Monday, 19 January 2015

The start of a year climbing!

I'm starting this blog a month into our holiday. I had an opportunity given to me that I couldn't refuse, as a climber, the chance for a year off from work is something that should never be turned down. Fortunately for me, my Girlfriend Jo had long since decided to quit her job as an optician, that's correct, she's also a climber.

Keeping our Xmas tree alive in the Spanish sun
The idea has been brewing since we first met, but the opportunity had not come around. I would like to say how hard it has been to get here, that we have sweated and toiled over every detail, panicked about work and nearly never made it... but the reality is, it was fun. We painted the van, minimised our lives to a couple of bags of clothes and some climbing gear, then set off. If you find yourself in a position where you can leave to climb for a year or more, then come back and return to normal life fairly easily, then surely it's a no-brainer, it was for us at least.

Christmas in the van!
You don't need a lot of money, but you do need to be careful with what you have. We eat things which are in season and cheap, stay only in free parking, wash with a solar shower and buy minimal luxuries. Chocolate must be less than a Euro, and wine no more than 1.20, that's always a fun gamble! We took all the underwear we could fit, now we only need to wash our clothes every month or so. The van has everything we need to live, it is our kitchen, bedroom and living room, for everything else, we use nature and trowel. By no means is this life a rough one, it's as good as home, better in fact, because everywhere you park, you can also climb.

Playing accordion by Gandia main crag with our friend Helmar
Jo starting up Perpetum Mobile 7c @ Gandia Bovedon
We are now pit stopped in Gandia, on the South Eastern coast of Spain, The gem of this area is a cave called El Bovedon, it's routes range from 7b-8c. The crag is steep enough to have in-situ quick-draws hanging down on nearly every route. The steepness also cramps your neck into a crooked lean after every belay. The routes seem tough for the grade too, you waltz upside down to nearly reach the anchors and some success, only to have a move so hard it makes your forehead vein pulse and stops your breath before you can clip the chains and lower back with your route in hand.

Helmar looking strong on another Bovedon hard start
The grading in Spain falls mainly, everywhere... Some places you will fly up routes, some areas you won't make it off the floor without swearing at least once (Margalef springs to mind). El Bovendon is the latter, We have not made it to the top of one route without a good purple knee, smashed elbow or blood, from somewhere you only discover when you touch the floor and have time to look. “oh it was my index finger... and my shin... that explains the wet feeling around my ankle..” The rock is featured and brilliantly hard. Small caves inside the roof allow you to knee bar, shoulder jam, and get your bearings before you plunge upside down again and carry on your fight to the top.

Knee-bar for recovery on Miedos Cultura - 8a @ L'Ocaive - Costa Blanca

Jo locking off the crux of a powerful Bovedon 7b+
Our first day here had us working together on a steep 7c "Perpetum Mobile" on the outer walls of the cave. The route led its way up a giant overhanging flake, big enough to lie on and catch your breath. The top had a move so wide your face scrapped against the wall as you lunged for the hold, the final boulder problem crux that came when you were just tired enough to fall. I managed the route fourth try, with a couple of foot slips at the top that made it even more exciting. Jo had most of her hand ripped off by the move, but once her hand is healed we will go back for more! My skin held for a while, I tried an 8a+ with a boulder problem crux off of a small, vicious pocket. I managed the move on my first try working the route, but I knew it was only because my skin had been wedged deeply into that little sharp hole. On my second go my finger slipped out, leaving most of my hand with it. That was the end of that day for both of us, in pain, but wanting a bit more from Bovedon.

Taking a rest on Perpetum Mobile - 7c @ Bovedon Gandia

The routes may be mean, but the bolting here is friendly, or rather, good. On some routes you go a distance, but that's only because nature hasn't yet worn a hold deep enough for you to hold on comfortably and clip your rope, so the equipper didn't put a bolt there. El Bovedon has been put together just right. The shade appears early in the day so the routes are cool enough to climb on for many hours after. If you use the Rockfax guide then I would recommend adding some routes from this update below many routes are missed out, as is admitted by Rockfax, but this fills in the gaps. The walk in is also closer to 15mins than 5, but it's on an easy uphill path.

