Tuesday, 17 November 2009

No Looking Back

The only thing worse than having to do physio exercises is not being able to do them…

The current thinking is that the running, MTB and physio exercises have been a bit too much and I need a rest.

Looking back over my ever expanding ‘shoulder pain log’ in an attempt to understand the current trend, I noticed that the pain never went away. I thought I had a good period where I was able to climb with little pain. The best that I ever got was a 2-3 (on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being the worst) interspersed with periods of severe pain… so much for finding comfort from the past.

I don’t mind climbing with pain – I would rather climb and be in pain than not climb. It’s more the dull aching / throbbing feeling that I get afterwards just sitting on the couch that bothers me.

I miss climbing. I miss not being in pain.

I still don’t feel up for a challenge.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

One Step Forward – Ten Steps Back

Just when I thought I was making progress, I had rather a big setback with regards to my shoulder injury. All was fine until last week when I decided to walk home from work and carry my laptop for 2.5 miles in a backpack – owch. It still hasn’t recovered and I’m back to having daily pain. I don’t know if the new physio exercises are exacerbating it as well; they’re quite tough. I’m off to see the physio this Friday for his take on this.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Three medical professionals recommended surgery, but no, I thought I could beat this with physio and quickly as well. I didn’t have much choice either. I don’t have a spare ca. £6,000 lying around or three months where I can go without the use of my right arm.

Since I responded so well to physio initially, I wrongly assumed it would be smooth sailing. Given that I am partly missing a tendon, this of course was never going to be the reality and I think that in part I fooled myself into thinking it would be OK.

It’s exceptionally difficult to try something that you failed at before; particularly when it’s something that you have to put a ton of effort into and have no guarantee of things being any different.

Part of me feels like giving up the battle before I have even begun to fight. I’m tired and I’m sick of fighting.

It’s been tough. It feels like I fell off of a cliff last week and I haven’t quite recovered. I was happy to think that I was making progress, yet even there, all is not lost. I’ve kept up with running and it’s becoming slightly less painful and better still I had a ton of fun mountain biking last weekend.

Recently I was just sticking to the fireroads of Swinley forest. My lack of fitness precluded anything more adventurous. However last week we ‘discovered’ a sweet bit of singletrack and rode it over and over again until it got dark – which isn’t actually that late anymore.

Lately I’ve really been missing climbing. It didn’t bother me for a while, but now I’m starting to feel it. I think I was so caught up with work that I didn’t have time to notice. I’m even missing indoor climbing, so I know I must be desperate.

What a rubbish time of year.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


In gaining temporal distance from my thesis only now am I beginning to understand what came before. This year was a whirlwind; parts of which I will never recover from. I also made some strides; building upon it is my current challenge.

Whilst digging out my mountain biking kit, I flippantly muttered to myself ‘I would give anything to be back in shape’. After thinking about it, no, I wouldn’t give up what I fought for this year. Being as out of shape as I am it’s incredibly difficult just to think of all the work that I need to put into it, let alone actually do it. This time as well, I know that it won’t be OK. I’m broken; yet, the surgery sounds worse than the condition.

As amazing as it might sound, I’m coming on with my physio in leaps and bounds. I already aced the first set and am nearly a week into the second round with next to no pain. There is one huge caveat though; I haven’t been climbing in ages. That is where I think the trouble lies.

I’ve been trying to work on my poorly neglected cardio with a bit of mountain biking and some running (I managed 5.4k which for me is next to a miracle). I even got myself a new pair of running shoes as encouragement. I noticed that just a little bit of exercise makes such a huge difference to me. I have been sleeping better and yesterday I actually felt oddly optimistic.

Swinley Forest

For a few weeks just after my viva, I couldn’t conceive of anything more than just going to work and even that was an enormous chore, despite the fact that it was doing something I enjoyed. It was as if I lost a part of myself in the 95 pages that comprised my thesis. I was spent. I couldn’t fight anymore.

In some way I am even happy not to be climbing. I think I needed a bit of a break from it and I definitely had other things to focus on. I also think that if I go back to climbing, I need a whole new strategy. That will of course take some time to figure out.

Slowly, it’s coming back. I just wish that running didn’t hurt so much, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, or even possible for that matter.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Minor Progress

I’ve been trying my best to keep up my physio exercises but I had a miserable cold this week which thwarted my efforts somewhat. However, I seem to be able to dive right back into doing them. At first, they didn’t hurt, but felt horribly awkward. Now they feel more like a normal movement instead of a complete battle. I guess this is progress? I’ll take what I can get for the time being.

