Sunday, 27 April 2008

The last week

Right then..... well after mentioning Carolines recent success in my previous post i thought i had better expand on it. Firstly i think a bit of background is important to see things in perspective :) Caroline has been climbing 4 years or so..... during that time she has never really taken the bait and gotten too keen - her running kept her busy and climbing had the potential to lure her to the dark side. So it was kept as a dirty little secret. Never making any big efforts to get out on rock but doing just enough to justify the time spent as some form of cross-training for running.... you know, core, abdominal benefit etc.. the scary thing i picked up on was that within 5 leads, Caroline had progressed to E1 and soon had preferred not to lead anything below that grade (that took just a couple of months). Then we relocated to Wales and within the first year she had lead a few E3's - some necky and technically easy, one or two big, pumpy and meaty.
A meaty one... Caroline on an E3 5c, Pembroke 2006?
But then a two year period of relative inactivity for both of us hit, which was brought to an end last summer with our trip to Le Tarn and Caroline's first 7a+ and 7b leads (taking 2 and 3 goes respectively). What happens when we break new grade ground? We doubt the routes difficulty, naturally! So it followed that on returning to the UK Caroline had a point to prove to herself and sent a few 7a sports routes on home turf. Then a week long trip to Siurana saw her trying every 7a in sight and managing on the second last day to bag her first 7a onsight. The proof seems fairly watertight at this stage (well to me at least) but being Caroline she still wasn't convinced. Anyway, the winter came and went and we've been doing feck all really. Then for whatever reason we started thinking of trad again. Caroline wanted a goal so decided E5 was a worthy one and last Monday we went out late to the local crag after work and she managed about 30-40 minutes on a rope trying Laxix. Driving home she was still unsure if she could do one or two of the moves - never mind doing them on lead. Ah well, at least it was good training :) Wednesday came and i managed to persuade her to come out again and try it for a laugh - she had a full days work and a 75 min road run under her belt by this stage but i won and we hit the crag. This time huge progress was made and the route was climbed in two overlapping sections by the time we packed up. She was getting into it! Saturday we made it out for around 5pm after a day in Chester and this time instead of going around to set up the top rope i got the pad ready and gave her the sharp end (half expecting her to tell me where to go)... and she tied in for the lead. The gear had been practiced too and nothing extra was racked up, the first few pieces; a fiddly 00, good 3 in a slightly flared slot and a backup skyhook had to be placed at about 15ft after the first boulder problem. After that, one bomber peanut in a keyhole slot protected the most fluffable and steepest section before the final balancy top section. Caroline's first attempt saw her back off before the first gear... this was her first trad lead in probably two years remember. 5 mins good psyche at the base and she was off again... this time straight to the crux but she wasn't climbing well - really scared and pumped - overgripping every crimp. As she moved into the crux i knew it wasn't going well and then her left foot popped off the blind edge under the bulge just as she was about to place the right foot higher - leaving her clamped onto the two worst holds on the steepest section of the route, footless! She hung on and tried to correct it but it was no use, she was off! Lowering down there was some severe frustration - but on the plus side, that was her second ever trad fall! The rope was pulled and within 10 minutes she was up there again on lead, this time the sequence vivid in her mind... RIGHT foot, then left, right hand sloper, left hand to crack scar, left foot onto pimple then.... the bit i had been waiting for, Caroline had to deadpoint with her left to a sidepull at the base of the groove - with pumped arms and crap footers it was all too fall-offable - a little kinda growl later and she had made the move and romped up the groove to her last wire placement, a sideways 4 in a shallow opening protected the remainder of the route and the final balancy moves. Man i was relieved when she topped out and in case you hadn't guessed very chuffed! The scary thing is that including this Caroline has a total of less that 30 trad leads ever! .... and we've only 1 E grade between us! On that note i soloed the neighbouring E6 before we went home... felt easy but good head training for harder stuff to come. (finger feeling ok... but still not better)
Today we headed to Burbage North to try and work something a little harder... Any E7 woulda done. We ended up playing on "Balance it is", E7 6c. Although i could climb it fairly ok - it was dripping wet, especially the sheltered left side of the arete and inside the cracks! it was an almighty fight! Before we could really get into anything else a thunder shower drenched us through and we packed up in the rain..... our hard grit initation had come to a close :)

Re' Laxix - This isn't over!

