Archive for training

Training is boring.

Posted in Climbing with tags , on January 26, 2012 by bridbeast

Every single public space in London at the moment is full of Olympics adverts featuring sculpted athletes exhorting the populace to run faster, jump higher, train harder. Honestly, it’s like some Communists have decided to decorate the place, only with better graphic designers.

What the posters don’t give away is just how bloody boring athletic training is.

The last few weeks I’ve spent a good proportion of my spare time at the climbing wall, slogging away at improving my fitness, doing loads of laps on routes which is very dull. Afterwards I feel spent and tired, come home and eat, sleep for eight hours and then look forward to doing it the next day. And this is only training for my very modest amateur efforts, not the Olympian heights of 9a+ sports climbs.

I don’t mind bouldering sessions, in fact I really enjoy them, but then they are mostly resting between problems. However I want the stamina this year, so I have to work for it.

Sunday was the first day out climbing for 2012. We went to Dancing Ledge at Swanage, that superbly reliable winter venue. Typically we were down to t-shirts at one point, which seems to happen on nearly every winter visit I make there. I came very close to flashing a F6c, albeit one I top-roped a year ago, and got it easily second time around, despite feeling tired. So hopefully on track for some of my sports climbing goals and generally feeling reasonably fit for January.

But… I’m at the fourth week of the training regime for the new year and already it’s time for a rest! I’d planned this out, it should have been the fifth week but that didn’t work with the time I’ve got, so three weeks on, one off it is.

It feels like a good thing. My hands were beginning to get really stiff in the mornings and I could feel my tendons straining a little, but that’s disappeared. I think I’ve been a little too lazy – must go for a run tomorrow and do some proper stretching – but overall it’s been good. I’m ready for the next bout.

That means more stamina training and some strength stuff, but hopefully also starting learning some big wall techniques. I’ve bought a “how to” book by John Long and John Middendorf. They’ve plenty of experience and a way with vivid images which cements ideas in your mind. Keep your shoes clipped in at night:

“Drop your only shoes, kiss your feet goodbye. It’s happened, and the survivors walk with a cane to this day.”




Goals for 2012

Posted in Climbing, ramblings with tags , , , , on January 10, 2012 by bridbeast

It’s that time of year again – putting down in writing a few of the things I hope to achieve this year.

I’m planning a year of two halves. For the first six months, it’s time to get as good at cragging as possible. Pretty much like last year, really, and some of the aims remain the same, ie I didn’t tick them last year:

Sort out niggling shoulder problem.

Get my onsight level up to F6c. I’ve done this a couple of times last year, now I want to be able to do this regularly.

Redpoint lots of F7a (say five to ten routes at this level), mainly at Portland or Cheddar. Try a 7a+ or possibly 7b.

I’m going to the Verdon at Easter, target routes include: Riviere d’argent, Debiloff, Durandal and Le Demande. Given the tough grading, spaced bolting, massive scale and overall in-your-face scariness of the Gorge, I’d be very pleased to get any one of these routes ticked.

Continue to improve at British trad climbing. Climb some classic Pembroke E2s such as Deranged or Silver Shadow, if I get really fit then I’d like to get on one of the E3s there, Pleasure Dome or Space Cadet. On the grit I’d like to do the likes of Billy Whiz or Insanity before attempting a solid E3 crack such as Gates of Mordor, Sentinel Crack or Emerald Crack.

That in itself seems quite a lot. Obviously I don’t think I’ll get it all done but that’s the sort of thing I’m aiming for. Then in July/August I want to go on a road trip to the US. The rough plan at the moment is to climb in the high-up areas during the summer: Rocky Mountain National Park, the Needles, Tuolumne, Lake Tahoe and the High Sierras, working on my crack climbing and getting fitter for long routes, before hitting Yosemite Valley.

In the Valley I want to do some long free routes and beginner walls, such as Leaning Tower, culminating in an ascent of El Cap. I’m flexible over which route: the Nose, Salathe, Zodiac or Tangerine Trip are the main ones I’d be interested in.

