Saturday, 27 February 2010

Wet North Wales Bouldering

Another day, another weather system.... This weekend North Wales will be mostly shity! But we didn't let the rain and sub zero temps keep us off the rocks... oh no!
First on the list were the cromlech boulders. After a couple of V2 and V3 warm-ups we got to work on the Backside traverse, V6/8 (alternate finishes). Brilliant starting moves traversing the lip of a roof on some small, spaced holds gets you to some slopey shelfs and lots of heelhooks. The cramped and contorted finishing moves over the lip, complete with lactic gorged forearms provides the crux. I dispatched the V6 and V7 variants fairly swiftly (thanks to Carolines cunning beta and being lanky) and worked the epic V8 full Backside! Numb lifeless hands called an end to my play and i just spotted Caroline as she worked out a sequence allowing her to traverse the lip. With her sequence solid she made it the full way across, hung out of the slopers at the end of the traverse, shook out and tackeled the finishing sequence. But the pump was too much... tickling the finishing hold at the top of the boulder, her arms eventually gave up and she dropped off - wasted! You know the feeling, every other go after that was building on the pump from the previous tries and Caroline was forced to leave the problem unsent (Till next week!).
With the rain getting heavier in the pass we abandoned ship and headed to The Pit in Ogwen. Everything was wet, it was spiting rain but the Pit was dry - result! The last time i was here i spent the whole time working Harvey Oswald V6 and spotting Nige on the first ascent of the Pit and the Pendulum V8. This time i was curious to see how difficult the V6 felt. Got her first go - even the dynamic finish felt grand - Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!
Right then... what next? I started looking at the Pit Traverse V9. To my surprise it felt great except for the nasty crimpy first few moves and the fact that the finishing V4 arete was wet!
The coolest cross through and twisty-twisty i've ever done on rock - beautiful!
By the end of the session i had linked the start to the jug on the arete - all that remained was the V4 two mover up the arete but after traversing a V9 face i couldn't cope with the wet holds and had to give up - but oh so chuffed with the climbing!! Psyched!!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Snowy North Wales Bouldering

We got out into Snowdonia today for some rock... Things were wet, temps were cold but our Psyche was high!The Bustach Boulders were our first stop. Below the snowline and in the shadow of Snowdon, they're a hidden gem. Caroline eyes up the Font 6c+ steep line of pockets that make Fagin.

Caroline surprises herself with a quick send. Footwork that makes the most out of the small holds available is the key... or in Carolines case, take your top off and cut loose!

Winter conditions as we move up in altitude towards the Sheep Pen boulders in the Ogwen Valley. Beautiful day and the most inspiring setting you could imagine for bouldering. We were not sure if the problems would be dry or snow covered but it was worth a look.
We found the Sheep Pen in almost perfect conditions. It was Caroline's first time up here and she was amazed by the perfection of the rock and the clean lines. First problem was Dog Shooter a Font 6b that i remmeber taking a few goes at a couple of years back... Caroline onsights it, Haa! Anyway, we end up going through the collection of classics. Toe Dragon (Font 6c) is next, then the obvious and brilliant Toe Dragon into Dog Shooter link up (Font 7a+).
Then Caroline prooves she'd never been here before by suggesting i try "this thing over here". Uggghhhh.... it's The Gnasher (Font 7a). I have tried it before but it's a killer. It needs alot of tension and power to catch a razor sharp tooth filled pocket static or pure ignorance and a high pain treshold to dyno to it! Obviously during past attempts on this problem i tried to rely on the latter.
This time however i could pull on and lock the moves - deadpointing into the pocket in control and moving on to the better finishing holds! The training is working! The first move involves a shoulder high right hand hold (feels best as an open hand) and a knee-height left foot hold (not as large or as positive as you'd like on this angle). The right foot has nothing that fits me and the left hand leaves a flat hold and begins the long journey into the Gnasher's nasty mouth. Brilliant!
Buzzing after that i decided to try one of the 3 remaining problems on the block i had left to do. Toe Dragon into Kingdom of Rain link (Font 7b)... dispatched first go, it was one of those days!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Wicklow Bouldering

