climbing harder sport, I haven't pushed myself so much in that area and I'm enjoying doing harder moves on lead, slapping for holds and feeling able to go for it and risk falling off - sounds quite sport-suitable eh??

So on the last day I did. Despite it being 6th-ish day on I was still feeling good (El Altico's light dinners, wee drams of red wine and comfy beds no doubt), and went for a "mild at the grade" F7a+ - vertical face climbing with cranky positive moves between shakes, all in cool dry conditions, should be perfect for me. Needless to say I came nowhere near it, during the end of the crux sequence I just managed to clip a bolt before fingers uncurled in extremis. There was a slight user error that I'd climbed through the crux past the bolt and had to pause awkwardly to clip it, but pulling back on revealed sketchy and slopey moves to the top, I'd have had to be very lucky to have done it. Julie pissed it on top-rope despite being apparently too tired to climb anything. Whatever the strong midget.

Which made me think of my track record of F7a+s:

Axe Grinder, Creag Nan Cadhag - skin of teeth bouldering with bellowed encouragement from Tat himself. I was very pleased. Felt like a step up.
The One And Only, Brin - this might have gone down to hard 7a, whatever, tell that to someone who gives a shit. I was fully slapping for holds well above the bolt as I couldn't clip the one next to me. Soft but the experience was good.

Puss 26, South Africa - I think this is the name, it was at some tufa-y limestone crag and it's the one I'm most gutted about as it was an amazing route up steep tufas and an animal related name. Far too pumped and maybe not confident enough.
Aphrodite, Kalymnos - too hard a bloc crux, not much to say really.
Alexis Zorbas, Kalymnos - sheer crozzly cranking and not a Kaly soft touch (which I generally didn't do there). Ridiculously close, fell re-adjusting on the pocket after the crux. Cue much swearing and tantrum. Thanks JadeL for collecting my shoes after. This one should have gone.
The Seer, Moy Rock - attempted after warming up on Hoy's South Face route a few days before. Fell off with fingers and feet tied in knots on small pebbles. Could have gone, but quite chancy.
Persistence Of Vision, Dumbarton - put off for years until I was climbing well. No chance really, it's just very tricky and fall-offable. Funny that, at Dumby...
High Pitched Scream, Weem - put off for years until I was climbing well. The guidebook description and occasional downgrade are both goatshit, it is nails. If I'd spent a month training specifically on the GCC and Ratho steep walls I might have stood a chance, maybe.
Sulaco, Pena Roja - see above.

Okay I don't know what to conclude from that. Don't try Scottish ones as they are nails apart from the only 1 or 2 I've done are Scottish?? It all feels a bit like my approach to indoor problems and routes, the line between "finding this hard but can flash it" and "no fucking chance" seems a very slim one. I can usually do stuff in 1, 3, or 70 attempts. The edge of my comfort zone is a funny old place, I wonder if I need a passport and do they use Euros on the other side or just accept your soul as currency??

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Moving Metal

No, not that sort of metal, although you can't beat a good bit of Bolt Thrower for motivation, so here is some:

Instead DO YOU EVEN LIFT BRO. I do a bit of lifting at the gym, because I have to go to the gym a fair bit due to the meticulously and precisely awful weather and the restricted exercise options I have. I lift weights very unseriously - it's just one part of general gymwork including warming up, doing climbing complementary exercises (pull-ups, lying body weight rows, inverted sit-ups, leg raises, leg presses), antagonistic exercises (ring press-ups, tricep presses, dips), stretching, shoulder stabilising (arm cycling), CV (recumbent cycling, rowing), and general conditioning (light compound lifts, renegade rows). I'm training for climbing and general strength fitness, not to be Eddie Hall. On the other hand pushing really hard for short bursts is much more fun than the rest of the gym bollox and provides more motivation to keep going.

Current PBs:

160kg deadlift (2xBW) - done with wrist-straps last winter, done with liquid chalk this winter. That's the only two times, and it's hard enough. Can do 140kg without chalk, just.

100kg squat - done a few years ago and I thought it was going to snap me in half. Now quite regular and almost comfortable, but 100 is such a neat number I'm loathe to try any more.

80kg benchpress (BW) - a recent PB and really happy with this cos it's BW and a neat number. I felt I'd plateaued on 75 for a while, 77.5 seemed intangible and 80 unfeasible so it's nice to get it.

45kg bar shoulder press - possibly rubbish due to chronic shoulder impingement? Not really tried it much, will aim for 50 next.

20kg/arm military shoulder press - quite happy with this.

20kg/arm bicep curl - happy with this too, done it both simultaneously and alternate arms.