Oh and I’m trying my best to stop feeling sorry for myself... though I reckon this will take some time.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Finding Tuva

I’ve chickened out. I decided to try physio again.

Quite a few things led to this decision, primary amongst is that I don’t want to turn up to an interview with my arm in a sling. Additionally I don’t believe the surgery is worth it. My surgeon admitted that no matter what I do my shoulder will never be normal. I don’t know how much I can achieve through surgery.

I also worry about the surgery itself (not to mention the lack of scientific advancement from the human race). As of 2009 an ‘advanced’ surgery involves drilling a hole into healthy bone and putting in a screw to act as an anchor for a tied off tendon. It sounds medieval. I worry about developing osteoarthritis from this advanced technique not to mention a lifetime of increased pain resulting from the needless destruction of healthy issue. On the other hand, I’m probably going to be in pain from the injury anyway.

Physio and surgery aren’t mutually exclusive. I need more information on surgery and at the very least come to terms with the lack of surgical progress contributed by previous generations.

My longsuffering physiotherapist asked what my goals for physio are this time ‘round. Knowing that it can’t ‘cure’ me I said, being able to climb without severe pain would be nice, however I would settle for being able to pour a bottle of water without spilling it. I’ve lost the ability to fully control my arm.

It’s odd going back to the tedious theraband exercises. I never feel like I am doing them right. I am trying to teach myself how to move my arm with an incomplete set of tendons.

No, I’m not giving up. I was thinking that maybe where physio got me last time, able to boulder but not push it, isn’t a bad place. A lot of things changed this year including my focus. Maybe what I have is enough.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The $64,000 Question

Red circle shows my partial thickness rotator cuff tear. It's highlighted in white on account of the contrasting agent (gadolinium) migrating towards it.

And the answer is... I have a small partial thickness tear of my rotator cuff due to traumatic injury.

I'm now faced with the decision of whether to undergo surgery or not. I could try ‘activity-directed’ physiotherapy, but this did not work before. The surgeon said if it was him that he would go for the surgery.

Surgery would of course involve having to keep my arm in a sling for up to a month and no climbing for 3-6 months, however I should be back to normal in 1 year and full recovery seems likely due to my age and the size of the tear.

I'm in two minds about the surgery. With physio I had a significant reduction of pain, however I was never 'normal' and shortly after stopping, the pain came back. As pointed out by my physiotherapist, I can't do physio exercises for the rest of my life. However, I really don't want to have that long off of climbing. Equally the prospect of being in pain for the rest of my life doesn't sound appealing either. Also my tear might worsen.

Even if I stopped climbing all together, it’s highly likely that I’ll have day to day pain for a long time; possibly for the rest of my life.

I think I’m leaning more towards surgery but I need to find out more about it.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Road Trip

A moody Stanage

I had a few days off before my viva this week and decided that I needed to get out of London.

I got to the Peak District late Thursday afternoon and went wandering along the top of Stanage. I wasn’t allowed to go climbing since my shoulder joint was still swollen with dye from the MRI.

Then next day I went to check out Mark’s Roof Left Hand at Gardoms. I promptly decided that it was one that required a spotter and multiple mats. Being on my own I had neither. I monkeyed around on it for a bit before deciding that falling out of the tenuous heel-hooks, landing on my back, rolling down the hill and being run over by a speeding lorry didn’t seem like a nice way to spend a day. Definitely need to go back though, ace problem.

Being in an injured / wimpy mood, I decided a traverse was in order. I’m not a huge fan of traverses as they often involve stamina and technique both of which I have none. They’re also, um a bit... girly. However, I quite like the Walnut traverse at Baslow. It has the oddest moves I’ve ever seen. I’m most likely not doing it in the correct sequence, but I end up heel-hooking practically above my head and lunging to the right. How fun. On about my third or fourth try, I got to the penultimate move, went to throw, got a rubbish sloper and fell off. When I stood up, I noticed a huge pocket / jug. Argh. I tried it a few more times, but I was knackered, not to mention the fact that every single move seemed to involve my bad shoulder. Argh.

All and all it was just nice to be out enjoying the fresh air. I don’t often go bouldering on my own. It’s quite a different feeling.

That evening I picked up Peter at Manchester airport and we stayed at the glamorous Holiday Inn Preston and the following morning we were off to Thorn crag.

I have wanted to visit Thorn crag for ages, but never got around to it. Equally, I found it difficult to justify driving all that way for grit. It turned out to be the perfect venue.