(Image curtesy of -
15.- SN 8 (6b), 16.- SN 9 (7a),17.- SN 10 (?), 18.- Lobos (8a), 19.- Ave Roma (7b), 20.- Ave Eva (7b), 21.- Depil man (7a+), 22.- Trasnochando (8b), 23.- Ferrer y sus cobardes (7b), 24.- Perpetuando (R1 7a, R2 8a), 25.- Perpetum mobile (7c), 26.- Chikara (8b+), 27.- Larga, dura y caliente (8a+), 28.- Felicidad (8a+), 29.-Arcadia (7c), 30.- Carnicero de Castelnovo (8a+), 31.- Abracadabra kaka de kabra (7c+), 32.- Armando sigue desplomando (8a+), 33.- Malsoñando (8c), 34.- La Negra (9a), 35.- Mestizaje (8c+), 36.- SN 11 (?), 37.- Troglobio (8b), 38.- Benito Camela (7b), 39.- Matrix (?), 40.- La antorcha humana (7a+), 41.- Chocho pocho (7a), 42.- Tuli punk (7b+), 43.- Rica chona (6c+), 44.- La Bovedonada (6b+), 45.- Quin Tomás (6b), 46.- Hernia Fiscal (7a+), 47.- Tambors Llunyans (7a), 48.- Escalada lechunga (6a+), 49.- Quinto pino (6a+), 50.- La de Javi (7c), 51.- SN 12 (6b), 52.- SN 13 (6b), 53.-SN 14 (4)

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Training Plan

Ok so this is an insight into what I currently do to try and improve my grade. I will add over the following days some explanations behind some of the exercises and some of the principles I am using. I hope this helps anyone who is looking into training. It is essentially a condensed resource for every one to use.

Please let me know your thoughts or questions on anything I talk about, I want to better myself as a climber, any help I can get I appreciate. In turn any help I can give is always given for free.

'Training Processes -

1 .Strength/Power 3 Weeks 3. Stamina 1 week
2. Power/Endurance 2 Weeks 4. Rest 1 Week

Throughout this diary I will provide Tappa top tips, the GOLDEN RULES - “Try hard, it just might make you better”

Section 1 - Strength/Power
  1. the quality or state of being physically strong.
  2. the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.

“There is only one thing better than power… More power” - The late and great Wolfgang Gullich

You are partaking in this section to get stronger and more powerful, not fitter. If at any point you cross into the realms of fitness then stop, rest and think about what you have done.

- Weekly cycle 3 days training/climbing and no more (easy trad days don’t count, they never count ;)

Each day the focus must be totally upon warming up properly, stretching properly and ensuring you have enough rest between what you do. Ideally split the days training with a long gap in between to allow recovery throughout the day. If at any point you are fatigued then you have crossed into the realm of endurance/stamina… it is pointless to do this during this phase of training. If at any point you think one of your body parts might explode from exertion then this is not to be mistaken with fatigue, this is a good sign you are trying hard enough.

Exercises should be regularly tweaked, it is important that every time you are able to up the intensity you do so, the opportunity must be snatched as quickly as possible so as not to waste the potential gains coming to you sooner. Some slap in the face obvious tweaking - add weight, use smaller holds, make moves bigger. Importantly Do not increase time hanging on holds, 3-5 seconds max.

You can eat more (just a little bit more, hmmm meat and chocolate milkshakes) during this stage - as long as you are not working on a project or going on a trip. If you are feeling a bit of a fatty then it will only make your job harder…. Don’t worry weight loss is coming in the other section.


Weakness is a key focus of all training, only climbing outside will let you understand what your weakness really is i.e. crimps, steep terrain, heel hook tension, remembering prolonged sequences. Include your weakness in all elements of your training and try to focus on it for a whole 6 week cycle, unless it improves very quickly, if that is the case then go and find another one.

