Thursday, December 31, 2009

round (up) 2

Time flys – its nearly 2010! Following on from Dan’s post, here are my top 5(ish) moments of 2009.

Font is the best bouldering venue in the world, no contest (for me anyway). It is hard not to have a good trip to font, especially when you have just finished some exams.
The most memorable moment was Noir desir. I remember looking at this on my first trip to font and thinking it looked impossible. This time when I looked at it again (complete with puddle in the finishing jug) I got the feeling that it was going to be easy. I don’t know why – I never usually feel this about any problem. Sure enough, after warming up (a bit of arm windmilling) I pulled on and found myself hanging off the finishing puddle/jug. I love the feeling when it just works. You have no idea why, or how, but it works. I guess this is what Dawes is on about in Stone Monkey.

The exact opposite happened on Imothep. First session (albeit on a hot day) I couldn’t do the first move. 2nd session I dropped the last move a couple of times. 3rd session I did nothing but drop the last move! That was until my absolute last go. I had nothing left to give. No skin and no energy but a small drop of motivation which I hadn’t yet sweated out of my red raw fingertips. The only thing keeping this in was the layers of tape covering 5 of my 8 tips!

I set off knowing that this was my last go, and although things were far from going to plan I kept battling, refusing to give up. On reaching the final holds I tried some new beta – a tiny ripple with my right hand that allowed me to adjust my feet and jump again for the top. I grabbed the last sloper with 3 tips, the tape slipping off my sweaty fingers. I lunged again, this time getting more of my hand on. I was pumped and my hands were slipping, but the finish line was inches away. I wasn’t giving up now. I jumped my legs up and clamped with everything I had, mauling the ever improving slopers, crawling my way over the finish line. I collapsed on top panting, straddling one of the best boulders I have ever climbed. Its nice to have to fight for success!

St. Bees is by far my favourite crag in Britain. Perfect red sandstone boulders sit by the sea, kept cool by the breeze even in the height of summer. I visited St. Bees twice this year, and each time I had the best time. Aquachoc (bee-fish) was waved in front of me like a red sandstone rag to a bull. “We couldn’t even pull off the floor on this one” Dan told me. I got all interested!
I generally don’t like one move problems, especially low ones, but the holds on this are just perfect. Somehow I managed to keep my feet on the overhanging smears just long enough catch the jug and rumble up the ultra classic Apiary Arête to finish.

However the highlight of St. Bees was Tim’s crack, the best 7c in the country (go on, have a go on this and then name a better one…). After wobbling up this amazing pocketed roof crack, absolutely knackered at the end of a long day with food rations dwindling (thanks to someone throwing their bag down a cliff!), it was straight into the sea to cool off. Perfect end to a lovely day out.

The Frankenjura was brilliant – I wasn’t expecting it to be so good. I knew the routes were world class, but I knew almost nothing about the bouldering so went with no expectations. It turned out to be amazing (in a short, steep and powerful kind of way) with real grades to keep the egos in check! The first few days were spent getting shown the classic problems, followed by getting thoroughly shut down by them all. After a few weeks we begin to adjust to the brutality of the climbing and begin to get some things done.

The best problem of the trip was V2 – 2 pockets, 3 slopers, and a heel lead you up this font like feature. It was great to get the problem ticked, but more importantly, that day marked the end of my lingering finger injures (I got a bit keen on the fingerboard and upset 2 of my pulleys), and from then on I only ever felt stronger. It was great to end the trip with a couple of hard crimpy problems, proving that my pulleys had cheered up and my fingers were back in the game.

Ned vs schnee from on Vimeo.

Ned halloween bouldering from on Vimeo.

Caseg groove is something that I had wanted to try for a long time. The bulging slopers just looked brilliant and I couldn’t resist a trip there. After doing the Gimp and Main Vein is was time to get stuck in. The crux ended up being 1 foot move, which I solved with a ninja kick to a smear. It was impossible to do this move slowly as the direction of the slopers meant I had to keep constant pressure through the feet to stay on the rock. Eventually with the light from one headtorch, and some very fed up spotters I busted through the tricky move and thrashed my way blindly up the stand up start, topping out in the dark. This was one I had wanted to do for ages. I was dead chuffed.

I can’t really mention best moments without comps coming into it. After very little climbing between March and June (dissertation and exams taking their toll) I headed over to Eindhoven for the World Cup. Although I wasn’t feeling weak before we went, I certainly wasn’t feeling fit. However qualifiers went pretty well. I still fell off far more than I should have but never mind, I was through to the semis!

After an early start (I hate these!) it was back to isolation. Feeling surprisingly good after warming up I flashed the first 2 problems (apparently causing the route setters to panic. “that punter didn’t fall off – the problems must be too easy”!), the 3rd was nails so I called it quits early, but the 4th was not so bad. Excellent. I was content with my effort, but this soon turned into excitement as everyone else started falling off a lot more than I had. Eventually the scoreboard settled down, with my name in 6th place. In the world cup finals. Sweet!

