Monday, 30 January 2017

Albarracin v2.0

The second leg of the trip involved one rest day, collecting my own hire car from Alicante, being rather pleased that the budget option had been upgraded to a Ford Focus with 2k on the clock, 6 gears, cruise control etc etc, going for a chilled long drive cross country to Valencia, calmly negotiating Valencia city centre with it's 5 lane unmarked roundabouts and associated swerving traffic in search of a model shop for spare wheel nuts, and a Decathlon for spare power vests, thankfully I resisted:


I survived all of this and then on pulling into the parking in Alba village, scratched the side of the car. Cocks. No I don't want to spend the same amount as the fucking car hire on excess-negating insurance, but equally I don't want to be charged £230 to repair this:

£230 per door with minor damage. The front door could conceivably cost 2/3 of that to fix. The 5cm micro-dent and 1cm chip on the rear door, yeah fucking right.

The car hire guy didn't deny his company were "completely criminal" for this overcharging. Yeah I scraped the car, yeah I should pay for the repairs, so charge me for the fucking REPAIRS (and the lost earnings for time of the road). Thankfully I still had independent generic excess-negating insurance and amazingly after sending them every imaginable document to do with my trip from a graph plotting the tyre pressure on each kilometre travelled to a list of which Alba problems were the most badly graded to a page of estimated lengths of all the hire company staff's anal beards with no more than 15% deviance, they actually paid up. So go to and give them a go.

After all this debacle there was some climbing, not a lot each day but a decent amount overall, along with walking all over the forest reccing all the areas I thought were available pre-bird ban but turns out after not available as it's been upgraded to a perma-ban, ooops. I climbed okay, I'm still rubbish on the mega-burly roofs and still okay on the soft-touch sloper problems, that might be something to do with the conditions which were outrageously good, 6 days of perfect sun, light breeze, sub-freezing nights and shade, and humidity so low that I got dry skin patches on my arms. Wow. This is the sort of climate I should be in rather than the fucking rank troglodyte shit up here and in the UK in general. So yeah the slopers felt lovely and my elbow actually got better without the damp and the anti-hydral just worked enough. On the last day I woke up barely able to move my wrist, my shoulders in knots, 3 small blood blisters on my fingers, and it was drizzling. Time to go home.

As well as the climbing I had fun hanging out with Kelvin and Anna and a TCA/GCC crew, and also building precarious tripods from fallen pine branches, so this happened of course.

Here have some photos:

Good morning Albarracin! It is a lovely village to wake up to, although I was too lazy to walk up into it this time.

 Finding a 7A roof at Psicokiller too hard for me, I did this instead. 6C/+ , took me 3 attempts.

 Grumpy gato. None of them wanted to be my friend.

 More grumpy gatos. Even away from the village centre it's all pretty nice.

 Just chilling on a balcony, why not eh.

 Balcony perro bossing it.

 Well fortified against hordes of traveling boulderers.

 Moss and trees. This was the first day during when I started exploring at 11am and finally started bouldering at 4pm. I had felt pretty nauseous for no good reason. The last 2 hours were good though!

 Sofa Boulder perro. So cute and fluffy.

Dinner for one. Is this suitable for the unfit and overweight punter, even after being active all day and just snacking on persimons and hazelnuts?? Probably not. Then again I saw an 8B boulderer eat a similar pizza, albeit topped with pears and ham. Hmmm.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Costa Blanca v4.0

The one glimmer of hope this winter has been a Spanish trip of Costa Blanca B2B Albarracin, which was really a very pleasant experience. I went to Costa with Big Bob, the clue is in the name although we had separate bedrooms in our budget apartment, and I only fell off two routes using his unspeakably bad gigantalope beta. He'd already booked the time in CB but wasn't very keen because a previous trip had been characterised by polish, heat, and losing the will to live. I was desperate to get away and almost none of the many other climbers I know were available, but wasn't very keen as after 3 trips I thought I'd climbed out CB. It turns out that even in the old guidebook there's loads of crags I hadn't visited, and with careful choice we only had one warm afternoon and a grand total of 2 polished routes (one of which being a *** F6a+) in the whole trip.

I started the trip in possibly the most useless state I've ever started a trip: Woefully under-trained, the usual tweaked elbow, a less usual tweaked wrist, tweaked lower back from a crimpy rockover at GCC (what? how?), full up to the hair follicles with the manflu, and one blocked ear that didn't depressurise on landing in Alicante. So my goal was just to "feel a bit better" and  "climb some nice routes" (ugh how bumbly) and  I did both. The former came on a day when I persuaded Robert to climb in the sun given it was 10'c at midday at Bellus. Too warm for him (apparently there is someone worse than me for coping with the heat), but after failing on a F6b+ because I couldn't even think straight, I onsighted a half hour nap in the sun, did a couple of really nice grey slabs and on the hour bimble back to Calpe started to feel better instead of exhausted.

Fat, weak, ill, injured, what a knob. Regular readers will be pleased to hear the trousers didn't make it back alive.

First evening view from Altea Col. Obviously the illness is going to clear up rapidly, if not the fatness nor knobness.