Crag Boulders, Thorn Crag

We’re both so out of shape that the walk-in took us about 50 minutes. We had to park what seemed like miles away from the village since all of the places were taken, so that might have added some time to our walk.

Peter on Burnt Heather

As soon as we got to the Crag Boulders it started to rain. Argh. We camped out for a bit and much to our surprise the rain stopped and a breeze quickly dried off some of the boulders. Burnt Heather was on the top of my list and I wanted to save it until I did a few warm-ups, but it was one of the first problems to dry out, so I had a go. I got it on my second attempt. I really need to sort out my foot work. Burnt Heather is now one of my all time favourite problems. It was quite burly for me at least.

Me on Burnt Heather

We then did some fun arête problems before wandering over to the Sea View Boulders where I flashed Jalapeño Arête, another great easy problem.

Me just having flashed Jalapeño Arête

We had a nice peaceful day. Nothing major was ticked, but that was never the objective. Just some chilled out bouldering in a great venue.

The evening was a stark contrast. We wanted to head to the Lakes on Sunday, but every hotel in the North West of England was booked. We eventually found a place to stay in Carlisle however it was noisy and uncomfortable to say the least. We arose feeling fairly sleep deprived at around 11 and headed to Carrock Fell since it was relatively close.

We only spent a few hours there since we had the long drive back to London looming overhead and by now I was severely lacking in skin.

I got to about 2/3 height on Boardman's Arête before deciding that it just wasn’t worth it, not in my wobbly / injured frame of mind at least. Carrock Fell seems to warrant a proper explore sometime.

We left the Lakes around 5ish and six and a half hours later we arrived in London.

On the incredibly long drive home, I came to the conclusion that although climbing most likely caused my shoulder injury; it is worth it, sort of. I found a bit of peace sitting in the sun next to the Walnut boulder, resting my aching limbs. Thorn Crag was equally good for the soul.

As always, I’m struggling with the next move. Tomorrow, I’m supposedly getting a diagnosis on the shoulder injury. I guess I have to wait until then.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


I went for my shoulder MRI today. The doctor said unsympathetically ‘it’s going to hurt when I pierce the synovial membrane’. I contemplated running away. He wasn’t lying.

Lying there with the largest needle that I ever saw stuck in my arm, contemplating surgery, I couldn’t help but think ‘climbing got me here’. Wish that I could say it was worth it.

I get the results next Tuesday.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A way forward

In true ‘who killed Laura Palmer’ fashion, I still don’t know what is wrong with my shoulder. Due to scheduling mishaps and attempts at slaying the monster of a thesis, the issue slipped. I have another appointment for next week.

In the meantime, which is much longer than anticipated, I’m struggling with finding a way forward.

On account of my course, my entire life was put on hold this year. This wasn’t entirely a bad thing, but after staring into the bottom of way too many cocktails in Notting Hill, it’s starting to take its toll. This isn’t my life.

In a way, climbing saves me from myself. I need to climb. I need the distraction. I need the focus. I’m lost without it.

It’s ever so slightly difficult to get motivated when I’m out of shape, can’t train with my bad shoulder (not to mention constantly in pain) and the November monsoons are coming fast.

I escaped London for a quite day at the Roaches last Sunday. It felt odd to be climbing after so long away, but it reminded me of all that I miss.

The thesis is finished. Here’s to hoping for a resolution to the shoulder injury sometime soon.

Friday, 21 August 2009

What’s wrong with my shoulder...

Next Thursday I will be having ‘contrasting agent’ injected directly into my joint facilitating MRI visualisation to answer that very question.

It’s unlikely to be good news. After examination the surgeon suggested three possibilities. First, I knackered my shoulder joint on the top through wear and tear (and most likely genetic susceptibility). I didn’t get an exact name for this condition (and never actually heard of it before), but the disheartening part is that it requires surgery. The next likely diagnosis is a SLAP tear, which I’m more familiar with and also requires surgery. Coming in at a very, very distant third is my original diagnosis of an exceptionally severe rotator cuff impingement which is fixable with physical therapy.

At any rate, it looks like climbing is out of the picture for some time. That is of course if I go through with it. A large part of me feels like cancelling my appointment next week (I don’t want a huge needle stuck into the sorest part of my body!!) and sticking my head in the sand again. However the reality of my pain no longer affords me such liberties. I haven’t been able to sleep in weeks. Climbing is agony and yet again I am living in fear of having to pick up the kettle.

