Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Annual Slate Trip

The Annual Slate Wales Trip.

It is not the message but the medium.  The readership of this blog - according to my primitive statistical analysis - likes to read humorous lists with pictures of Scottish Winter OR Humorous accounts of my mates nearly dying.

Here you are then! 

Essential background: each year, the Norwich club heads out to Wales to climb on slate. We spend a week doing this, but officially market it as Wales Week to avoid unduly biasing the membership about preferred rock type.
Come on.  Sedimentary rocks are for losers.

1.  Despite the week being clearly Slate Week, some of the members go to crags with a more igneous character to them; Carreg Wastad (it is with some difficulty I have managed to stop my overly-helpful computer from correcting this to Carreg Wasted), Tremadog, Ideal Slabs or Milestone Buttress.  Everyone claims to have had a good time, but this cannot be so, as it is not The Slate.

2. I create a monster when I insist that Garry does not harm two spider's webs - and by implication the spiders who have made them - at the base of a warm up climb.  This makes the route slightly harder, but through the week I am confronted by spider's web after spider's web.  By the end, I am putting my hand through them guiltily, and try and tell myself it is the cycle of life anyway.  Should I have got stuck: completely stuck on a climb, they would have been welcome to feast on my dehydrating corpse.  Deal!

Oliver Twist wouldn't have moaned.

3.  Jason is making porridge for Jub.  He does nothing wrong, adding the porridge and milk to a bowl and placing in the microwave for the correct time.  The microwave focusses its powers onto a single point within the oaty mix and flash boils a single enormous bubble which belches the porridge out of the bowl like a volcano blooping magma.  Jason, undeterred has another go - exactly the same thing happens.

4.  Garry and I head into the Big Hole to do Supermassive Black Hole.  I have dogged this before (i.e. climbese for rested on the rope) and want to get it clean.  Garry is helpful and encouraging, ultimately making me have one more go, and do it, when I am about to give up.  When I 'suggest' he might like to do some of the leads, he grins evilly and says 'No, mate.  This is yooouuuurrrr day..."

5.  Henry 'Slate' Smith, 1 year old son of Garry and Alice is a gorgeous little gem of a boy, who totters around the precipices and teetering piles of scree under the watchful eye of Mum and Dad.  He learns how to crimp, that falling is natural and not to be feared, that Pete (me) swears too much unless it is nighttime when it will be Mummy who is swearing, and that climbers are friendly.  Everyone we meet visibly approves of the little lad being brought along - too right.

6.  Lee makes us all laugh with Henry's Sweep toy, doing a spirited monologue about murdering people.  'What's that Sweep?  Only fifteen years?  Yes I know.  And you'd have a Phd by the time you get released?"  After a few minutes it all gets a bit too convincing, the consensus is that Becky, Lee's Girlfriend, may have a lot to cope with.

6.  At the very top of a multi-pitch trad route, Roger drops a nut down a crack while trying to build a belay.  It falls within the crack and lodges just out of reach.  Not being quitters, the team tape together two nut keys and attempt to fish it out.  They nearly reach it, tickling the wire at the very top, but not quite hooking it.   This slight movement is enough to dislodge it and vroooop! it tinkles down the crack to the centre of the earth… 

7.  Wioleta takes the whipper of the trip falling off Bisch Basch Bosch at the second bolt.  She narrowly avoids clattering off a massive ledge, falling about six or seven metres.  Without sweat or complaint she heads back up immediately to finish the route.  I am the belayer and it is the biggest fall I've held.  Jo's tumble off Christmas Curry at Tremadog does not compare, although to be fair, it is a fall onto trad gear rather than a nice stainless steel bolt...

8.  Much needed rest days involve traipsing around the different levels of the quarriess, exhausting ourselves moving vertically between other people's belays.  These rest days often leave us more physically wrecked  than before.  We start to hope for rain, then when it rains are grumpy.  This is possibly all you need to know about human nature.

