Friday, 7 March 2014

After everything that has happened I still bloody love you!

In the summer of 2012 my life changed forever, my best friend and longtime climbing partner died in front of me whilst we were out climbing in Mallorca, something I'll probably never get over and will continue to affect me for the rest of my life.

I've never written about this in a public forum before except in the initial aftermath to share my grief on facebook with friends and family. Out of respect to Phil and his family I'm not going to go into what happened that day other than to say that we were on the first day of a DWS trip and he never made it back out of the water.

Nearly 2  years later I've been able to take a step back and think about it without a gut-wrenching feeling of grief and guilt and the thing that surprised me on waking up this morning is that the mere thought of giving up climbing never occurred to me. 

The more I thought about it the more I realised that climbing has a lot to answer for in my life. In short climbing has been responsible for meeting my wife, my choice of career, losing/leaving my job (on more than one occasion), an emotional meltdown, the loss of a friend, at least in part for getting a rubbish degree, constant crushing disappointment at failing to achieve targets I set myself, nearly bankrupted me and my family (at least on one occasion) and 18 months of constant, mind-numbing dull ache in my elbow joints. 

Yet for all the ups (wife, job etc) and downs (money, only getting a 3rd etc) one thing has remained constant; my undying, unrelenting love for the ridiculous pursuit of trying to get up a piece of rock. And sometimes they aren't even real rocks, a lot of the time they're bits of resin bolted to ply board, what the hell am I doing?!

So what's it all about and why do we do it?
Beautiful places...
and the best (if a little special) company.

I finish with the two most poignant photo's, one of Phil and I on the walk into Gimmer, our favorite crag to climb on together, the perfect mix of great rock and superb routes on a truly adventurous crag but that comes with a pub at the bottom. 

The second is a photo from a few days ago when Nicki and I took Phoebe to Brimham to have her first genuine climbing trip to the grit, she climbed better than I expected and managed a mod and the hard Vdiff Cyclops on top rope.

I know it won't always be a straight forward route, life will throw it's little cruxes at us, but climbing is inextricably entwined with not just my past but my very existence and looking at Phoebe now I'm proud and excited to see it continuing on into the future.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Distilled: Hot Aches film review

Having finally watched Distilled by Hot Aches I enjoyed the film so much I thought it was worthy of review. I'm a big fan of the productions from the Hot Aches crew and so I've been keen to get my hands on a copy of this for a while and it did not disappoint. The film is almost an abridged autobiography of Andy Cave (Boardman Tasker winner, Piolet d'Or nominee and all round Yorkshire climbing legend).

Though Cave has done and seen some extraordinary things, the way he talks about the mountains, Scotland and British climbing, he manages to evoke that most basic feeling of adventure we get from the mountains. In quite an understated and typical Yorkshire manner he encapsulates everything that makes winter climbing great. The sensation of being a fixed point of calm in a white, cold, wild mountainscape, being completely in control whilst on the brink of chaos. The excellent narrative provided by Andy provides a sound track to some truly brilliant positions on classic routes with the conditions varying from almost alpine serene to "proper Scottish".

The Hot Aches team have become masters of this style of documentary-cum-biography-cum gnarly climbing flick and I can't wait to watch Wide Boyz!

In summary Distilled is well worth a watch, whether you're a winter climber or not it will make you want to sharpen up your points, load up the car, leave the grim weather behind and go find something properly Scottish!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Music to my ears!

So ignoring my previous blog post about sleep after training sessions here I am at 11:25pm writing about the past few days activities. I  also happen to be nursing a rather tasty dram of Bruichladdich Rocks, a lovely un-peated Islay, I got given another bottle of single malt for my birthday so I thought I'd better get on with this one so I can start the next.

The weather has been pretty poor for a long while now and although we have had two 'alright' days, life (most notably the cars MOT and my mother visiting) has got in the way of being able to capitalise on anything. That said I did have a nice find in Oxenhope on Monday evening, whilst walking the dog a different way to usual I stumbled across what I've named The Mutton Block due to it's proximity to the Lamb Inn and my stupidity in not noticing it sooner. The block looks to have 3 good, clean, independent problems on it with possibilities for a few links and eliminates, with everything in the 6a+ to 7a+ territory this looks like a good project boulder and it has a flat landing and the surrounding area is toddler/ dog friendly. Will definitely be spending a bit of time here when (if) the weather dries up.

