Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Generalist vs "That Guy"

Got my copy of essential fontainebleau through the post and on first inspection I wasn't that impressed. Firstly there didn't appear to be enough photos of me (only kidding) and Secondly the book was crammed full of tiny photo-topos, making it look way too busy.

As I looked at it again, I realised that all of those tiny photo-topos are absolutely great, it means that you actually stand a very good chance of being on the correct problem. The book also closely mirrors my own ideas for the perfect ticklist (although I would choose different problems in order to avoid slabs, pockets, traverses etc.) and was the final step in inspiring me to train hard again.

My own ticklist (of probs that I've yet to do) ranges from 6b to 8b and that's what I'm currently working towards. My training and outlook on training is governed by one (maybe ridiculous) ethic and one ethic alone. I won't train for one project only, nor two for that matter, I will train to get stronger and better all round and that way I can have my pick of the problems. I know that this mindset is not perfect and it also makes me highly unlikely to ever really achieve more than a handful of my projects. It's bad enough that I'm "that guy with the crap tatoos" but I won't allow myself to become "that bendy guy" or "that guy who's awesome on pockets". I'd much rather be "what guy?" because I'm a generalist through and through.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Using injuries part 2

Ok, last time I mentioned what I did in order to improve and since then I've been thinking a lot about the way that other people train.

As far as I'm concerned there are only really a couple climbers that I know, who are really well-rounded climbers, so I'll exclude them from what I am saying.

For everyone else out there

Whenever you tweak a finger or get a dodgy elbow or shoulder, this is the least of your problems. None of you are fit enough, flexible enough, strong enough, subtle enough (weighting your feet), dynamic enough, relaxed enough, efficient enough etc. Regardless of where you think you are at, you should really face up to what you need to do to get better, if you really are serious about improving. So dont take six weeks off next time you break a finger nail, instead get your finger out and do some relevant training.

mini-rant over

Except for one thing. Don't ask why you are always tweaking your fingers. If you have no other strengths then how could you possibly injure anything else?

Ok i'm done for real this time.

Here is some old and very bad footage (because i needed Anna to move the pad, rather than the camera) of me managing to do my very first Font 8a in the forest (Verdict at Rempart)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Using Injuries

Over the last few years, I have made most, if not all of my significant gains during peiods of injury.

It all started with a really bad pulley injury in my right hand, which meant that I could no longer hold small or marginal holds, except under very controlled situations . At the time I didn't see it as an opportunity to get stronger. Instead it seemd like my tiny little world was over, what with an upcoming trip to Font planned and the winter fun bouldering comps coming up.

A session at the wall, injured, unable to attempt any of the problems that I normally used as my benchmark would go like this.

  1. Warm up on the easiest of the Alien V1s and some easy climbing about.
  2. Gentle hangs on the campus-board using open, half-crimped, full crimped and bi-doigt grips.
  3. Campusing using the four above mentioned grips (if everything was feeling ok).
  4. Light stretching.
  5. Session over.

I came out from the end of this training, heading to font and getting some long-overdue projects laid to rest and all because I had started training with different grip positions, which I knew had been a weakness for many years (I couldn't close-crimp for toffee).

I guess that what I'm trying to get at is that if you want to improve in some specific way, then you should just go ahead and train for it and not let the distraction of the brightly coloured problems get in your way. This is easier said than done, but if you aren't improving from year to year, then you need to make some changes now, rather than wait for the next injury to provide you with the opportunity.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Scene

Being a climber based in Edinburgh can be both good and bad at times

Firstly, there is very little rock to play on after work, which drives a great many of us indoors.

Secondly, Edinburgh has probably got the strongest indoor scene this side of Sheffield and by “strong” I don’t just mean the exceptionally large number of keen participants, but the shear number of very strong punters. This can be a good thing, as there always tends to be motivated people climbing around or above your level when you go to the wall, (at Alien anyway) which can certainly help with motivation levels.

For me however this causes problems, as a year or so ago, if I was feeling weak and crap, then I would go down to Alien2 and burn a load of people off, which would immediately make me feel a whole lot better. The problem now is that this strategy no longer works. Any time I have visited the wall recently, I have left feeling significantly worse than when I went in.

What appears to have happened, is that a very large number of climbers have gotten a lot better and by "a lot better", I mean they are now at pretty much the same level as the strongest climbers on the local scene.

This makes Alien2 a very hard place for a strong outsider to come to, as they will almost certainly get shut down (new angles, new holds, strong locals etc.). This rarely happens elsewhere. When I have been to the other walls in Scotland, I haven't had this problem. Nor do I find that I have had this problem with a lot of the walls in Englandshire. The only reason, however that I have not had a hard time in Sheffield is because it has been good weather when I have gone their to train and I’m the only idiot indoors.