19.  Steve cooks delicious food.  He is the only climber - ever - to bring truffle oil and his own spices on climbing trips.  His pestle and mortar  has wear marks testifying to the number of curries produced, and several of us use the grinding of spices as strength training.

The reality of climbing trips: faff and packing.

10.  Tim gets excited when he finds a guidebook written by his father included in a book about guidebooks.  Truly, a guidebook written listing other guidebooks fills the last great meta-niche of all time.

11. James -the Club Chairman- had to cancel coming on the trip.  This is because his plans for his forthcoming wedding are going smoothly, but the restoration of the Mark 1 Landrover needed to take him to church is not.  He phones up mid-week and instructs Roger to stop telling him how nice the weather is in Wales.
Me redpointing Mister Blister,  should have had it

By the end of the week we are all as satisfied as our personalities will allow, bearing in mind that for some climbers improvement and achievement are fleeting goals.  As I have pointed out previously in a blog post so old none of you will have read it - climbsis not like mars bars which eventually fill one up.  They are like heroin, each one leaves you more deeply addicted.

On the last morning I say goodbye to Lee and Becky.  They are off on a van around Europe for a year, driving, climbing and living the van life.  I will miss them, although, in fairness they live in Sheffield normally so I will see them as much as I normally do.  As I walk up the steps away from Vivian Quarry, I wonder if Henry's Sweep toy has gone home with Henry and not with Lee.  I suppress a moment of worry...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Burglar Bill's Tea-Time

Burglar Bill’s Tea-Time

One of the attractions of climbing must be its utter pointlessness.  John Redhead famously said that if you were climbing something in order to get to the top you were wasting your time.  Johnny Dawes observed that ‘No handed climbing is a pointless activity.  Just like climbing’.

Well I beg to differ.  There is one highly specific set of circumstances in which a trained ability to climb is an essential skill.  

Club member Violeta and I have headed back after a rewarding/tiring day in which I belay her up a series of more and more difficult climbs at higher and higher levels in the quarries.  This culminates in her climbing a long, difficult and atmospheric route in the quarries by four o’clock.  The week’s climbing has been tiring, so we kick it in the nuts and head back to the hut for a cup of tea.

The crisis looms as we approach the Klub Hut.  Neither of us has a key, as between the twelve club members we have separated across the hillside and throughout the quarries.  And the hut, originally built to store gunpowder for mining the quarries, has two foot thick walls and a massive steel door- securely locked by an expensive brand of lock whose logo is a muscleman whose legs and groin turn into a key.  Who thinks this shit up?

Now, despite our consciousness of security, due to residing in the (rural) crime capital of Norfolk, we have left some windows open round the back.  The Ladies bathroom has a staunch concrete window frame, clearly pincheable and is about four feet of the ground, but the window opening is not big enough.

No.  It must be the dormitory window.  I size it up and reckon it will go.  Reading the route, I note a thick two inch ledge, numerous footholds in the course of slate supporting this, then a possible mantle up a blank face of slate tiled wall.  I’m going to need my shoes for this, but lest we forget, I am a climber who has been climbing, so have them to hand.

First attempt, barely get of the ground before crashing back into a bramble-tangle.  Like velcro barbed wire it is.

Second attempt goes better, I rock up onto the ledge.  Its balancey, and relies on a crucial pinch of code four lead flashing.  Past the feet , mantle up and I am in the window niche.  Getting through the open window is not as simple as might otherwise be, as there is a system of metal bars which partially block access.  But I choose the middle and leading in with one shoulder, then working my other shoulder in.  Shoulders in: no part of my body is wider, so all that remains is a face forward snake-like wriggle across the window frame, arms pressed out as if doing a plank.  I scrape my genitals across the wooden bar, then my thighs, knees, shins.  It is the least enjoyable part of an otherwise exceptional climb with unique moves.

I claim first ascent ( if anyone has previously climbed this route - I don’t care) and name it Burglar Bill’s Tea Time.

