Friday, 30 March 2012

Curing the Heavyweight...

Following up the fatness....and the issues causing it:
Age, Diet - NOT factors.
Medication, Inability to exercise, Less regular climbing - MAIN factors.
Less active scene - Additional factors.
What can I do about these issues??

Age: Not an issue but at any rate I don't intend to age gracefully at all!

Diet: Although this is not a factor, it is, unlike sealed veins, something I can change, and I can improve my diet even more compared to my lighter Sheffield time. I have various aims listed to try to have a habitually healthier diet to compensate for the difficulty in improving other areas. These are all simple stuff in the "eating less junk and fat, eating more healthy lightweight food" vein (ugh, veins).

Medication: I have, over several months, halved my dose of Citalopram (to 10mg, apparently below the clinical dose). This has been unpleasant and stressful and my general mood is often agitated and anxious - these are issues I naturally feel well before any beneficial improvements in weight which will obviously take time and exercise. However I get the instinct that my weight gain has stabilised at least, and I have more determination to improve it.

Inability to exercise:
Despite the difficulty of these there are a few options I'm trying with varying degrees of determination and success:

1. Going to the gym: I can do recumbent cycling, rowing, and arm cycling, and burn off a fair few calories that way. The problem is I mostly hate the sterility of the gym, and the leg exercises are still fucking hard work. I'm trying to keep determined....more drum'n'bass mp3 mixes help.

2. Going swimming: This is absolutely fine, in fact post-DVTs I've swum longer distances before. The problem is I find it more boring, if shorter, than going to the gym, AND hard to be syked for in the bleak Glasgow weather. I'm trying to get motivated to go more often, maybe warmer weather will help.

3. Doing very short bursts of running: Although it is a horrible process and I can really do fuck all, I'm sure the little bits still do something. The problem is it inevitably unpleasant and particularly demoralising that I can't progress at all. I'm trying to view it in a different way as just keeping my body moving and tailor it down in that way.

4. Keeping trying to go to crags with medium walk-ins: Although attempting longer walk-ins is pointless, I want to accept the difficulty of even medium walk-ins and keep doing them, although it's tedious it makes for a more beneficial day out. The problem is it is simply always unpleasant, regardless of the logistics, the constant exhausting and dull pain is offputting in itself. I'm trying to tailor down the walking, with more rests.

5. Other options?? I'm not really sure...
> Skiing would be great as it is very inspiring and fun, seems very active, but somehow my legs cope with it.
> Maybe more hill-walks when the weather is good? Less horrible than walk-ins with a rucsac.
> Someone has suggested shorter bursts of sprinting with longer rests, I should try that.
> Someone else suggested "aerocap" climbing training which I think means dicking around on jugs for ages, I'm not sure how much fat that would burn off but at least my legs would cope.

Fuck. How could I forget...
6. Raving! Somehow dancing to gabber or techno is fine on my legs, I assume DnB would be too. Only problem is lack of club events I like and being out of touch with what's on. I really need to rectify that.

Less regular climbing:
As hinted at before, I have realised the importance of a regular climbing lifestyle for me overall health as well as my personal inspiration. Working towards this is....kinda complex, but at least with the realisation and inspiration it has given me some strong ideas, including moving somewhere with better weather and more suitable local cragging, setting up logistics to make climbing easier, going for regular mileage days out even if they aren't always as inspiring, working on grander plans for the future, and simply being more focused on climbing.

Less active scene:
Not really sure about this one. I can't really create activity companionships out of thin air, and have often struggled to fit into regular climbing partner scenes. I;m not sure what else I can do except keep in touch with people, try to hang on to supportive partners, and try to keep a positive attitude. Although again moving somewhere with a better and more encouraging scene than Glasgow would probably be good, and that is likely to be part of the overall plan. Maybe I could try joining some physical activity clubs too...


Overall, despite the odds stacked against me and my fitness, there ARE various areas I am working on (or at least trying to), and I DO have plans to improve my life and activity in the future....because I want to....because I have to.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Chilling at Craigmaddie.

More Scottish summer! A quick dash slow grind out of the city for an evening deposited us at Craigmaddie. I'd been put off going there by the description of it being sandy gritstone, envisaging coarse granular crustiness that would shred my tips especially on a warm evening. Is it like grit?? Is it bollox!! It's a sandstone, almost identical to North York Moors (and bits of T' County), and nothing like Pennine grit. Which made for a surprisingly pleasant circuit even in the mellow sunshine.