Section 1 - Strength/Power - What you can do

  • Bouldering - Maximum Intensity - no more than 5 problems worked with good rests
  • Campus board - Work on using the worst holds and making the moves harder - no more than 5 moves!
  • Fingerboarding - Repeaters are too long in standard form - Maximum 5 seconds on and 55 seconds off
  • Complex train! To be brought in around the start of the session and quickly removed again
  • 3 second hangs - Big Weights might be needed
  • Systems board - make some problems at your limit, go on…
  • Weighted pull ups - no more than 3 :)
  • 1 arm lock offs/2 arm lock offs - no more than 3 seconds :)
  • Sport climb - but work the impossible! Punt about on moves far too hard for you, hang around and make your partner angry
  • Weakness bashing - Destroy your arms with some weights and the try and do some powerful move straight away after. i.e bicep curls before a set of weighted pull ups
  • Front Levers
  • Ground exercises - Push ups/sit ups - work a variety but spend most time on the more strenuous variations i.e. medicine ball use, increasing the angle of the sit - up, weights vest
  • Heavy Weights - Or at least reasonably heavy, we don’t want to look like Arnie, but we do not want long muscles either. Do a small set to keep the antagonist muscles strong.
  • Running should be kept to a minimum - but don’t stop it completely! Try to run on the evening before a rest day, then you have more time to recover.

Section 2 - Power/Endurance

  1. the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way
  2. the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.

“Come on arms, do your stuff” - Ron Fawcett on the first ascent of ‘Lord of the flies E6 6a’


This is a core part of you climbing, some boulder problems are long, many routes have sustained cruxes, give it a good go and spend 2 weeks on this.

Power endurance is harder to define within training, in the case of my training I use stamina almost as active rest, it is purely for fitness and therefore will be high volume, fast pace, no rest, steep and have big friendly holds. Power endurance however is the ability to do very intense sequences over and over again. Resting on jugs goes out the window and instead bad rest must be used. You do not need to keep on going forever, so in between climbs lots of rest is necessary. Think of a day at Malham Catwalk, there is no way you would keep on attacking your redpoint without rest in-between, that would be ludicrous. So relax and have a cake instead in between goes.

Section 2 - Power/Endurance - What you can do

  • Sport climb - High difficulty of problems, 1-3 routes requiring a lot of redpointing
  • Bouldering 4x4’s - Find a problem just beneath your maximum (only just)
  • Sport climb 3x3’s - choose the high intensity redpoint and chuck your self at it
  • Circuit board - climb straight through the jugs to find the worst holds and have a lovely rest.
  • Campus laddering - Small rungs where possible and try to recover hanging on the big ones
  • Campus longer sequences of big moves - up and down
  • Complex training - always a winner
  • Systems board - create a stopping point in your problem and recover there
  • Repeaters! Standard. If you feel like a beast then hang on positive holds in between a go to recover
  • Frenchies - if you make 3 times through then stick some weight on
  • 1 arm lock off - no weight and go straight to 3 pull ups, now lock off again without getting off
  • interval pull ups on edges with weight - aim for 5 pull ups and a 5 second rest
  • Chris Webb Parsons crimp locks
  • Power pull ups and rest by shaking on the bar
  • Tabata Protocol - only twice a week!
  • Groundwork - Sit-ups and push-ups - try out some very fast moving variations
  • Reasonable weights - Again fast variations into stress positions - power is fast twitch
  • Running - Do a bit of interval running

Section 3 - Stamina

GOLDEN RULE - Do not go light on carbs… Reduced rest = More energy needed!

  1. the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort.

This section is purely related to your fitness, do not confuse this with power/endurance, the key difference being this is your ability to continue no matter what. Power/Endurance has a failing point and long rests in between are required to reduce the chance of that point being breached. Stamina has no failing point, it continues past it, if the terrain has to get slightly easier to allow that to happen then that is not a problem, as long as you continue.

As fitness is the key consideration understand that this is not as important as power, so rejoice as you only have 1 week of this to do.

Running can be increased during this section, even if it is at the detriment to your climbing ability. If you do not feel physically sick, then you should keep on trying. This section gives you a chance to burn off excess calories and improve your ability to recover on long terrain or generous bouldering days.

