Saturday, 8 October 2016

Gaining Weight

Dirty feet
It's pre-season here in Madrid so I'm trying to drag my body into some semblance of form for when the conditions really arrive. This year I've had to adapt to changing circumstances.

The free climbing wall in Cuidad Universitaria that I raved about in a previous blog post is now closed indefinitely. From what I hear, a child climbed on top of the wall and somebody raised concerns about health and safety. It's terrible that this type of culture is now arriving in Spain. I always enjoyed seeing a cheerful disregard for risk here that would never be allowed in England. 

Flippancy aside, this was a blow to my normal training in September. That wall had the Ty Landman training holy trinity:

"My tip for getting stronger is to climb steep, straight angles, 30-45 degrees; big moves between bad holds, where you must keep your feet on. This develops footwork and body tension. No heel hooks, toe hooks or anything like that, just basic straightforward pulling".

Couldn't have put it better myself. Overhanging, fingery holds and bad feet in combination with a great community of setters. It shall definitely be missed. There's a Facebook campaign to reopen the wall here. I'm sure they'd appreciate the numbers even if you've never climbed there before.  

So this has led to my only training being on the fingerboard this month. Which is fine, when I was in Extremadura I trained on the fingerboard for months on end with not a lot of actual climbing. This led  to being mad strong but with no sense feeling for the rock. Here in Madrid this is less of a problem. I can build a base early on and start venturing outside later as the temperatures begin to drop. 

The problem I'm facing is the inevitable finger strength plateau that comes with doing the same fingerboard routine for many years. The way I tried to get gains last season was by dropping fingers from my crimp lineup. Although this was certainly effective, it does tend to lead to injury in my case. I always thought my little finger was: "a stubby cocktail sausage", but it turned out that loosing it blows out my ring finger.

So how to increase the load in a way that doesn't lead to tweaks? Weight vest! At the beginning of the month I bought a 20kg weight vest from that wonderful supplier of elite climbing gear: Decathlon. I've been training with it for the whole month, and it's definitely increased the intensity! I've been doing from two to four hours a day (one of the privileges of unemployment) When I wake up in the morning my finger joints are so stiff that I have to warm them up for ten minutes before i can do anything that requires hands.

Early in the month, I noticed minor tweaks in the knuckle of my right hand, but nothing that I couldn't train through. Now it seems my body can handle the weight, as long as i take a long time to warm up. 

So has it worked? I'm gonna have to wait until I get on rock before I'll be able to say if it's given me the bump that I hope it has. Having said this, initial signs are looking good: when you take it off you feel weightless and all the hangs feel easy. I'm hoping that outside every hold will feel a little better and a little more secure but who knows? Time will tell. 


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Avoiding the herd

Idea for a game: Spanish bouldering bingo. To be played whenever and wherever you go bouldering. Each characteristic you observe is worth one point. The player with the most points at the end wins. Points are awarded for:
  • Dreads, rat-tails or any other atrocious hairstyles. (mullets are worth two points)
  • Incredibly badly-behaved dogs. (extra point if there are two, and they're constantly fighting/barking/fucking)
  • Marijuana (one point if you only smell it, extra point if you're offered some) 
  • Loudness (you'll definitely hear them before you see them)
  • ENCOURAGEMENT. (more than you will ever, ever need)
  • Littering (especially bits of finger-tape and cigarette ends, they aren't really litter right?) 
  • Uncomfortably close spotting (you'll feel violated)
  • If they all easily flash your project you get the BASQUE BONUS (three points)

Now, as I read that list I feel like a bit of a misanthrope. Who am I to criticise their eclectic hairstyles? It's a different culture and how dare I apply my repressive aesthetic standards to them. I've also left out another stereotype: Niceness. Spanish climbers are by and large, always nice people. I've been given food, I've been given beta, and yes, I've been offered a smoke. However, as an elitist who enjoys the delusion that climbing attracts a superior type of person, I find it harder to ignore the things that go beyond just mullets.   

Caligula stand 7C 
So firstly, the noise. There is nothing like the peace and tranquillity of an untarnished wilderness, and there is also nothing like having it broken by twenty or so shouting boulderers, dogs in tow, moving through a cloud of weed smoke and leaving a trail of litter. The equivalent noise at a crag in England would be silenced immediately by a combination of tutting and icy glares. 

