Training pays off

With the days counting down until I go away to the Alps I’ve been trying to rack up as many hours as possible at work leaving with hardly any free days until I go away. Working chaotic hours almost everyday might sound like a restriction to my climbing but I often find at times like these it motivates me to train more. Finishing shifts in the centre before closing time leaves me with no excuse not to have a session afterwards as I’m already there with little else to do and its easy to be motivated when you’ve been watching others climb all day so even squeezing in an hours fingerboard session between shifts doesn’t feel like a chore when your blowing off steam from the previous shift. With the dramatic change in the weather over the last few days I’ve been jumping at any opportunity to take my training from the fingerboard onto real rock (It is Scotland, it could be raining again tomorrow!)

Today we woke early to try and get the most out of a morning session in the sun before starting work at midday so we headed to the local sport crag Dumbuck. Being notorious For its short, yet aggressively steep routes I was interested to see how my recent level of training would pay off here.

Finding the crag was nothing short of a total mission. The guidebooks approach description say something along the lines of ‘though some fields and up to the crag through the trees’. When in reality it it should say, cross the tick infested fields down the hill to where you will have to battle your way through the overgrown jungle, up the steep mud and scree slope where you will randomly stumble upon some ropes that climb up to the crag…..In other words, we got lost because of Euans fantastic guiding skills!!

Neither of us having been to the crag before we spent the day attempting the ‘must do’ route of ‘Awaken’ 7c+. We both struggled to work out the final few moves through the crux on our first few goes and as time (and skin) started to run out there was some frustration when we finally cracked the crux later in the day only to not have enough energy for a serious redpoint after all the previous attempts. After some serious moaning about skin condition and dehydration We pulled the rope and agreed to come back for the tick another day.

Satisfied with a good session I agreed to go up to get the draws back before leaving, I tied in again and before I knew it I was topping out the route. Clean. No falls…talk about a last minute effort! The psyche was high from the tick after all the demoralising efforts earlier and it was great to walk away with such a high grade having only had just one session working at it, I guess it proves this training malarkey does pay off eh!?


A Miserable Day

Me cold and wet on the summit

I headed up to my parents’ house in Drymen with the hope of an early start for a lone trip up The Cobbler to scout out some new routes and take a look at some future projects.

I got up early and arrived at around 8a.m. Leaving the car in full hard-shells due to the torrential rain below 500m, I took my time walking in as I knew I had all day and wasn’t rushing to the base of a route. Ditching my hardshell into my pack I changed over to soft shell as the rain turned to snow and The temperature dropped. The whole path was flooded with all the melt water from yesterday’s thaw and only the hard compacted snow within the basin remained. Luckily The basin was sheltered from the freezing northerly wind as it pelted the back side of the crags.

me getting to grips with the roof og ‘The Cathedral’

I spent the day roaming around looking at a few unclimbed routes and things that I plan to become future projects later in the season when the winter conditions really kick in. I also managed to abseil inspect a few routes such as Dave Macleod’s ‘The Cathedral’ (X,11).      I know that abseil inspection is not ‘usual ethics’ for winter climbs but the route wasn’t in winter condition and it’s the standard of route that I think it would be foolish to no inspect it before even considering it as a future project for myself. It seems out of my reach at the moment but perhaps with some more training and getting a few hard routes under my belt this season, it might make its way onto the                                                                            ‘give it a try’ list someday…who knows!?

If anything, today was a good ‘reccy’ day, that may have got me soaked but it all helps top up the hill fitness and keeps me true to my promise to myself that I will try and get out on the hill at least once every week this season.

only hard compacted snow remains up high

Only hard compacted snow remains up high

Home Wall!!

We finally got round to building our home wall.

With our flat only being rented we had the challenge of having to build a wall that is completely free-standing and has no effect or damage on the walls or floor of the flat. With Euan already having a simple frame and plywood front from his old wall we came up with the idea of an A-frame structure that would hold this pre-made wall at a steeper angle and would keep the wall totally free standing and stable. We set about cutting the wood to shape and began the construction. Our idea was to use large bolts for the joints at the top and bottom of the wall so that the whole thing could be pushed up and effectively ‘folded’ away to create more space. When the wall is to be used, we would pull it down and the supporting legs would slot into place holding it securely.

