Monday, 30 June 2008


Sending Fagin

That rare and elusive moment finally came to me last Saturday. After three different sessions spread out over two months my V5/6 project finally went.

So what was different this time, well a lot actually. I had been in North Wales for a week fitting in easy classics between rain storms and even more menacing clouds of midges. I felt that I built up a decent base over this period. My climbing was limited much more than I would have liked, but actually it was probably a good thing as I most likely would have worn myself out.

I put off trying my project until it was nearly time to leave. I don’t think that I would have coped with another failure well and I wasn’t convinced in my mind at this point that it would go, yet I still felt that I ought to be able to do it. It became something of a chore, something to be worried about, rather than enjoyed. Also running up to my trip I was in a rather pathetic state. I had the flu or something and it seemed to take weeks to get over; weeks that I could have spent training.

The time gap between my last two sessions really seemed to benefit me. I actually forgot my old sequence and devised a much better one. The first time I tried it on Saturday, I knew that it was going to happen that day. The holds actually felt less painful and I was more in control of the crux section.

The problem consists of a series of pockets up a steep prow / cave thing. The pockets are decent enough, but I was struggling to reach across with my left to get the next pocket that I have in the picture above. Gaining this pocket with my left hand was the crux for me.

I found a less powerful beginning sequence and I was also able to better steady myself through the crux. This combined with the discovery of an intermediate minor sidepull led to my success.

And it felt great. Finally, I had a modicum of strength back and my shoulder injury hardly gave any complaint over the entire week.

Of course me being me, the happiness was quite fleeting and I was soon left with thoughts like ‘why couldn’t I do this last time’ and ‘I’m nowhere near as strong as I need to be’, etc.

Oh well… it has to be a step in the right direction. Even I can’t argue with that one.

Are there that many bored people out there?

While I was away my counter clicked over 2,000 hits - ya!

Thanks for visiting. I hope that I was able to at least provide you with a distraction for a bit. Anyway, if I can improve things or make it more interesting let me know... I'm already picking up the vibe that you want less whinging :-)

Friday, 20 June 2008

The Last Physio

Nearly 4 months to the day, I had what was hopefully my last physio appointment.

Besides being significantly poorer, weaker and less fit where has this left me – with stronger joints, or so I hope.

So the theory on my injury goes as follows… I’m apparently hyper flexible in most of my joints. This means that I have a greater range of movement than the average person (whoever they are). Of course this is an advantage for me in regards to climbing, especially since I am short and have to contort myself into all sorts of shapes. However as with most good things, there is a negative side and that stems from the fact that my shoulder joints are unstable. I am more prone to injury when hyper-extended.

I’m not too sure if my condition is hereditary or not, but my grandfather had similar shoulder problems. I also didn’t help matters by doing a stint in gymnastics when I was younger. According to my physio they select people who are very flexible naturally, but through training they become exaggeratedly so to the point where it can cause problems.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome normally takes only a few weeks to correct itself. It’s been 4 months for me and I still have a bit of work to do. I’ve had much more pain than normal as well. No one is sure why this has been the case. Because of this I always had a fear lurking in the back of my mind that I might have a rotator cuff or SLAP tear. While I still have pain this of course remains a possibility, however I am continuing to improve with the physio treatment and I am now at the point where even after climbing for some time I have minimal pain.

The Boring Exercises

My goal was to strengthen my shoulder joints and thereby making them more stable through various physio exercises. The exercises themselves also serve as a sort of engram to remind my shoulder how to move in a correct manner. They started as ultra-tedious, boring as reading a British climbing magazine, chore and progressed to where I am using real sized weights and am gaining lower traps strength as well as rotator cuff stability. As long as I climb, I am going to have to keep up with these exercises.

Certain movements still cause pain and I'm not 100% yet, but hopefully I will be soon. I don’t think that I am going to take up campusing any time soon, well I might give it a few weeks at least, but even more scary is the fact that I am running out of excuses for being cr@p – ugh!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Quick Grit

I had a whirlwind tour of the Peak last weekend. I know that June isn’t exactly prime grit bouldering season, but I have a partner with a sprained ankle and short walk-ins were essential, so grit it was.

I spent a couple of hours at Burbage North on Saturday. After falling off all of the obligatory easy warm-ups (I just don’t get grit!) I ventured onto the classic Banana Finger. I thought it was fun, but maybe not as good as the hype might suggest. Regardless, it was on my tick list, so it was nice to be able to cross one off for a change. I would have given the Direct Start a go, but the knee bar sounds horrendous.