I should throw out the #notall disclaimer now. Obviously there are some lovely Spaniards who sneak to and from the boulders, leaving no trace but meticulously edited Instagram photos. But as with all of these 'not all (insert group here)' conversations, it doesn't have to be all of them to have a negative impact. I'm sure not everybody who likes swimming in the river Manzanares during the summer months treats the area with disrespect, but it doesn't matter, it's banned now. 

I'm sure it's not just a Spanish thing either, but I definitely see a cultural divide in the amount of litter in Spain compared to England. And I don't even climb in the popular sport climbing areas where anecdotally, it's even worse. So I avoid the crowds, the dogs and the noise; although it has as much to do with my personality as theirs.
Topping out Caligula- ALONE, with nobody to constantly scream 'VENGA'  at me while I'm doing it
I always climb alone. Social interaction, particularly in a foreign language, can be draining, especially if it's with people you don't know that well. Not that I mind it at the climbing wall, where I'm a chatty little bastard. But the second I get in my car and head north, that mindset flips. It's also nice to be completely selfish with your objectives. I want to go to the boulder, warm up, try it for two hours and go home. That's not something you can do when everyone in your group has different objectives. Ultimately climbing is an individual sport, and bouldering is the ultimate expression of that.

Safety is another reason why many chose to boulder in groups, but for me, individual acceptance of risk is part of the experience. Climbing in Galicia was a big contribution to that. A small community and no really big sectors. You boulder in a different way when you're alone.You rehearse everything a lot more and learn exactly what you can do with the crashpads you have. I often walk away from stuff I can't try safely.     

Another thing: I'm self conscious about filming in front of people. Even saying it seems ridiculous in a time when everyone and their mum is constantly go-pro-ing and instagramming their entire lives. I'm not even one of those guys who film everything: I have a broken tripod and a camera from best buy. But it doesn't matter, I'm still worried that someone might mistake me for someone who is like that.

These are my justifications for solitude. Reading it back, some reasons are valid, but others read like stereotypical British neurosis. It's definitely not for everyone. To tie it up in a nice little bow: clean up your shit, control your dogs/hair and if I see you at the crag, you've probably just ruined my session.

P.S. If you're reading this and you have dreads, I'm obviously not talking about your hair.
sketching up The Prawn 7B
























Friday, 29 January 2016

How to lose friends and alienate people (My training tips)


OK, It's high time I shared some of my completely non-scientific, home-grown training wisdom. It's pretty good if you want to create a tall thin climber who can do crimps and literally nothing else. Needless to say, the author should not be held liable for any accident, injury or death(!) caused by performing these incredibly basic and self-evident training techniques. Also, go easy on the crimps, build up slowly and back off right away if you get even a tiny tweak. It's not worth the hassle of developing a real finger injury. Also, my training is not the kind where you train on plastic for months to slay the dragon. I don't think I'd have the patience to stay away from rock for that long. This will maintain your strength while leaving you rested enough to project outdoors.
ciudad universitaria wall- more basic than a pumpkin spiced latte

1. The buttery biscuit base. It's important to lay down a base of general fitness after a long summer being poor and unemployed (just me?) so head to your nearest overhang, and climb on it. For me this is September, I'm in Madrid but work doesn't start for another month. So I climb, two days on, one day off for the entire month. My sessions are two and a half hours, depending on skin (a lot of my stuff is geared toward having the worst skin in Spain) but you might be able to do more. I mix it up by doing a more bouldery session the first day, and a more endurance related one on the second. You can also switch between Woodsing (pulling on tiny crimps all the time) and Webbing (compression, pinches and slopers). On the rest day stretch, or go for a run if you're feeling ambitious. By the end of the month, you should be feeling like eighties Jerry.

2. Pick some projects. I like to project things in pairs. Generally projecting only one thing is a bit demotivating and a great way to get an overuse injury by doing the same crux a million times a week. I like mine to be in different areas, and also different difficulties. I do two sessions on rock a week, so it's perfect. Fail on one, and by the time you've packed up your crashpad, you're already psyched to battle the next one later in the week. Also, have some consolation boulders nearby. When you fall on that move for the tenth time, you're gonna need to take your anger out on something.