I only went to the upper left wall but really enjoyed the fine location, excellent landings, nice rock, and good cranky problems. Typically the guide and online topo are confusing and seem to describe lots of things apart from the obvious natural problem lines. Thankfully they don't take much working out, and this edited topo should help.

1. The Mantle V3 - Good.
2. Left Crack V1 - Nice.
3. ??? V3? - Eliminate up right crack?
4. ??? V2 - Pull on at obvious jugs, reach up to RH crimp and adjacent LH hold, heel hook to top. Good.
5. ??? V4 - Pull on at LH ripple and RH crack pinch, pull up to small flat crimps and direct up to apex. Excellent.
6. ??? V4 - Pull on at LH crack slot and RH large crack, high RF then compress directly up to better holds and final reach. Very good.
7. Lip Traverse V? - Hang nose slopers and use various holds to get into corner crack?

I'm not really sure how these relate to:

Right Crack - doesn't seem to follow the crack and there doesn't seem to be a RH sidepull.
Flake Wall - doesn't seem to have a natural flake to start on nor a sharp crimp you'd gain with LH, nor a dyno. Could be a good link between 4 and 5?
Undercut Crack - doesn't relate to line but does fit the description of 6 above. Could be a good link between 4 and 6?
Right Arete - doesn't seem to exist.

...but at any rate the climbing is nice once you work it out :). I'll definitely be back for the other craglets too.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Glorious Gairloch.

This year, Scotland's summer is in....March. Maybe the Indian Summer will be in December then? Or perhaps early August to maximise midges? Who knows. All I know is the slightest hint of dryness sends me into a twitchy panic that I MUST get out because God knows when it will be dry again. Seems stupid to be like that but that's what experience teaches you up here.

Thank fuck, I got a plan organised, big up to JadeL who was up for going to Gairloch for a weekend. A bit of a mission for two days (although we did get back from the Stone Valley Crags parking spot to Glasgow in 3:45, only 10mph over the limit apart from a bit faster from Kinlochewe to Garve), but oh so worth it. I was smitten by Gairloch the first time I went with Pylon King, and have been back a few times. Normally I could get a bit jaded by revisiting the same areas, but no....Gairloch is just so nice. Stunning scenery, lovely rock, great cragging, the perfect blend of wildness and accessibility.

The first day at Jetty Buttress and Mungasdale I didn't do that much climbing, I was just enjoying the vibe of being back in my natural environment. It was also very still and warm which had me feeling a bit slothful, so I backed off a few tricky routes and just did some warm-up ones, still fun though.

The second day at Stone Valley was sunnier, breezier, bigger and more gooder. 35 minute approach stomp is plenty for me but I made it. We did a good variety of routes and I managed a few trickier ones this time....I'm starting warming into the trad again, this is only my 2nd and 3rd days since October. By the end of the day my fingers were burning from the immaculately rough Gneiss, my toes were burning from breaking in new shoes while seconding slabs, and my legs were aching from the walk-in.....pleasurable pains!!

My trad leading felt fine....I'm getting back into it, felt pretty competent, just need to stay focused.

My elbow felt fine....a bit tweaky at the end of each day but feeling good on the climbing, just need to be careful.

My fitness felt....well whatever, but days out like this are EXACTLY what I need....and lots of. Physical and spiritual health!!

P.S. I am working on the follow-up post about my weight n stuff....soon.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ten Tonne Terrible.

Weight is a big issue for me at the moment. Currently (and for the last couple of years) I weigh about 12¼ stone. Back in 2006/07, at my healthiest and most active, when I was climbing very regularly and pushing myself, I weighed about 10½ - 10¾ stone. So I've put on at least a stone and a half. For a 5'8" midget this is A LOT. Is there any need to explain why this is such a big issue for a passionate and dedicated climber?? I thought not. What is more useful to explain is why I am in this state, and what, if anything, I can do to get out of it. There are several possible reasons why I might have put on so much weight, but which ones are the real reasons??