Excess carbohydrates may be required to help you along, if you are dumping carbs then make sure you eat a hell of a lot of broccoli ;)

Section 3 - Stamina - What you can do

  • Long days out bouldering or sport climbing.
  • Sport and boulder - Reduce the intensity by around a grade earlier in your session than usual, but do not rest in between your attempts
  • Sport climbing - Lead up, recover, unclip as you climb down
  • Fingerboard - Moving hangs, feet on a chair far away to create an overhanging sensation, find some holds and hold for as long as you can, return to the jugs to rest, try and beat the clock… try hard
  • Campus laddering, biggest rungs and ladder until your heart is content
  • Circuit board - rest on jugs for stamina
  • Tabata Protocol on good holds, see how long you can go
  • Interval pull ups - extra 10 mins
  • Pull up routine - pull up narrow, pop up and catch to normal, pull up and pop up and catch to wide, pull up and pop and catch to one arm lock off, only beasts can lower and do the one armer on each arm, repeat without dropping off
  • Work out you maximums - How many pull ups? How many seconds can you hang that? How many v? boulders you know already can you do in a row before you drop one? How many sit-ups and push-ups? How far can you run if you put your mind to it? How much broccoli can you eat?
  • Circuit training - use light weights and get sweaty

GOLDEN RULE - Stamina means do something every day of the week!

Section 4 - Rest

“If there was one thing I would go back and change, I would have taken more rest days” - Jerry Moffat, looking back on a career riddled with shoulder and elbow injuries… that resulted in major surgery.

Rest is important, but how long? The body will start to deteriorate developed muscle after around 2 weeks of inactivity… but the muscle memory still remains along with the neuromuscular links. Many climbers see it fitting to take a month off a year, this is often to recuperate their minds, rather than their bodys. As this method has worked so well for so many I do not see it as a bad idea, but I struggle to take a week off... so a week will do just fine!

1 week of rest after 6 weeks of climbing, when you read it like that it sounds like a good plan, but I know as well many that even a week can feel like a decade, here’s how I shorten the time.

Light activity every day is perfectly fine, no more than 30mins at a slightly elevated pulse, the rest of the day should be very relaxed. Even climbing is acceptable as long as you can force yourself to climb well beneath your limit (Easy trad anyone?) The body recovers better in a state of “active rest”. The problem is just how active you should be. I think listening to your body is often the best way, so you should not raise a sweat or let out a grunt. If you climb it should be silent and effortless, running slow and easy, push ups few, weights don’t even bother... the only change to theme is Yoga and stretching a plenty, that’s just fine to do as much as you want.

GOLDEN RULE - Do not stretch a cold muscle for more than 10 seconds! If creates spongy tissues

The requirement for a list of activities is pointless for this section, go out and have easy fun doing whatever the hell you like. Continue to eat well and increase your protein intake for muscle repair again, reduce the carbs and you’ll keep trim for the next stage of power, or that project you will now be able to do.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Costa Blanca 2013-2014

I have left this blog unedited for nearly a year now! It's about time I do some work and keep people updated on what's been going on in climbing for me. As I have left this so long I will have to drip feed my stories, so I'll start with where I am now and touch upon a few points of the year.
I am in the Costa Blanca this year, living in a town called Finestrat. If you have not visited the Blanca yet then I will recommend you to stop hesitating and get there! The climate throughout winter is close to perfection for sport climbing, hot days with sunny and shady options, crags with all sorts of styles of climbing and a climbing lodge called the Orange House situated right in the middle of it. The Orange House

So this year I set myself the aim of climbing another 8b. In El Chorro last year I managed "Brandy - 8b", a
40+ overhanging wall of limestone, it was an endurance pitch with the hardest move saved for near the top.
In my effort to climb it I made the decision to skip the last two quickdraws and go full gas to the chains. I nearly dropped the final hold, I dug in and stabbed my fingers for it, I was so gripped that the prospect of the big fall was only tickling my thoughts. I managed to latch it and only then did the reality of it take hold as I desperately pulled up rope to clip the chains. I had reached a new pinnacle in my climbing my first proper 8b, the next test was whether I could repeat it in the UK.

That plan did not work out so well. I struggled my way up a series of 8a's but even many of those stopped me. Routes need to be worked on for long periods, unfortunately it is hard to find partners who want to visit the same route over and over. I instead focused on a large variety of climbing styles to try and broaden myself as an all rounder.

