Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Getting it Right

Ever since the British Champs I've been trying to think about where I have gone wrong over the years when I have been competing (and whilst trying hard projects on rock for that matter).

After every competition (with the exception of only two internationals and one BBC) I have felt like I either didn't climb my best or just shouldn't have turned up at all.

Originally, my poor performance was down to naivity, as I didn't realise that in an onsight comp you had to read the problems. I used to just pull on and see how far I would get, which was nowhere. I was quite quickly able to sort this out and started doing a little better, but not that much.

With the benefit of hindsight, it has become clear that the times I had climbed badly I had always put pressure on myself to do well. I used to think that this was purely because I was trying to prove my worth in front of my peers, but it has become more apparent over the last few years that I believed that my life would somehow magically change for the better, if only I could get a good result just this once.

The other main reason for climbing and performing poorly has been down to training really hard prior to a comp, setting new personal bests and then believing that the hard work was over and somehow the boulder problems would feel easy. I couldn't have been more wrong, the hard work always takes place during the competition.

My best results have been when I have not been in my best shape physically and have given everything that I have on the day of the Competition. This has been down to a mixture of the lack of pressure on myself (not expecting to place well), not worrying about how anyone else is getting on and therefore not expecting my life to change at the end of the Comp. This allowed me to focus one hundred percent on reading the problems, enjoying myself and being able to concentrate on the most important thing, which is simply the act of getting from one hold to the next until you top out.

In summary, the times I have climbed well, my brain has (quite unintentionally) been de-cluttered and this has proved to be the most important factor.

Besides, if you want your life to change for the better, you have to work for it, not climb for it.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Another year, another British Bouldering Championship comp comes and goes. This year I managed to make the final, which is something that I have consistently failed to do for the last 7 years.

Here is my list of things I got right and wrong this time, so that hopefully I can learn for next year.


1. Strong body
2. Relaxed attitude
3. I wasn't put off by other peoples failures
4. Scarpa shoes rather than 5.10 (better for me by far)
5. Nice relaxing day the day before, with a gentle warm up session
6. Good dry skin


1. Fitness (got totally pumped in the final and didn't recover, need to do some interval training next time)
2. Grip strength was poor due to two bad fingers stopping me from training as hard as I would like (I'll sort that out soon enough thanks to Ned and Dan)
3. Flexibility has always been a weakness for me, will try harder from today onwards

Dylan has also supplied me with a whole lot more Slap Holds which will be appearing at Alien2 shortly. If any other walls would like some samples or some route-setting then please get in touch.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Rankin Boulder - Topo

The Rankin Boulder - Dumfries and Galloway


Park on the A712 between New Galloway and Newton Stewart at the carpark marked "Talnotry". This is car park immediately after the "Grey Mare's tail" car park when heading West, which itself is immediately after the Wild Goat Park.

Cross the road and head down the forestry road situated about 50metres to the East of this car park and walk along this road. After about 5 minutes you'll pass the mountain bike track situated at grid ref NX 488 713

The Mountain Bikers slab

About 1 minute further on from this point you'll reach a small layby on the rhs of the road. At this point if you look back and down to your right (towards the river) the Rankin Block should come into view.

Despite the fact that it is only about 200 metres away from the road you should take your time crossing the ground to reach the boulder. It appears mostly flat and green, but is made up of old fallen trees and moss and as such you may find yourself falling through the surface. Do not wear sandals!!!!

The Problems

All Problems are shown as starting from the marked holds (click on the image for a better view)

  1. Boulderdash ss Font6a
  2. Cowboy Country Font6b
  3. Crouching Kitten Font6b
  4. Retroclaim Font7a+
  5. Project (hardish - maybe font7c/8a)
  6. Project (V Hard)
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody ss Font 7b
  8. Broke Back Mountin Font 6c (the sitstart is a project - maybe font7a)
  9. Carpet Samples ss Font 6b (around the corner from number 8)

Problems 2,4 and 7 are on the youtube video shown on the previous post on this topic

Topping out on Retroclaim

The Crux on Carpet Samples


Friday, 22 May 2009

Volume Control

Training has been going pretty well recently, with my birdie finger finally able to take a fair amount of load. The only downside of this being, that I can now play properly on the mostly-pointless but enjoyable boulder problems in the wall. This may not sound like much of a problem, but it is already starting to distract me from more important things like weighted campusing. Must try to stay focused.

Have been playing a little bit at trying to do a back lever and am now getting pretty close. I've been trying top build up to it for a little while, but despite it apparently being easier than a front lever, I find it desperate.

I'll post a wee vid of training stuff pretty soon.

The last month has been spent climbing on rock (at the start of the month that is, before the monsoon started) and building a new volume for A2.