3. Find yourself. I spent a long time trying and failing to be Jan Hojer, when I'm actually Dave Graham. Obviously it'd be preferable to be like Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and have the best of both worlds, but ultimately you can't cheat body shape. I have an incredibly static body shape, so bulking up like Sharma or Hojer would have been incredibly difficult. Now I only work core, fingers and flexibility, Carlo Traversi talks about finding your own style in this interview. It's right on the money. Now I'm trying to be more Grahamesque(?), strong fingers and core, and lots of tricks to keep my feet on. Obviously vary this depending on your dimensions. The joy of climbing is that you can tick the same boulders using completely different styles. I'm always jealous of short dynamic people.

4. Flexin'  Now Macleod says in 9 out of 10 that it's not worth obsessing about and I generally agree, but he probably hasn't seen a reeeaallly inflexible person trying to get a heel up.(hilarious by the way)  It's a small difference, but sometimes a small difference is all you need. Also, it's so easy to do, why would you not? Focus on legs and actual stuff that you'd do on the wall. It also helps with recovery, injury prevention and all that boring stuff.

5. Abs. Do them whenever you can, destroy them, do them till you feel sick. I usually get them done in between sets on the fingerboard. Most of them are stolen from this Romain Desgranges training video. Also, get the front lever, do the front lever, lots. It's the most sport specific exercise you can do. Hanging leg lifts if you can't or if you're tired, also jumping into a front lever and lowering as slowly as possible. Basically, abs affect every aspect of climbing from holding a swing to how secure you feel on a move, so if in doubt, sit ups. More recently I've noticed that high intensity works better for me than pure quantity. So now I try to condense what would be a fifteen minute routine with rests into a five minute routine, going straight from one set to the next.
Crimps AND core! I keep on breaking footholds to make it harder too...



6. 'Finger strength is everything' said Malcom Smith. It was true then, and it's true now. Get a fingerboard and hang on it a lot. I get on the smallest edges and half crimp them for as long as possible. Rinse and repeat. Also crimp front levers are weirdly easier than jug front levers, maybe because the whole arm is locked. Usually I do basic hangs for about half an hour before I start to tempt injury. One type of variant you can do is start dropping fingers from your line-up. Loosing the pinkie is pretty straightforward for me because mine is a stubby cocktail sausage. After this, try back three, which is really weird if you have a short pinkie. After that, get injured pretty much. I did a pretty beastly two finger half crimp hang a couple of months ago but I tweaked and had to back off. Another way is to add weight, buy a cheap weight belt. I'm pretty into the front three weight belt combination right now. Another sure fire way to get injured is to try and do that thing Daniel Woods does in Reel Rock. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Finally, I'm also a big fan of crimp pull ups, especially on my board, which is a slippery devil, so you have to do it sloooowly. About my board,(sponsor plug alert) I have a wooden SAN Power fingerboard, which is amazing. It doesn't trash your skin like resin, and there's less friction so you're forced to try hard. I also don't have to use as much chalk, it absorbs all my skin grease like a dream.
Warming up in Alange

7. Warm up you idiot. No seriously, stretch, climb some easy boulders and generally get ready. Get yourself a little wooden thingy like mine. I know, I know, I was sceptical at first too. 'I'll never use that!' I said naively, convinced it was all just a clever marketing technique to make climbers buy more stuff. Now I'm definitely in the pro-wooden thingy camp. Especially if you're pressed for time, a few crimp hangs while your setting up crashpads will warm you up without wasting precious skin.
all pros use this



8. Poo tea! My darkest secret. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has turned up to the project feeling a little fuller than normal. It's not just the weight, which is relatively insignificant, it's also horrible to try and do a core move when you're full, you can't tense properly for fear of...well. Have some laxative tea the night before, empty yourself in the morning, and send! You don't get that kind of sound advice from Neil Gresham, do ya?

