Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Since the opening of the TCA last year it has been difficult to go back to training at Alien 2; it just feels too basic, and basic is easy to replicate at home.

It felt very strange at first, not going to the local wall regularly and not seeing the usual faces. The TCA whilst being great, is too far away to provide a substitute and does not have sufficient basicness for my needs. Fortunately this is actually the perfect scenario, since we have weights, a beastmaker and a campus board at home for the basic stuff. Being back on the power training feels great :)

Not considering the local wall as a possible venue for training, or as a substitute for climbing, has driven us outdoors more regularly than ever before and has re-ignited our drive to get up stuff.

Within the last couple of weeks Anna has managed to get up a couple of her projects. One being Sprung at Bowden Doors and is her first at the grade, the other being Hard Reign Direct at Back Bowden Doors (which took me a much longer time to do: circa 10 years). Videos Below

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Deep Lock

In a previous post I mentioned that I had been working on my posture, which has proved to be not only the key to looking "a bit of a dick" as I strut around, but has had a massive impact on my ability to lock.

I had mainly been doing exercises on the wall to address this whilst warming up, but have also taken to doing some basic campus board exercises to really try and hit the associated muscle groups hard. It is clear that my left hand side is progressing faster than my right, but it is hard to ascertain why the right hand side is lagging behind, since it could be one of so many factors, like tightness in pecs, tightness in upper traps, instability in rotator cuff, slightly weaker lower traps, poorer grip strength etc.

Attempting to get Fred Nicole style lock. Must try harder.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Purely Belter

We had planned to go to the Peak District at the weekend to sample some peak limestone, but the rock gods conspired against us and we were left with a Sunday day trip instead. I'm not complaining about this, since Saturday was to be sunny and hot, whereas Sunday was to be hazy and hot, so looked to be the better of the two days.

Since we had visited the Lakes limestone the previous weekend, climbing at a limestone venue was not going to be an option, so we decided to head to Shaftoe, since we both had projects to put to bed there.

When we got there it was hot and muggy, with barely a breath of air to be had (without breathing in flying ants) and the friction on the rock was as expected, exceptionally greasy. Although the rock appeared to be dry, the moisture in the air just seemed to continually condense on it, which meant repeated pointless chalking and whacking of key holds.

Anna did well managing to do "Viagra Plus sit start" for the first time, despite the crux holds being ridiculously slick, before moving on to try "Timmy Tip Toes".

I got shut down on "The Boss" which was partly due to the conditions and partly due to my head, which left me only one realistic prospect for the day which was to attempt "Purely Belter" on the Font Boulder. Despite not having tried it at all before, I had all of the beta I needed, which was that Sam believed that I would find it easy. Purely belter is a lovely (if lowball) line and I'm chuffed to have done it.

Purely Belter, Font 7c, Shaftoe from Roddy Mackenzie on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Have had a couple of great trips down to the lakes this month, getting fully shut down on many a classic and not-so-classic line. Used the lakesbloc website which is a work of absolute genius.

Anna on Funk Phenomena at Trowbarrow

Beauty of Being Numb at Woodwell

Anna doing Kiss of the Dragon at Woodwell

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Weakest Link

Ten years ago I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Marius Morstad at the Boulder World Cup in Brum. During the talk, he stated that the Malc had perfect technique, which caused a sharp intake of air by many who attended, which was then followed by laughter from many who had assumed that it was a joke. Marius went on to explain how we could all achieve this same technique of being able to stay face on to the wall whilst performing burly moves between bad holds.

The long and short of it was that he believed you did not need steely fingers to perform hard moves, you needed steely core and posture (lower traps) muscles. The way to achieve this was either through simple floor exercises, or through climbing in Font. Most of the others in attendance weren't really interested in listening and started arguing with him to some extent or other and just asked him how to get stronger fingers (information that he was not interested in providing).

Anyway, I listened and acted, well, sort of. I went to Font for a while and came back climbing harder, so I had assumed that it had worked, although I was aware that I was still struggling with "open" moves, but put that down to them just not suiting me.

Some ten years later (in Feb this year) I decided to sort out my posture, since it would have positive benefits even if it did not make me any better on the wall. The catalyst that drove me to act was that in the BBC's this year I seemed to be the only competitor struggling with the big rockover moves that seemed to dominate the last move of many of the problems. I meant to blog at the time stating that I was going to start a new course of training to correct my posture and hopefully improve my deep lock/rockovers, but was not convinced that it would work, so I didn't. The thing is, is that it really has worked, indoors at the very least. My fingers are nowhere near as strong as they used to be a few years back, but my body (shoulders, lats, traps, core) feel good and strong. This new found strength is definitely getting me up harder problems than ever before and is making me feel worked in a very different way to how I used to at the end of a session.

I'm lucky I guess, since I have been able to find and exploit a major weakness. I suppose I should have listened more attentively 10 years ago so that I could have done something proper about this at the time, but hay ho, I had strong fingers then so didn't care.

The posture exercises are not a golden bullet and would certainly not work for those climbers who already display beautiful posture on the wall, or massive lower traps.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


It's been a long time since I posted, since I have had very little to write about climbing wise in the last six months.

last summer I damaged my hook-of-hamate during the BBCs, got some physio treatment and rehab exercises and have been doing these almost religiously ever since. The damage has resulted in a massively reduced grip strength in my right hand, which I'm told will never get back to normal. For the first couple of months after the comp I couldn't manage to hold on to a small campus rung even with two hands (in fact I couldn't even hang from a jug one-handed), which is a strange experience for me. This also meant that I couldn't really play on problems down the wall or fingerboard.

Thankfully after a couple of months I could play a bit, start building up to front levers and could comfortably hold a bar, to allow me to do some cross training. I did venture outside just once during this period, but it was massively depressing, you can definitely get away with a lot more indoors than you can outside. I've had a few positive breakthroughs since then though, managing to take part in the Durham Climbing Centre's birthday Party Comp, The Battle of Britain at The Depot and the BBCs last month, none of which aggravated my hand.

Best of all, last Thursday at the wall, a strange thing happened. I had a tiny shot on the campus board at A2 and nothing exploded in my hand..........Happy days.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Third World Country

On the drive back up from the BBCs, Gary and I were discussing how the biggest shame about not quite performing as well as we would like, is that this event is only once a year, and that's a very long time to wait. Sure there are local comps during the winter (and obviously the CWIF and Plywood Masters, which are normally in the spring), but it is only feasible to do the ones local to us, as these comps are almost always held on a Friday evening. The Alien Rock comps are fun, but the terrain, the format, the style and the competition (ie the competitors) are all at odds with the likes of a National or International event. The setting in the Scottish walls in general bears no resemblance to this style (although I believe the EICA bouldering is in the process of being "fixed"), but is good for getting steely fingered.

I'm jealous of the guys in Sheffield (and other well equiped northern towns), they get to boulder on the correct style of problems all year round, get to take part in a fun winter bouldering series and the CWIF, and there is a really strong group of guys there to burn each other off. I appreciate that I could just increase my carbon footprint and commute to Sheffield, Leeds or Newcastle to train, but I think I'll wait for the TCA Glasgow to open and hope that the setting there bears some resemblance to modern competition climbing. Who knows, maybe they'll even hold the odd open climbing competition.