We had a brief trip home this week and as usual we managed to squeeze in a afternoon down in Glendalough bouldering. It’s the one place we always seem to make it whenever we’re back in Ireland. But I’m starting to notice that the problems I get on every trip ate the same ones time and time again. There tonnes of others but not being around much I don’t know whats good and where they are. Either way the quality of the problems is excellent and they give a good day out and now I can measure how I’m climbing by how hard they feel. They fall into 2 categories for me now; ones I can walk up to and repeat in a go or two and ones that feel doo-able or desperate depending on conditions. For me (and it’s definitely a style thing) the problems I get on and climb easily enough most visits include King Cobra and everything on the hidden groove boulder, Chillax and Chillax left, Superswinger sitter, BBE sitter, Rhythm and Stealth. They all suit me. The other ones I try but sometimes can’t do would be The Fin sitter and Andy’s arête sitter. Caroline, Kev and Belgian Sean were trying the latter at Christmas but I couldn’t join in due to my shoulder being fecked. This trip I fancied a test – feckin thing felt nails! It’s a great problem purely because it’s not strength dependant – it’s all in your left toe and body positioning, Brillaint! The Fin has just changed a lot since I first did it – it’s been brushed to shit! You can see the sloper from down the hill, it’s a totally different colour now! But it still climbs the same I suppose, great problem!

It was good this trip because Caroline was feeling psyched to try something – turns out she’d never tried Chillax before although she had sat quietly at the edge of many a group of climbers playing on it over our visits to Glendalough every Christmas – it just never looked doo-able to her. This time I said she should give it a go – just hang the holds, break down each move, hold the positions. It was cool to see the progress! She was fighting herself all the way, convinced that it was too hard, reachy, slopey – yet by persisting and trying different things a sequence soon emerged that she could make work. Once she linked the lip to the heel to the jug for the first time the battle was won and she was in project mode – I knew this frame of mind well enough to recognise it. Before we finished Caroline had made it from the start, through the crux and to the jug and just fell off the top-out due to fatigue and cold hands. She was Psyched!! On the way home through North Wales the conversation centred on all the possibilities around for boulder projects – The Decoy ploy, URP, In your honour, Everything on the cromlech boulders! (Nige if you’re out there, where exactly IS the Decoy ploy beneath Milestone buttress?!!?)


Well since moving to the UK (almost 6 years ago!!) we’ve noticed the difference in the climbing walls available between here and back home in Ireland. Saying that, we’ve not been able to afford the time or money needed for regular access to a wall until this year between studies and work. But with only 2 months of making the weekly pilgrimage to Liverpool’s Awesome Walls I can say that the benefits of even just one weekly session there are clear. Having to make an effort to get there really keeps you keen and focused – we arrive, warm up and then crank out 10 leads each – Without putting any emphasis on grades we’ve noticed them creep up week on week. It’s all good! The big difference is the Barrel wall – concave wall into a roof into a convex headwall. Combined with genius routesetting you’re guaranteed a pump to condition you for what you want to be on in Europe when that holiday comes around! Ian Vickers has been setting the harder routes on the wall up to 8a – but take all the grades with a pinch of salt (they’re indoors after all). Back across the water I’ve been lucky enough to be shown both of Dublin’s Co-op walls. The Brainchild of Michael Duffy – the first Co-op was set up on the Southside in a garage two years ago now. It’s awesome! Then inspired by what they saw, a group of Northside climbers set up the Arch Co-op on the North Strand. They’re both brilliant! Owned and built by climbers to keep them psyched and get them strong. From what I’ve seen the Southside venue is home to the harder problems and a wider variety of holds – makes a difference! The Northside wall might even have more climbable area and the holds are slightly more conducive to easier problems, but at the angle they’re set on climbing there can’t fail to beef you up! It’s interesting to see from an outsiders point of view. I mean I think they’re great and much needed – and I’m sure the proof will be seen over the next couple of years when harder and harder problems get sent by climbers training at these walls. The emphasis of these walls (with the exception of the Coop’s campus board) is on bouldering to get strong as opposed to training. I think that’s a reflection of the often wet Irish weather – when given some space to use for climbing training it gets filled with bouldering area – no systems, warm-up walls etc… just plenty of variety of angles to set problems on to keep people psyched. I especially liked the Coop’s steep board (what it is 50 degree?) it was cool to try some of the set problems – no problem holding the holds but the footholds all seemed to be in awkward places for me highlighting the difference between climbing your own hard problems on the moonboard and trying someone elses! I’d move back to Ireland sooner knowing that those walls are there


