Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rock Climbing Vs Ice Climbing

I am writing in response to Chris Moss’s horribly inaccurate and ultimately dangerous Rock Climbing Vs Ice Climbing feature from the Guardian Weekend (February 9th2008, Page 28). The general gist of the piece is a blow by blow comparison of which is a better workout for you, rock or ice? Moss’s conclusion is that ice climbing is “(A)n almost unrivalled exercise in providing a complete workout, pushing every part of your body. Ice is harder so expect even firmer, more defined muscles, less fat and better contours”. What Moss fails to note is how unhealthy ice climbing, at least in Britain, really is. No personal trainer would recommend less sleep, more junk food and spending hours sitting in the cold holding a rope to get more defined muscles. Ice climbing seems to help you justify to yourself eating lots of shit, especially as it feels like dinner time by lunch. Furthermore the whole culture of mountaineering seems to be passionately anti-athletic surrounded by peer pressure to drink more and avoid anything that could be perceived as training. With the obesity epidemic the developed world has on its hands it seems unlikely that ice climbing is any sort of solution.
On the flip side if everyone became a sport climber we’d all have bronzed bodies from climbing in Spain, be borderline anorexic, have a training addiction and a willingness to push ourselves harder without having to worry about a death fall, just pulley injuries. Everyone would be happy and ripped and the season would last more than 4 weeks spread over 3 months.
Got an ice axe...

got a stick-clip.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Day in the County

Felt absolutely spent yesterday after my epic in glen coe, so much so that I didn't even train.... well I tried to but my back cramped up just hanging off my pull up bar so I decided to have the day off. I got up today feeling well rested and drove to Kyloe In to try the sitstarts. Hitchhikers made my fingers feel like they were going to explode and Yorkshiremen ss just felt hard (but I'll be back) so after an hour or so I headed to Bowden having heard a rumour that the cave pond had been drained. Managed an Andy Earl problem called sprung which originally got v11 but has setled down to a much more do-able v9/10. I was really chuffed and surprised to send sprung for a number of reasons.
A. It’s hard.
B. It should hurt my finger but it didn’t.
C. I’ve been training endurance lately.
On a more personal note, even though I have tried it before sporadically, it felt for me like I sent it in one session. Even though it wasn’t actually in a session, had it been, it would definitely be the hardest problem I had done in a session by a fair margin. I hope all that makes some sense.
Finished by flashing the hard bit of undertow and going home for some weights. Good day.

Crest Route; Stob Coire Nan Lochan

After accidentally sleeping in(!) until 4.30am on Wednesday it was time to indulge my self-destructive streak once more and head to the mountains. Disappointment at the warm, rainy conditions was short lived and after an hour and half or so bombing it up hill we found ourselves looking at a completely plastered corrie. It was clear that Tony, fresh from success the day before, was psyched for a big tick but after a bit of dilly-dallying we decided it wasn’t a day for ‘hard’ climbing. So Central Grooves and Unicorn were given a miss and we made a beeline for Chimney Route.
I know that I’m maybe not all that qualified to say whether or not things were too plastered, but they were. Everything white looked and felt like if you sneezed it would come crashing down. On the snow slope approach to the chimney Tony and I could feel one another kicking steps. The route looked alright for the likes of Tony... at least it did if he could get passed the first five metres of vertical unformed neve. I’ve got to admit to feeling a little nervous, perched on my shitty, one blindly placed piece, belay atop a snow slope ready to avalanche with a very spiky Tony sketching about above my head, so I was more than happy to bail and go find another route.
After reversing the snow slope we bombed around to Crest Route which I was glad to find real gear on for a belay. And off Tony went, stringing pitches together to save time, we topped out (a first for me!!!) in the dusk. I think that normally the route’s first pitch is meant to be a mere formality but under a thick coating of snow it certainly felt like the crux to a punter like me. The one belay we stopped for on the normally four pitch route, was exciting too. Tony assured me it was fine as long as i stayed low on it but staying crouching on a small sloping ledge while he lead out 60metres was too hard. While I was worrying about whether belaying Tony would be the last thing I ever did, Tom and Anne shouted over from their luxury ice palace of a belay on Ordinary Route to say it was getting late and they were abbing off. Right then I wished I could ab off but topping out was amazing as was bum-sliding back down the corrie. I think I’ve got the winter bug... need to lead a route now.
Anyway once we got back to the car I suddenly felt pretty shagged. I’d organised to go out clubbing when I got home but I desperately needed caffeine so as to not fall asleep at the wheel. No shops till Tyndrum meant pounding techno would have to do but 5 minutes later the CD player cut out and 5 minutes after that the lights died. We called up RAC and it turned out I didn’t have coverage to be towed home and the unpleasant mechanic in Ballachuish didn’t have the fan belt we needed so we were stuck. Very generously, Gaz drove down from Fort William to pick us up and put us up for the night. Thanks Gaz. And the next day when it became clear that the car was going to take most of the day to fix Mike Tweedley generously gave Tom and Anne a lift home so they could revise for their exam the next morning. Cheers Mike. Me and Tony stuck it out in the Glen, walking between tea shops for the day, cheers Tony, and finally made it home Thursday night, 40 hours after leaving the flat and almost 60 hours since washing. Why does it have to have warmed up again???

