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Enjoyable afternoon spent mixing bouldering with route climbing. I managed to send a 6C with a trick crux that I'd looked at on Thursday but hadn't actually done, and I also managed to nail a 6A+ whose first few moves were surprisingly powerful for the grade. I also put in a bunch of time on the routes, trying to improve my stamina, and then wound down with some finger training and core work.

As I was winding down, Gavin dropped in on his off day to do a bit of bouldering and then Richard appeared, briefly at first because he wanted to drop off his kit before checking out his daughter's boyfriend's new car, before returning for a hardcore session. I then hung around for a chat while they crushed pretty much everything — with the exception of a very hard 7B+ double dyno problem — the bouldering room had to offer.

It was interesting seeing the contrast between their very different styles: Gav is my height, very controlled, very strong, with superb technique; Richard is quite a bit taller with amazing reach and vast reserves of power. So the beta that worked for one of them didn't necessarily work for another, but they both managed to work up their own solutions to each problem.
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Fun evening of climbing with A, who, even after two sessions, is starting to show signs of being good. We did the usual round of easy slabs, with me attempting to pass on a few bits of coaching advice as imparted to me by Jedi Master Gav — he always says, when climbing a slab, that it's all on your feet and you should pretend that you've got little T-Rex arms keep that principle in mind!

We then switched to auto-belays, at least partly to give A a break — when you're climbing with someone who can't belay, it's important to set a careful pace so that they don't get completely pumped after just a handful of routes because they're doing all the work and they probably don't have the huge stamina reserves of a regular route climber. But, with the centre not being all that busy, we were able to pick routes on lines next to one another, so we were able go up in tandem and I was able to talk her through the beta on some of the harder stuff.

After an hour and more of intermittent routes and watching other people climb — Gav and Hayley were storming some of the new lead routes — we switched to bouldering and I finally managed to send something I'd failed to do during our last session. The problem was graded 6a, so I'd normally expect to be able to flash it, but instead it took three or four attempts and it was only because I was fresh enough to really crank on the crux move that I was able to nail it.

A sent a couple of things she hadn't managed to do during our last session and, on an easy boulder with a long last move, she came off because she was front-on and even she couldn't lank her way through the move. I then hopped on and, from one the lower foot holds, casually dropped a knee — I'd mentioned the idea of tucking a shoulder to improve reach a couple of times but A, being long of limb, couldn't really see the point — and easily staticked the finish jug, at which point, I think she became convinced of the benefits of body position!

We finished off with stretches and warm-downs in the training room. A did her comedy physio exercises — "When I do them at home, the dogs look at me like I'm crazy..." — and I hopped on the bar and did some leg raises to try and improve my core fitness, although I now seem to have reached the point where it's the dead hang and my back muscles that bear the brunt of the effort!
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Via the Guardian, the news that Adam Ondra has sent his 9c project at Flatanger. Pavel Blazek's accompanying photos are particularly intriguing: the crux that involves hanging upside from a knee-bar; and, in the picture at the top of the piece with Ondra cranking hard on a pocket, a massive blood stain on the rock...
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Getting home from this morning's walk, I picked up my stuff and went for down to the climbing centre for a spot of easy training. After doing some easy warm-ups, I spent the rest of the session doing clip training. My goal was to focus on positioning, to try and get a feel for which holds were better or worse, and which locations were easier or harder. After a series of circuits on the same route, things really came together, with the clips becoming just another part of the sequence.

Working the circuits without resting up between routes helped me get a much better feel for my endurance, giving me the confidence to keep trying moves even when I was starting to feel seriously pumped. I also found that because a couple of the others routes crossed close to the one I was doing and I didn't want to get in the way of people who were actually trying to send new stuff, I spent a lot more time hanging around and shaking out than normal. And I that too helped with my confidence: I found that if I picked a good rest, I could hang around for a fairly long time, shake out, get a lot back, and then motor up the last part of the route.