Immediately my thoughts turn to why. What did I do wrong.

Trying too hard. Wanting something too much. Pushing myself too much. Ever so slightly believing.

Everything that makes me me.

Am I supposed to give up on that.

In all likelihood it was a random event predicated on nothing more than a desire to climb. But it’s been a tough year – OK, life and my mind tends to wander.

I’m scared.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Shoulder Hell

Yet again, I’ve been occupied with work and had hardly any time for climbing. I was however managing to squeeze in the odd session at the wall here and there... until last week. Ugh, I’m back in shoulder hell. My old injury, whatever it was, is acting up again, only this time it’s much, much worse. I can hardly lift my arm above perpendicular without wincing in pain and I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in weeks. I wake up in pain all of the time.

I guess it’s not surprising since I stopped doing my exercises and I never really knew what was wrong in the first place. Well, this time it’s for real. I’m meeting a surgeon on Thursday *gulp*. First task is to get as proper a diagnosis as possible, which I’m guessing will involve an MRI.

I’m trying my best not to think the worst, but it’s difficult.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Alea iacta est

The good news is that I came close to a Font 7a+. The bad news is that came close to a Font 7a+.

Continuing my new found affair with Peak limestone, I headed up last Sunday for a quick fix. Maybe it was the heat making our decisions fuzzy, but we missed our turn and ended up at Raven Tor. I decided to re-do Too Hard for Mark Leach. I worked this problem a few weeks ago and retro-flashed it this time round. As we were bored we decided to do a video and I was a bit too nonchalant, which resulted in me slipping from the penultimate hold, falling on my back, rolling down the slope and hitting my knee. Needless to say, I wasn't coming off the second time 'round.

I tried a few other problems at Raven Tor, but was feeling way too weak not to mention hot. We then headed to our intended crag, Rubicon.

So I’ve been struggling with a rather simple concept. Right now being weak, injured, out of shape, etc. I’m not that far off my best grade wise. Either the training and sacrifice made little difference, or I wasn’t climbing anywhere near where I should have been. Maybe as always, it’s a bit of both.

I came pretty close to Kudos (the ultra-easy way, with a heel hook). I got both sidepulls and even managed to get my right foot out of the heel hook and left foot on the starting jug a few times, but I was too knackered to complete it.

I’m more likely than not kidding myself, but it does pose a few questions.

We spent the evening chilling at Rheinstor where I flashed the start of an E4 (V4 to the break). I still love this crag and wish that I could bring it back to London.

Wizard of Aus Start
I now have a project, reason enough for the obsession to begin anew. Maybe this time I should dream harder, but therein lies dangerous thoughts.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Peak Limestone

Raven Tor

A friend’s birthday party brought me to the Peak for what I thought was going to be a series of soul destroying bouldering sessions. Happily, I was mistaken.

A V3 at Rheinstor

The sunny weather presented the perfect excuse to eschew grit and try for the first time some Peak limestone.

I hope this sticks...

We started out at a chilled riverside venue not too far from our campsite called Rheinstor. It wasn’t posh enough to make the new Peak District Bouldering guidebook, but it can be found in the old Rockfax Peak Bouldering (‘98). If you like pockets (or indeed, want to train finger strength) then I would say that it’s worth a visit. It only has 12 named problems, the majority of which are the bottom quarter of trad routes, but I found it fun to just have a go at whichever line took my interest and jumped off before it became too committing.

More pocket pulling

After abusing our finger tendons for a few hours, we decided to head to Rubicon and um… abuse our fingers a bit more. I’ve visited Rubicon a few times, but I was never able to climb there since it was half subsumed by the lake. What a great venue. I got A Miller’s Tale on my second try (argh – should have listened to the beta and then it would have been a flash!). I was quite surprised by this as I haven’t been bouldering outside in ages and the last time I climbed with any regularity indoors was last October. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and doing the odd easy problem here and there.

A Miller's Tale

The next morning I was feeling rather tired and mostly just wanted to curl back up in my sleeping bag, but the sunny weather again guilt-tripped me into making the most of it. We headed to Raven Tor, oddly enough more as a reccie for future projects rather than to have a serious session.

After warming up on a few problems, I spied Too Hard for Mark Leach which is comprised of the end bits of Ben’s Roof. It was up my street; slightly powerful, juggy, but with a few interesting holds thrown in to the mix and some interesting moves, so I gave it a try. The throw for the penultimate crimp shut me down a few times, until I realised that I needed to lock more deeply and static it.

