Training, finger boards and a flying visit up to the Peak

Now that eating, drinking and Christmas is all out the way life can start to get back to some normality. Normality for me at the moment is training! Since being reselected for the British Bouldering team all my attention has been focused on training. It’s kinda fortunate really as this poor British climate isn’t so good for sport climbing outside at the moment. That aside my training has been going pretty well at the moment. One thing that being reselected for the team has done has made me focus on structuring my training. The last couple of years I have spent a lot of time coaching, especially working with youth. The work I have been doing has been predominantly performance based, structuring sessions and training phases for the keen, young climbers that want to compete and¬†peak for the BMC Youth Climbing Series. I have even delved deep into the world of periodisation for one of my regular kids who had made the junior British team, and was heading out to Imst (Austria) for her first international competition. But yet structuring my own training is something I have never really done before.

My secrete to getting the kids strong... Doughuts! ;)

My secrete to getting the kids strong… Doughuts! ūüėČ

I¬†haven’t¬†ever felt the need to use a finger board or campus before but now they both play a big part in day to day life. There has always been a bit bad press when it comes to finger boarding and campusing. ¬†But I think when used right, and at the¬†appropriate¬†time they are both very powerful tools. A few years ago it was only your hardcore legends like moon, moffatt who knew and used these things. Now theres so much¬†information¬†and literature¬†out there these training aids are¬†accessible to anyone.

Another thing that is “in” at the moment are core sessions. A lot of climbers are¬†supplementing¬†their training with one or two core workouts a week. These sessions are mainly floor or bar bassed exercises that help¬†strengthen¬†and increase core muscle fitness. On one of our recent team trainings I was introduce to the TRX. (Thanks Rich “Tricky” Hudson).

TRX

TRX

The TRX was designed by a Navy Seal so that he could stay mission fit where ever they might end up. It’s a form of¬†suspension¬†training whereby the user works¬†against¬†their own body weight to perform different exercises. The great thing about this bit of kit is that it’s so¬†versatile. You can practically sling it up anywhere and there endless amounts of exercises you can do with it. As soon as I used it I had to get one. The workout this thing gives you is insane. As it’s suspended from the floor your body is constantly¬†trying¬†to¬†stabilise hence the “beasting” your core takes. So if you see me about the wall with my feet stuck in some straps and making some interesting shapes, don’t be alarmed, it’s all in the name of training.

It’s not all been hard training. This weekend just gone we¬†finally got a break in the weather, even if it was only for one day. Before competing in TCA’s flash comp on the Saturday I checked the weather forecast for the Peak. 1-2 degrees and clear blue skys for Sunday. Perfect! After sending a couple of texts It wasn’t long before all the seats in ¬†the van were taken. The Comp went well I won the Flash comp only dropping 12 points.¬†Unfortunately luck of the draw wasn’t with me for the head to head. But all in all a good set of blocs.

Thanks Tris for the photo

Thanks Tris for the photo

My alarm sounding at 06:30am on a Sunday morning isn’t a pleasant sound, but when you realise why it’s going off it makes getting up at this ungodly hour worthwhile. We were on the road by 8am and arrived at Gardoms 10:45am. ¬†A while back a friend posted a video where he climbed this amazing looking arete called Suavito 7B. From then it went on the list, and thats what was on the agenda today. For once the forecasters were correct. It was a cold crisp morning. We headed to Gardoms south to warm up. After a few blocs, ticking off the classic G-thang sit start it was time for the main event. ¬†We padded out the landing and¬†prepped the holds we could reach. Like an excited little child that couldn’t wait to get to the play ground I jumped on. It all went pretty¬†smoothly until I got to the last move when a bit of¬†realisation¬†set in. I was pretty high above a poor’ish landing about to make a bit of a¬†committing¬†slap to the top of the bloc. It might of been a good idea to scope out the top to see which was the best bit.¬†Fortunately the bit I hit was pretty good, I pulled round and top out. The problem climbs just as good as it looks and is a must do of the Peak.