Remarkably it all went together as planned and without too much hassle. We calculated the angle (had to remember my higher maths there) once it was fully built and to our surprise  found it to be 42 degrees from the floor! (steeper than a 45 training board!)…a little steeper than we’d anticipated! Well I guess if anything it’ll make us stronger…or injured.

We’ve started setting on it with certain holds for tooling and others reserved purely for hands. We’re looking forward to one, having somewhere to train hard with our axes and two, trying hard to explain it to our landlord. I’ll let you know how that goes at our next flat inspection…

Me trusting our stein-pull!

Me trusting our stein-pull!

Euan training hard...tank!

Euan training hard…tank!

British Tooling Series – Glasgow Climbing Centre

Today was the third round of the British Tooling Series, held at the Glasgow Climbing Centre. I haven’t competed in any of the other rounds so far due to lack of free time to travel to the venues down south. Fortunately, Glasgow being my local venue and work place, I’d had plenty of notice of the date of the event and had subsequently been training hard on our new home wall specifically for the event. I felt like I was at my strongest I’d been this year since my time off through the summer and so my confidence levels were high. Something I’ve always found to be a big factor in the way you actually perform in an event, be it relaxed or a competitive one.

The competition was made up of 15 routes for the qualifiers. You had four hours to go off and try them in whichever order you wanted and then a final route for the top 4 climbers in each category to battle it out on for the win. As usual the route setters didn’t disappoint with the quality and imagination within the routes, using obstacles from 30ft logs and chains to gnarly slopers set at the imperfect angle!

I decided to start on the large 30ft vertical log climb as I knew it wouldn’t be too technically difficult, only requiring sharp axes and good striking technique and would also provide a good warm up for the other routes. The whole log was suspended several feet from the floor to make in unstable which gave some interesting leg wrapping technique to shuffle your way up. As expected I topped the route without too much difficult (or too many splinters!) and sounded the comically high pitch horn that hung from the top that signalled topping the route. I blasted through some of the easier routes to chill out for a bit and avoid being left with them to do at the end so that I could focus purely on topping the harder routes with as little attempts as I could. I had an attempt at one of the harder, more delicate climbs that was made up of large moves between insecure and marginal placements that ended abruptly as I moved into the top third of the route when a hold broke in half on me. I was a little disappointed that on my first attempt when i was doing so well ended because of something beyond my control but at least I knew I could do the route and went for a break to come back to it later.

Me tackling the vertical chain climb

Having topped all but two routes so far first-time (including some of the hardest routes that I’d seen kicking off some of the other strong climbers, such as the vertically hanging chain requiring good fig-four practice or a lot of lock off strength), I went back to try the route that I’d previously failed on due to the broken hold for another try at my first attempt (falling due to a broken or spinning hold is not counted as a failed attempt). I tied in and placed my axes onto the starting hold and moved off it attempting to start climbing to my previous high point on the route. With the route having seen some traffic since earlier the first few holds had been chiseled down a bit and weren’t as secure as early. My axe instantly ripped from the hold and I was lowered to the ground having only managed 3 moves. What a disappointment, I knew I had already climbed the first two-thirds of the route before and to lose out on the available points for my first attempt meant I’d possibly just lost my upper hand of having topped everything else first go. I Finally managed to top the route on my last available attempt to gain at least some points for the route.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to make it into the final, missing out on qualifying by only 5 points (That damn broken hold!!) and finished up 6th. All in, the day was a great success. Everyone enjoyed the event and the finalists truly deserved their places with the brilliant efforts on the gnarly looking final routes. It was great fun and I felt like I’d climbed better than I have in previous years and that the training I’ve been doing is paying off. More than anything I’m now super psyched for the winter to hurry up and arrive and feeling confident that I can crush some hard routes.

Getting to the chain on a tricky route

Getting to the chain on a tricky route

Dumgoyne Hill Run…We did it!

So As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, me and Euan have been keeping up our weekly hill run up Dumgoyne hill. We started this torturous weekly ritual 5 weeks ago and have been mixing it into our schedule for pre-winter training.