No point eh?  Without all those hours climbing, learning balance and building strength I could not have overcome the problem of being locked out.  I think we will conveniently overlook the point that if I hadn’t been there for a climbing holiday, then I wouldn’t have needed to break in.  But you have to draw the line somewhere, otherwise what is the point of anything?

Friday, 21 April 2017

Breaking News

Breaking News

Here we go, this year's election has been called.  Apparently the neverendum was so popular, following the blockbuster of the general election the year before (or whenever it was), that this time we are going to combine the Brexit vote WITH the general election!  Wow!

I am so far into not giving a fuck.  Its like that moment when you feel the strength go out of your muscles, even the next easy move is beyond you.  I just do not have the micro-nutrients within my muscles to be able to flex once more for the next hold.

Not one of the parties fits the bill.  Even those that I am more traditionally predisposed to blow it in some major way:  Labour - fight themselves harder than anyone else; the Lib Dems lest we forget joined the coalition; SNP - have Nicola Sturgeon who I am sick to the tits of with her fucking mandate;  the Tories I could never, never vote for because of their smugness, history and sheer self-interested expedient evil.  Even the Greens, who on paper are the best fit for me, would potentially ban my beloved diesel-engined Bongo because of some trifling air pollution concerns.  A classic example of every moderate environmentalist's dilemma!

Fuck the fucking lot of them.

That goes for the internet petitions too., 38 degrees, whatever those green ones are for the official Houses of Commons stuff.  I used to think it was alright until you realise they will petition for any-fucking thing, and claim loads of credit for Osbourne quitting one of his jobs, micro-beads getting banned or Wednesday following shortly after a Tuesday.

So instead of moaning, here is my manifesto.  This is the climbers manifesto, and if you don't agree with it, write your own.

1.  Access legislation same as Scotland's.  Imagine it!  being able to walk anywhere that isn't round someone's house and doesn't have crops on it.  Instead, we get the internal policemen in your head wondering when someone is going to shout at you.  Or - worse - a middle-class Englishwoman passive-aggressively informing you of some hazard she has just invented.  Like if you're wild-camping with your son in Thetford forest, you need to beware of the deer-stalking in the forest.-  because apparently that's how they stalk deer, they randomly shoot into a tent in case a 10 point buck is sleeping there.
Scottish Access Law.  Also, Clickbait.

2.  Don't fuck the environment up.  Its not red tape to want pollution controls - as long as I keep the Bongo though.  By the way: I fully support renewables and cannot get away with people moaning that wind turbines are eyesores.  If you don't want wind turbines on hills, you better have changed all your lightbulbs for LED ones and got a+++ appliances all round.  If you've built your own straw bale house - whinge away.

3.  NHS.  Yes please.  Public Services generally.  That includes Mountain Rescue still being free.  Wankers who think we should have insurance- thus enriching insurance companies even further- can fuck off.  That goes for bicycle insurance too.  Just fuck off.

4.  I like foreigners; they are cool.  I want to be able to travel, and I want people from foreign countries to be able to come and receive the same hospitality as they've shown me.  Especially if they are into climbing.  I want a load of Basques, Yanks, Slovenians and Iranians over here, now.

5.  That includes refugees too.  I feel sorry for refugees.  They only want the chance to slave away for piss-poor wages in order to prop up the gold-plated pensions of a load of old cunts who don't want them to actually have to live here.  In quest of a better life than being raped or macheted by some coked-up teenager who is being told God wants him to do it. Or drowning when your inflatable boat capsizes because we cut the Coast Guard budget in the Med.  

6.  Golf-courses.  They can go.  They represent all that is wrong with an deeply unequal misogynistic, environmentally-bumming society.  Look at Donald Trump's golf course in Moray (the SNP invited him in), bulldozed over a Site of Special Scientific Interest.   Turned out to be prescient that did.

There we go.  Anyone who wants my vote better promise me all that.  Its a good job none of these sorry lot will, because I would be genuinely disappointed when a) they didn't do any of it post election- inevitable, or b) they genuinely enacted all of it, in such a stupid way that even I would relish imprisonment in a brick womb. 