The latter came throughout the trip, and what I lacked in tackling harder routes, I made up for in an unerring ability to choose awesome easier ones ;). Highlights included Arte Del Olvido at Sella Shady Side which was an absolutely massive pitch up an endless line of resting pockets, Gandalf at L'Ocaive which had an amazing continuously technical headwall miles above anything, and Espresso at Los Pinos which I'd backed off ill on our first full day and did pretty smoothly on our last day. And of course the mega Tuna Steak Of Glory - a huge slab at £9 a kilo from the supermarket, Salted, flash fried, and served on a bed of bulgar wheat, sliced swordfish (£12 a kilo), asparagus, with fresh mint and fresh lemon. If I'd paid £15+ in a restaurant for this I'd be happy.

   Kill it some more, just in case!

Best tick of the trip. Note the Amstel 0,0 - I'm trying. It was pretty bogging. San Miguel 0,0 is the one whilst in Espana.

There was even time in the long dark evenings for a spot of light cruising at a local plaza. This is a 1/28 scale WLToys P929 with an upgraded motor and my own LED lighting rig. It's the size of my hand and I clocked it at 23mph before Xmas.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Back once again....

....and who knows I might keep it up this time.

In short, November and December I sulked. New Year I went to Costa Blanca and Albarracin, more on that later but suffice to say I cooked the best tuna steak I've ever had.

Now I'm back in the shithole that is Scotland in the winter, and back training. But for what?? Good question. My immediate goal is to spend the next 3 months climbing on gritstone - right time, wrong place, but I'll try. The training for that revolves solely around anti-hydral cream and some stretching. In the longer term I want to push myself and physically improve (a little bit!), but in what direction?? What do I need to do to do what I want to do, which is essentially "more of the same" challenging inspiring trad, in more varied situations??

To answer this, what could have been better last year, which was mostly decent for the first 2/3 of it?? What did I struggle with, and what can I train to improve those situations.

Some UK routes I failed on, and some reasons why:

Traction Trauma, Dinbren - undergraded, reachy, missed footholds when boxed.
Back To The Old Ways, Backways Cove - undergraded, silty death.
Gale Force Zero, North Pembroke - conditions (too smeggy), undergraded, got pumped
Life's Just A Ballgame, North Pembroke - conditions (hot and sunny), scary bold friction climbing
Peryl, Avon - conditions (too sunny and hot), missed guidebook description of rest ledge.
One Rawl For All, Avon - conditions (too hot on the rock).
White Spider, Dartmoor - conditions (only warm but very slopey friction climbing)
Some E3, Anstey's Cove - conditions (warm even in the shade), tired, slipped off.
Black Sapper, Robin's Rocks - very pumpy, committing, hard to read, more pumpy.
Some E2, Gower - conditions (okay on the rock but too warm in general), hard and holdless.
Dragon's Den, Dewerstone - conditions (a bit grubby and not cold enough for rubbish slopers), didn't rest long enough to let skin cool down and rechalk.
Some F7a, Wyndcliffe Quarry - conditions (damp and greasy), hadn't warmed up enough.

And a few routes I really struggled on:

Mad Mutt, North Pembroke - conditions (a bit smeggy), undergraded, power endurance.
Tremelo, North Pembroke - conditions (a big smeggy), very undergraded, pumpy
Black Magic, Pentire - conditions (gloomy and greasy)
Dogs Of War, Gogarth - conditions (hot and sunny)
The Baldest, St Loy - undergraded, missed hidden RP.

Useful. Really fucking useful. Don't climb when conditions are bad, don't get on sandbag routes.Yeah sure let me factor that into my TCA / Ratho sessions *rolls eyes*

Okay. So, more useful might be to rewind back to the late winter sport trip where I really struggled, and conditions were less of an issue - compared to routes being reachy, or really hard to read with endless blind pockets, at least. Physically though, there are a few common threads:

1. Getting generally pumped on relentless trad.
> I can train a bit for this by doing laps on routes and TCA stamina circuits.

2. Powering out on short sections of steep ground and intense climbing. 
> I can train a bit for this by doing more climbing on steep ground, this has previously been identified as a weakness of mine. I've started doing some sets on the 45' foot-on rung ladder at TCA, partly because I've got an injured wrist and it requires little twisting, but I think it should be relevant. I'll also do more nu comp wall routes at Ratho when it warms up.

3. Getting stressed and tunnel-visioned in the above situation and missing options.
> This I am not so sure about as it's partly mental. I can try to focus on looking around me whenever I'm challenged indoors, try to spend a bit more time on the holds to get used to hanging around. General fitness and general climbing fitness will probably beneficial as the problem goes along with being tired, out of breath, etc.

So that's a start. As mentioned my wrist is tweaked (annoyingly from doing eccentric wrist curls to try to prevent further tweaking to my elbow!) which limits what I can currently train on normal indoor holds by about 50%. I'm trying to work around that with more board and fingerboard work.

I still need a lot more regular grit partners though. I haven't been down once yet. Fuck living up here.