Too Hard for Mark Leach

I was really not expecting to tick this problem as I am so far off my best it’s scary. I’m weak, injured, out of shape and completely distracted by life, but still it went in about 20 minutes.

I think that I found a bit of myself once again in a dusty cave. This trip put a lot of perspective back into my life. I wasn’t happy when I was mostly just climbing, but equally not climbing doesn’t work for me either. I’m now faced with the challenge of balancing the two in some sort of happy medium.

And of course I had to find one negative in this otherwise perfect weekend – if I’m climbing Font 6c with not much effort now, why the heck didn’t I climb tons better when I was in shape, argh!

To round the weekend off, we headed for Pleasley Vale near Mansfield. Again, this great little limestone venue wasn’t good enough for the current guidebook, but can be found in the Rockfax one. It doesn’t have many hardcore desperates, but what it does have is a lovely setting and tons of fun problems to try. It’s well worth a visit on a warm summer’s evening.

How to climb if you're short - get your feet as high as you can...

A V3 at Pleasley Vale

Lock and pop - et voilà!

Needless to say – I’m a Peak Limestone convert… and to think people travel all that way and only ever climb on grit :-)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Of Mice and Men

I’ve been totally and completely subsumed into my course and as a consequence, I’ve had next to no time for climbing or much else for that matter. I thought it was a reasonable trade off since I spent years climbing and doing little career-wise. I had to make up for lost time somehow. I even planned for it – I thought the rest would allow my shoulder time to heal properly.

With life being as great as it is, hardly anything worked out as I had hoped. I still feel a million miles away from what I want career wise and my shoulder hates pipetting / writing / typing even more than bouldering and for some odd reason, not climbing at all bothers it more than gentle climbing – how does that work? Argh. I’ve also not had time to do any physio exercises, which hasn’t helped. As soon as I get some spare time, I’m off to the doctors and not leaving until I get this sorted out. Sadly for now it has to wait.

Over the winter I had a few periods of bouldering indoors somewhat regularly, but these sessions would soon be interrupted by a hectic schedule and fall by the wayside. Recently I started mountain biking and cycle commuting again as a means to gain some general fitness in a way that easily fits into my schedule and I’ve also been climbing a few times indoors. I even made it up to the darkest depths of the Churnet for some bouldering one hot weekend. It was however more of an experience in bushwhacking than climbing though and my legs still bear the scars.

The worst thing is that I can’t shake the feeling that this time is different; as if it’s all gone. The usual pattern follows as such after a lay-off: rapid progression from say V3 to V4 and with some effort progression to V5, then plateau and spend ages seeing little improvement. This time ‘round, I seem to be struggling with just getting back to V3 and it’s just slightly irritating. To be fair, I haven’t gone climbing more than two times in a week for months and my mental state isn’t that great (though when is it ever…) which I think plays a large part. Everything just feels so far away from me.

I know that I definitely miss it and need to get it back for lots of reasons. Looking back perhaps it wasn’t the best laid plans…

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

In the meantime

I’ve always had problems with accepting things as they are. I don’t know if it arises form harbouring residual brain-washed American ideals, the mistaken need to feel in control of things that I’m clearly not in control of, or just a deep seated character flaw. Regardless of its origin, it remains a defining quality. On account of it, I’ve lost friends and my career has suffered many times. Conversely, I think it’s partly what kept me going with bouldering and it definitely contributed to what finally drew me away. I used to think it was a driving force behind me which was both good and bad in equal measure and that it would abate with time and maybe a bit of stability. Right now, I view it as a source of unhappiness. At times I actively wish I could just give in; quit, leave, give up, run away, anything but deal with it; accept it. But ultimately it’s clever enough to find your hiding spot and it more likely than not has grown bigger.

I want a bit of peace above all else and it yet it feels the furthest away from me.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Fighting the Good Fight

This year was meant to be hard. I was facing a slew of problems that had been swept to the side accumulating in towers that perforated my personality. It was tough. Several times I wanted to give up – it’s so much easier that way. But I kept going thinking I was finally on the right track – I was fighting the good fight.

About a week ago, I found out just how fragile life can be. I spend what feels like the majority of my time fighting, battling, losing, but sometimes winning and getting stronger. I never realised how easily that can all be taken away by a mere whim. It was by far the most frightening moment of my life and I probably never will fully recover.