9. Campus board. I've never really done it regularly, but I think it's the way forward, for me at least. Three of my biggest weaknesses are dynamism, big moves and coordination, all of which can be trained by campusing. It's also on wood which is another plus. I went to a friend's gym: the recently opened BoulderMadrid over Christmas and had a good play on their board for the first time in ages. Now every Friday is campus Friday. I do two hours (or until I bleed) and that's enough really.  Anyway, I filmed a couple of exercises on my phone, feel free to call me weak in the comments!  

video







Thursday, 31 December 2015

The best climber: the fetishization of 'fun'

How many times have you heard someone say this or something similar? 'The best climber is the one having the most fun.' This quote is thrown around ad nauseam, often to make the rather bland assertion that it's nice to be nice and fun to have fun, regardless of performance, fulfilment and other concepts slightly too complex to be shared on a Facebook meme. This quote has always jarred with me personally, but I've never really tried to articulate why. Obviously it's trite, and casually dismissive of those who actually want to (God forbid) improve at their chosen sport. It takes for granted that a vague concept of 'fun' is a more laudable goal than climbing 9b+ after a lifetime dedicated to training and self sacrifice.
Fun, fun all around.

Another thing is that it's so demonstrably false. If it were even slightly true, climbing media would laden with heart-warming reports of people cruising up easy slabs instead of what it actually is: reports of dedicated people working really hard at difficult or dangerous objectives. In effect, the phrase functions as a get-out clause, a way that smug people can pat themselves on the back for not really achieving anything, and lawd knows we don't need any more of those.

And before you start screaming 'ELITIST!' at me, I'm talking about effort and dedication, not grades. If you vanquish a 6b+ after a protracted siege, I'll be psyched for you. One thing I wouldn't do however, is call you 'the best climber in the world.' Why? Because it would be just as meaningless and patronising as a participation trophy. It is possible to praise somebody's effort without abandoning all semblance of reality. This is why I feel uncomfortable when Spanish people call me 'máquina' or worse, 'titan'. As an Englishman I'm always listening for the inevitable sarcasm. This is a minor cultural quibble, but I find my English friends' endless shit-talking at the crag far more motivating than any comparison to a Greek god.

The fun-fanatics also rarely know the actual context in which this line was said. On his blog (which is pure motivation by the way), Stevie Haston says:


'Sometimes climbers get all aggressive with me, and say its not just about standards, it’s about enjoyment. Then they use the quote ‘the best climber is the one having most fun’, they don’t know where the quote comes from, and they didn't know the man who spoke it. The climber was Alex Lowe, the best all-rounder in the USA at that time, died in an avalanche. He was a 5.13a climber, a mixed M8 climber, and a grade 7 ice man. He had extremely solid standards, and do you know why? He trained like a Spartan, that’s why. He did his pull ups, he did his running, he did the lot, la total. And you know that quote, it was just to make the punters feel happy about themselves.'

This quote is great, and also hits the nail on the head regarding the people who use this line. It's usually either punters, looking for an excuse not to try hard or professionals, who have already made huge achievements and can afford to casually wave away the years of training, dieting and other very un-fun activities that have gotten them to this level.

My other gripe with the funsters is the insanity of abandoning the whole spectrum of human experience and focussing on the most middle of the road, basic and unremarkable one. Heaven forbid you come across some adversity which actually makes you grow as a person. In my climbing life I've experienced intense pain, frustration and anger. The slow realisation of loss as a project slips away. The sense of impossibility that slowly converts to hope. The confidence in executing a sequence perfectly. My recent send of Flor de Loto was an example, an eleven month investment of time and energy both emotional and physical. Not to mention the years of training before. It wasn't a universally positive experience. (and that's putting it mildly) I got angry, I swore and shouted, I dropped it from the last move, I abandoned it only to come back a week later. When I finally did it, I lay on the crashpad and laughed hysterically for five minutes, I still have a big smile on my face as I write this thinking about it. It seems obvious to say it, but the process of real achievement isn't all going to be sunshine and lollipops, sometimes it sucks. This is why the quote irritates me. If I'd given up when the fun stopped, I wouldn't have learned or achieved anything. What a rubbish message. 'The best climber is the one who fights hardest.' There. It's not even difficult to think of something better, because literally anything is better than fun.