The finals are a bit of a blur. I was totally knackered. My biceps felt like knotted hemp rope and my back was seizing like setting cement. Never mind, this is a final! The problems look brilliant.
I flashed the 1st problem, and was sooo close to flashing the 2nd, failing to hold the finishing hold. It all went down hill from there, and when time was up I collapsed on the mat to watch Killian float up the last problem to win the comp. This was a great experience and has taught me that on a good day, with the right problems, I can potentially do quite well in international comps. The month after this was the British champs. I managed to control the nerves well at this comp (it just didn’t seem like a big deal after the world cup) which really helped me to climb well under pressure and I ended up doing ok.

Well, its not long till I go off to font now so I had better get back on the fingerboard….

Sunday, December 27, 2009

wrapping up 09

We thought we'd do a little reflection on our most memorable 10 days out on the blocs from 2009 (in no real order). Five from me and five from Ned.

So for me they have to be:
Font day 1: I'd just finished my January exams and prior to my last one, had my strongest ever board session. Things were looking good. We drove through the night and snuck into Maisonbleau at 3 in the morning. We got woken at 9 in the morning by a phone call from a very sleepy Bullit and Ned, who had forgotten that roundabouts involve turning wheels, luckily they picked the 2nd last one (next to Cuvier) to crash into (after driving all the way from Sheffield) so i picked them up from Fontainebleau town and we made for Elephant. 5 of us and 3 pads in the faithful Corsa. Everyone was completely wrecked and Ned was scraping his eyes off the floor; sleep Vs psyche like some superhero power battle (he still did Envie d'ailes mind). Rob had curled up in a ball and was sleeping by this point. However i felt just about ok after a whopping 5hours sleep. I could also feel some sort of illness coming on. I thought i'd have a pop at Partenaire Particulier (i'm sure it'd get more ascents if people could actually spell it) as it has always been on my font list, i quickly found myself dropping the top press up to the gaston and felt really fuzzy after each go, i had a lie down for 10mins on the pads whilst the others went for a walk. then i woke Rob up and got hopped onto the start hold, i just managed to press it out and whip up the problem. The next day i had a really bad head/throat and the day after that Strep throat had reared its ugly head, which screwed the rest of the trip up big numbers wise, but good times were still had (it's Font after all). A nice tick in a nice place with excellent company.

Easter: i'd been training through the winter with Queens in mind. It is a horribly bitter place in winter, but as the warmer air temps come in spring and that fresh breeze, there is no place i'd rather be. I was starting to feel a bit rattly from all the training so had quite a few rest days, and after a session on the top dyno i felt confident enough that i would have a chance of sticking it from the bottom. I waited a day and headed out with Springer, we arrived to perfect conditions and after a few failed goes i finally sent Arc Royal which has inspired me since i first went to Queens. Springer had to shoot off for something but i stayed and worked the sitter, i was firing through my sequence fast and quickly linked to the last move which gets you into the stand up. Feeling tired i had a bit of a rest and linked it up again, this time i headed right at the stand up holds and finished up hat full of hollows via my warm up link. Easy i thought, and all my training had paid off. I burnt out a bit after that session and never quite felt as god on the big link as i felt on the sit that day. It sort of felt like one last blast of strength from my wrecked frame, to say "you've got today and after this i'm giving up" and indeed i've had two ring finger injuries for the rest of the year (see previous blog) which made that day an extra lucky one in retrospect.

Torridon at Easter was great too, realizing that the UK has great potential to be more than multiples of minor venues. walking straight out your accommodation into a boulder field is a luxury not often afforded anywhere never mind in Scotland! On my 2nd last day Richie showed me a project in a cave, which, on my last day, became Robert the Brute . However the stand is simply a pleasant 7b+ ending to the main meat. a perfectly set sit start. I spent and hour and a half trying to pull on, then pulling on and just moving before exploding off! Great! this is how projects should be, moves which are so hard you have to wait months to be able to do them. As well as being totally blank except for the holds, so it is the right sequence or no sequence. This was an inspiring project and it has fueled the back burning stove of my training mind for most of the year, along with others in England.

Flubber Frankenjura: This was a problem i really wanted to do before heading out, but due to having snapped my A1 on my left ring finger, all bets were off so i had no expectations. Within 5 minutes of trying the problem i knew there was no chance of me climbing it via the normal sequence due to the amount of pressure put on the LH during the crux, i could barely hold the position without my finger turning to watery jelly. So plan B was concocted, i wanted to do this problem badly, so it was time to suck it up and find something that works, i engaged "board mode" and 1 arm started with my hands opposite, pulling on felt hurrendous as did moving, but there was hope, if it was on the board it'd barely be 5a, and i had time. I was going to do this, next session i felt like crap so i left it before i got stuck in. Then next time back the micro beta clicked, foot angles were tapped, finger positions were checked. And i sent it packing from a sitter, with backwards beta and a ridiculous amount of footlocks for a problem that previously had none. Unique times and proof to myself that climbing is what you make it, only being limited by strength and creativity in a sport is a good way to be.