I'll be off climbing now.  At least I've got a week booked in May with no telly to have to shout at.

Oh hold on, just before I disappear for a week- there is one group- only one -who have politically raised any interest for me at all.  Meet the Alt National Park, they're all over Facebook at the moment.  So, who would have thought that Park Rangers might be the most radical group in America.  Certainly no one who has watched Valley Uprising where they all had intolerant moustaches and silly hats and hassled the peace-loving climbers and their hot girlfriends.  But here we are!
Coolest logo since the anarchy sign.

Sadly, they are also in America, but have a flick through their Facebook posts - they don't like Trump cutting parks budgets, aren't keen on deregulating industries' ability to pour pollution where it likes because its cheaper, but also put out longish but sensibly reasoned posts with cool graphics.  Can we start doing that over here please?

Friday, 14 April 2017

Crossover Training

Crossover Training

Assuming that by now everyone has grasped that I live in Norfolk miles away from any rock whatsoever, I have a family and other commitments such as pretending to work, and yet I want to climb as hard as I possibly can.  At the moment, this means trying to push my grade up to a certain level both indoors, but most importantly on the slate.

Therefore, it seems that there are two distinct strategies.  One would be to strictly audit my time, and allocate what there is available to a clearly structured and periodised climbing plans.

The other strategy is to try and find a load of activities that I can pretend in some way mimic the- highly specific- activity of climbing, in order to make some kind of improvement in weird areas such as knot tying, which might equate to a 1% increase in performance due to, say, getting less pumped on a clip.

Strategy 1 - the plan - is sensible and a proven route to improvement.  Guess which one I have plumped for!

Have a look at my previous post about maximising my training gains, which outlines the philosophy and also some basic exercises.   It's more in the same vein.

1.  You need to find some jams.

Excruciating... but solid
Hand jamming is an important addition to your repertoire of moves.  Fair go, it doesn't come up in bouldering that much, but if you want to d classic Joe Brown routes on the trad, because you're so fucking gnarly... then you've got to jam.  

Classic example: The File at Higgar Tor.  VS.  V fucking S, but if you can't hand jam its impossible.   I know this for a fact.

To jam that well, you need  a theoretical understanding of the opposing kinetic forces.  Also, a high pain threshold and the experience to know that what feels as insecure as sinking an ice-axe into milk is actually bomber.

Round here: its trees.  Look for parallel tree stems which are about a hands width apart.  This is going to hurt...

This is one of those funny mental things like seeing fish in a river.  You're mate says 'look at those fish in the river, you say 'what fish?' cause there aren't any.  Then you see one!  Then you see the lot of them.

Hand-jam in practise and suddenly! the existence of jams leaps out at you!  You can rest on them!  You can climb on them!  The climbing cognoscenti - unimpressed by heel-hooks and knee-bars any more - will cheer as you do one on an indoor boulder problem!

2.  Tiptoe everywhere.

Using footwork is an essential part of climbing, often neglected by beginners and males with huge gorilla like shoulders and completely un-worn shoe soles.  

By tiptoeing round the house, you will increase proprioception.  Proprioception is an important term which you should use at any opportunity.  It means the process by which the brain recognises and learns physical movement within the body.  The brain, being essentially a lazy lump of electric fat, doesn't pay attention to the ins and outs of which muscle is being switched on. Once its learnt how to move your limbs, which it had to do twice : first when you were a toddler; then when you were a teenager.  From then on, it is simply the boss of your body: shouting 'you lot! get on with it' at its most experienced workers.

But unfamiliar movements are in fact unfamiliar.  By tiptoeing round the place, as if the one-year-old is having a nap and you daren't wake her, you are learning to engage your toes and therefore take weight off your arms.  This has unbelievable application to overhangs.