In a similar vein, 'It's only climbing, it's not important' is another one I hear thrown around, as if the subjective opinion of that particular person can be applied to every climber. No. What you actually meant is that for you, climbing isn't important. You decide your own level of involvement. I personally train three days and climb outside two days a week, not to mention the hours I spend thinking about it, watching videos on the internet and reading about it. Clearly climbing is pretty central to my life. For your Ondras of this world, who train every day, travel and make a living off climbing, it's more important still. Also, imaginary guy, if climbing isn't important to you, why do it? Why even bother if it's so pointless in your estimation? Before anyone says it: yes, it's important to have perspective and yes there are other things beside climbing, but it's the hypocrisy that really gets me. It's very modern, very hipster, very nihilistic and above all very stupid, to shrug something off as inconsequential, while simultaneously participating in said activity. But then I like Taylor Swift ironically, so I can't really judge. 

Considering the Swift comparison, it becomes all too obvious that this dismissal is often a rationalisation. The truth is, (how could it not be), that I love a bit of Taylor Swift. Her songs are catchy and really connect with my inner angsty teen. Unfortunately, we live in an intolerant world, where society looks harshly upon twenty-six year-old male Swift fans. It is therefore easier to cloak my genuine enthusiasm in ironic appreciation. 

Similarly, our example climber is either dissatisfied with his own abilities or worried about the way his peers will perceive him. It is psychologically easier to dismiss the importance of climbing entirely that to honestly confront this. How often have you heard someone admit defeat by saying something along the lines of 'ahh, it doesn't matter anyway' It seems rude at this point to say:

'it obviously does matter to you, you just chose to spend an hour in a wood trying the same move over and over again, and this is your third session!'  

We don't say it, but that doesn't make it less true. Rather than tying yourself in knots trying to show that you never really cared anyway, wouldn't it be more liberating to say: 'I cared about this objective and I'm frustrated that I didn't achieve it.' Then you would be free to pour that energy into actually taking steps to accomplish it.  

The same goes for people who say that grades aren't important. Once again, it's important to differentiate between people who express a personal preference and those who make the blanket assertion that: 'grades aren't important.' These people complain about what they see as an obsession with the numbers, and often fail entirely to understand that it is not the numbers but what they represent that matters. The numerical grade is merely a signifier, a representation of the difficulty and effort required to complete a climb. When you hear someone psyched about sending their first 7A, the default response should not be to dismiss that person for chasing grades. Why? Because they're probably not, they're chasing the achievement that the grade represents. Behind the number is a real rock, real holds and a real challenge which should be celebrated rather that belittled. It's the presumption of superiority, of being somehow above it all that is the most irritating. Imagine a footballer saying: 'scoring a goal isn't important.' 

These attitudes come both from climbing's origins as an alternative sport and from the modern 'everybody gets a prize' mentality. The one thing that unifies them is an unwillingness to commit, whether to temporary pain, or to the goal of a specific grade, or even to climbing as a whole. Now, if somebody genuinely wants to live in a climbing 'safe space' that is free of grades, challenge and universally 'fun', that is absolutely fine. But a space that is free of challenge is also free of achievement. A space that rejects anything remotely negative in favour of fun, is also rejecting the personal growth that comes with adversity. If you want to limit yourself to fun, feel free, but most climbers want something a wee bit more complicated than that.


And Taylor Swift is awesome by the way.













  


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Dyno Madness!

La Guillotina7A+ in the international capital of dynos: Albarracin.

A Parable: Two climbers, let's call them Dynamic Dave and Crimpy Chris, are working a problem: A sit start on tiny holds leads to a huge dyno to the lip. Dave pulls on at the dyno and easily sticks it. Chris has more trouble with the move, and after half an hour of trying, still hasn't stuck it.

After a while, they both start working the problem from the sit, and here, roles are reversed. Chris dials the crimpy moves and is quickly falling from the dyno again, this time from the sit. Meanwhile Dave, who did the dyno with relative ease, can barely pull off the ground. 

Chris goes back to working on the dyno and eventually sticks it with great difficulty. He then goes from the bottom and, after a few falls, eventually sticks it from the sit and tops out the boulder. Dave is still struggling with the sit. A new climber: Rounded Reginald arrives at the boulder and, after warming up, flashes the boulder, crushing the crimpy moves and effortlessly sticking the dyno.