Now to this evenings training... having worked as a technical adviser and in several climbing walls in different capacities I would not ever recommend wearing headphones whilst climbing, this is only my opinion but I think it can be a recipe for disaster. The tendency whilst wearing headphones is to tune out from everything around you and focus entirely on what you are doing in that moment, great for the gym or on a run.

However in a climbing wall people fall on you, you are more likely to miss the 16 stone bruiser about to crush you launching himself off the wall behind you and if you're really unlucky the 6 year old who has up until now been quite well behaved chooses your final lap on the 7a circuit to come and play under the circuit board. All these things made so much worse by the fact that you haven't noticed them because you're rocking out to Katy Perry or Bruce Springsteen (don't know why I chose those two, neither of them are on my playlist). That said this evening was strength training time and I was in the training room and man did music help me to focus! I had the best session of typewriters, offsets, holding position on the beastmaker and campus combined with slow pull-ups I've had so far. The music really did give me the extra edge on the last set of everything.

So in summary...

36 Crazyfists and Rage Against the Machine can make you train harder, but they can also make you stupid if you insist on headphones in the climbing wall itself.

Off to the Lakes for a few days on Friday so maybe a session at Lakeland Climbing Centre in Kendal whilst we're there (the forecast looks pants so I doubt we'll be getting out) and then onto session 4, 5 and 6 for strength training. I'll re-post once I've completed strength phase before I switch to power for 6 sessions.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Training recovery and sleep.

Recovery shakes, high protein diet, rehydration and energy gels are all the sort of things that we are told we need to "maximise or performance" and get "the results we've always dreamed of". Funny how in these adverts we rarely see "make sure you're in bed by half past nine" or "a cozy duvet improves muscle recovery and growth"!

Ok, so they aren't the catchiest of strap lines but it's a fact that we often neglect sleep when it comes to training.

In my case it's a combination of family life and distance from the wall which cause me to miss out on sleep. In our house we tend to get up at about 6.30 in the morning to give us time to walk the dog, have some breakfast and get the fire lit before we take my wife to work. Most days and I usually manage to get to bed sometime between 10.30 and 11pm which realistically gives around 7 hours of quality sleep. There is a regular exception to this and that's nights when I climb at the wall, this can mean I don't get to bed until 11:30 which can knock quality sleep down to 6 hours on precisely the night I need the most sleep.

At the moment I'm sat at the computer nursing my second mug of coffee wondering why its not kicking in yet and Phoebe is having some quality Peppa Pig time. Nearly dozing off on the sofa earlier on this morning prompted me to have a bit more of a look into sleep and recovery and it turns out surprise surprise it's pretty vital.

Sleep, Athletic Performance, and Recovery

July 16, 2010
Many of the world's greatest athletes eat, sleep, breathe, and live for their sport. But did you know that in addition to physical 
conditioning and conscious eating, sleep plays a major role in athletic performance and competitive results?
Getting a good night's sleep is critical to peak performance during the day, regardless of activity. REM sleep in particular 
provides energy to both brain and body. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn't have time to complete all of the phases 
needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation, and the release of hormones. The quality and amount of sleep athletes 
get is often key to winning their sport. Tennis great Serena Williams told a UK publication that she usually sleeps well and 
enjoys going to sleep early (around 7 pm). On the website of cyclist Lance Armstrong is a LiveStrong dare to get six to eight
 hours of sleep to improve mood, performance, and concentration during the day. A study in the journal SLEEP confirms the
 role of sleep in performance with results that show declines in split-second decision making following poor sleep and
 increases in accuracy among well-rested subjects. Exercise depletes energy, fluids, and breaks down muscles. 
Hydration and the right fuel are only part of the equation for training and recovery. What athletes do in the moments during a
nd immediately after competition also determines how quickly their bodies rebuild muscle and replenish nutrients to
 maintain endurance, speed, and accuracy. Some research suggests that sleep deprivation increases levels of cortisol
 (as stress hormone) and decreases productions of glycogen, carbohydrates stored for energy use during exercise and 
physical activity. In short, less sleep increases the possibility of fatigue, low energy, and poor focus at game time. It may 
also slow recovery post-game. Recently a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, suggested that co-ingestion of large 
amounts of caffeine with carbohydrates after an exhausting workout rapidly replenishes glycogen, the muscle's primary
 fuel source. So whether you’re at the top of your game or in the game for the fun of it, getting the proper amount of sleep 
each night is necessary to face the world with your best foot forward. Sleep will help you on the road to good fitness, good 
eating, and good health. 