I’ve always had ultimate respect for people who can crank out one-armed pull-ups. Two finger one-armers?!?! Wow! And despite never actually being on a route where I felt that was a pre-requisite for success I always wanted to achieve that kind of raw strength. But I always had 2, yes 2, excuses! Number 1 – I was heavy… right then well if I continue to acknowledge that as an excuse for not being able to do one-armers then I may as well just give up now – surely I could just as easily hide behind that reason for not succeeding on any route! Number 2 – I am lanky… Haa! Well the engineer in me makes a convincing argument revolving around the law of the lever (did you like that? Revolving around! Haa!) – point of application of the force times by the magnitude of the force etc, etc… Well stuff that too! I’m admitting now that both my excuses are shite! I just don’t have that power…yet! Why? Because I have never trained for it before. Will it be of much use to me if I can do it? I can’t see how that amount of power could fail to improve my climbing and the psychological barrier it would smash would be immense aswell! Anyway – I’m going for it. And I’m bringing with me all my tools I’ve picked up from sports science and engineering. I’ve recently read a simple and genius way of measuring progress and it’s given me the carrot I needed for the end of this long stick. A weighing scales. Stand on one. Under your fingerboard. Note your weight. Pull as hard as you can on one arm and look at where the scales rests. Repeat with other arm. Well I did this and given a starting reading of 80kg – I pulled and the scales showed just 10kg both arms! So I’m 10kg off doing a one-armer – BUT I can lift 70kgs with one arm already! So I either get lighter or stronger or both and I’ll have it! Instant Psyche! Anyone got any experience or tips to go along with this?

Note: I wrote this post about 2 weeks ago but never had time to Blog it – and as it happens I got emailed a short vid of a friend cranking out a 2 finger one-armer off his fingerboard between writing this and now – impressive, yes! Co-incidence, I think not! :o)

Tuesday morning weigh-in

I’ve started weighing myself every week just for the sake of keeping track and keeping the fire lit. I want to leave myself with no excuses this year – I’ve always used my weight as one so I’m gonna try and knock that on the head. Another week and this time I’m just under the 80kg mark – not bad seeing as I haven’t ran in nearly 3 months now! On that note I’ve decided to get back into it and do a bit – but nothing on road and nothing competitive – just for fun and fitness. Also I feel like although I’m watching what I am eating I’m not really making any sacrifices as yet – so I might start the squeeze and apply some restrictions. Well Lent kicked in this week so I’m off everything nice now till Siurana… Lets see what happens

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Funny Email and quite topical


"Our First Winter"

DEC 20th It's starting to snow. The first of the season and the first we've seen for years. The wife and I took out our hot toddies and sat on the porch watching the fluffy soft flakes drift gently down clinging to the trees and covering the ground. It's so beautiful and peaceful.

DEC 24th We awoke to a lovely blanket of crystal white glistening snow covering as far as the eye could see. What a fantastic sight, every tree and bush covered with a beautiful white mantle. I shovelled snow for the first time ever and loved it. I did both our driveway and the pavement. Later that day a snowplough came along and accidentally covered up our driveway with compacted snow from the street. The driver smiled and waved. I waved back and shovelled it away again. The children next door built a snowman with coal for eyes and a carrot for a nose, and had a snowball fight, a couple just missed me and hit the car so I threw a couple back and joined in their fun.
DEC 26th It snowed an additional 5 inches last night and the temperature dropped to around minus 8 degrees. Several branches on our trees and bushes snapped due to the weight of the snow. I shovelled the driveway again. Shortly afterwards the snowplough came by and did his trick again. Much of the snow is now a brownish - grey.
JAN 1st Warmed up enough during the day to create some slush which soon became ice when the temperature dropped again. Bought snow tyres for both our cars. Fell on my arse in the driveway. Went to a physio but nothing was broken.

