Monday, 19 May 2014

Rodellar 2014 - Why you should always smash on

As I got to the second set of chains I just wanted to give in and say take. I was boxed. I felt broken. I'd climbed the lower section abysmally, nearly falling off an easy move by misreading it. Then nearly falling off a tricky move by being shit. I'd been lucky to scrape through to the first anchor, let alone the second, and I knew the top was supposed to be the hardest part. Still, might as well press on until I fall, I've blown doing anything else today anyway. With expectations thrown out the window and caution thrown into the wind my climbing improves instantly - faster, flickier, more decisive. Suddenly I'm at the lip of the cave, shaking out on undercuts. Fuck. It could be on. Don't screw up now. The last sequence sends me up and down a couple of times. Don't screw up now. No time left. All the aero cap training is doing its thing, but 40m of cave climbing has taken its toll. It's now or never. Commit. Try hard. Round on the slab and it's over. I'm in. GET IN! Excitement and happiness well up, and I shout like never before. A perfect reminder that it's always worth keeping on trying, even when you're convinced you've blown it, and just the kind of experience I wanted for my first 8b onsight.

Glorious Gran Boveda
After a few days in Tres Ponts and Figols (well worth checking out for the 8a and, by the looks of it, the 8b there) to start the trip we'd headed to our planned destination, Rodellar. Fortunately this is the land of steepness and big holds so my endless collateral ligament injury wasn't a big deal. In fact it probably helped - I knew the finger didn't like volume, so I basically carried on tapering during the trip, which is a bit dull but no doubt helped keep the performance up for the 2 1/2 weeks I was away.

Onsighting Eclipse Cerebral (8b) [photo: Mark Tomlinson]
 We got lucky with the conditions - cool, breezy and dry almost every day, though the tufas were a bit wet in places as they recovered from a previous deluge. Still, Rodellar has enough variety that we found plenty of blocky choss to climb on whilst the wetter stuff did its thing and dried off. It was beautifully quiet too. On my previous 2 trips there it's been pretty busy, but this time the valley was delightfully peaceful on many days, reminding me of just how nice a place this is. Is it going out of fashion? It shouldn't be, it's awesome. Although since steep burly stamina is my ideal style, and RADellar has it by the bucket load, I may be easily swayed.

Eclipse Cerebral (8b) [photo: Mark Tomlinson]

Happy knees. (It wasn't my idea. Honest.) [photo: Mark Tomlinson]
By the time we got in the car to head home (via a final Carrefour hit, of course) I'd had the most successful trip I've been on - my first 2 8b onsights, 5 8a+ onsights and a bunch of easier stuff. I did, however, fall off a route by kneebaring on my own hand. Something to work on for next time. It was also kind of interesting (to training nerds only) that preping for the trip doing a large chunk of my energy system work on a fingerboard didn't seem to be a big problem, and seems to be by far the safest way to train around a finger injury. Potentially useful knowledge for other injured souls...

The Kneepad Tree
Wow. Oh wow

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Stamina Boys

Yesterday I climbed what's probably the hardest bit of route length climbing I've done. This classic testpiece takes an audacious and improbable line though intimidating terrain, with unrelentingly bold climbing, continually challenging technicalities and the very real prospect of severe injury should you accidentally sit on the tree part way through.

The Boy Band/Staminaband link tags another 15 move 7C boulder problem on the start of Staminaband, adding a really quite surprising amount of difficulty and absolutely no quality! But hey, it's a fairly obvious challenge, good training for something, and most importantly doesn't involve any heavy crimping for the right hand, which probably makes it one of the few hard things of route length that I can try at the moment in the UK. Plus I get to have done something that Steve Mac called 9a (fortunately it's easier for the tall) and even Ondra enjoys the odd local challenge of dubious quality. I used the cheaty lank method at the end of Staminaband. Sorry.

Here's some send footage

Stamina Boys from Alex Barrows on Vimeo.

Only the inadequacies of windows movie maker saved you from having full length rests accompanied by a split screen with this glorious footage:

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Training for Sport Climbing

Back in the summer of 2012 I went to Gorges du Loup for a 5 week trip, and in between pinching tufas until my thumbs were raw and desperately trying to trick my way up things using kneebars, I decided to write up an article/document with some training knowledge. Having served its purpose of stopping rest days getting boring it promptly languished on my computer doing nothing, until recently when I finally got around to digging it out, finishing it off and getting it online.

This link should take you to a downloadable pdf:

If anyone has any comments then either use the function at the end of this post or message me on facebook, I'd be particularly interested to hear what other people who are into their training think of it.
(EDIT: 6/2/2014 I've updated it to include a new section '2.1. Capacity and Power: An Analogy')

In the meantime I've been trying to rehab an infuriating collateral ligament injury, which means a lot of deadhanging on front 3 and failing to deadhang on pinky monos. Still, at least the weather's been abysmal so it's not felt like missing out on too much!

Sam making the most of a rare dry afternoon