Sauvito 7b. Photo Gav Symonds

Sauvito 7b. Photo Gav Symonds

Following that we moved along to the business as usual boulder. Theres a good little jump start if your feeling springy (Business As Usual 6c+) and a lower start for the strong. Which pulls on from some undercuts and goes at 7b+. I ticked off the low start first go followed by  the jump. I tried the 7c arete to the left but its was pretty green so gave up on that one.

DSC_0270

Al latching the jump start on Business As Usual

Later we moved on to Moyer’s¬†buttress. We laid the pads out under a¬†diamond¬†shaped hanging bloc called “The Gritstone Treaty” 7b. I was slightly¬†apprehensive¬†about this one as the landing wasn’t great.¬†Fortunately¬†I sent it first go, I didn’t fancy falling off and I¬†definitely didn’t want to get back on for pics. I sold it so well, Gav had already put his trainers back on by the time I got down. The light was starting to fade. We made a quick stop at Pogles Wood, doing both the sitter and the stander, then started to make our way back to the van, stopping one last time. ¬†On the way up to the boulders this morning one line stood out in the moorside boulders. Superbloc! A stunning high ball blunt arete, rolling in at 8a+. It would have been rude not to try it. We had a few goes but fatigue got the best of us.

Superbloc 8a+

Superbloc 8a+. Photo Steve Winslow

As the light had almost gone and as Bristol wasn’t getting any closer we decided to call it a day.

The ever fading light. Photo Steve Winslow

The ever fading light. Photo Steve Winslow

A good day was had by all, even if it was an early start.

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Spain October 2012

I’ve finally got around to going through photos from our trip to Spain back in October. Unfortunately November was so busy I didn’t get time to write a post about it and it seems a bit late to do it now.

So here’s a few selected photos from our trip.

Enjoy…

Tis the season for the Grit

Tis the season for the grit!

After what seemed like a very long November, I finally got my first full weekend off in over a month. The plan was for a team to head to Northumberland for a long weekend. By the time it had come round, it turned out to just be myself and Heath who headed up. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worst in Northumberland so we headed to the Peak. After a long day route setting down in Southampton on the Thursday I didn’t have it in me to drive up that night, so we decided to go in the morning.

We arrived at Curbar around 3pm on Friday. Pretty late, I know. We met up with Kate, Adam and a small crew who were mainly up for The Climbing Works party. After running around a few warm up problems we were joined by Ryan and Caff. They were heading over to have a play on “Walk on by” 7c+. I’ve always wanted to have a go on this and having met up with a couple of wods it seemed like a good opportunity. As it was getting late we didn’t have long. I made good progress on it but no cigar, Ryan managed to repeat it just before dark.

Heath warming up

Heath warming up

The plan wasn’t to go to the Works party but you know how it is. People can be quite persuading and plus there was a big team going and it’s always a good do. It was a great night but Heath and I managed to stay strong and headed to bed around 2am.

I woke up in the morning feeling pretty sprightly, I’m glad we stayed strong. The others on the other hand had just got back to Ryan’s as we got up. Dirty stop outs ;). Coffee and a big bowl of muesli I felt charged. We headed back to Curbar as there was something for both Heath and I to go at. I spent a bit of time spotting and taking pics of Heath while she reacquainted herself with the grit.

Heath topping out Mini Prow 5+

Heath topping out Mini Prow 5+

After warming up myself we headed over to Ben’s wall. I have already done this in the past but there’s a 7c just to the right called Great White which I had my eye on. Its starts up the middle of the wall, travs right on some slopey crimps, hits a poor side pull and then a big move to the top. It took me a couple of goes to get the side pull good, once I had that I dropped the last move once and then sent it next go.

Great White 7c

Great White 7c

Setting up for last move, Great White 7c

Setting up for last move, Great White 7c

I was pretty psyched it went quick and also having not been on the grit in over a year it didn’t take long to get the feel of it again. Following this Heath quite fancied a go on Gorilla Warfare and I wanted to try Hurricane another 7c. There was a bit of a team on gorilla so Heath decided to sit it out. Hurricane is just to the left of gorilla warfare, you make a big move off to slopers to the lip and then a bit of a spicy mantle. I prepped the holds and pulled on. I didn’t quite give it enough on the first move and didn’t make the lip. I chalked up and gave it all this time, latched the lip, matched and pulled round for a tricky top out. I was quite surprised how easy it felt.