18 pull-ups - up from 17 last year and done with only barely passable style but at least not Crossfit pussy-up non-style. Now this is an interesting one as it's the most climbing-related and also the only one which is clearly worse than in previous decades - albeit with good reason. When I was at my lightest in 2006/7, I could do 20 pull-ups reasonably regularly. The current 18 felt like it's only going to be sporadically repeatable, but I reckon 16 would be reasonably regular. So now I'm nearly 20% heavier and can do 20% less pull-ups. Hmmmm. I guess I can take that as a draw??

I do need to add a few things to this:
Max weighted pull-ups - cos that's what it's all about!
Max weighted dips - another neat bw + x one to try.

Now you might be saying "this is why you're pushing 80kg Fiend, it's too much muscle mass". Except I actually do very little of these weights, going for heavier lifts once or twice a week, and I don't do much of similar exercises in a session. They're are done in small set/rep combos of 5, 5, 5/3, 3, 2/1. I.e. warming up generally with 2x5, then heavier with 2x3-ish, then going for a 1 or 2 rep max. This is in accordance with the general wisdom (from gym staff, many sites online, UKB advice from regular lifters) to do small sessions of high weights and low reps to train pure strength with less muscle gain, compared to 10-15 rep sets for muscle gain (conversely I've watched a few bodybuilder training videos to confirm I'm doing the opposite of bodybuilding). Finally I really doubt that having 2" extra around my waist and 1" extra around my thighs according to my indoor climbing harness is due to massive muscle gains from 40 heavy squats / 30 deadlifts + 60 leg raises per week. Having said that, if anyone can provide any wisdom to show how I could tweak my sessions to avoid muscle mass gain / encourage fat loss, I'd be interested.

In the meantime I'm off to find a way to see how I can add at least 20kg for pull-ups...

Sunday, 7 February 2016


I went to the seemingly incredibly fashionable Chulilla recently. The UKB OAP massive were raving about it and even the Glasgow Grumpy Geriatric sport climbers have dragged themselves away from Upper Cave to go. That all seemed to happen before or over the festive period so it was pretty quiet when we went out. There's plenty of hype around: 40m mega-pitches, "sport climbing for trad climbers" with endless shake-outs and mini-cruxes, UK-style face climbing, people's best onsights etc etc. It's probably all true, I enjoyed it a lot anyway. All I can add is that it's all rather scenic too and the sinuous sheer-sided gorge is quite a dramatic surprise in otherwise unassuming countryside.

The weather looked like this:
And the wildlife looked like this:

Pro-tips (in addition to the common knowledge online):

  • To get to El Oasis and other nearby sectors, drive around to the dam. It adds 5 mins driving and saves 10+ mins tiring walking. However the upper walk is worth doing just once for the scenic bridges.
  • Don't head down the horrible gully at the town parking to "short cut" to the river below Lamentaciones. Head into town and turn right at the shop to gain the zig-zags.
  • Take heed of sunny vs shady sectors:  El Oasis is perma-shady in winter, Muro des Lamentaciones gets evening shade, La Pared De Enfrente gets it sooner. Your toes will thank you for any shade.
  • Most mid-grade routes aren't steep enough to stay dry if it rains, BUT Sector Cuevas opposite Lamentaciones has decent mid 6s upwards beneath huge roofs.
  • Take a bail biner if you have any doubts about doing / working a route. 30m is a long way to stick-clip up.
  • Take a decent tarp, most crag bases are dusty.
  • A 70m rope will do most mid-grade routes (including all but one listed), harder routes and a few exceptions will require 80m.
  • El Altico is a nice base, comfy beds and sociable vibe. Could be grim if busy but dorms are pretty small, although kitchen is too. Half board gets you a nice evening feed with red wine but breakfasts are minimal.
  • The guide is still trapped between OOP and the unpromising "coming soon", but the topos at: are good enough, and El Altico has a full routes folder to browse.

Routes list / recommendations:

Sector Cuevas & Sector Penata:

La Caida Del Melon F6c - okay, bouldery start (soft).
Sindrome De Corbadia F6c+ - good and burly, neat line, bulge sates underused biceps.
Maquillaje Mental F6b+ - very nice, bloc start and endless pleasant steep slab. Shiney 35m lower off after best climbing.
(Amor Loco P1 F6b - described as a "satchel of wank", polished burly start (not F6a))
Crisis P1 F6b - good, interesting, start is a bit slopey and tricky
Smigol P1 F6c - great, cool veiny rock and continually interesting right to the chain.