The moral to the story: Non dynamic people can do dynos, it just takes them more time and effort. However, if you lack the crimp strength for a certain problem, no amount of dynamism, persistence or any other skill can substitute. 'Finger strength is king', but it's obviously better to be a Rounded Reginald with a broad range of skills.

You have to be a special kind of masochist to do a granite dyno. Ingravido 7B in Corme.
Dynos are a difficult beast to train compared to crimps, which are relatively straightforward. If you hang on a fingerboard, as I've been doing consistently for the last four years, you can't help but improve, but dynos don't lend themselves to systematic training in the same way. This is because every dyno is different: the quality of the feet, the distance travelled, the angle of the wall, the quality of the start and finish holds and the cut loose factor. With so many variables, the method of training has to be equally varied.

In my usual training sessions, I alternate between Woodsing: climbing on the smallest crimps possible, and Webbing: climbing on physically powerful slopey or compression problems.(guess which one I like most!) Also I make the effort to throw a few dynos into the mix. Variety is key with this, and I also try not to make them too hard. You'll ultimately learn more movement from twenty easy/moderate dynos than from just one insanely hard one. Also, if you suffer from terrible skin, dyno to slopers!
Gato con Botas 7A+
Take it outside: Dynos outside are really cool and I've always gone out of my way to do them even though they are a weakness of mine. Each one is unique in a way that inspires me to suffer the extra time and skin damage. 

Tolmojoncito 8A
 Here's how I measured my progress. Last autumn I tried Tolmojoncito (8A) the stand start to this monster by Nacho Sanchez. I was unable to stick the first move at all, I wasn't even close. I started to try it again a few weeks ago and now can actually stick the move. Of course the rest of the moves are nails too and it probably won't go until next year now the temperatures are in the mid-thirties. But even small progress is still progress!

On an unrelated note, this is the king of all dynos in Spain. Maybe in a few years I'll be brave enough to try it. It's HUGE!


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Hostile Environment

what 99% completion looks like
 After falling off the lip of Flor de Loto (8B) I was mentally exhausted. I'd spent nearly three months
trying and the cold weeks were rapidly running out. The rising temps, the waiting between sessions and the knowing that every single try could be THE try were killing me. Then the mini-heatwave came. I'm almost grateful it did as it gave me a concrete excuse to stop trying something that was officially Not-Fun-Any-More. I'm haunted by how close I came. Literally the last move. Not figuratively. Hold the swing and a 6A mantle leads to glory. Oh well.

The twenty degree heat killed the bouldering season dead for a while. I decided what I really wanted to do with my life was get good at sport climbing. Sector Stradivarius in Patones is the Frankenjura of Madrid. Short steep routes and painful tweaky pockets abound. I did a 7b+ called Turco, which was apparently flashed by Gullich back in the day. Nice to find a bit of history. Also had a play on an 8a which will give me something to fall off the last move of forever.

With the hot weather showing no signs of abating in Madrid, I decided it was time to hit Albarracin. Normally I'd have already been several times by now, but I guess the negative news that the area has been getting had made me wary. New restrictions? No chalk? No sleeping in cars in the upper car park?

When we arrived though, it was business as usual. A lot of climbers, a lot of chalk and a ton of camper-vans in the upper car park. I was amazed how exactly the same things were after all the fuss made on climbing media a few months ago. The most damage to the natural beauty of the area is (ironically) being caused by the local council, who are midway through 'renovating' the paths which access the cave paintings. Previously a normal woodland path led both to the cave paintings and to the main sector. Apparently this unobtrusive path just wasn't pathy enough so now the council is in the process of installing gravel paths bordered by wooden logs. I say installing because they definitely hadn't finished. There were piles of metal and logs everywhere, tracks from mini-diggers, even tools abandoned by the side of the path. Even if/when the work is finished, the path is a bit of an eyesore and completely unnecessary. Last time I checked, Spain wasn't rich enough to be chucking money at such pointlessness. It seems funny that the council responsible for this is presumably the same one that criticises climbers over their perceived impact.

A wee analogy for you. The internet is born. People all over the world use it to communicate and share information. A small minority of trolls use the internet to attack and insult people.