Friday, 7 February 2014

24 climbing days

So alternating between sessions over the next 24 indoor climbing sessions I'll be incorporating some new (to me) training methods in my day time sessions with Phoebe as I think they'll work well with a toddler in tow. These are lifted from Tom Newberrys article on Rock and Run (for the full article click here)
Points mean prizes
A concept pinched from the Hueco Rock Ranch Rodeo; this workout is good for measuring your base level. Try to do it at least once a month, keeping a record of progress. It will be easy towards the end of a setting cycle, when you have the problems wired. The session is geared towards bouldering although points can be converted across for routes. The climb’s V-grade is the point value but only your 6 highest scoring problems in one session count. For example, if you did V4, V6, V4, V4, V5, V5 you would score 28. You can have as many attempts as you like, but only a successful ascent will count towards your score. Test yourself and go for it, see what the highest score you can get is, then try to beat it next month.
Rookie: 10 – 24 points
Improver: 25 – 34 points
Sender: 35 – 44 points
Dark horse: 45 – 59 points
Pro: 60+ points

If you wish to focus more on endurance an alternative version is to set a target, say 60 points. Then time how long it takes to gain that many points. Whether you do 30 V2s, 12 V5s or a mixture of grades it doesn’t matter.

Project Simulator
This session is great for gaining power whilst maintaining your endurance. After warming up, pick a project, any project! Make sure it’s hard enough that you know you’d have to work on it for at least one full session. Now, project the problem for 20 minutes, make sure you rest plenty, ~1 to 3 minutes between goes. Once the 20-minute round is up, you have 20 minutes to climb as many problems as possible; pick problems about 3 grades below that of your project. So, say you pick a V6 project as you know it will be challenging; work this for 20 minutes. Then climb as many V3s as possible for 20 minutes (aim for a minimum of 7 problems). Once the second 20 minutes is up, you have completed one round; aim to complete three rounds altogether (2 hours climbing in total). Your only rests will come be in between attempts on the project.

So the full training schedule for the next 24 sessions is below:

Thursday, 6 February 2014


So here I am on another soggy evening in West Yorkshire attempting to start another blog, lets hope this one fares better than my past attempts.
I have come to several conclusions of late, mainly that I'm unlikely to ever get to go climbing as much as I'd like to, something that all but a lucky (and heavily sponsored) few have to come to terms with at some point in our climbing careers. For me and many others it has been family life that has taken over, becoming a dad in 2011 was a defining moment in my life and probably my proudest achievement. I'm now a stay at home dad to my 2 and a bit year old daughter who accompanies me to the crag and climbing wall regularly.  I'm going to try and keep a blog of trying to keep a balance between all things climbing related and family life, moving and renovating a house and everything else in between.

A little about me, without trying to inflate my own ego too much.

Currently I climb at least twice  a week indoors,  predominantly at The Depot in Leeds
I try and climb outside or clean and work projects once a week.
I am a keen new router and am developing a new area of climbing near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.
I regularly complete all of the wood and purple circuits and approximately half of the red circuit at the Depot.
My current training is based on one mileage session a week and the other session either focusing on power or strength depending on what stage of training I am at.

I'm aiming to see if I can work out the best way to train and climb with a toddler alongside starting from a pretty mediocre starting point. I also reckon that keeping up with this blog should help me keep a more regular training schedule as well.