All in all, a good afternoon session. It would've been perfect but, somewhere between my place and there, I managed to sunburn my shoulders...
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Successful evening of climbing with A, who had done a taster session a while ago but hasn't actually climbed for real. We're pretty close enough to the same circumference, so we managed to save a few quid by putting her in my BD Momentum while I wore my lightweight Petzl harness. Sadly no such luch with shoes — what can I say, I've got small feet!

The evening was good fun, especially trying to do the basics of teaching skills that have now become completely automatic. It's doubly hard to try to teach the knot tying because I'm so used to doing it on automatic pilot, facing the rope, where, teaching, I suddenly had to do it facing the other person — when teaching me to tie a four-in-hand tie knot, my dad was only able to do so standing behind me! I also tried to go through the basics of belaying — just keeping tension on the rope, not actually climbing — how to lock off and how to lower off.

On the climbing front, A did a handful of easy routes on top-rope on the slab — the hardest was a 4 which featured a little bit of an overhang. We then gave some of the auto-belays a go, which was harder because the routes were longer, and they were either vert walls or slight overhangs with bigger overhangs higher up. That said, she still managed to get up a 5 on her second or third try, which isn't too shabby.

We finished up with a little bit of easy bouldering — although some of Gavin's problems seemed hard for their grades — and went home tired, happy, and very much still alive and surprisingly intact...
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Fun afternoon of climbing top rope with E. Not having done anything other than the auto-belay routes for a while, it was nice to get a bit of variety and to try the some of the newer stuff. There was a good mix of difficulties, with some of the new routes set for recent competitions, and some particularly fun climbs featuring the ever-popular EP Yangshou tufas.

Sitting around in the cafe afterwards, we bumped into L who'd come in for his physio session. He's starting the TGO Challenge — a west to east walk across Scotland — in just over a week and he's trying to make sure he's fully fit.

Once he'd left, E started talking about a Duke of Edinburgh event she'd taken part in where she'd swapped packs with her friend because they were struggling to carry their heavy rucksack. When they reached their stop-over point, the reason for the excess weight became clear: the friend fished out metal cutlery and a full set of porcelaine plates to eat off! Their explanation? They'd packed in a hurry and had grabbed whatever the could find in the kitchen on their way out of the door...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
With today marking the end of the working week, I left early to balance my time and catch up on a few boring domestic tasks ahead of the Easter weekend. With that done, I wandered down the climbing centre where I discovered they'd reset one of the autobelay lines.

The new routes were a fun mix. The first was an easy 4, which makes sense because I think they try to ensure every line has something suitable for beginners and people on taster sessions; even the 5 on one of the other lines starts fairly gently, giving people the illusion of progress! The second was a 6a which was much easier than the 6a+ it replaced; the latter having been composed of a number of powerful moves on big slopers. The third was a 6b+ which appeared to feature a good hold on transition from the overhang to the head wall but which, when reached, proved to be awkwardly positioned that it could only really be used as a large pinch.

The final route on the line was a 6c+ and the only one that I failed to on-sighting. The lower section was composed of quite a number of very small screw-ons that could just about be used as crimps and some very similar looking holds that were intended for feet, making the choice of hold critical for success. The first good hold after the opening section was a solid side-pull that moved right to a couple of other side-pulls, requiring a switch from facing right to facing left and a reach up and back for the next right hand. This was followed by a shallow, dirty two finger pocket for the left hand and poor feet, followed by a bump up to another crimp. It was at this point that I popped off, unable to work out quite what to do next.