JAN 5th Still cold. Sold the wife's car and bought her a 4x4 to get her to work. She slid into a wall and did considerable damage to the right wing. Had another 8 inches of white shite last night. Both vehicles are covered in salt and iced up slush That bastard snowplough came by twice today. Where's that bloody shovel.

JAN 9th More fucking snow. Not a tree or bush on our property that hasn't been damaged. Power was off most of the night. Tried to keep from freezing to death with candles and a paraffin heater which tipped over and nearly torched the house. I managed to put the flames out but suffered 2nd degree burns on my hands. Lost all my eyebrows and eyelashes. Car hit a fucking deer on the way to casualty and car was written off.

JAN 13th Fucking bastard white shite just keeps on coming down. Have to put on every article of clothing just to go to the post box. The little c*nts next door ambushed me with snowballs on the way back - I'll shove that carrot so far up the little bastard's arse it'll take a good surgeon hours to find it. If I ever catch the c*nt that drives the snowplough I'll chew open his chest and rip out his heart with my teeth. I think the bastard hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shovelling and then he accelerates down the street like Michael Schufuckingmacher and buries the fucking driveway again.

JAN 17th Sixteen more fucking inches of fucking snow and fucking ice and fucking sleet and god knows what other white shite fell last night. I am in court in 3 months time for assaulting the snowplough driver with an ice-pick. Can' t move my fucking toes. Haven't seen the sun for 5 weeks. Minus 20 and more fucking snow forecast.


Note: I however still love the white stuff and "Snow Days" off school!!!

My Favourite

I’ve been going to our local climbing wall in Brymbo on and off for the last couple of years now. And I have come to love the Moon board. It has without doubt become my favourite angle to boulder and train on – pure genius! Fair dues to Ben, it’s a brilliant concept – a regulated board, hold spacings, angle and specific sets of holds specifically designed for the terrain. Some may argue that moon boards are elitist in some way but I think their pro’s greatly outweigh their cons. Being able to get problem ideas with grades from the moonclimbing website and set them yourself on your board – sharing your latest creation with a really wide audience and potentially getting feedback from climbers around the world. I have to admit I’ve never tried any problems off the website nor have I shared any of mine – but that’s just because I have never suffered from a creative drought while using the board! The holds are just perfect to pull on! Small yet finger friendly – and the angle... oh, the angle! Steep enough that you need a lot of tension but not so steep so that your feet become useless. I’ve found that with enough time and cunning even the most improbable moves become doo-able – and if they don’t yield to technique then you just need to get stronger! If I was building a board of my own and had the money – I’d build a 45 degree board to the specifications on the moon website and fill it with moon holds – spread a few jugs, slopers and pinches around for some variety and enjoy getting strong! The only thing is I don’t know how well it’s working – 10 weeks of easy training under the belt now and I feel strong and happy in my own world – but still very much in my own world. I invent a problem, work it, send it – know it’s harder than anything I’ve done before but don’t get a lot of feedback from others and have no idea how hard it actually is (and of course it’s set by me so it will suit me) – it’s a bit frustrating at times. I’ve started to record some problems like they do in the Dublin Co-ops using the grid system – hopefully some people will try them and I’ll get some feedback. Nick Dixon is running a improver class at the wall so I’ll see if he can be tempted onto the board – Wad!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The master plan

Heres the session planner in the Fringe room... not too much detail on this but it's good for seeing the overview and putting things into perspective. What has been done and how far (relatively) till the next trip!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Hello out there!

Well as you can see from below, I tried taking the easy option to blogging by posting a few videos – but to be honest my 7 year old PC just can’t hack the video editing so I’m leaving that for now and thinking about getting back to some writing/rambling. I don’t really care if anyone’s out there reading anymore – in fact it’s kinda nice to think that theres not anyone reading it.