After sending two 7c’s and one of them 2nd go I was hungry for a 3rd. As I had made good progress on it yesterday I thought it would be rude not to go back to walk on by. Unfortunately I only managed to get a couple of goes on it before the weather came in and it started to rain. Hey ho, it would just have to wait for next time.

Heath on Pebble wall 6a

Heath on Pebble wall 6a

The next morning was quite damp. There had been a bit of rain in the night so we weren’t getting our hopes up. The general consensus was to head to Froggatt. Fortunately it was rather windy there so things were drying off reasonably quickly. After warming up and getting sand-bagged on this 7a slab we headed over to Sole Power 7c. A high ball hanging ar√™te put up by Moffatt back in the early 80’s. I got to the crux on my first go but I think I was lacking a bit of commitment. On my second go I maned up and pulled through the crux. I got stood up on the ar√™te and was about to slap up again when a massive gust of wind hit me. I froze for 10 seconds or so until it had passed and then pushed on to the top. It was quite scary up there and I found out after that some of the pads had blown away at that point. I’m glad I was focused on the climbing and not looking down. ūüėČ

After going high on Sole Power Neil took us over to boulder out Mint 400 E6 6b. It’s a 9m wall that gains the break of Oedipus.¬†He said it’s ok with a few pads. I wasn’t too sure. Anyhow I jumped on to have a look. After dropping off at half height to test the landing on my first go, I went for it on my 2nd go. I got to the last move, just before the break and bottled it. I paused for a couple of seconds to¬†contemplate¬†my options. (A) Do I reverse the spicy move I just pulled and then down climb some more and then jump off. or (B) Go for it and hope I don’t drop it. I chose option A. I wasn’t quite ready for¬†committing¬†fully yet, having only just got back on the grit. Katy Whitt on the other hand walked up it. I guess that’s what happens when you’re a local.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any photos at Froggatt, It was way to cold and windy.

A great weekend was had by all, I’m looking forward to the next session up there.

Peace!

Gorge du Tarn

Summer (if that’s what you’d call it). Come the end of August, Heath and I got so fed up of the lousy weather we headed to France in search of some sun, vitamin D and dry rock. After hearing that the Gorge du Tarn had undergone a major re-equipping¬†project and a new guide-book that had just been released, we thought this would be an ideal venue. Situated in the South of France the Tarn host metres and metres of immaculate rock and a beautiful river that cuts its way down through the gorge; we arrived late Saturday evening only to see the dark towering shadows of the gorge. After a good nights sleep we checked into the campsite, picked up a guide and headed out to see what those giant shadows had to offer.

So Cool! ;-D

The first few days were spent gaining a bit of mileage and seeking out shade. This took us to a couple of shorter north/east facing crags of the gorge; even in the shade, you would come down from a route dripping with sweat. The 2nd was a good onsight day, I managed ¬†a F7a+,7b,7b+,7c+.¬†T’a Pas Un Nom was the F7a+ and was a great route, good gymnastic moves on pockets. We had a slightly easier day on Tuesday, well in terms of number of routes anyway. After warming up on this really short 7a+ (Microcome consanguin) I managed to tick this sweet little F8a Maree Basse 2nd go.

I woke the next day with the psyche. We got up early and headed to Tennessee, as it faces south we didn’t have long before the sun came around. I grabbed the guidebook, scanned the page, 50m F6c, perfect warm up. Before Heath had chance to put her harness on, I was all ready racked up and clipping the first bolt. The first part of the route was a F6a slab; I reached the ledge of which that route finished and eyed up the next section. It looked pretty thin, well I guess this will be the F6c bit I thought to myself. I started up the thin wall clipping two bolts as i went, before i knew it it had started to get a bit steeper and the holds got worse. I down climbed back to the ledge to have a bit of a talking to myself, after that I tried again but went for it this time. This time i got quite¬†far¬†above the bolt,¬†popped for what I thought was a hold, “obviously mistaken” and I was off; falling through a large bush and hitting the ledge. Kinda unexpected for both Heath and I.¬†Fortunately I was fine. I dusted myself down in a some what¬†confused¬†state and shouted down to Heath if she could check the guide-book;¬†apparently¬†I was on the right route. I felt pretty warmed up and I¬†definitely was going back up there, so i cut my losses and lowered of the F6a L/O. When I got down I checked the guide again. In my rush to get started I only saw 50m F6c, when it actually said 50m F6c / Ao, which means “with points of aid”. Note to self, “to avoid hitting ledges, read guide-book properly”.¬†After Heath had done the F6a I was ready to get on, what I had come here to do. A route called “Les ailes du d√©sir”. A 50m F8a, it was the front cover shot of the new guide and looked amazing.