Unwilling to accept defeat, I climbed up the 4 and worked the moves past the overhang and up on to the headwall. These involved a sort-of side-pull and undercut on the overhang, a pebble on the corner of the oblique start to the headwall, and then a move up composed of another shallow pocket and the tiniest of crimps on the vertical section which gave just enough stability to move up to the final hold. I wasn't able to put the two pieces together — nor, to be honest, am I entirely confident I can do all the moves on the headwall — but I can see how it might be done and the route itself is an awful lot of fun.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
With the wrist injury I picked up in January finally healed, I've resumed climbing in earnest although I'm still avoiding full-on bouldering. I've been alternating stamina training with projecting a technical, fingery 7a that seems to fit my style — although I couldn't read the start until someone else gave me the beta for it — and although I haven't sent it yet, I've managed to get to within a couple of moves of finishing it.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Skimming through the Express and Echo web site in search of news about the most recent fire — a recycling warehouse went up on Wednesday — I stumbled across a nice profile of Mikey Cleverdon, our local hero, and his fight back to fitness following a stroke.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
With the first round of this year's BMC Youth Comp rapidly approaching, the Quay was heaving with setters. The regular crew were working hard to reset the first boulder cave — I think the second is down to be stripped tomorrow. The area around the prow was also closed off, with Ben West and Cailean Harker down from Bristol to set some new lead routes. Should be good.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
As I suspected based on news from E that there had been a power cut in Pinhoe on Saturday and the missed calls I'd got while we were out and about in the afternoon, most of the day was lost to mopping up a few last little things. I also discovered, slightly frustratingly, that the deadline for the paper I'd submitted last week had been extended by a week; hopefully this means that they're short of contributions and hence more likely to accept my proposal.

Went for another climbing session in the evening. E continued projecting the 6c she'd attempted on Saturday, successfully completing the crux and latching the big pinch but without enough in the tank to send the whole thing. After a few tries, we moved on to a fun 6c+ — another one of the routes Cal had set just before Christmas — with a set of opening moves with sketchy feet followed by a big bridge and an interesting top section. Although neither of us completed the route, together we were able to cover all the moves: I struggled with the few moves but crushed the rest; E managed the first moves very elegantly but couldn't reach through the bridge.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Fun afternoon of climbing top rope with E, crushing a bunch of routes set just before Christmas. There was a 6a+ with some moves that E found reachy but which I could power through. There was a nice, balancy 6b on one of the slabs with a tricky start and a couple of fun hand-foot matches at the top. We both flashed a 6b+ route with lots of slopers which felt easier than the 6a+ and much easier than the other 6b we tried.

The afternoon's most difficult problem was a 6c which required a nice combination of power and technique. The route started with a balance on a couple of little foot chips and a shoulder press up to a right hand-foot on the first hand hold — a screw-on on the first volume — with the left hand on a screw-on on the second volume. This was followed by a pull up on a terrible pinch to get a foot on the second volume. The first few times I tried it, I lent out right and got my foot up parallel to the wall, making it almost impossible to generate any leverage.

I switched places with E, who came up with the right beta: putting enough trust in the pinch to lean out from the wall and get a left foot up perpendicular to the wall, making it possible to pistol up into a nice hands-off rest. We swapped over again and I gave the route a go with the new beta for the crux. The next hold was a sketchy little pocket that actually worked better as an sloper followed by a tricky smear to get enough height to latch a huge, open-handed pinch up to the right. Pulling up on that gave enough reach to get to a decent crimp out left and a little balancy move for the final hold. After I'd sent it E had another bash, but lacking my span she struggled to get enough height to latch the pinch; even with a smear she was only able to tap the bottom of it, but it was a solid effort and she was only held back by her lack of reach.

Pausing for tea, we were surprised to find the cafe much busier than normal. Despite seeing the email, I'd failed to remember tonight was the night of the BMC's South West Area Meeting and the place was busy with people waiting for it to start. Once the meeting had opened, things calmed down and we settled on one of the sofa for tea and a natter...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Having not done as much as I'd like this week, I met L&A at the Quay for a post-work climbing session. We took things gently, or at least I did; I managed to talk L into climbing a very reachy route without much in the way of feet. Fortunately he was able to put his height advantage to good use, managing moves where I'd've fallen six inches short had I tried the same thing.