The volume building has gone badly. After spending a total of about 10 hours building a 6foot long volume and making it real nice and rounded, I discovered a fatal fault right through the centre of the plywood (and indeed the volume). It would of been ok, but I discovered when hammering in the t-nuts which broke one side of it clean in half. Back to joinery this weekend to make it into two 3-foot long volumes that can be put end to end if req'd.

The outdoor stuff has been going well and we only need one trip back to the Granite block before revealing the full details. Anna added a couple of new lines to the boulder and there is only one line left to do that is within my capabilities.

Anna managed to secure her first Font7b, doing 'Low and Hard' at Back Bowden. This was also the first time that I have felt like Anna is going to overtake me.

I guess I better get back on the campus board pronto!!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Block

On Sunday I returned to the granite boulder armed with the appropriate tools for cleaning the lines and more importantly, my climbing stuff.

I hadn't really appreciated how much hard physical work was involved with cleaning up new lines. After breaking off the loose holds, I set about vigorously scrubbing at the hand and foot holds so that I could try the easiest line from standing. 30 seconds later I found myself standing on the slab bleeding, as I didn't realise that you have to scrob underneath the handholds as well.

I carried on scrubbing and cleaning and managed to climb three lines. The hardest line remains undone, but will be climbable by someone with bigger shoulders and stronger fingers than me (hopefully me, after some serious training).

This is a video of the three problems in order of difficulty (easiest first), with the unclimbed line to the right of the last problem. There are also still some hardish sit starts to

Monday, 30 March 2009

"Move Along........Nothing to See Here" or "Bouldering in Scotland"

On Saturday I went to have a look at a boulder that I had first visited sveral years ago. I didn't take my stuff for two reasons. Firstly, the weather wasn't meant to be that good and Secondly I had completely forgotten how good it looked.

South FaceThis is the first time that I have ever been excited about bouldering in Scotland. Even though it is highly likely that this bloc has been fully bouldered out, I'm still going to go back as soon as possible for a proper session.

Here is a wee tour of the boulder

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Backing Off

I've been thinking a lot about the various routes that have led to injury whilst I've been training and bouldering indoors.

I have obviously hurt myself when I've not warmed up properly, when I've overdone it during re-hab from previous injury, when I've had way too many shots at the same move and when I've been too tired or ill.

However, these days I always injure myself when I'm having a great session. I don't just mean an ordinary great session, I mean the kind of session where it feels like you could rip the holds off the wall by merely twitching your back muscles. I'm slowly learning to recognise this feeling as early on in a session as possible and then I can shorten the length of the session so that I stop training or climbing right at the point when I am feeling at my strongest.

This is easier said than done. It means potentially sacrificing my only opportunity to tick a lot of my indoor projects, but should mean that I can come back and have a great uninjured session next time. Quite a few folk who write on training for climbing and other sports talk about finishing your session when you feel strong, but they are usually referring to not training to exhaustion.

You just have to be aware that if you are having one of these extraordinary sessions, it generally means that you are managing to load parts of your body in ways that they are not accustomed to yet. It's purely a case of learning when you need to back off. Most of my climbing friends (myself included) do not always recognise this and tend to injure fingers when finally getting back to full strength after a layoff.

When training for most things, you train cyclicly rather than linearly and should always have a phase of high mileage in order for your body to get accustomed to this new level of exertion. The same obviously applies to fingers, they do not get stronger in a linear fashion for very long, so when they feel at their very best, the best they have for years maybe, don't injure them by asking too much too soon. You should expect that you now have to put in a good amount of mileage (ie several weeks worth) in order to allow your fingers to get used to this before you start snatching for progressively worse and worse holds.

The reason I'm writing about this now, is that I'm finally back from injury and almost at the level I was at a year and a half ago and I'm desperate not to repeat this cycle of injury-rehab-injury.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Forest

Last year we only managed one trip to Font, which was over the Easter weekend and was a complete failure with the exception of one thing. This thing was that we realised that it was possible to drive to Font and back for a long weekend, thus saving a whole lot of money on flights, car-hire etc.

As it had been almost a year since we last visited we checked the weather forecast for the weekend, asked for a couple of days off work and set off down the A1. I'm not going to pretend that it isn't just the tiniest bit epic to undertake this journey for just a weekend, but it is well worth making the effort.

We arrived at the campsite on Thursday evening a more than a little road-weary, but were glad to get the tent sent up, listen to the magpies bicker and enjoy a cold French beer before turning in for the night.

Friday (the 13th) was one of the most enjoyable days I think I've ever had in the Forest and we ended up climbing for almost seven solid hours. Bas Cuvier was first, as it has always been my favourite venue. I managed to repeat Biceps Mou for the first time since 2002, managed Carnage first shot and just had a great time trying lots and lots of classic problems. Anna managed to lose a hell of a lot of skin on Cortomaltese, which is becoming the theme for all of our visits to Font. Hopefully she'll put that one to bed next visit.