All of the above makes Edinburgh a pretty unique place to train and live and I feel that Alien Rock has been pivotal in creating such a strong and friendly indoor scene.

For the future, I have no idea. At the moment there must be over 20 guys down A2 that are physically capable of doing a Font 8a. The problem being, that many of them will never get out there and actually do one. The other problem is that without the top few guys improving, we end up with a natural ceiling that people aim for and until some seriously strong youths emerge on the scene or someone has a serious breakthrough, this will be the case.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Fiera, Mello and Ailefroide

Here are a few piccies of what I've been doing over the past month or so
Anna and I finally finished building the camp campus board

We then went to Fiera for the World Cup (Fiera town square looking a bit damp)

Despite most of the problems being set by Jamie, I only topped the very last bloc (on my 3rd attempt)

Val di Mello was next on the agenda, but it was far too wet to climb

The only choice was to head for Ailefroide, as the forecast was for good weather (Anna on the reception boulder)

Anna on the Mushroom boulder

Arrived back home to find that the holds from Dylan had arrived, so set a couple of problems down at Alien2

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


As I was feeling pretty good about myself (due to my body finally being able to do what I expect from it), I had pretty high hopes for the competition in Grindelwald.

I did everything right this time, travelling out at a sociable time the day before, getting a good night's sleep, even warming up nice and slowly before going out to compete, but I forgot the most important thing - my head. For some reason, I just wasn't psyched or excited about the problems and nor did I have any conviction in the decisions that I made. I ended up climbing like a proverbial "sack of spuds" and came off stage feeling at a brand-new all-time low.

The following three hours were spent watching the rest of the boys climb and I had resigned myself to giving up comps completely, telling myself that I should be concentrating on more important things like climbing on "real" rock and DIY. It took me a while to realise that the reason I was having this crisis of confidence was because of the lack of an obvious excuse for my crappy performance.

I just have to knuckle down and get psyched for Fiera next weekend. After all, there'll be plenty of time for DIY when I finally retire

The view from the Hotel

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

flick and stick

I realised during the competition in Hall that I was lacking two pretty crucial ingredients
  • Firstly, I really need to be climbing a lot more dynamically
  • Secondly, I need to be able to catch what I flick for (what some people call contact strength)

I was psyched to get on with the next phase in my training which ought to give me my snap back. This has comprised of dynamic weights excercises combined with some dynamic campusing. 3 weeks into this I am finally starting to feel good and dare-I-say strong again.

Anna has filmed me getting a p.b. on the fitted furniture. The sunlight has gotten in the way a bit so excuse the brightness levels.


Off to Grindelwald tomorrow for the next round of the boulder world cup

Friday, 25 April 2008

WC Hall

I was out In Austria at the weekend with a few of the British Team for the first round of the World Bouldering Cup. I wasn't expecting too much from myself due to being right in the middle of a strength conditioning programme, so I am climbing a bit like a sloth (see below).

Showing typical form, I topped one of the harder blocks and dropped all of the reasonable ones, placing me in a position where it was significantly easier to measure my performance from last place, than from 1st place. All the same, it was still well worth the trip, even if just to get back in the swing of things as much as giving me an almighty kick up the backside.

Monday, 7 April 2008

If Carlsberg Built Fitted Furniture

I have recently been Training frantically, but have finally put the time aside to undertake some long overdue DIY. In order to make space for a gymn in our spare room, I agreed to fabricate a bespoke shelving unit to house all of the boxes and general stuff that we would normally keep in the box room, thus freeing up all of the floorspace for training.

As you can see from the pictures, it will be large enough to store a couple of midgets at the very least

As this has been such a large task we will be holding a launch party for the "shelving unit" when it is finally complete.

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Return

Last weekend was my first venture down South for team training since my long layoff from training and climbing due to the winter lurgi.

On Saturday we were based at The Climbing Works in Sheffield, where we had a great session with Andy Earl about identifying our Strengths and weaknesses. I had wrongly thought that a general lack of deep lock/ inability to weight my feet were my main weaknesses, but Gaz and Andy both reckoned that a general lack of height/ inability to live near appropriate training venues was closer to the truth. Needless to say, they are both correct (Gaz and Andy that is) as I do need to get exposure to the correct style of boulder problems and I suppose I have to admit to being a "short arse" at some point.

Sunday was spent at BoulderUK in Blackburn for comp practice. I hadn't realised how weak I am at the moment until trying these problems. I am perfectly used to being unable to read a problem correctly, or notice every little element of usable trickery, but having zero power as well was quite depressing. As usual, everyone else looked suitably awesome, so it's time to knuckle down and get into some serious training.

Here is a picture of me humping a ball in Erlangen last year, courtesy of climbing.nl and Adwin Timmer.
I'm seriously looking forward to this years comp season (as long as I can get back in shape soon).