1. Winter climbing is a funny thing and something I’ve really dismissed in the past. I got Dave Macleod’s new book (which I’d really recommend) for Christmas and since reading it I think it’s put some things into perspective. It got me actively thinking why I like the climbs I do and why there are some classics I don’t. Winter climbs represented everything classic about Scottish climbing and yet were so unpleasant. Basically winter climbing is so popular that I just had to be missing the point somewhere to think it was so rubbish. So when an opportunity presented itself to go mincing for a few days in Wales at the start of the year I decided to go for it.
Staying with a friend at Plas y Brenin certainly made the experience a lot easier to enjoy. I could get up at 8 and it was only a 15 minute drive to Cwm Idwal. To be honest though, the early starts were never really why I hated it. I hated winter climbing because it was so precarious and intimidating. Your sense of what you were holding on to dampened by your axe, the movements grovely and mechanical, and the line of where you were going hidden by snow causing me to irrationally forget that if things weren’t so slippy you could probably send a goat up it.
This is all still true but I think that they highlight the aspects of rock climbing I’m really shit at. And so on realising that winter climbing can be quite fun I’ve decided it would be a good way to work on my weaknesses (paradoxically by embracing weakness itself on III’s and IV’s). I’m now actually really psyched for the white stuff and I think it’s given me a fresh outlook on my climbing. I really do think that all aspects of climbing are amazing and if you don’t enjoy them all you’ve probably not gone at them with the right attitude or are suffering from the pandemic condition ‘fear of failure’. A couple of weeks ago fate dealt me and Charlie the triple lemon (dodgy avalanche risk/ forgotten gear/ an essay to write) and so we ended up going to Birnam for some dry tooling. I never expected to say this but it was actually really fun and ‘the Fast and the Furious’ is now something I’d love to do. That day also made me realise I could be doing much harder winter routes. It’s only really my first winter season but I’d like to get on some V’s now and maybe even something a little harder if the avalanche warning doesn’t stay at danger level 5 forever.
2. I, like most, focus too much on strength in my climbing and not enough on actual movement technique. I really think Dave Mac’s book provides an essential explanation of why Dan can slap his way up surprisingly hard boulder problems despite being the weakest grown man Britain. I’ve been going out winter climbing so much that I’ve not actually touched rock yet this decade which is bad on this front but I have amended my board sessions. I’ve began splitting them in two- first half I just make up boulder problems, making them progressively harder and trying to use the holds and movements I find disproportionately hard. Instead of thinking of this as training with all the connotations this brings with it, I think of it as learning to climb and accordingly (wait for it...) I listen to Baroque music! It’s been widely reported that listening to the pre-classical music of Bach and Vivaldi can improve your focus and ability to learn for exams- why not for climbing too? The second half of the session I hit the fingerboard. There’s no need to think so I ditch the Baroque and hit the techno to get psyched and mainly just because I like it. Perhaps I’ve gone crazy but I think my movements have become more refined and my footwork more precise since doing this. Of course it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation- am I thinking more about the way I move because of the music or am I playing the music because I’m thinking more about how to improve my movement. I guess we’ll never know.
3. Body mass. I feel quite lean these days but I’m still quite heavy. I think we all know I could improve massively by hitting the broccoli. Look what happened to Ross Hunt when he stopped eating. Normally I just go running for this but I think this is the wrong way to go- it leaves me too tired for climbing. I think I just need to eat less.
4. Over the past few years injury has certainly been the most limiting factor for me. I think being in a long distance relationship has really helped this. I train really hard for a couple of weeks then have a few days off. I had a niggle before I went to see Claire last week but then I had a forced week off. On Thursday I started climbing again, felt a bit weak and tweaky, climbed again yesterday and things felt a bit better. Today I felt really strong at the wall and I didn’t even notice my niggle. For me I think a few days off before tweaks get really bad is the way to go for injury prevention, but maximum volume of climbing that doesn’t make an injury worse is the way to go for rehab. In my opinion time off really is time wasted with injuries. I’ve not had to stop for injury in 8months now which is really good for me in recent years.
In summary I need to: -Learn to like being scared/ going for it
- Listen to Baroque music and learn to climb
- Eat less
- Keep seeing Claire and not get injured.