3.  Route-reading

Conscious and deliberate planning of your climb will give enormous benefits, but not easily.  Its a pretty unnatural skill, and trying to remember sequences of moves can only be improved by deliberate practise.
The striking arete of no. 27.  

Therefore, you need to plan how you would climb the front of your house.  This is fun, especially if you pretend you are a ninja planning to off the Shogun's unfaithful wife.  Look for slightly uneven bricks that might make a sketchy toe-hold, big tile window ledges which are in fact bomber jugs, and features such as aretes (corners) and chimneys (door ways).  Note areas of objective risk, such as electrical cables which you will want to avoid.  Plastic drainpipes are best regarded as unstable choss, not to be trusted.

By working out how you would climb it: and you will want to do this in some detail; you will start to build the neural pathways which will help you plan how to climb an actual route.

Whether you actually climb the front of your own house is up to you, wait til the partner is out would be my advice.

When you've worked out every possible route up the front of your own house, apply it to other buildings.  Don't get caught out, if you climb remote electricity sub-stations deep in the woods, remember that even these are occasionally visited by maintenance engineers.

Follow these simple tips and you are sure to etc.etc.  But if it goes wrong, I don't want to know.  As a climber you have to take personal responsibility for your own actions, which is my way, as a writer, of ducking personal responsibility.  Cheers!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Personality Types

Personality Types

Me, I've got a semi-obsessive personality.  I like to portray it as "oh I just really enjoy climbing" but its not really, its like a heroin addict, who with one third of his brain is ALWAYS thinking of where to get his next hit.  And like some heroin addicts, I live in Drysville, where the local cops have been busting dealers, and the local Chemist has got new bars and a security system so new no one knows what the default passcode is.  That is Norfolk, no rock, and only a few indoor shooting galleries, albeit, some excellent ones, shared with other total addicts.

So, I need to scratch my itch, time to smoke some prescription painkillers!  

I've been listening the Enormocast a lot.  For those not in the know, it is a climbing podcast done by Chris Kalous (who?) from the US.  He's interviewed hundreds of climbers, most of them Americans, including Cheyne Lemp (who?), Boone Speed (who?) and Noah Kaufman (who?).  Also, lesser knowns like Paul Robinson, Tommy Caldwell and Hazel Findlay.

You lot only read blogs with winter pictures on 

You can forget your stereotypes of dumb yanks too.  Chris Kalusz is intelligent, witty, has a sexy voice and gets huge amounts of value out of his guests, who without fail give an entertaining and insightful interview.  

Even if you don't like climbing, you get a taste of people's lives, why would you not be interested in Stacy Bare (who?)?   Drugs analogies aside, Bare actually was addicted to cocaine after coming out of the army and he (yep, despite the name) variously learned how to clear landmines ('slowly and carefully') and discovered climbing which then saved his life by giving him a focus etc.  

One of the best bits of the interview, was Chris Kalous pointing out the importance of other people towards 'your' climbing.  For the self-obsessed, this is news!  surely its just you and the rock?  and gravity?  Friends are camming devices, you must have at least some verbal contact with your belayer, but by and large it is easy to view yourself as the only person doing it.

You'll hear a lot of bollocks about what human nature actually is: especially from Cunt-Politicians, who tell you human nature demands whatever level of market freedom or state intervention best serves their vested interests.  Human nature is competitive, freedom-loving, averse to foreigners, inherently violent, rational, emotional, not to be trusted - What-Fucking-Ever.  I'm not Andy Kirkpatrick so we'll leave this alone...

Human nature is really the product of what the people around us say and how they behave.  Not 'think', because they probably don't know why they do shit, and they definitely won't be honest about it. 

So, here is a list.  The more of these you can identify from your circle of friends, the more likely this is to be accurate.  But make no mistake, this is far from being double-blind control group peer reviewed fact.  Which is why you may be reading rather than studying it.
Complex interplay of personality types.

1.  Guru:  someone on a much higher level of climbing than you, who decides you are worth hanging out with anyway.  Will help you attain greater levels of climbing well-being  (achievement)  and eventual reincarnation as a rope.