I have put myself through a new training program to improve my performance. To anyone struggling with their grade I would recommend looking into this. I wrote for myself a 6 week program that consists of 3 weeks power, 2 weeks endurance and 1 week rest. If you have only been climbing a few years then I would advise that you add to the start of this program 4 weeks of skills training. Skills training should, as obvious as it sounds, be focused on climbing. It is important that you recognise what discipline of climbing you wish to improve in and what your weakness is within that area. If it is Sport or Trad and you are struggling with fears of falling into the abyss then it does not matter how strong you are, you will always hold your breath, over grip and make the chance of that fall ever more likely. Focus on the skills you need for your discipline and work on them.

here's a short list of ideas-

Breath control = controlled steady breathing
Fear above a bolt or gear = safe practised falls
Proper gear selection = trad climb! Or practice on the base of the crag
Memorising sequeneces = visualise, write them down, say them out loud, break down the route into sections
Keep your feet on = overhanging walls with bad feet, you do not need to even climbing between holds, just move your feet and press

With the other sections of training consider that strength and power should be treated like a weight lifter,
you should only be able to just do the move, or to only hold on for 3-5 seconds. If you can hold on for more
then you are not properly accessing strength from within your muscles, so your improvement will be slow.
With endurance it is quite the opposite, the moves should be easier, but you should hold on until you can't
hold on any more. At this point find a better hold to rest and recover on before you start increasing the difficulty again.

I will expand on these ideas in future blogs, however if you want to research yourself I would advise buying "Eric Horsts - Training for Climbing". This book is a perfect tool for assessing and improving all areas of your

So on to Spain - here is the list so far

Ergometria - 8a
Mediterrano - 8a
Desert Storm - 8a
Supersensasion De Pinca - 8a
Tirade - 7c+
Final destination - 7c
The path of excess power - 7c
Hola De Millau - 7c
Pan y Circo - 7c
Crux of Kimni - 8a+/8b

On the crux of - Final Destination

Friday, 14 December 2012

Some things you just don't see in climbing DVD's

I awoke yesterday morning to the sounds of nature. What could be better than the Spanish sun slowly warming the earth and illuminating the world as it burns off the last of the mist to reveal the golden limestone crags that await us. This is truly wonderful. Unfortunately today it was preceded by a herd of goats passing by, each one with a bell attached to their neck. Of course with goats comes a farmer, who to compete with the bells has developed a baritone that Luciano would have been proud off... and with farmers come dogs. Possibly three by my guess, two were big and loud and one was small... with a piercing bark. All this commotion stirred up the rest of the wildlife. A bird thought he would join the chorus. "AIEEE AIEEE!!!" Put these things all together and you have a wonderfully effective alarm clock.
Viejo Amigo 7a+ - the start to the route
'Via Des Rudolf 8a' and also the warm up
I met with Silvia Fitzpatrick later on. For those who haven't heard off her please check her webpage,  her climbing credentials are extensive Silvia always makes me smile, she has an attitude to life and climbing that is so refreshing. Her work ethic is incredible but her passion for routes is just as relentless. After feeling like she had worked too much she wanted to join me for a day of hard climbing to really wear herself out. I thought I knew the route for her.

Silvia demonstrating her
skill, ability and all the rest
The previous year in Spain I managed to push my grade considerably. In 3 months I went from 6c+ to 8a+, a jump in grades I didn't think would be possible to achieve. One of my top climbs was 'los senoras des asfis - 8a'. It is located in a cave so overhanging the rain never touches the earth beneath
it.  I had managed to work the route fairly quickly and had noticed that a line of bolts headed out left from the start. This route was 'Via des rudolf 8a' and I knew it would be a good climb for Silvia. Little did I realise it would take Silvia and me about 3 hours just to get the route ready. When you are dealing with steep unknown territory, it takes a huge amount of effort just to clip the route up, let alone climb it. On my first attempt I pulled a huge hold off the start. I screamed 'BELOW!' but of course this is futile. Everyone was standing beneath me. The rock dashed the floor narrowly avoiding their heads. My belayer and good friend Patrick Pearce was surprisingly unshaken by the experience. Shaken up and more than a little tentative, I continued my ascent, only to fall.
Tackling the unrelentingly steep Via Des Rudolf
Silvia with her superior technique, skill, ability (the list goes on) managed to fight up her way up and clip in the rest of our equipment. She used a piece of equipment called a clip stick. It is a long pole you can reach up to clip in the next clips a.k.a quickdraws to you. As the light was failing the clipstick decided to also. Every time she reached up, the quickdraw would fall of the stick and the sun would sink further. Eventually she managed to make the top and shouted for me to "take the rope tight!", at this point her three dogs thought it would be great fun to jump on top of me... thus making lowering her difficult and Silvia slightly angry! It was then my turn to ascend. Climbing at night on a route near the peak of my ability was far from easy, that's an understatement. We finished the day unsuccessful on the climb but happy that there is always tomorrow, falling rocks don't ruin everything.