Some people have said, in a semi-resigned and slightly teeth-sucking way, "Well that's what it's like getting old". I don't really see any evidence or reasoning for this in my case, and since there are extremely clear reasons for my weight gain that exactly coincide with when it started, while "getting old" has no specific coincidence nor abruptness of change in the last few years rather than the previous few, I am certain it is not a factor.

Several people have speculated, seriously or otherwise, that my "Glasgow diet" is the cause of my weight gain. The truth is quite simply that my diet has improved since I moved to Glasgow, because I have been more careful with it - I eat less unhealthy foods and less wildly varying portions than before.
Sheffield - often sausages and pastries for breakfast;
Glasgow - usually have cereal and/or toast.
Sheffield - used to buy packs of mini-chocolates for snacks;
Glasgow - usually buy packs of fruit and nuts.
Sheffield - would sometimes have Scotch Eggs and pork pies;
Glasgow - never eat them.
Sheffield - would often have creamy puddings / treats;
Glasgow - usually bio-yoghurt if at all.
Sheffield - used to eat badly/sporadically in the day and have huge evening meal;
Glasgow - eat more regularly and try to reduce meal sizes.
Sheffield - would have starter/main/rice/bread for curry, and attempt to eat them all;
Glasgow - only have 2/3 of the previous and never stuff myself for the sake of it.
There are a few exceptions: I tend to have takeaways slightly more often, albeit with smaller sizes, I sometimes have a Snickers bar as a daytime snack, and I often have diet soft drinks instead of fruit juice and fizzy water. BUT the improvements I've made far outweigh those. Diet is not a factor, if it was I would have LOST weight in Glasgow.

I have been on Citalopram since late 2009, just after my DVTs. This is anecdotally known (and possibly clinically proven) to affect weight (usually weight gain) by affecting metabolism. The period of weight gain exactly coincides with the period of being this medication. Furthermore, even before I was aware of this as a possible cause, I was aware of a change in my metabolism as my body temperature (previously running fairly warm) had been fluctuating wildy, from hot and sweaty in bed to often surprisingly cold outside (especially my hands - not affected by DVTs). Although not proven, my gut instinct this is definitely a main factor.

Inability to exercise:
My ability to do simple calorie-burning, weight-reducing CV exercise has been HUGELY reduced by having DVTs. Back in 2008 when I had my elbow injury, I wasn't out climbing much and started putting on some weight. I started running, which was hard at first, but I improved well, used the simplicity of going out for a run to get regular exercise and lost weight. I simply cannot do that any more. With sealed iliac and pelvic veins, when I run or walk uphill, my legs cannot return the de-oxygenated blood quickly enough through the adjacent superficial veins, my heart cannot pump around blood that isn't there, my lungs can't supply oxygen to a system that isn't moving, and I quickly grind to an exhausted halt. This is an absolute mechanical limit, irrespective of previous or current fitness. I tested myself once, and while previously I could comfortably do a 40 minute road run, my current absolute maximum is 10½ minutes. This similar applies to walking uphill (simple exercise, usually as part of a climbing day out). I estimate I am working at 20-25% of my previous leg fitness. Imagine going for a 4 mile run around Burbage and only being able to do 1 mile as the utterly exhausting limit. Or imagine walking up to Stanage Plantation and having to rest just after the plantation trees otherwise you would collapse. That is exactly what it is like. Then imagine facing that for the rest of your lift, with no possible surgical or medical intervention, and almost certainly no improvement ever. This makes it EXTREMELY hard to do enough CV exercise to reduce weight, and it is definitely a main factor, probably THE main factor.

Less regular climbing:
Although I cannot do the most simple and beneficial CV exercises, I have found that the regular active climber's lifestyle has definitely caused periods of minor weight loss during the last few years. In particular, 12 days in Sweden, even with their minimal walk-ins, had me at the healthiest and lightest I was all last year. I think this is partly due to lots of climbing but partly due to the general level of activity on a full day out climbing. Unfortunately in Scotland this regularity has proved hard to find, mainly due to the often consistently wet weather that prevents it (the best areas for regular climbing are in the wet West, and there is too little local climbing for regular mileage). Particularly given how bad 2011 was, this is definitely a factor. Actually, thinking back to 2008 and how the temporary cessation of climbing increased my weight then, it too is a main factor.