So, some big ambitions. Lifetime stuff in fact. I’m not sure how much of this is outside my ability or will be done with some hard work and scary moments. In addition, I want to see if it’s possible to mix an athletic life with a writing one. In 2012 I want to read some of the classics I’ve never got around to, Dickens, George Elliot and so on, and to start work on some of my own stories. That’s a bit vague because I’m not sure exactly what I want to do, and unlike my climbing plans, I feel a need to keep my writing ideas to myself for the moment. They’re too fragile for the scrutiny of the wider world right now! In the meantime, here’s a few photos of El Cap.


Headwall of the Salathe

Salathe headwall © Duncan Critchley


Climbing on Tangerine Trip

Tangerine Trip, El Capitan © chrisbevins



2011 goals redux

Posted in Climbing, ramblings with tags , , , on December 31, 2011 by bridbeast

Back in January this year I wrote out a list of goals for the year. Now it’s the last day of 2011, time to see how I did:

I’d like to fulfil the long-standing goal of climbing F7a again, and onsighting F6c.

Ticked the F7a in Catalunya in November after coming very close around Easter time. Flashed a couple of F6cs but not quite an onsight. I think that’s 3/4 of a tick.

More unlikely is climbing F7a+.

Yes, that was unlikely. Fail.

Trad climbing – I’d like to get up to E2 and possibly E3. Something steep and safe at Pembroke or Gogarth. Pleasure Dome is on the list, maybe also Ocean Boulevard or Soul Survivor at Swanage. Some steep and savage grit cracks, with the ultimate aim of doing Sentinel Crack at Chatsworth – ouch!

A bit ambitious this one, given that before this year my trad climbing was seriously out of shape. I hadn’t taken a fall onto my own gear or climbed an extreme in years. I was reasonably on it this year, with my best lead being Brown’s Crack at Ramshaw. E1 in the guide but E2 on UKC, it is most definitely steep and savage. I didn’t do Sentinel Crack but this was a step in the right direction. Tick.

Unfortunately my dreams of E3 at Swanage or Pembroke didn’t materialise. I think that was a bit too much. Fail, but rematch for 2012!

Ramshaw climbing

My idea of fun.

Places to visit: Cornwall, Verdon, North Wales. Spend much more time at Swanage and Portland to get fit.

Didn’t go to Cornwall or  North Wales as my plans of long weekends away were scuppered by getting a new job. I did go to the Verdon even if it was too rainy to get anything properly done. Went to Swanage and Portland a bit, but perhaps not as much as I’d envisioned. Still, mostly a tick.

Actually write a short story. Try to write a radio play.

Big fat fail on both these aims.

Get at least one article published in the national media.

Got a ghost-written piece into the Huffington Post. Half a tick I think.

Looking back on it, 2011 was a pretty good year. I did loads of climbing, chopped and changed jobs (hopefully for the best), got tattooed and had a great visit to Sri Lanka. I’m unhappy that I failed in any of my writing aims but I’m hoping for a better year in 2012 on that front. I’m also keen to realise some big, lifetime climbing goals in 2012. Bring it on!


Yosemite Valley. El Cap.

The mighty El Capitan. ©ChrisJD

Big wall climbing on the Capitan. ©Enty

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


Posted in Climbing, ramblings, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 30, 2011 by bridbeast

In the depths of winter I wrote on this blog a little list of goals for the year – “to check up on later this year and see how I’m progressing.” Well, later is now and with six months of the year down it’s time to check on my progress.

This is going to hurt.

First, sports climbing. Onsighting 6c and redpointing 7a. Nearly there – I flashed a 6c in Portland very early on in the year, came to within an ace of redpointing a 7a at Swanage just before Easter. Our trip to France was supposed to give a final boost to my sports climbing and see my hit the magic mark, but that didn’t happen thanks to the weather. I missed quite a bit of training and a couple of trips away due to getting tattooed and injuring my shoulder, and once the summer arrived I’ve been trying to concentrate on trad climbing. So nearly, but not quite. Hopefully that’ll be rectified in the autumn with some south coast sports trips.