2.  Student: someone on an even lower level of competence than yourself, who you take under your wing because it gratifies your ego to do so, they may also be genuinely worth hanging out with.  By explaining how they could climb better, you are forced to mentally understand what it is you are wittering on about so will accidentally find some performance gain.

3.  The Heel-snapper: another newer climber who has inexplicably decided you are worth competing with.  Will hop on a climb you have just dropped and flash it then grin at you.  Use your hatred to hold on harder to crimps.

4.  The Technically Competent Wuss:  Climbs well below what they could achieve because they don't dare leave the safety of the bomb-shelter.  Technical brilliance in an often extremely static style.  Do not allow feelings of superiority to develop into contempt, and be aware that if they ever get any self-hypnosis, you will be left in the dust.  Follow their gear placements with the utmost attention- if you place gear like them, you will never, never get hurt.

5.  Mascot: someone who starts out shit -proper shit- then improves a lot, although not so much as to be a threat.  Such a lovely person that you are genuinely happy for them.

6.  The Negative Guru: an incredible climber who is happy to give advice.  However, their insights about how to improve are a bit squeaky.  With a sickening lurch you will realise that they haven't a clue, lets hope you realise this before you start on their campus problem which will only further retard your already underdeveloped footwork.

7.  The Warrior: someone not as good as you in the gym, but far, far more experienced outside and consequently far harder.  Good to hang around with, and a realistic position to retire into once your days of talented climbing untainted by fear are over.

8.  Upstart:  An unbelievably talented young person who can burn off 98% of the people at your local wall.  Do fucking not get into a competition with them inside your own head, as you will never beat them.  Unless they lose interest, which they have a 98% chance of doing.  The 2% who don't will star on videos in the future, and you can brag about knowing them when they first get started i.e. when they could only onsight f7b+ indoors.

9.  Captain Macho: someone you write off as a cock due to the strength and a-technicality of their climbing style, easily spotted as will have his shirt off to expose a massive tattoo.  Turns out to be quite a good bloke when you eventually talk to him.

10.  Prickly Pear: someone who gets a bit fucking narky if you climb better than them, or start to display some climbing knowledge in conversation.  If you really dent their ego they will lash out with an ostentatious verbal display of how good they are/who they have climbed with/where they route-set.  Pity them, they are truly insecure.

11.  The Rival.  Someone just as good as you, just as motivated, who you will be friends with, but also get intensely competitive with.  Managing this relationship, and achieving a level of equilibrium is a major emotional challenge.  If you ever lose these feelings of competitiveness and inadequacy - Rejoice! for you are either a better human being, or they have 'won'.

There you go.  Make of this what you will, and remember! this is all inside your head.  Treat people as friends rather than personality types.  I just wrote this to make you smile, not live your life by.

Find people you can be a knobhead with, and call them 'friends'.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Competition. Part 1 Probably

Competition (Part 1 probably)

'It would be worth it just for the bragging rights.  "Just back from a day rigging for Big Walls with Andy K-P, yah, yah,"' I say, normal crack for climbers being what wild ideas they have got to get past the other half in the next few months.  It is much like a professional gambler - you can't win every race, but you have to keep your percentages up to stay in profit.

'Wait a minute!  YOU say YOU aren't interested in bragging rights!  YOU don't like competition, remember?'

Shit.  Its one of those moments, horribly exposed and high above protection, when you have a moment of clarity and suddenly see the word for how it might really be... 

Hating and loathing competition of any form started for me as a child, because I was shit at sports.  Occasionally, I would find something I was unnaturally good at, like skipping, but as a boy growing up in Liverpool in the '80s, you had to automatically love football and be amazing at it.  I fucking wasn't.