Go Big or Go Home!

As you can¬†imagine, due to my first route not going to plan, I started this route a little¬†apprehensive. The line goes up the wall just right of the corner to the hole, from there it breaks right through the dark orange rock and up to around the middle of the crack and the first lower off. Up to here it gets F7b+. By this point i was feeling good, slightly pumped but had relaxed after the¬†initial¬†shaky start. From there you head right and boot it straight up the head wall to the top. After some sustained climbing and a tricky undercut move I arrived at a rest just below the top slab. At this point I was quite pumped. I spent a while here trying to get¬†something¬†back, from here I could see the chalk¬†disappearing up the¬†leftwards¬†slab but I couldn’t see any bolts. I got my shit together and went for it. It wasn’t¬†until¬†I had pulled 5 or 6 moves from the rest that I realised I was going all the way with no more gear. A couple of deep breaths and I pushed on to the top. What a route! And the 25-30ft run out at the top made it!

A great looking wall with nothing on it!

The Gorge Isn’t just known for it’s climbing, It’s very popular for its¬†kayaking as well. On a rest day Heath and I decided to hire a kayak for the day. We were told the upper part of the river is quite slow but really beautiful and the lower part of the river was fast and had lots of rapids. Obviously I was all game for the fast section and Heath wanted the slower,¬†prettier paddle. We¬†compromised¬†on a¬†20k day trip that did half the slow section and¬†half¬†the fast section.¬†¬†As you can¬†imagine two people, two dogs and a barrel with all our stuff in was quite a squeeze and probably hilarious to watch. That a side we set off and were on our way. The top section was very slow and very pretty, we stopped off on a little beach for a sandwich and a mooch around. After a couple of hours we reached the end of the slow bit. We had to get out here as there was a section of water you couldn’t pass by boat ahead. Once we were back in the boat things started to speed up quite rapidly. With a slightly hesitant Heath we¬†negotiated¬†the first shoot/¬†rapids¬† without capsizing. The couple behind us weren’t so¬†successful. Once we had gone through a¬†couple¬†of sets¬†¬†of rapids we started getting the hang of it and Heath started to relax. Until an hour or so later when it had been going so well, we became stuck. A big set of rapids caught us out, they had a tight left hander straight into a sharp right hand. We made the left but I couldn’t get it round in time to make the right. Instead we went head on with a large boulder and then sure enough capsized. Baxter¬†disappeared¬†underwater while I had Archie trying to climb on top of me. It was a funny¬†state¬†of affairs. This was obviously the¬†trickiest part of the river as there was a¬†photographer¬†capturing¬†the whole seen.¬†¬†I bet she wet her self with¬†laughter. We made it to a bank where we¬†emptied¬†the water out of the boat and waited for Baxter to swim back across. That was the last set of big rapids, the last half hour was quite¬†pleasant, which was lucky as I think Heather had had enough by that point. Once we were out we got picked up and headed in to the village where we could buy one of the photo’s that the¬†photographer¬†took of us.

Washed out!

All in all The Tarn was a great venue, not just for it’s climbing it was an awesome place just to hang out. Whilst we were out there I got an email inviting me back on the British Bouldering Team for 2012/2013. After a 5/6 year break I felt it was time to get back on it. So I¬†accepted, bring on the start of a new adventure i say.

Thanks to Rick and all the guys at Beyond Hope for the continuing support over the last 2 years. Beyond Hope are the distributors for Prana, Metolius & Evovl.