So – 2010 huh? Well it’s started with a bang already!

Lots has happened but why bore you and myself with trying to summarise every little detail of what has made up my life over the past couple of months – lets focus on my current state of mind… Training!!!

Font in October was a turning point methinks. I’ve been fully psyched ever since. Plus the route in Llanberris (E-whatever!) in September was a bit of a landmark for me too. Both events gave me wholly new experiences. The trad route gave me a glimpse of a non-reversible position and a “frozen time” moment during which I had to acknowledge that making or missing the next move would result in a serious accident or land me even further away from the deck without gear. It was strangely calming but brought an edge of seriousness into climbing that I’d never really felt before. It was an acid test of current confidence in my ability and I passed. I suppose every other route I’ve ever tried was totally safe – either the protection was sound – or the climbing was well within my ability. Font was my first pure bouldering trip and I loved it! Pure fun. But throughout the week I was continually assessing and comparing my climbing – what was I lacking, what did I do well, What am I shite at, can I fix this? It was fun, there was no agenda for problems, lots of things were tried and I had a taste of some success. Returning back to the UK and work and shite weather – I was ready to try training for the first time too.

All along I had been working towards getting into a position to allow training consistently and sustainably. Long months of building a climbing wall in my spare time for a local company had finally yielded dividends and I had a nice enough juggy systems board at my disposal – 1 min walk away and free! I already had the fringe board in the flat – at 35-40 degrees overhanging and populated with smallish holds it is perfect for short finger intensive sessions. And of course a trusty finger board – often hung from never used with any focus or plan…tisk, tisk! And finally, slight improvements in our financial situations put us in a place at last to be able to afford a weekly trip to a lead wall!!! Woo fricken hoo!!! Only 5 bleedin years later!

So the plan..

I was going to use 6 week periods to structure a phase based training plan. Each phase would build on the last with a focus on route fitness.

Phase 1 – 6 weeks (pre-Christmas) of letting the body know what it was in for. I wanted to regularly use each training venue/technique so that the body would adapt to it and not get too shocked when the training kicked in fully. Holding back but being consistent was the focus of phase 1. Mon and Wednesday were for short interval sessions on the 30 degree board – jugs only. Just enough to initiate a mild pump. Tuesday and Thursday were low reps on the fringe board – crimps only but just 5 moves – 10 times. Not even enough to feel like we’d done anything – but knowing what I know from past attempts to train I wanted to really give the body a long and gentle lead up – like acclimatising. Friday or Saturday was Awesome walls day – 10 leads each with no grade targets – just raw mileage.

Phase 2 – 6 weeks (post-Christmas). Training starts in earnest. Same weekly plan but proper sessions. Timed Stamina pyramids on jugs, longer crimp sessions on the fringe board and leading 8 routes in the 7th grade after a 2 route warm-up. Most sessions supplemented with a fingerboard session – 5 sets of 5 reps of 7 on 3 off (varying holds) – or pull-ups. Throughout this stretching and corework is introduced and the hammer twist and writs curls become a habitual preventative measure against chronic injuries and RSI. Also as a side note – I came back from Ireland after Christmas a massive 85kg!! The Doc telling me not to run due to back problems in November didn’t help there, let me tell ya… well with a little care and attention to diet and some stubbornness I’m back at 80kg 4 weeks later – averaging 1kg a week is sustainable I feel – 75kg would be a goal to hit before Siurana at Easter.

So that’s were we’re at! 12 days in Siurana at Easter during which I’d like to hop on an 8b just for laughs. Caroline is the most psyched I’ve seen her in years for climbing – I think she’d fancy 8a as soon as possible really and her training is building with mine nicely – still nothing you’d class as a mega arm busting session yet but it’s regular and sustainable and hopefully that’ll make a difference long term. The main goal is to be fit and healthy for 5 weeks in Ceuse this summer! If I can break under 75kg and keep training till then I wouldn’t have a clue what I’d be up for trying! But that’s a lot of “if’s” and the “when” is a while away yet too – for now lets just stay psyched and injury free and enjoy the climbing.