Less active scene around me:
Related to both of the above, the climbing scene around Sheffield and the Peak District is strong and diverse (if curiously reluctant to escape the Peak itself) and I usually had enough people to climb with and friends to train with and even do fitness stuff with, which was of great benefit to keeping me going and keeping me motivated. In Glasgow the climbing scene is insular and limited and it's been a struggle to find friend people to fit in with. Eventually I have found a few people to regularly climb and train with, but not so many of them, and no-one to do fitness stuff with. When I do have people encouraging me and inviting me out and sharing mutual syke, I know it helps me keep active (beyond just having people to do routes with), so this is definitely a factor.


Age, Diet - NOT factors.
Inability to exercise - The MAIN factor.
Medication, Less regular climbing - Other MAIN factors.
Less active scene - Additional factor.

Next time: What I can and am doing about this. Or trying to.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Ardvorlich Action.

Albeit action of an easy pottering kind - all I'm suited for at the moment, and the right path of action to work back to some sort of climbing confidence.

Ardvorlich is a sweet wee crag indeed. Two adjacent sheer slabs formed from a hummock that pleasingly shelters them from the nearby road, thus combining easy access with surprising tranquility. I've been inspired to go for a few years, ever since seeing a good cragshot from Magpie (back when she still joined in with climbing), and got there the other day. A brace of sport F6a/+s provided the optimum low level to appease my slothful spirit, and the delicately crinkled schist provided a good reawakening of rock sense after a winter that has perhaps been overly-focused on TCA training. I left a few routes to go back for (albeit ones that will need trad gear or pre-placed slings to bypass the sporadic but utterly ludicrous death bolting that spoils a couple of routes).

Actually I think there is no "perhaps" about over-training. My elbows are tweaky again, this time particularly the right one. I haven't been as worried as I should be about this, and am now just about realising the potential for catastrophic suckage this could be entail. Last time it ruined my 2008 summer, and this time, although I have recently upped my training and general levels of activity, my climbing and fitness are even more fragile. The one thing I have in my favour is prior knowledge of how to deal with this, and have already started massaging, taping, and eccentric wrist curls. Time to incorporate icing, and hope that an increasing focus on routes, exploration, and fitness training will avoid the worst of injury.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Lacklustre at Ley, Bollox at Barnton, Lazy at Laggan.

Managed to get 3 days out recently...

Ley Quarry: Supposed sun-trap. Windy. Bloody cold. Did a few easier routes. They were nice enough and fairly decent mileage. Dropped one of my shoes in the pool, it's still damp. Tried slightly tricker routes, stopped by ridiculously reaches (F6b+ that is F7a if you can't reach the hold) and cold, sore fingers.

Barnton Quarry: Grim location even by my standards. Almost "so bad it's good" but not quite. The small bits of climbable rock are actually okay. If you literally wore blinkers it could be appealing. We did a couple of trad routes. Hanging around doing trad felt tiring. And committing. Tried another route and pulled a hold off. Possibly dodgy rock rather than shockwaves emenating out from my gigantic wobbling gut.

Laggan Boulders: With the M80 running smooth it's under 2 hours from Glasgow. Very windy, but curiously warm for bouldering. Good lines up there and plenty of potential. Did some easy problems. Tried a harder problem. Felt crap and tired. Decided to sack it off and go to the other boulders. Then got blocked in and in some almighty trouble with the farmer for driving up the track without permission. Eventually somehow negotiated an escape, drove to the other boulders, met some cows, and just couldn't be fucked to walk-in.

I've felt a long way away from where I want to be in my spirit and my climbing this week. Just need to weather it out I think.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Utter pessimism?

Regular readers (you poor fools) might notice that I occasionally pass comment and critical analysis on the weather, and given I'm living in Scotland and trying to climb good trad in great areas, such comment tends to be contempt and such analysis tends to be justifiably extremely critical. This moaning and whining and ranting is quite simply a natural reaction to an often ridiculous state of affairs, and whilst it might not make good reading, it does make necessary writing.

It also seems to attract bizarre and outrageous accusations ranging from the spurious ("You chose to move to Scotland") to the obscene ("It's just the weather why moan about it") and downright defamatory ("You are totally wrong about last year's washout"). I'm not sure how people can get away with such....libel but at least I can set the record straight.