Then I moved to Durham.  In Durham, in the '90s, you had to automatically love football and be amazing at it.  Sound familiar?  There I was, in my all-white PE kit, being run into the ground by man-sized thirteen year olds looking for a quick kill.  (I went to Framwellgate Moor Comprehensive School: the list of notable former pupils has five names on it, four of them are footballers, one of whom was notably a co-defendent of Woodgate and Bowyer in their infamous 'racist assault trial'.  The list unaccountably also fails to mention a local lad convicted of murder - surely that counts as notable?)

When I was Thirteen I was in a school sports day  - my house Hawk were doing badly.  I remember suddenly thinking 'What has any of this got to do with me?'  The results were other people's, who had no connection to me other than we had been grouped together in some insane dickhead's attempt to emulate a private school in pit village County Durham. 
Fuck! She's beating me!  Must climb faster...

This set me off on a thoughtful path.  Achievements meant nothing in comparison.  If I ran a certain distance in a certain time, that was surely independent of someone running next to me who might be quicker or slower.  After that moment of insight, formal competition meant nothing -absolutely nothing- to me, attempts to learn the names of football players faded within seconds, not just the weird foreign names either.

When I came to climbing, I liked it because no one had to lose for me to win, I just had to achieve something, and anyone else could too.  Climbing has been becoming more competition orientated, has been for decades, but this is coming more prominent with inclusion in the Olympics.  There can be a competitive atmosphere at some climbing walls, it might be pretty informal, but you can tell when someone gets on a climb to burn you off.

But you can sidestep any competitive aspect because climbing is such a broad church.  Not much room for competition below the top levels of alpinism or Scottish Winter, because the stakes are so high, adding a layer of competition would surely ratchet up the 'normal' level of crippling tension beyond any serious functionality.  Plus, it is easy!  Then, when you get back home, you can lord it over the bouldering types with your thousand-yard stare because you can't handle the moves, but they can't handle the danger.
Beating this guy though!
Until he puts a spurt on, and he's nearly there...  
My self-esteem shrivels like my tiny cold cock.

All the time without worrying about why a comparison needs to be made at all.  Maybe, just maybe, the truth is you are so competitive that you CANNOT STAND even the prospect of of being beaten.  Not entering a race is the only sure way of remaining undefeated.

Mind you, if you are unpicking things to this level, you are dangerously close to reaching enlightenment, and the ultimate universal truth that everything is meaningless.  Including your own survival, which would briefly allow you to really push your trad grade. 

Hmm.  All very troubling, so one solution: seek out some interviews with great climbers.

Luckily, two land on the mat, just as I am worrying about all this.  The first is an interview in The Project Magazine with Malcolm Smith: read it now.

The second is the interview with Tommy Caldwell on the Enormocast.  Listen to this now, especially as Chris Kalusz had what my missus describes as 'an extremely sexy voice'.  Even I have to agree.

Malcolm Smith has some fantastic insights.  As a very introverted chap, he has to live in his own head more than the world, and as such really knows himself.  Despite his introversion, Malcolm went out into climbing competitions.  These competitions favour the extrovert - of which I most definitely am, even on  my own I am showing off to a crowd of one, who doesn't care and isn't impressed.  But for Malcolm they were a nightmare, and he had to go to war to do well.

One part stands out:  "needing to be good is a character flaw, it's ego. Competition and grades are about social status. I don't want to be part of a hierarchy or scene anymore, it's weak. Strength is about doing your thing for you and not seeking approval."

His point is clear: needing to compete and do well is weaker than disregarding the opinion of others and doing it for yourself.  I would feel validated by his opinion, if it were not for the fact that needing my opinion validated by his is... a bit on the weak side.

Then Tommy Caldwell chimes in.  Freeing the Dawn Wall with Kevin Jorgerson was a newsworthy event, hitting national and international news: I first heard their names on the BBC News.   Tommy gets motivated by competition, it makes him try harder.  But at the same time, he thrives on collaboration, all his friends and family jugging up fixed lines to help him and Kevin get to the top.  His attitude is to take a bit of competition and use it to spice up his performance a bit; using it as a handy tool.  