Muro des Lamentaciones:

El Muro des Lamentaciones F7a - amazing, steep start then endless enthralling voyage up steep flakey slabs (soft).
Contacto En El Space F6c - great, very direct route, same steep start then continuously interesting but never desperate (not F6c+)
Yorkshire Pudding F6b - decent, varied, sting in the tail.
(Blue Agave F7a - good, mostly steady apart from one slopey pod section and awkward clip, avoid in warm)
El Ramallito F6c - good, steady then steepens up nicely for a great finish.
Nos Sobran Potxolos F7a - good, nice line, short with a fiercely crimpy crux.
Zikrutina Mientras Puedas F7a - decent, bouldery to start then nice short wall above (not F7a+).
(La Costa Nostra F6b+ - nice line, popular, described as good, techy and rounded)

El Oasis & Las Chorerras :

Top Of The Rock F7a - very cool, nice line, 3 boulder cruxes with good rests, steady if you focus (steady).
Richi F6c - decent but a bit unbalanced, grim start then more fun climbing (not F6b+, F6c for start).
(Nazgul F6c - very much the same)
(Olog-Hai F6c+ - good, cranky start into varied climbing and easier finish up nice wall)
Chamarilero F6c+ - very pleasant, steady start then escalates to techy finish past micro-tufa.
Orgia Sado En El Internado F7a? - good, several hard and very fingery cruxes up smooth walls, fierce (probably not F6c+, harder than F7as here)
Magnetorresistor F6b+ - good, worthy warm-up once past the "uk-style" slopey flakes low down, finish is very nice.
Plan Z F7a - very cool, lovely tufa wall, steady with thoughtful weaving moves and a great finish (soft).
Gargola P1 F6b - short but well worthwhile, thoughtful groove moves and not tiring.
Cantina Marina F7a - excellent, bouldery goey start leads to good moves leads to endless F6b into pure Kalymnos finish at 40m (soft, maybe F6c+).

Wednesday, 3 February 2016


So apparently the month of January for a UKB-following punter goes a bit like this:

1 - 0
2 - indoor bouldering + short run
3 - indoor routes + short run
4 - 1.5 hours gym
5 - indoor bouldering
6 - 0
7 - indoor bouldering + short run
8 - 2 hours gym
9 - indoor bouldering
10 - 1.5 hours gym
11 - 20 min run
12 - 0
13 - indoor bouldering + 1 hour / 4 miles walk
14 - indoor routes + 35 mins / 2 mile walk
15 - 0
16 - 1.45 hours gym
17 - indoor auto-belay and bouldering
18 - 1.45 hours gym
19 - indoor bouldering
20 - 2.5 hours gym
21 - indoor routes
22 - 20 mins run
23 - 1+ hours gym
24 - indoor routes
25 - indoor routes
26 - 2 hours gym
27 - indoor routes
28 - 0
29 - 1+ hours gym
30 - 1 hour sport climbing
31 - several hours sport climbing + 2 x 20 mins tiring walking

Yup it's the sharkathon, in which the aim is to do at least 30 mins of exercise everyday, cut down on the booze, and ideally eat a bit healthier too. A well-meaning post-Xmas boost sort of thing. I'm taking the tick for it, for the few days I missed, there were enough double days to compensate. And yes I'm counting 20 min runs with DVTs as 30+ mins (conservative, they're actually more equivalent to 40 mins previously).

TBH this month wasn't exceptional for me this winter, I've been doing plenty of training, the week before Xmas was back2back indoor wall + run days with long gym sessions (pre-empting festive food and also training for my brother and I's traditional Xmas run - it worked, I did new PBs of 2.5 miles continuously twice this time!). But the sharkathon did encourage me to be a bit more consistent and aware of my exercise. I found that anything after a inactive day felt desperate, whilst most things after a lighter gym or wall session felt good (and obviously doms / sore fingers after a heavier session). By the end I managed to beat or equal all my gym / weights PBs, and do indoor routes and bouldering close to normal.

Weight-wise I started *before* Xmas at a repugnant 79-ish kg and was so appalled that I haven't dared look since then. I think the sharkathon definitely required a lot of burying-head-in-sand denial of current circumstances and lack of any short term gains whatsoever in the blissful hope that it will all be useful in the future, whenever that might be.

As a bonus I've got quite into 0,0% beers as a way to maximise the refreshment vs. indulgence balance. Most are too bland or too sweetly malted, but San Miguel 0,0 and Erdinger Wiessbeir low alcohol are good, whilst my favourite Sainsbury's Czech 0.5% clocks in at 87 calories / 500ml bottle compared to 5 times that amount for many normal lagers which is pretty reassuring.