St Bees was a right laugh in the summer too, I picked Ned up from Grasmere so bombed through all the lakes great driving roads, then we (read Ned as i did bugger all hard climbing) set about annihilating gaps, Ned crushed Beefish quick smart (which he'd like to rename aqua-choc) and this is definitely IMO, at present, the hardest problem at St Bees, prolapse inducingly powerful. meanwhile i abbed a BIG line and cleaned it up which'll be great when it gets done, then we mucked about on Power of Raa and what became Captain Pugwash. Good times in nice summer temps and the crag to ourselves (as ever really). In fact, come to think of it, i've never had a bad day at St Bees, even when i crawled down that descent in a force 7 gale. That day I saw a seagull die by getting slammed into a boulder it was so windy, and the odd feather shot by in the breeze as a reminder throughout the session, yet i still had fun and got something done (or some moves anyway) although me and boulders are like babies and rattles. enthusiasts may wish to skip the above and simply read:
Partenaire Particulier 8A, 20 mins
Arc Royal 8A (soft) 3 years FA
Robert the brute 7B+ (soft) FA
Flubber 8A (whack beta, hard 4 me :P )

Monday, December 21, 2009

Scar Tissue

phew! we've been busy this past fortnight with lots of beastmaker's whisking their way off to be alongside a fellow tree. Except hopefully our boards won't be thrown away after xmas. I thought about a few posts to do today, yearly reviews etc. But i thought this might be useful, especially to people who get a bit keen on the training over christmas (unlikely i know)

perf reviewjpg

the above figure is (click, then click all sizes to enlarge). Is a heavily abridged version of my 2009 year . Instead of grades (still a useful reference). I roughly judged my performance using my intrinsic knowledge of when i feel like i'm going well and when the wheels are off the wagon. This year has been a constant battle against the latter. And it is mostly due to over indulgence in the thirst for power. Too much too soon both mentally and physically pushed my previously sturdy body which had only had the odd severe niggle into a state of malfunction. It was hard to pick myself up in August as "fool me twice shame on me" was telling me i had learnt and knew nothing about climbing hard and looking after myself. In a way this is more of an exposé to draw attention to the fact that training is symbiotic with injury and that both should be payed attention to in equal measure. Credence should be given to the idea that when your going well, the extra session or those tender pulleys aren't worth pushing on for that extra percentile.
Then again if you are an all out training junkie (as in chalk you hands when you get up for a piss in the night/regularly scrape through endless sites looking for the secret to endless power) and don't mind losing the odd 1/4 year to injury then it is definitely possible to train round injuries if you are smart with what you do. That is not to say you will come out stronger, you will just come out stronger in different areas. But getting back what is lost in the injured area takes time and painful dedication. That said, on paper (and paper alone) this has probably been close to my best year ever. Where as the above chart shows that performance wise it has been atrociously inconsistent.

If i may say so, (speaking as a keen boulderer, not as a PR machine) i am genuinely very glad to have had my (finger)board and system holds (we don't sell these yet, so at least i'm not plugging things that badly) whilst injured, as it was easy, just a few days after being injured to isolate the injured finger and train the others. Without this ease of training i would have been far less motivated to get back on my wheelless bandwagon and steer things back to something resembling a course.

Anyway someone shouted at me on my last post for not being punctual with video posting, so here is something i made earlier:

Monday, December 7, 2009


Dynamics, originally uploaded by Nick Hensman.

About this time of year it is good to review what we've been training for and what problems outdoors are worth making the effort to get done. Both Ned and I have started to spend more hours indoors as the bad weather lends itself to getting stronger, so that when it finally does break you can capitalise on it.
Although, what is different to last year is that i've also been trying to get stuck into things outdoors. Seeing as though it is only since getting back from Germany that my hands have been functioning anywhere near properly. So in my mind i have a large backlog of ascents to finish off and to get started on. WHich was going well until this week when i caught some winter lurgy after a night out at the warehouse project.
Aside from that we're working hard to fulfill our orders to customers and shops. As well as planning a really nice training website which should be up in january.
I've also been following the run up to Copenhagen very closely and have been chuckling away at fox news's "Climategate" stories, which have gone from juxtaposing cherry picked statements to full on fantasy in a desperate bid to put a spanner in the works of negotiations.
Copenhagen has the potential to be very important to everything to do with human activities in the next 50years, which is probably why there will be nothing concrete agreed, as there is too much at stake. Unless our meek politicians do something profound and historical and actually take a united stand on something (if anything, ever, it should be this)
Apologies for not talking about climbing, (especially seeing as though half the western worlds papers have united in a common editorial
I'll post a nice video up tomorrow to make amends