Saturday, 28 February 2009

Learning Day 4 : Persistence.

Persistence. Putting the effort in. Trying and trying again and trying hard. Despite baseless banter to the contrary, this is something I've done a lot of with my climbing - BUT specifically with my onsight trad leading rather than anything in the purely physical arena. I did muse on this a lot last year - having pushed myself and done well in the truly hard area of psychological challenges, I was keen to put some effort into the more relaxed area of pushing of my physical limits. Of course injury got in the way and that plan got shelved. Well almost, there was a bit of inspiration and a bit of an obsession over this winter, with the perfectly named Sulky Little Boys.

With this, I persisted. A short, seemingly simple problem, for which I put in about 8 hours of continuous hard effort over 4 sessions. Focusing, pushing, trying, learning, analysing, fighting, failing, and fighting again. The most effort I've put into any piece of climbing. And what did I learn from this...??

Day 4: Lesson 4: ????

...that after all that effort, I managed to do something of the same grade that I've done in an hour (La Poussif) or in a few goes and nearly flashed (Red Baron), and that it felt annoyingly easy when I did it (although amazing conditions and an intimate knowledge of the movement definitely helped). All that effort for what?? What progress?? Hmmmm... Maybe the lesson here is not about what happened and what I did, but about the process of persistence itself. About the ups and downs and failures and successes and motivations and reasons for doing something. Although I'm not quite sure what that lesson is yet...

There is also another lesson here about the personal nature of bouldering at one's limit, particularly strengths, weaknesses, body shape, and sequences. SLB is a hugely morpho problem and partly what took so much effort was working out the far harder shorties' way. Once this was unlocked and dialled into my mind, it became a lot more feasible. So, the lesson is perhaps also about increasing technical knowledge and awareness of sequence much learning still to much fun...

Friday, 27 February 2009

Learning Days 2 & 3 : Subtlety

Aside from the mighty gritstone, the UK has perhaps two favoured Laboratories Of Movement. Both in relatively grim urban locations, both focused on pure movement, both dear to the hearts of locals and bemusing to offcomers, both strict teachers in their own respective way. One is Pex Hill, and the other is Dumbarton. Having visited Dumby a few times now, I'm starting to understand it's occasional nickname "The Black Font". The setting - graffiti drenched estuary-side urban wasteland vs. soothing and welcoming dappled sandy forest - could scarcely be more different. And the climbing initially seems equally different: ugly, brutal, chaotic, raw. BUT once one starts pushing and progressing, there is a core similarity: that of the subtleties needed for success. Subtleties of hold usage, finger placement, body position, core tension. This was what I learnt recently...

Day 2, Lesson 2:
A little while ago I tried Slap Happy with a fair hope I could do it okay. Good conditions and a vaguely strong feeling. I got shut down totally, before I could even think about tickling the crux edge. Hmmm. Recently I came back to it and learnt... Learnt a lot for a two move problem that's pulling on obvious holds!! Learnt to crimp my left hand to get my right hand on the slimper in better control, learnt the exact placement for the right hand (forefinger nestling against a perhaps 1/4 mm seam for extra purchase....did I mention "subtle"??), learnt to dig my left toe in precisely, and most importantly, learnt to suck my body right into the wall and drag my right toe as part of the movement. Thus less of a slap and more of a glide, thus success.

Day 3, Lesson 3:
On the same day I got shut down by Slap Happy, I got similarly shut down by Mugsy, another classic testpiece. Again a deceptively simple problem: Jump for a sloper, heel on, grab an undercling, turn heel to toe, launch for jug. But if it's so simple, what does it feel so hard?? Apart from the usual Dumby brutality, of course ;). Well, the crucial position is before the launch, and I discovered it was full of contradictions and competing motions:

Right hand hold is on an angled sloper, either open-handed low down on the larger bit, half-crimped in the middle, or crimped on the smallest bit. Left hand hold is a good undercling that faces left and is keeping you on and keeping your weight left. So you need your left to pull you in and make the right hand work, but the left also pulls you downwards and then you need to release it to move. At the same time, your left foot is on a good ledge, and is good to try to squat onto to get your weight upwards but this pushes you off the right hand hold. And your right leg is under the roof, this keeps your weight in on the right hand sloper but also inhibits your upwards movement. Each limb has a role in the position but then a different role in the movement, and changing the role of one limb changes the roles of the others (usually from the role of "holding you on" to the role of "pinging off and dumping you on the mat" ;)).