Caroline's first E5 - Laxix, E5 6a - I'd describe it as a reachy, technical boulder problem to a poor rest with fiddley tiny wires and optional skyhook, straight into a sieries of 5c/6a technical moves up a gently overhanging wall split by a thin crack, ending with a deadpoint from a sloper to the base of a tiny groove which is then followed with poor protection to a thank God jug and a top-out. The propper write up will follow soon but all i'll say for now is it impressed the hell outa me!

Friday, 25 April 2008


It's been over 3 weeks since i've trained!! I'm convinced i'm now weak as piss!! How will i ever climb again?
Well, it's not that bad really - i've been doing little bits and bobs (even though i said i wouldn't) - concentrating on body tension and footwork at the wall and bouldering - plenty of slopers and no crimps - plus i managed to lead an E5 that i've done before but used to find fairly tough - this time i felt grand on it - kinda like it was a path! but the best news recently was hanging from both the large and small rungs on my fingerboard last night with no pain - but again, no crimping - just open handed.
Aside from that, for the first time ever the dwindling grade gap between myself and Caroline seems to have sparked some life back into my trad goals. The hardest i've lead is E6, i've also onsighted and soloed at this grade - i hate to admit it but it seems like i've hit a glass ceiling and havn't made any effort to push through it. Before the limiting factor used to be physical - basicially i'd climb at my limit on trad. Now i've improved my sports climbing and bouldering i'm finding the trad routes easier - i'm just thinking twice about the danger. I've a list of a few E8's that i'd like to lead but i know if i try them and can climb them then they'll get rooted into my head and i'll have to lead them. I'm also kidding myself into saying that if i do an E8 i will be happy with that but really i'm not so sure... Hmmmmm. It's all just pie in the sky for now anyways.... just talk... and thats cheap :)
Watching committed DVD hasn't helped my head by the way.... it all just looks so good!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Local project

Last night in fading light we hit our most local crag (10 mins drive) to get Caroline onto a line she had been eyeing up for a while now. Picture a lovely setting sun, quiet crag in the countryside, little lambs etc... and a crimpy little trad testpiece with a strong Irish woman yarding up through it :) Picturesque or wot?
The lower wall crux reach for Caroline

Moving towards the first piece of protection...

She can climb the route but it's time to contemplate the lead... Trad headgames

Despite the odd reach required lower down, Caroline fairly cruised up this route, as a sports route it might get 7a, maybe even 7a+.... grades Caroline can lead fine - but as a trad lead with limited protection placements (sometimes fiddley to place) it's a different matter.... I'll keep ye posted!


Saturday was an awesome day - started with a good 8 mile run, then an episode of Lost over breakfast, a quick trip to the farm shop to pick up some buffalo sausages, couple of hours bouldering on Grit, whiz around Ikea superstore, some grub, then a free Gig! Heres some pictures...

Finger is feeling good - this doesn't count as climbing though as i didn't go above V6, Honnest! :)

Monday, 14 April 2008

Snap Happy

10 days ago I was finishing up at the climbing wall and was asked to demonstrate a move on one of the steep problems before I left – I had been climbing for the hour or so prior to this and had done the problem in question already so thought nothing of it – I pulled on and moved through the crux but heard a snap like when your crack your finger joints – I knew what it was but finished the problem because I knew it was the last time that I would top out on a problem like that for at least 6 weeks… I had ruptured my A4 pulley tendon on my right ring finger!

Thinking back it seems obvious – I must have tweaked it on the 8b weeks ago – I can remember avoiding using that finger, almost subconsciously, for a variety of tasks like putting on shoes, lifting packs etc… It wasn’t bad enough to warrant injury recognition. That combined with some hard training and climbing indoors and a bit of dehydration during the night in question, landed me where I am now – recovering. This happened to me before – two years ago I was invited over to Dublin to route set with Nigel at the RDS comp – end of the second day of setting and just finishing up, I was climbing a problem for the second or third time when I heard a loud snap – this time it was a partial rupture of the A2 (the big daddy!) that swelled up like a balloon and had me out of action for nearly 3 months! At the time I had plenty of access to medical journals through Caroline’s university degree so I spent plenty of time researching the condition. This time around I feel better just knowing what has happened, why it happened and how it’s going to heal and what I can and can’t do while it’s healing.