So that's it.  Competition is simultaneously weak, but also a useful tool to inspire performance?  You will have to decide for yourselves, because I'm none the wiser.  I still don't like competition though. I will be using some movement drills and strength training as useful tools instead.  

Friday, 24 March 2017

Walking Through A Wall

Walking Through A Wall.

Here's a quote for you - bit long, and slightly out of context, because its about base-jumping - but here you go, its from a novel called Zero History by William Gibson, who is a genius.  He invented the term 'cyberspace' in, like 1982, before we had the fucking internet.  Anyway...

"He says its like walking through walls.  Nobody can, but if you could, he says, it would feel like that.  He says the wall is inside, though, and you do have to walk through it."
       "I'm afraid of heights."
       "So's he.  He says.  Said.  I haven't seen him for a while."

Spot on.  
When you are bonkers, visualisation
 of the impossible is important.

A year or two ago I said in conversation that I wanted to climb 7a to another climber.  His response was 'Well, you are basically doing 7a moves already.'  If he was right, then how come I wasn't climbing 7a on sport routes?  


In a social context, this doesn't bother me.  I am the king of inappropriate comments one pint into the evening.  I've done this for so long that I never even get a rush of adrenalin when my little voice inside says 'go on, say it'.  I also have a pact with a few people: it is unspoken and it concerns the act of deliberately forgetting the worst things I say.  Not that I can usually remember anyway, only the shock and disgust on people's faces remains.  Thank fuck for Cards vs. Humanity which legitimises all this shit.

In a climbing context: very different, and it reflects my history of climbing.

Bouldering- firstly- makes you very strong and powerful, so you can take your shirt off while wearing a bobble hat.  It can improve your technique, if you deliberately let it, which means doing a huge volume of some highly unenjoyable easy shit while your mates are having a right laugh working stuff at the top of their grade.  

These are the plus points, but there are also limitations to bouldering, and the most important of these is height.  Obvious.  You never climb anything higher than two sheets of plywood on top of each other, and you never think this make a difference until you try routes and consistently run out of steam three clips up.

Given I got strong as fuck, and then bothered improving my technique, why don't I climb harder eh?   Because its scary without a big bastard spongy motherfucker underneath me to save my ankles.  Its scary even with a kernmantle elastic band proven to be able to catch a landrover tied to my waste.
Tenuous move coming up...

Fear is what gives you those very intense moments that are really like a mental enema.  When the moment is so intense you can't remember your name- and don't know why you would be asking yourself that-, because nothing else exists apart from the need to reach and grab an extremely marginal crimp, or clip an awkward clip from out of balance on shit slopers.  I reckon that has the same effect on the brain as flushing a 'chodhopper filled to the brim with bangers and mash' (in the words of Viz, pertaining to how one would expect to find a motorway services toilet).   It clears it all out, and leaves it nicely empty, ready to be filled with more shite.

Some of the moments are just as intense, but you actually make the decision to take the fall - safe as houses on a sensibly bolted sport route - and letting go and flying through the air.  After a few of those its easier to let go because your brain has a quick check: yep, your arms and fingers are fucked, don't reckon you can do what you need to do to get to safety sooooo .... recommended option, chuck yourself off until your next stable position which is dangling from a rope.  Dangling from a rope, mind, not splatted on rocks, which is also a stable position until Mountain Rescue recover your clay.

This to your brain becomes an attractive choice, like ordering the Italian BMT every-fucking- time form Subway just in case a Chicken pizzicato doesn't taste nice.  It is a trap.
...And he's fucked it.  

The alternative is to go for the move.  Fuck me.  It is not easy, but the hard part isn't doing it, its deciding to do it.  It IS like walking through a wall.  But when you actually make an impossible move, your brain now knows that it can, in fact, sometimes walk through a wall.

Deep eh?  Don't like it?  I don't care.  I can walk through walls me.

Extra points if you can name the route I am failing on in the pictures.  (Not Lee and Becky, who were there).