I can't recall quite such a contrary problem, but again, a good learning experience: Learning the ideal position for the left foot to get squatted, learning again to suck my body into the rock, learning that that turned it from less of a full body lunge into a quick snake-like strike with my left hand, learning that with this method I needed my right hand crimped for locking security rather than open-handed for freedom of movement, learning about precision and speed rather than just power. Learning how to do it and then doing it...

Educate and execute...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Learning Day 1 : Faith

Around this last weekend - the joint birthday of Knitwear Massive 1 and 2 i.e. Commander Loggington and Big Dave, which aside from climbing was characterised mostly by a short sharp burst of gayflu and a jolly jaunt out canoeing on the Tyne - I've managed to do a fair amount of climbing. Not just climbing but enjoyable and inspiring climbing (albeit mostly bouldering but even that's....okay). Obviously with the various injuries climbing has been a bit of an "issue" recently, however I've realised I am still learning stuff (particularly about movement and positioning), and still progressing, albeit in a more sideways way. Anyway recently I've managed to put some of this into practise:

Day 1, Lesson 1: Faith.

Above is the Drake Stone, a singular and somewhat exciting lump in the depths of Northumberland. Previously I'd been for a look and been inspired by a bold wall climb on the front right face, now I had the opportunity to go back and give it a try. Having been firmly in "Confessions Of A Bouldering Punter" mode for several months, I was quite unsure about pushing myself on lead again.

Unsure, out of practise, tired, suffering from gay flu, put off by the icy breeze... But I still had one of the two main weapons in my arsenal with me: Determination (the other main weapon being Uncanny Ability To Downclimb Back To Rests). Determination born of inspiration and a desire to give it a try. So I did, warmed up, cooled down, warmed up, etc etc. Fiddled in some pro, downclimbed, mused. Then got on with it, committed to moves above uncertain protection (decent gear at 1/3 height, shallow untested tri-cam at 1/2 height, crux right at the top). Committed, scared, unable to reverse, windswept, fingers going cold. What can one do in this situation except....learn?? Learn that I wasn't getting that pumped, so I had a bit of time, learn that I could use that time to calm down, learn that once calmer I could try the move, learn that I'd done enough puntering around recently to have a buffer of technique so it wasn't that hard, work it out in two plays, have faith and do it...

The trickiest route I'd done in a while (and a really nice little route, great climbing), and reassuring lesson about my abilities.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snow snow snow!

I do believe it's snowed a bit outside??


It's great. Very pretty, very fun, very disruptive and sobeit.

The sheep don't seem to mind:

I went to the wall the other night. My shoulder felt better and my elbow felt worse, go figure. Was a bit tired but climbed okay, did a nice route on big black blobby things *wink*.

Nothing else to report really. Go look outside the window instead. This is what I see:

Monday, 2 February 2009

Part 2 / 12.

1 month down. I'm not overly impressed so far.

January ended with the traditional whimper - a very gentle session pottering on Burbage South boulders. Quite representative of the recuperative "treading water" circuits I've been reduced to: fun, good for my injuries, but fairly hollow. My heart is still back in the Rhinnogs and Torridon last year...

However, February has started with a bit more general psyche. Yesterday was fairly fun-packed:

1. Get up early, spot my mate on a project of his, drink tea until snow comes in.
2. Drive over to Redmires, go for run from Redmires to Stanage and back. Long uphill on the way, long downhill on the way back into the full force of snow shower and predicted -18'c windchill. Feel good.
3. Go home, look up run, discover was 3.8 miles / 37 mins, longest run yet. Feel chuffed.
4. Get changed and go down T'Works. Warmed up already but do full set of theraband exercises too. Drink cappucino and climb the hardest I have all month, with little shoulder or elbow pain.
5. Go home, quick hot shower and stretch, just to be sure.
6. Drive out through the snow to The Plough, have great gastro-pub meal with large group of mates.
7. Come home early, harrass online mates and go to bed.
8. Wake up to lots of snow. Very pretty.

All in all rather a good day. I felt particularly energised after the run / theraband / climbing combo - unfortunately won't be able to run for a while out there!! My shoulder is sore as usual, but not unduly so. So a bit of progress....for now.

I really want to go skiing, more than anything, though......