As we were winding down, we walked past one of the bouldering rooms where people where checking out a new group of problems. One of the problems on the overlap wall to the right of the doorway had obviously been set with a combination of a running start and a dyno because every so often the setter would come flying past the entrance, cackling to himself, as he tried to persuade some of the other climbers to commit to the challenge...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Having managed to get the day off, I met up with R and we went climbing. Despite not having climbed a great deal recently, her technique is still extremely elegant and solid; her footwork is very neat and she's very good at getting her weight just right to minimise the amount of effort needed for a particular move. In contrast, we saw group thrashing their way up a route with nothing but brute force, making the difference particularly obvious.

My highlights included a clean send of a burly, massively undergraded route I tried and, in a moment of overconfidence, come off last week. I also got to the top of one a fairly long, rather reachy 6c with a hard early crux and a subtle, balancey section on the head wall. I didn't manage a clean send, but I'm pretty confident I've got all the moves down — there was nothing, bar the last couple of moves where I couldn't keep my left foot on forcing me into a very carefully balanced pistol up on my right leg — that gave much cause for trouble.

We finished up with a lovely pot of loose-leaf tea — Chef Paul very convincingly up-sold us on it over two regular teas — a very generous slice of cappuccino battenberg cake, and a raspberry cheesecake brownie which was every bit as good as it sounds.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Fun morning of climbing with D&P at the Quay. P had to repeat his sign-off tests because they'd lost his paperwork &mdsah; probably because, when he renewed last week, they had to set up a new account because whoever had entered his initial credentials had misspelt his name! But once we were over that glitch, we stormed the auto-belays as a warm-up and climbed some top-rope routes to finish.

I climbed a pair of fun new routes, graded 6a+ and 6b+ respective. The 6b+ was probably graded a bit soft, with a few fingery crimps and technical bits but nothing that prevent me from on-sighting it. The 6a+, on the other hand, was extremely difficult indeed with a complete absence of feet in several places. The second move involved a massive reach — P couldn't span it and he's a good deal taller than me — which I was only able to static by working a hand up a bad arete feature and cranking up enough with one foot to get a couple of fingers on the next hold before throwing for a hand match. Then, once past that, I got to the penultimate move, also very short of feet, which I eventually managed to complete with a cunning heel/toe hook, a reach back for the next hand, and a campus for the finish.

Makes me wonder if the grades might not be the wrong way round: I could totally see the easier route as being a hard 6a+ an the harder route being a challenging 6b+, but I'm sure their current ratings aren't correct. Sadly, they hadn't been added to the setter's whiteboard, so we couldn't re-rate them.

Afterwards, I accepted the offer of light lunch after discovering that they'd got a loaf of sourdough bread from the Magdalene Road Bakery. It was utterly fantastic: firm, chewy, and a completely different species to the terrible supermarket stuff. A real treat.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Despite feeling tired after my Sunday morning training run, I dragged myself down to the climbing centre for what was supposed to be a short session. I did a series of warm-up routes with the idea of tackling the one new auto route I haven't finished — it features a hard crux up on to the headwall &mdsah; and going home. But just as I was finishing my easy sequence, Iz arrived and suggested some lead climbing.

I did an easy route and took a few practice falls to try and get my head into the right place. I started gently, just dropping back on the bolt, before building up to some proper falls taken from above the clip. As ever with practice falls, the hardest part is convincing yourself up to let go; because the actual fall, once you bite the bullet and take it, is completely safe and actually rather fun.

With my confidence improved, I climbed one of the longer and more overhung routes up the prow. Stupidly, towards the top where it went into a roof section, I psyched myself by convincing myself that I was getting a cramp, that I was running out of shoulder strength, and that I wouldn't be able to make the last clip under the roof. Fortunately, Izzy wasn't willing to let me give up and pointed out that I was three moves away from the anchor and the last few holds were all giant jugs. And with that encouragement, I pulled back on and made the last moves with ease. Back down on the ground, I realised how absurd I'd been: my shoulder was fine, my forearms were barely warmed up, and I'd made the clips as smoothly as could be — proving that the problem was entirely in my head.

Izzy powered up a 6c next to the route I'd climbed and had a similar moment just before the top where she convinced herself that the last clip before the anchor was going to be hard. After dropping back and regrouping for a minute, she realised that the penultimate hold was extremely positive and just went for it. So good was the hold that she didn't bother going for the final jug but clipped straight from the big ridge.