Trad climbing. I’ve been trying hard on this one in the last few weeks, with trips to Pembroke, the Peak and Swanage. It’s been tough. I’ve been wracked with nerves and though the climbing has felt easy, the overall leading of harder routes felt a bit beyond me at first. But it’s slowly coming back, I threw myself on an E1 last weekend and though I didn’t get up it, I wasn’t too far off. More confidence and speed with my gear placements is what I need. So with a bit of luck, some good weather, and the right route, I still hope to get up an E2 this year. Not so sure about an E3.

I’ve visited the Verdon, and spent a bit more time at Swanage and Portland, tho the Bill still has plenty of crags I’ve yet to even visit. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll make it to Cornwall or N Wales this year. I had plenty of time off with my old job and was planning to take a bunch of long weekends to get far away from London, but my new position has fewer holiday days and most of them will be used up in our trip to Sri Lanka later in the summer.

Despite not actually ticking any of my main climbing goals, I feel I’m getting there which is great. Unfortunately climbing a lot is really, really detrimental to writing. It takes up a lot of time and energy. So my ambition of writing a play or short story remains very much unfulfilled, even unworked upon. Getting a newspaper article published hasn’t happened yet either, though I hope with work to get a few ghosted op-eds out there in the next few months, which is at least half a tick.

However I’ve been writing much more on here which is proving to be a good way of working on a few ideas and keeping my hand in.

Two big projects I’ve achieved this year didn’t even rate in my list, but I’m very happy about achieving them. I got a new job, which is really exciting, promises some interesting travel and is a whole lot more stimulating than my previous one. Result! And I’ve gotten tattooed, a very long-standing desire which I’ve fulfilled big style. I’m very pleased about getting that done, even if the result was to make me too skint and knackered to manage all the other things.

I’ll check in with this list again at the end of December.

The more you know, the more you need to learn

Posted in Climbing with tags , on May 7, 2011 by bridbeast

So my trip to France felt like a real insight into climbing weaknesses and strengths and an opportunity to see what I have to do to improve.

So, first the good things:
As I expected, I’m good at reading sequences and doing fingery walls. I didn’t get pumped often, so the 4x4s seem to have paid off. I turn out to be surprisingly good at slab climbing, quickly doing problems in Font that no one else could. So – time to try some hard routes at Portland, start hitting Pembroke. The slab climbing can perhaps wait until the autumn gritstone season – or should I plan a trip to La Pedriza or Llanberis?

Now, the weaknesses:

The difficult 6c at Toulon (Marco Polo) showed that my strength and bouldering need to go up a level if I’m to get up harder sports climbs (tho I’m probably okay for a lot of trad up to about E2). Same with the tough route at Chateauvert – I really lacked the power for some big moves, the rest I could just about handle.

Falling – for the first few days the fear of falling was high, and it took me a long time to feel relaxed when on lead. It’s even worse when I’m high on a big pitch. Since I don’t have enough free climbing days to spend getting my head in gear, I need to do as much fall practice as possible at the wall. Maybe aim for 50 – 100 falls in the next month or six weeks? How do I get used to taking falls and hanging out high up?

Footwork – I struggle with heel hooks. This needs practice, and  feel I could improve my ability to drop-knee too. Possibly also some hip and leg flexibility to make the most of these kind of moves, but most of it will be drills and practice at the wall, and copying people who are good at heel hooking.

Steep rock – after failing on a fairly straightforward 6b at Chateauvert I realise I need to really improve my ability on very steep rock (up to about 15/20 deg overhanging). One element of this is pure strength/thuggery, the other is being comfortable on steep rock, happy to take falls and so on. Many hours of bouldering in the fridge and leading on the steepest wall at the Westway beckon. Not sure where to practice this outside… perhaps Higgar Tor?

Dead pointing – I’m just not very good at it, lacking accuracy and timing. Need to learn how to hit the holds at just the right time in the jump.

Staying calm – Mark noticed that before doing some problems at Franchard Cuisinere I was a bit shaky and skittering when first getting on the rock. I’ve notice myself feeling really shaky when I get nervous, often just as I’m about to succeed on a route (perhaps success is scarier than failure?). Apparently my first move nerves disappeared higher on the problems and some level of precision returned. I need to stay calmer and manage the tension between being psyched and excited, and calm enough to climb well.