To set the setting straight, let's be clear on what "good" weather necessarily entails in the context of Scottish climbing. Given the whole point of Scottish climbing is trad climbing (cragging in my case) in the Highlands and Islands, taking in the approximate Elipse Of Extreme Excitement from Glasgow to Mull to Ardnamurchan to Skye to Lewis to Sheigra to Ardmair to Creag Dubh to Glasgow, naturally enclosing the areas of utmost importance like Glen Nevis, Torridon and Gairloch.

Good weather doesn't require months of amazing conditions, long summers of hot dry weather, or any other spurious nonsense that fools might accuse me of expecting. It DOES entail having two or more consecutive dry days in that area, when the rock is dry enough to climb and the season is warm enough for trad. NOT long periods of sunshine and showers where you might just sneak in a route per day when the rain stops. NOT single days interspersed with rain which is fine if you're a local but plain unfeasible for a 4 hour journey. NOT an amazing spell in December when it's dry but below 0'c. NOT good weather along the East coast as while there is good climbing there it is a wet weather escape and often dry in the East is wet in the West.

Look! Scotland in the sunshine! Isn't it pretty! But in a climbing context... This is the start of March, still too cold for normal trad - that doesn't make it a good year. This is after a day of heavy showers and light snow, not a sustained period of dryness - that doesn't make it a good year. This is down near Stranraer, notoriously escaping the wetness that blights the most important Scottish climbing areas - that doesn't make it a good year.

So, two or more consecutive dry days with dry rock. Preferably three or more for Skye, or a short week for Lewis. Quite a low standard so even more ridiculous when Scotland fails to meet it. In that context let's look at the last couple of years and the climbing days I got out during the spring/summer/autumn period, in the Eclipse Of Excellence, on 2+ day trips:

April: 2
May: 3
June: 4 + 2
July: 0
August: 0
September: 6 + 3
October: 3

= 21 North West 2+ day trip days.

Bear in mind there was plenty of shit showery weather throughout the summer. By English standards this was fairly mediocre. By Scottish standards it was probably normal, and actually tolerable. Also bear in mind I spent all of August pissing around at Dumby so might have missed weather windows then.

April: 4 + 4
May: 0
June: 0
July: 2
August: 0
September: 0
October: 0

= 10 North West 2+ day trip days.

Bear in mind that this year I had more keen climbing partners and more determination to explore areas, as can be seen from taking advantage of the single month of summer in April. However I did miss a short dry period in early July, though that would have hardly caught up much.

Hmmm. Even I hadn't realised how low this was! Nor the difference. Suffice to say that when I say last year was bollox I am....totally right.

Despite my utter pessimism I will still keep my fingers crossed for this year, of course. Because despite it all, Scotland is ace and Scottish cragging is ace :).

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Arbroath Antics

Antics is about the right word. As part of the transition (embarrassingly I've realised that I had linked the same drum'n'bass track in a very similar post this time last year), I thought short technical bolted sandstone would be quite suitable. I'd forgotten that Arbroath is often less about technicalities and more about weirdo approaches, weirdo belays, weirdo rock and weirdo conditions. It can be be plenty of fun, but it's hardly a bolted Ramshaw / Ravensheugh / Reiff. This was firmly confirmed by the first route up the Devil's Head (Deil's Heid whatEVER), which escalated steadily up the strangeness stakes from a sloping gritty sandbag start via a top-out up sloping lichen (cleverly chalked by Tris to pretend there was rock underneath), and culminating in the reward of a single abseil bolt seemingly driven into mud or perhaps it actually reached the fragile sandstone biscuit beneath....I tried not to spare it too much thought.

After that things went to a state of curious calmness. Grannie's head had an easy approach, comfortable platform, proper loweroffs and a reassuring grade and delightful crux on The Mushroom Treatment, although the 40° overhanging F6b+ had to be regretfully aborted due to the obligatory sea skank. One to come back for. Conning Tower Inlet looked rather good - another one to come back for - but with a team of 3 the Platform seemed more logistically logical. Ride Em Cowboy was good easy fun, Waves Of Emotion was a billion times harder and ignored, Parson's Nose necessitated an embarrassing rest due to not knowing the line and not liking numb fingers. So only a few routes but a good recce and it was nice to be on the rock again. March now....route season and route training whenever suitable...