A climbing area is discovered in Teruel. People come from all over the world to climb some sick boulders. A small minority of uninformed bellends (for want of a better word) treat the area badly: littering and tickmarking.

If a politician lobbied to ban the internet due to the actions of trolls, he/she would (rightly) be laughed out of the room. In the second case, councils and some climbers see banning climbing as the logical step to take. The law exists to punish those responsible (the trolls/bellends) and if it cannot do that, no law is preferable to one that punishes innocent people (responsible internet users/climbers).  Yes, as climbers we should be tidy and respectful and blah blah blah, but we've also got to confront this faulty 'we deserve what we get' logic when we hear it.

Just eyeing up that third hold...
After getting shut down on some of the harder stuff, I headed over to try one of my eterna-projects. La Fuente (7C). It's a 4 move problem on a fifteen degree overhang: really short. Hands are all positive crimps but the feet are terrible. It feels...real technical. I'd tried it every trip since I first started coming to Albarracin three years ago, and never stuck the third hold.

I arrived already warmed up and due to the magic of multiple stacked pads I pulled on at the crux, used some flexy madness to snag a far right foothold and landed on that most magical of all places: the third hold!

After a quick rest, I pulled on at the start and fired it off first go. The weird thing was how easy it felt. Especially considering the trips and trips I'd never even been close to sticking that third move. Bouldering is weird like that. Fortunately I have my own grading system based on how long you've tried a problem for. In this system, Origami is 8B+ and L'Helecoptere in Font is probably the hardest boulder in the world.
I am not a happy bunny right now...
Day Two: and I was determined to get some hard climbing done and I wasn't going to let some light snow put me off. We headed to Orejas de las Regletas (8A), another eterna-project. As I warmed up the snow intensified. I tried the crux move: a huge deadpoint to a sloper, and had to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. As soon as my head pulled round the lip to line up the move, flurries of snow started hitting me right in the face. I couldn't keep my eyes open! Pretty soon even climbing with my eyes shut was impossible as everything got wet. Game over, until next time.

Sunny Spain









Monday, 9 February 2015

Projects and megaprojects

After my Christmas illness, which saw me throwing up between tries on boulders all over Spain. It was time to get to work on some serious ascending of small rocks. Here's what I've been breaking myself against this month...

Five seconds before I hit the crashpad... again.

1. Incognito Sit (8A) I got onto this thing in Tamajon at the very end of the session I did Encantador. I did the jump crux move pretty fast and actually felt confident. That was my first mistake. My second mistake was the belief that a limestone boulder would be a nice treat for my skin. 

Yesterday I had my second full session of falling off the jump move. Initially progress was fast, I linked from the jump to the top, which was quite psychological (it's a highball) and was falling off the jump move by the end of that session. I didn't think I'd still be there two sessions later falling off the same move. 
I've managed to stick it from the bottom three times in total. Every time I get there I get a bit over psyched and fall of the next move which is also powerful. The moves don't really ease off until a glory jug right at the top, so maybe I'm also a bit afraid of 'pinging off the top and looking like a tit.'

The hold that you have to jump to trashes your skin. In yesterday's session of eight tries my hands were bleeding all over the place. Skin: my genetic ceiling, making sure that every boulder I do takes me about three sessions and half a pint of blood longer. Somewhere there's a southern European clone of me crushing crushing everything in sight because of his magical regenerating skin.







2. Flor de Loto (8B) A great new classic that got put up last year in La Pedriza. Here's a video of the FA. I started to try it by accident last year when I was working on El Belen, which is also in the cave. The weather came in and soaked everything that wasn't a roof and pretty soon a giant group of Basques including this guy came to join me in my little cave. Once I'd gotten over my sense of inadequacy I joined in, flailing around on the problem and actually doing a few of the easier moves.

From the footage of my big link!

I didn't start properly working it till January as I was getting close on other things. Now I've been on it every week for the last month and I'm actually daring to believe that it's possible for me. This week's breakthrough was a link from three moves in which means that it's probably time to go from the bottom. Even the link was so hard I power screamed on every move. Oh and it ends in a GIANT SWING move which is really cool! What more could you want from a project? 

Grab the slopers, drop the toehook and hold oooon!