Banana Finger was on my list for one reason only; it’s classic status. Often, I seem to be drawn to the most obscure problems. This is mainly due to two factors. First, I don’t like crowded areas. Bouldering with a group of friends is great fun, but being amongst a large group of noisy randoms isn’t. I live in a city and part of the reason that I go climbing is to get away from crowded, stressful environs. Another negative aspect that I have noticed about classic problems is that they tend to be more reachy. Of course this isn’t always the case, but I have noticed it a few times. Obscure problems tend to suit me better. I guess I’m just odd ;-)

Seeking out the path less trodden isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just however leaves me wondering if these lesser know problems are actually the grade they claim to be. By doing a few more established problems, I hope to calibrate my grading ability accordingly.

Sunday was spent wandering around the Plantation mostly sliding off greasy rock. I did however manage to squeeze in this fun V4 arête on the Pebble before the rain and midges arrived.

Monday, 9 June 2008


Bonehill Tor, Dartmoor

Due to a rubbish forecast for most of the Northerly parts of the UK, we decided to escape to sunny Devon last weekend.

My expectations weren't that high. I have been putting of going to Dartmoor for ages for one reason or another. Primary amongst these was the fact that I am not the biggest fan of gritstone and from what I had seen and read the flavour of granite on Dartmoor had more than a passing resemblance to this. What I didn't account for was the lovely feldspar crystal which at times made for the perfect crimping material. The downside was of course the razor sharp nature of the xenoliths which caused our finger tips to ooze plasma in a matter of minutes.

First up was Bonehill. After a strenuous walk-in, consisting of essentially tumbling out of the car (!), and a few warm problems I immediately made a beeline for The Rippled Wall (V4 UK 6b). After seeing pictures of it on UKC I was inspired. From what I read the crux is the first move, but one quick glance and I knew that the hard part for me would be at the top. Although it’s probably a bit short to be considered a highball at about 7 or 8 meters, it is a lot higher than most problems I consider climbing. I have a rule about highballs and I usually only do ones that are well within my capability or have the crux low down.

Sure enough I flashed the bottom moves and made my way to the top but chickened out at the penultimate move. It was a rather long reach for me to a not so great sloping break. I tried the move a bunch of times and kept falling off from higher and higher as I committed more and more to the top crux. In the end I gave up as I was becoming increasingly tired and loosing form (not to mention skin). I lost out on the tick but repeatedly falling off the top of that boulder was an interesting experience and definitely gave me something to think about. I will certainly be back as I have more than a few ideas for the finishing moves.

I was still feeling under the weather from my cold / flu / whatever so Sunday was just a chill out day spent mostly wandering around neighbouring Honeybag Tor ticking a few problems here and there. It was a really nice chilled out place and I felt that I gained a slightly better understanding of how to climb on granite, though not as good as I would have like. Yes, there are slopers, but you can usually sink your hands into some crystals for friction, but this is of course at the cost of several layers of skin. My only real gripe was that the problems felt a bit samey after a while. They mostly consisted of moving from one slopey break to another finished off by mantling onto a rounded top. I found myself thinking, haven’t I done this move ten times before?

So what did I get out of the weekend - mostly a lot of frustration over The Rippled Wall. Argh. I am so sick of being weak and not sending problems. My project list seems to be extending infinitely and I am despondent over continuing to have to add to it. I feel so far off of where I should be. On the positive side, I really enjoyed going to a new venue and monkeying around on a new rock type. I think that I also greatly benefited from working a slightly higher than normal problem. I need to work on sloper strength, but that’s not exactly news. All of this however pales in contrast to the best thing about the weekend – no shoulder pain whatsoever! I normally struggle with driving, sleeping in a tent and spending two days in a row bouldering. Last time I got back from a weekend away I couldn’t lift my arm above my head without wanting to scream in pain. Now that’s progress :-)

UKC Gear Review - Spirit Lady Velcro

I seem to have acquired a new career as a gear tester for UKC :-)

First up is my review of the new Spirit Lady Velcro Impact Zone from Red Chili. These shoes are Red Chili’s first offering specifically for women and are based on the original Lace Up’s last, which were my first pair of climbing shoes way back when!

I was a strict devotee of the cult of 5.10 but these shoes fit so well that they have replaced my every day shoe. Now if only we could have an ultra technical women’s fit shoe…

I had a lot of fun both testing the shoes and writing up the results. Cheers guys.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Arch Bimbling

I had a bimble at The Arch today. It was good fun, but I was feeling rather tired / weak due to having flu / a cold / some sort of illness (?) all week.

First up is one of my current favourite problems. It’s not overhanging, powerful or indeed even festooned with positive holds, so it isn’t exactly my type of problem. I just think it was well set, even if it is easier for people with small hands ;-)

Next up is my (proper) V5 project. It’s a tad bit um, err… more interesting for the short, but I’m not letting that get in my way.

Lots to work on...