Every week we would return, unmotivated simply by the thought of having to go through the pain of running up it again. We would eventually manage to conjure up the courage to leave the heat of the car and brave the autumn morning’s cold. We would start running from the lay-by just up the road from the Glengoyne distillery and run to the trig-point that marks the summit as fast as our legs could take us. After what would always feel like an eternity of heavy breathing and legs that felt like they were filled with battery acid, we would collapse onto the summit. Every time, before checking the timer, we would catch our breath and laugh at how bad it felt this week and that we couldn’t possibly have been faster. Every week we were proven wrong, having knocked off several minutes off our previous time.

I guess the saying is true. It never gets easier. You just get faster.

This trend continued until last week we were down to a time of 21:12 from car to summit. We set ourselves the challenge of hitting sub-twenty minutes, thinking it would require a few more weeks with every second getting harder and harder to knock off the faster we got. Yesterday we managed to finally break that record with our personal record of 19 minutes and 52 seconds. Pleased doesn’t even come close to how it feels to beat our long-term goal. Not only to show that we could actually manage sub-twenty (running the whole thing without stopping seamed like an impossibilty a few weeks ago) but also to prove that our hard work and training had paid off.

Me slightly worse for wear after our sub-20 summit.

Me slightly worse for wear after our sub-20 summit.

Burning Calves And Exploding Lungs

Every year I tell myself that this is it. This is the year I’m going to start training before the winter season comes and I’ll be super fit and running up the hills when winter finally hits. There has not been a year gone by where I have stuck to this and cursed myself later in the year when halfway into a two-hour walk-in with sweat pouring off me and my legs feeling like they’ve run a marathon already. This year will be different….I think!

Euan and I, a long-term climbing partner and good mate have recently moved into a new flat in the south side of Glasgow and have promised each other that we will push the other to continue to train, with the hope that this will give us the motivation and psyche to keep it up. With the winter season fast approaching, Euan came up with the disgusting idea of doing some hill running. Now, neither of us are big into our running, only doing the odd 10km here and there to keep some level of fitness up when there’s really nothing else to do, so when Euan mentioned the concept of ‘real’ hill running, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do less. And with this, the idea was cast aside, damning it as madness and torturous.

Wednesday 7a.m. I’m abruptly woken by the removal of the covers and a freshly made coffee thrust under my nose to force me from my bed. In my zombie like daze, I hear Euan rabble words like running, fitness and hills. None of it computes and I try to return to bed as I’m taunted and my manhood is questioned. This reminds me that I’d jokingly entertained the idea of a hill run the previous night and minutes later the next thing I know, we’re in the car, running shoes on and me wondering what the hell I’m doing. The coffee starts to kick in and my brain starts to decipher what’s going on. We are on the way to Dumgoyne for a run to attempt to gain some vital hill fitness for the upcoming winter season.

As we arrive at the car park of the Glengoyne distillery at the foot of the hill I’m dreading it. I’m not a fan of even walking up hills, let alone running up them. Through several yawn-broken sentences I tell Euan of the hatred I have for him at this moment but realise he’s having none of it and that I have no choice. We’re already committed.

Stretches done, stopwatch started, my legs begin to move and we start up the track from the road. We cross the stile and the gradient increases, the path turning to trodden-in steps and the lungs starting to feel heavy. The pace becomes slow as the intake of oxygen is insufficient to feed my burning calves tackling the steepest section of the climb. We’re nearly there. My mouth becomes more like the air intake of a jet engine as it sucks in as much air as possible, attempting to keep myself moving. We break over the false summit and get our first glimpse of the trig-point that marks the true finish. I tell myself to keep moving as my vision starts to tunnel, focusing only on the final goal. The calves are on fire and my lungs are ready to explode as I stop the watch and collapse onto the summit.

“26:32” it reads. We’re delighted, more at the victory than at the time itself. Taking in the view we finally catch our breaths and return our heart rates to a more human level as we start the walk down.

Me and Euan. Exhausted but motivated!

Me and Euan. Exhausted but motivated!

It’s only in the car on the return journey that we get the natural high from success. That pride you get from having committed, taken the right decision to get out of bed and pushed yourself when so many others would have rolled over and silenced the alarm. I could feel the psyche growing as we talked about the difference this could make to our fitness, how much easier a heavy pack would feel on a walk-in if we just kept the dedication up and refused to quit.

We’d not even reached home before already deciding we were coming back to do it again.

Next time, we would be faster…