Heres some interesting facts:
The pulley system in our hands functions to maintain the flexor tendons close to the bone in our fingers, converting the linear force generated in the flexor muscle-tendon unit into rotational force at the finger joints. The loss of one or multiple pulleys can result in bowstringing….uuugghhh! Why the ring finger? Well, in the crimp position the carpal joint deviated slightly and shows mild supination, placing increased stress on the ring finger. Also, the middle finger is protected on both sides by fingers of roughly the same length, the index is protected by the thumb…. Poor oul ring finger is protected on one side by the pinkie, resulting in not much support at all.

What can be done?
Stop all climbing!
A conservative period of immobilization through taping of 10-14 days.
2 – 4 weeks of Functional therapy involving a range of movements – using soft squeeze ball and elastic bands – finger still supported by taping.
Easy sport specific activities can begin to resume after no less than 4 weeks
Can begin full sport specific activities after 6-8 weeks.
Finger should be supported through taping for 3 months minimum from time of injury to aid in the recovery process and ensure pulley resumes full prior strength.

So there it is – I’m following the above timetable fairly strictly because I know it’ll p[ay off in the long run. But I’m feeling good about it all because I know I have some very obvious weak areas in my fitness right now so I can divert all energy into plugging those considerable holes. What are they? Well after an illness forced layoff of the running training, it’s back on track – I can boost the running fitness level a lot during the next 6 weeks! My biceps and shoulders were feeling weak on the project to it’s time to get basic on them and lift some weights and do more push-ups. My core will never be strong enough for what I want to do and I’ve noticed such an improvement in my climbing through developing it so sit-ups and knee/leg lifts are the order of the day. And to round it all off, loose some weight before I’m back climbing at full power again – hopefully mid to late May. Having taken down the climbing wall I’ve taken the roman chair down from the attic and put it back into use – it’s just a free standing knee-lift, pull-up and dips frame but it’s great for just building strength against bodyweight resistance. Also, I’m viewing this recovery and fitness phase as the perfect time to get out and do some trad – I’ve been feeling the urge lately anyway and now that crimps are off the cards for a while, gritstone slopers seem perfect – I’ve been wanting to throw a rope down “The End of the Affair” since before moving to the UK and never have… well, can you guess whats coming? :)

Wednesday, 2 April 2008


Just a brief one.... nothing really big to type about but lots of little things...

  • Got my car fixed at last! The crag charriot rides again! Hurrahh!
  • Got out onto Rock again, at last! Despite the cold and seepage managed a good half dozen steep sports routes including a couple of 7b's - Stamina isn't that bad after all - always need more though!
  • Got the first ascent of a route at the indoor wall on Sunday :p .... i know i know - but someone set it months ago and no-one had been able to climb it.... i lead it 2nd go... and gave it the complusary sandbaged grade of 5c :)
  • I'm really likeing the moon board at the climbing wall now - 45 degrees of perfect crimps and edges... (never thought i'd be typing that!)
  • Have fashioned a makeshift fingerboard in the absence of my beloved training wall - small but perfectly formed :)
  • I'm now totally addicted to Lost - Got given the complete first sieries a few weeks ago and am now half way through the 2nd sieries boxed set! Don't worry, it's not affecting the hanging!
  • The running has taken a knock on the head for the past few weeks. Caroline has come down with some whoper of a virus - achey bones, no energy and headaches - a cough to boot! We're just accepting it as a forced rest - don't think we've had such a break during the past 4 years! i really feel like i need to run - alot!
  • Word has in on the grapevine that norther climber boyos are strong and getting stronger by the minute (nothing new there i suppose!) .... just some targets to keep working towards :) Font 8b and ground up E9's? Thats gonna take some beating!
  • I've been feeling the trad cravings lately - the bolts are brilliant but i'm after some runouts and mind games me thinks.... this could be bad

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Sean's Pictures

Just got a link from Séan Marnane to his online photos! Check these out! from all over the place, Glendalough to Thailand!