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Fear and Failure Part I

I’m not really known for being into my winter climbing although I have the build for it. Before this Christmas I had only been out twice and hated it each time. I seemed to go out once each year to make sure it was still shit. The first time I went out with a very enthusiastic but perhaps slightly over ambitious punter who after shouting at me for wanting a rope on to down climb the ‘steep’ bit of easy gully at Aonoch Mor proceeded to fall down it after me. I think he was just a little shaken but apparently the VII we were going to do was out of condition so we did an icy IV instead... well sort of; we got rescued off the top pitch.
The next year I decided to just pair up with another beginner. Me and ginger Jason went up to the norries just after new year. Unfortunately we left Edinburgh very late by mountaineering standards, took a wrong turn driving and were then slowed down by my lack of fitness. We probably made it to the base of goat track gully by about midday. After flapping around on the first pitch (probably normally soloed/walked) and watching all my gear fall out behind me I let Jason lead the crux pitch. When I reached the belay ledge we realised it was getting dark and we didn’t have head torches so we decided to abseil off a conveniently placed boulder to get down. Of course the rope jammed but we were saved by the legend that is Andy Nisbet who soloed up the gully in about 10seconds freeing our rope as he went. We walked back to the car star-struck and deflated.
So perhaps it’s not suprising I didn’t make it out at all last year and just went rock climbing instead. But for some reason I decided to try and get out again this year... although it’s not been easy. First day out had probably the worst driving conditions imaginable. Most of the journey up we travelled about 20mph. We finally made it to the caingorms 5 hours after setting off, walked around getting lost in a blizzard for a couple of hours before retreating to the car for an epic 12 hour drive home due to the A9 getting shut while we were on it. It was horrible. Then a couple of weeks ago I headed out again. This time we made it just passed dunkeld before the car broke. Agghh. Perhaps I’m just not meant to go winter climbing.
I decided to ignore my intuitions and head out again last Wednesday. Tony Stone was psyched to try for the second ascent of a IX called Pick’n’Mix in Coire an Lochain. Given my track record I was an obvious partner. Tony led the first pitch comfortably but it was clear to me that I wouldn’t second it comfortably which made me so nervous I completely forgot how prussiks work. Luckily I didn’t need them and I made it most of the way up the pitch before needing a rest and wasting everyone’s time. Consequently Tony never really got to try the crux second pitch but I’m sure he’ll be back. I had an amazing day and I’m super psyched to get back out. One day I hope to top out a winter route.

Bouldering and xmas

Not much has happened on the bouldering front since Christmas. I managed one of the old Smith roof eliminates at Bowden which springer showed me ages ago. It was nice to come back to a couple of years later a bit stronger and do it quickly. I think it’s about 7b+ but there is a super low start that might be where it’s meant to start which would be a bit harder. Unfortunately I ripped my fifth flapper of the week trying the low version and I haven’t been back since.
Christmas was good. Having moved out I tend to appreciate time with my family more particularly when I’m getting spoiled. I got some posh tea and series one of battlestar galactic on DVD from my sister and some brilliant books from my Dad- In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell is my new bible. Wonderful as all these were my favourite present was a long sleeved, stripy t-shirt from my Mum. I look awesome in it but that’s not what gave the top its X-factor. Despite fitting perfectly around my torso and shoulders it was tight around my forearms... what an ego boost!
Anyway I’m getting into Sport climbing mode now although the fitness isn’t really there yet. In 2 weeks I go to El Chorro for 12 days then I come back for a month and head to Catalunya with Niall for a 2 and a half weeks then come home for 6 weeks and head off to France, Switzerland and Wales for the summer. Yeah!