Haute plains was next on the Agenda as Anna really wanted to do Solitaire after trying it back in 2007. Footage below

Job done, we immediately left Haute Plains in favour of Cuisiniere, so that Anna could do Bizzare Bizzare. This took a little more work, but was still dispatched very quickly and we then finished off the day trying Sanguine I had flashed this back in 2007, but couldn't touch it last Easter and it took a few attempts this time round. Anna is going to have to work on Hip/Hamstring flexibility to get the high heel in like I use in the video below.

Saturday we woke up broken from the ridiculously long session the day before, but Anna was keen to get on some more sevens. We tried a little problem up at a new area of Coquibis, but it had a disgusting top out so we went to Roche aux Sabots. Needless to say it was ridiculously busy given the good weather and the fact that it was the weekend. Thankfully no-one was under le Jeu du Toit so I quickly set about finding an efficient sequence (for a change) for the crux. Anna has made a very short film of this, which is below.

Shortly after this it started to drizzle, so we went off to got some provisions and set about having a look at my project. I photographed some of the holds so that I could remember how to train for it before we go back.

By Sunday we were fully exhausted, but went to 95.2 for a play and then finished off the trip by going to Isatis. For the first time in seven years I got a row for using magnesie by a guy climbing with a pof-bag round his waist. He also told us that a soft brush was bad for the rock, but it was somehow ok for me to whip the chalk off the rock with my heavyweight whack. With that, we decided we were better off calling it a day and returned to camp.

It was fantastic to have a last-minute trip to Fontainebleau and remarkably I was even relatively coherant at work on Tuesday.

The only downside of a trip like this, is that we have missed two campus sessions.

Friday, 27 February 2009


For the first time in several years I found myself Sheffield bound, but with no intention of going to an indoor wall. This is one of the real advantages of no longer being on "the team".

Previously I always told myself that I would climb outside the day after team training, but would wake up the following day feeling beasted from the day before and inevitably decide to drive back up the road.

Anna trying remergence, a crag classic

It was great to finally climb on the grit again and Dylan kindly gave us the tour of some of the nicer problems at the Plantation and Burbage North. I didn't really try anything hard as my finger (although feeling a lot better) is still not ready for doing any serious work. On that note I just discovered that I had been getting the whole RICE treatment thing wrong for years, apparently it isn't Rest-Ibuprofen-Coffee-Excercise. I don't really understand how the other version would fit in with my daily routine.

Training-wise things are going pretty well with improving my strength in the deep lock range of campusing. One thing I noticed folks doing down the wall was trying to do 1-3-5-7-9 on the big rungs but ending up doing 1-3-4-5-6-7-flail-fail. When this sort of thing happens, either aim purely for dynamic 1-3-5's until they are easy or go for 1-2-3-4-5 as statically as possible, in order to get a couple of good reps out with each arm. If this starts to feel easy then try to pull a little deeper until that the single rung reach eventually becomes a choice (ie you could have reached two rungs).

I guess it all comes down to what you are training for at the end of the day, but it certainly doesn't hurt to mix it up a bit on the campus board and it definately helps if you're not just trying to burn your mates off on the night (although, this helps with recruitment too but should really come in to play later on).

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


Chuck has finally made a new bouldering film, which is being shown at the EICA on Monday March 16th at 7:30pm. Trailer Below (look it's even got Killy in it)

PURE - A Bouldering Flick by Chuck Fryberger OFFICIAL TRAILER from Chuck Fryberger on Vimeo.

Go to for ticket information.

Go to for more info on the film and how to purchase it

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Getting a Taste of My Own Medicine

Over the festive period I joined the ranks of the whinging masses by picking up a bad pulley injury on my "birdie" finger. It's the first time in many many years that I haven't been able to hang from a conventional campus rung whilst injured.

When building the board in my flat I hadn't really considered this outcome, so put no large rungs on it. The Campus board is currently just a cupboard and will be for a little while longer.

The campus board at Alien2 however, has a set of massive rungs that I can hang off with no discomfort at all. Which is a good thing, as I can't really play on the problems at the moment. I'm working on my deep lock as it's one of my main weak spots and will post a video of some training exercises soon that should demonstrate some alternative ways to use the campus board (well one alternative anyway).

Fisrtly here is my attempt at a one armer on each arm. The start is strong enough, but I really have to kick my legs to get anywhere near full lock.

Here is the video of me trying to address this problem by campusing at round about full lock. People always seem to foorget that you can use the campus board to address specific areas of weakness, rather than for just improving their campusing ability.

Finally here is a very poor attempt at a front lever pull up so that I can monitor my improvement.

Hopefully this training will get me closer to my real goal, which is doing 1-4-8 on my home board in the short term hopefully followed by 1-5-9 later in the year (oh and a couple of projects on rock)