At this point, we handed the borrowed rope back and went to work some of the slabs, including something graded 6c+/7a. The route, which featured some very hard, very carefully balanced moves up to slopers took a while to get right but when we found a beta that worked, we both stormed it. I'm not quite sure how to count the route, but I'm going to bag it as a 7a — goodness knows, I don't have many of them under my belt, so I need every last one! — although I'm pretty sure it wasn't that hard given that I managed to send it.

We finished the session with a spot of bouldering to cool down. Izzy, who is officially unstoppable, mopped up the easy problems, made a serious attempt at a 6C+ sloper problem on the roof, and finished by campusing a whole series of moves above the overhang. I did some of the easy boulders and finished with three circuits of the ten degree board. The last sequence was a real struggle, but I made it to the last hold without coming off which is all that matters...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Early to the Quay to avoid the rush, where I discovered a new innovation: some giant beanbags in the middle of the floor. Definitely better than setting on the floor!

After a few circuits of easy boulder problems to warm-up, I hopped on the auto-belays and went for milage. After doing the routes in sequence, I switched to focus on my leading technique. Having watched one of Neil Gresham's masterclass films for a bit of inspiration, I think I've discovered the cause of my less-than-stellar forehand clipping technique.

Instead of allowing the rope to run over the tips of my fingers, I've been positioning it too far back in my hand, making it harder to snag the rope with the carabina. I've also noticed that I don't follow through correctly — more of a problem with a rope off-cut, where you don't have the weight of the rest of the rope working for you — because I've got a poor grip on the rope and can't complete the move to ensure it pops through the gate without risking putting my finger through as well.

With a bit of refinement, I found something that worked for me and spent the afternoon doing as many routes as possible, as many times as possible, clipping all the quickdraws on the way up. Not only has it improved my technique, but it's boosted my confident by reassuring me that, even when I'm really tired, I've almost always got enough left in the tank to clip the rope, even when I have to hang off a nasty sloper to do so...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Another evening of climbing, this time leading from the sharp end of the rope. Although I wasn't spectacularly brave — I wimped out on-sighting a 6a+ — I happily crushed everything easier and stormed up a few routes I'd already top-roped. Next time, hopefully when it's not quite so busy, I'll take a few practice falls early on in the session to get my mind in to the right space to push the grades a bit harder...

ETA: after climbing, L persuaded me to warm down with pull-ups in the training room. Rather to my surprise I smashed my PB, managing a solid 12 consecutive pull-ups — my previous attempts have either not involved dropping all the way back down or putting my feet on the ground between reps. Looks like my current focus on strength and stamina might be starting to pay off.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
An evening of top rope with M, which we managed despite the crush caused by all the students. I didn't really excel at anything — I think I hadn't fully recovered from yesterday's bouldering — but I tried some fun things, including a couple of on-sights of some tricky slabs — the crux on one of them involved getting a hand-heel match and pistoling up on one leg — a burly move, but it got things done.

A good time was had by all and hopefully, once half-term is out of the way and M's tutoring has settled down a bit, we'll be able to climb a bit more frequently.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
The focus on strength and stamina training over the last couple of weeks really came into its own today when I surprised myself by flashing almost all the new boulders below 7A.

I made hard work a 6A after mis-reading the instructions: I started with matched hands on a sloper, a heel hook in, cranked hard on it to go up for a pinch, and only then went for the positive side-pull which was one of the intended starting holds. Not that it mattered. I flashed the problem and it provided with two solid lessons: that I can get an awful lot of power behind a heel hook; and that I ought to check the starting instructions before pulling on to anything!

After a couple of hours, I still had enough left in the tank to finish with 10-12 routes on the auto-belays, down-climbing the easier stuff to get a bit of training in. I even found time to work on my current project, a tricky series of hard slopers, which, to my delight, had been upgraded from 6c to 7a...


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