A satisfying finish, otherwise known as "Thank god that's over"
On the walk home we got deep into discussion about how best to train a dog. During this Silvia got so involved she did not notice the large rock beneath her feet, one moment she was next to me standing, the next 4ft in front, face first on the floor. She got up and we laughed so hard I thought I was going to suffocate. I got back to the Olive Branch feeling beaten, my spirits were down and my lack of sleep had taken its toll. After all we had been through you could think we would be put down, but I felt strangely warmed by them. I told the stories of my 'interesting' day to the other climbers over dinner. Instead of reliving the despair I had at the time, we laughed. These moments are part of the fun, its the extra 'challenges' that all climbing DVD's should include. The cock up's and mishaps, running to a bush to pee before a route, forgetting your water and surviving in 30c degree heat with only salted nuts, these are part of climbing. It is the price we pay for having fun, living free and enjoying the sounds of nature more than just once in a while.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Spain so far

'Dream of white horses' a welsh classic
Climbing in the UK is very different from climbing here. The UK has its climbing steeped in tradition. Nearly every route you step upon has been climbed back in 1962 by a Brit with a level of fortitude, confidence and pure gristle that allowed them to reach the top no matter what the heavens would throw at them. They would don their rough woolen jumpers and attach a set of nuts (as in nuts and bolts) tied on rope to their harness. Then add to these a set of steel carabineers, a hemp rope tied around the waist thirty times and a set of hob nail boots. Then these men would climb up routes even now we struggle to comprehend. There is not much tougher in this world than raw iron or a climber of that era. I am friends with men like this, they still do it well today.

Chris Roberts and me on the dream belay
- maybe not showing enough fortitude
Me on the crux pitch of dream
Times have changed but climbing remains the same... only harder and safer. I have come to Spain with a selection of the most high-tech equipment you have ever seen. My harness is super-light weight, the manufacturers even went to the extent of removing some buckles. My rope is dynamic, it stretches, and is as thin as floss compared to the ropes of those who founded the sport. My shoes are made of what seems to be the stickiest rubber ever invented, able to stand on the smallest of edges. Despite all this, climbing stills holds difficulties to challenge us all. Although the equipment is now up to date, the climbing has come a long way also.

Showing my new found resilience on
Memoirs of a lunatic - e5 6b'
another route done far before it should have been
Spain has an ethic of bolting all their climbs, they drill incredibly strong bolts into the wall for you to clip to. Although they are safe climbs it is worth me mentioning that those bolting the routes are not the richest people in Spain, the bolts can become very spaced. Despite this the challenge is now in difficulty... who can bolt the hardest route. My love of climbing has changed over the years, it is no longer just a passion of the open air, but also a true love of the movement required to reach the top. The finite difference between reaching the next hold, or not.

So I have set myself my first project of the season: 'Mama Endika - 8a+'. It is a challenging 35 metre blank face, leaning barley on the steep side of off-vertical. There is just enough holds to make it climbable. The moves are a constant barrage of micro edges, big pulls and pin point footholds. I am working it with a close friend who has a life most would only dream of, Tom Ireson. More about him and our progress later. These routes may be safe, they might also be a step up in difficulty for gristled 60's climber, but I still know I have to finish it before one of those old boys decides to have a go.