Archive for October, 2011

Beginner’s mind

Posted in Climbing with tags on October 11, 2011 by bridbeast

I’m a real sucker for psychological types and classifications, as you’d expect from someone who came out as an INTP on the Myers-Briggs personality test. Systems and classifications, that’s my thing. Apparently.

A lonesome drive to Swanage recently gave me a few ideas for climbing archetypes.


Gnarly Old Gits

Balding, with massive biceps and tufts of back and shoulder hair showing through slightly retro vests, the GOGs are the veteran troopers of our little world. They’ve been everywhere and done everything. They’re done with campussing (tried that back in 92 and got six months off with injured elbows for their efforts), they first went to the Verdon back in the 80s, they might even have been at the Hacienda the night someone pulled a gun out.

GOGs will climb with anyone, as most of their original climbing partners have had kids, got into cycling or given up. They all want to climb 8a before they are 50. Or 60. Or perhaps as a retirement project. Either that, or they are stuck in some hellish multi-week siege of a 40ft crimpfest with the suitable magic number attached.


The Young Dudes

These little Tiggers live down the wall or the crag, bouncing around from problem to problem and route to route. In any random sample at least 10% will have dreadlocks (even today!). Tendon problems are a thing of the future which is a good thing because they worship at the Temple of Strength.

They’ve never heard of Buoux – Catalunya and Magic Wood are where it’s at – but then they’ve never heard of the Stone Roses either. They all want to climb 8a, of even 8A, but they are easily derailed by love, drugs and finals.


The Natural Geniuses

These are the true stars of climbing. Natural climbers with immaculate technique, they’re the sort of people who will throw in a drop knee on their second ever boulder problem. A lack of height or strength doesn’t hold them back, their natural creativity helps them overcome such workaday restrictions, and they take to highballing as if fear of falling were an alien emotion.

Surely these intuitives are rare comets in the climbing firmament? Far from it. I see hordes of these mini-masters every Sunday at the wall – when the kids introductory climbing sessions are in full swing. Could they climb 8a? Probably one day, but I’m not sure if right now all of them can even count to eight.


All the pieces matter

Posted in Climbing with tags , , , on October 4, 2011 by bridbeast

Who needs coaches?

Quite a lot of us who are engaged in complex, hard-to-learn, hard-to-perfect endeavours, at least according to this interesting article by surgeon-author Atul Gawande, in the latest New Yorker. The author explores the idea of coaching in his own profession by asking an accomplished retired surgeon to sit in and observe his operations. He learns more in a few hours than he has in the past five years of plateauing skills.

This passage struck me:

“In sports, coaches focus on mechanics, conditioning, and strategy, and have ways to break each of those down, in turn. The U.C.L.A. basketball coach John Wooden, at the first squad meeting each season, even had his players practice putting their socks on. He demonstrated just how to do it: he carefully rolled each sock over his toes, up his foot, around the heel, and pulled it up snug, then went back to his toes and smoothed out the material along the sock’s length, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases. He had two purposes in doing this. First, wrinkles cause blisters. Blisters cost games. Second, he wanted his players to learn how crucial seemingly trivial details could be. “Details create success” was the creed of a coach who won ten N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championships.”

In a little moment of serendipity, just a day before I read a very similar thing by Steve House about his alpinism:

“Let there be no doubt that for every ascent listed above, there were a thousand details that fell into place, like knowing how to dry my gloves, what sock combination worked, and (usually) a high pressure that held. It is experience with those details that allows some to ascend to their potential, while the rest get stopped by blisters and bad timing.”

It’s the socks and blisters again!

It made me think to climbing with relative beginners and how few of them bother to clean their shoes before stepping onto the rock. It also made me wonder what I’m missing in my own climbing, and what a coach could advise. What are the new little details I need to know? Because all the pieces matter