The team

General Blog Slackness part 2

So once again I’ve struggled to keep my blog up to date. This time I’m only going to accept part responsibility. I blame the majority of it on the UK’s sopping wet climate. As most of you that live in the UK will know, it hasn’t really stopped raining since the good spell we had back in March. Nonetheless we’ve tried our best to get out when we can.

June didn’t really see much action at all. We had one damp day at a small crag called Staple Edge quarry. The crag was ok, it was a little dusty, but good for low to mid-grade trad with the majority of routes with bolt belays, so not much faffing required. The highlight of the day was watching Heather have to do a full double dyno whilst following me up an E2.

Heath setting up for the dyno.

The last weekend in June Heath and I headed to LPT. That’s Lower Pen Trwyn for those of you that don’t know it. One of the UK’s best sport climbing venues with a whole range of grades from F5’s to F9a. Saturday was a good day after warming up on Contusion F6c on the upper tier, we headed down to the Lower tier where I sent Mussel Beach F8a and Over the Moon Direct F8a both 2nd go. On the Sunday I tried a route called Melon Beach F8a+. It’s a Chris Doyle link up of Melancholie in to Mussel Beach. The start is super thin with some real condition dependant crimps. The conditions were in my favour, but unfortunately my skin wasn’t. I made two good links on it though, from the ground to the crux, then from the crux to the top. Definitely one to go back for. As skin was an issue I dropped the grade a little and managed to flash I’ve been a bad bad boy F7c. Really cool line with a bit of a heartbreaking finish.

A wet June was followed by a just as wet July. Cliffhanger festival got canceled because there was so much rain, but the British Bouldering Champs being held at Cliffhanger in true British fashion still went ahead. After a little bit of last minute shopping Heath and I rocked up at a soggy Sheffield park with wellies, towels, waterproofs and a big yellow rubber bucket.

last minute essentials

The Qualifiers went well, well except for the first problem I tried. It had a dyno start which i managed to fluff first go. “Note to self; don’t start a British championships with a dyno, big stage, nerves and a tricky jump don’t sit well together.” After dropping that I moved on to the rest of the problems. I ended up qualifying for the final in 7th place, flashing 7/10 and getting the dyno 2nd go.

The final didn’t go so well. Not to make excuses – but during the qualifiers I felt a headache coming on. No matter how much water I drank I couldn’t seem to shake it and by the final it was in full flow. Problem 1, I stupidly misread. After rocking up into a groove, you then used one really bad volume to jump to another volume. Instead of jumping I persistently tried to match it and failed every time, shrugging it off on my poor sloper strength. Problem 2, I couldn’t touch, this time it was down to my poor sloper strength. Problem 3, I wasn’t really sure on a move half way up. I was trying to jump it when maybe I should have gone static. Problem 4, I should have done. I got my sequence wrong on my 1st go and on my following goes I got high, but didn’t have anything left in the tank to finish it. I was disappointed in the way that I had climbed in the final, but fairly happy with 8th overall.

After a bit of work and lots more rain the end of July took us up to Shropshire for the weekend. On the Saturday we headed to Llanymynech Quarry. With a mixture of trad and sport routes and with some routes up to 35m, Llanymynech Quarry is a great day out. Plenty to go at between low F6’s to mid F7’s. If you climb in the 7’s, it’s definitely worth checking out “red wall”. It’s slightly overhanging and heavily featured. Some of the most interesting rock I’ve climbed on in the UK with 35m routes to top it off.

On the Sunday we went to Dinbren also in the Clwyd region. Dinbren is totally the opposite to Llanymynech Quarry, with the average route length ranging from 10-15m – it packed a ¬† ¬†punch! Not a huge amount in the lower grades, but if you’re climbing in the 7’s you’ll have a field day! The route that stood out for me was “The Bandits F7b+”, super¬†powerful with a good techy middle section. Matt and I also did “Elite Syncopations F8a”, It took a little longer than it should of done but after dropping the top I got there in the end.

Image of the day

In November last year Matt and I both finally succeeded on Smashing of Amps. ¬†This route stood out for me last year, as it’s a F7c+ slab and as you can imagine it was pretty hard to get it in condition.¬†Fortunately¬†November¬†brought a day of cold, crisp conditions and as you can see there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.