Right now, it’s hard to want anything more than to just be alive, but maybe that’s exactly what I’ve been fighting for all along.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Carreg Hylldrem

My schedule this year dictated having time off during the worst times, namely January and March. Despite the forecast, we decided to head to North Wales, which was of course very soggy. The mornings were OK, but they quickly changed around noon.

We had an obligatory look the RAC’s and Cromlech boulders, but decided they were either too damp or most likely to be so by the time we got the mats out. We also scoped out Ogwen for future sessions, but the experience was more akin to winter climbing with all of the ice and snow around.

Desperation took us down the Aberglaslyn Gorge arriving at a relatively less damp Nantmor, but once again by the time we walked into the bouldering area, the heavens opened up. Determined to climb something not involving plastic, I remembered reading about a bouldering wall at Carreg Hylldrem that claimed to stay dry in all conditions. Preparing for the worst, we were pleasantly surprised.

What a cool little place. It’s steep, featured and most importantly sheltered from the rain. I can’t believe I’ve never tried it out before. There are 4 main independent ‘up’ lines which the guidebook claims all go at around V4 and a low-level traverse at about V3. Endless eliminates abound as well.

We spent about three hours working the problems and making up our own ones. It was really nice to be climbing on real rock again and I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. I would say that you don’t even have to wait for a monsoon for it to be worth it… but this being North Wales, one is often around the corner anyway.

It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but it was good fun.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


Exams are finally over, which means that I now have my life back, at least for a short while. I went bouldering (sadly indoors) two days in a row for the first time in ages. The old addiction is coming back. My biggest limiting factor seems to be skin at the moment. Ugh - my hands ache. I found two different V5's that I'm currently working; one at the Arch and one at the West Way. I was hoping to use them as a yardstick for this ‘rebuilding’ phase.

Whilst flailing on one of the aforementioned V5 today, I became aware of a conversation. Before I pulled onto the problem a man and a woman walked into the room. Mid-move on the crux of the V5 the man said to the woman ‘looks like that would be a good one for you’. ‘No way’ she exclaimed. He then added ‘it’s all just strength’. Two points: A). Despite the grimace, I can still hear you. More importantly B). Strength is only the beginning. Every muscle in my body was aching and shouting ‘no!’ If it was just about strength, I probably would have never gotten up a V1 today. I am ridiculously out of shape, tired and distracted. I might not be climbing anywhere near to where I was however, I told myself that I could do this one move. Maybe I would never finish the whole problem, maybe I won’t get my strength back, maybe my life will never get even slightly sorted out, maybe my course was a bad idea (tangent – sorry…), but for god’s sake – I could do this one seemingly impossible to me move!

And I did. Then I fell off the next one.

To me, it’s hardly ever ‘just a boulder problem’.

I still have a rather sinking feeling that began to develop towards the end of last week. I just hope it's all worth it. After I finish something big, I often feel down (as do most people?). I'm hoping it's just that and not foreshadowing. Cue the usual questions as to why am I doing this, why can't I just be happy with how things are... etc.

I was hoping to get out this week, but the weather looks horrible - however on second thought, I think that I need to get out of here.

Everything flows, nothing stands still.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Sneaky Sessions

So I’ve just spent what felt like an eternity preparing for my exams next week – eek! I did little else than revising and it was soul destroying.

I did however get in three sneaky sessions at the West Way located only about a mile from my place. I don’t normally frequent it, as it caters more for leading but convenience took precedence. My first session back was rather shocking as how much I lost. The next one was better as I showed a bit of improvement. However, I was left with the overwhelming feeling of ‘wow, I actually used to be able to do stuff like that’ and felt despondently a million miles away.

I am again left asking the question why am I drawn to stuff that takes everything from me. I tell myself not to worry as the one thing that is pretty much certain is that you can always get back to your former fitness levels. Improving is another issue and passing exams is even less certain. But still… it’s upsetting.

Yesterday however was slightly better. I had been working this V4 (I know… I can hear you chuckling from here) that was um very reachy (*cough*) and though I was making progress on it, I felt weak and like everything had to be exactly right. Not last time though… dyno to an awkwardly too big for my grip pinch, match feet, lock-off, throw for the crimp / pinch weirdness, feet come off… ya – this is what I remember. And then of course, I fell off.

And it was here, distracted and having one of my weakest sessions, I saw myself from a different perspective. I saw myself trying. I saw what I put into it.

Maybe one day I’ll be content with something easy… but it’s definitely not today.

Saturday, 7 February 2009


Away from the tension I sit in wait as a storm rolls across the gentle hills.
Contemplating the avoidance I take unkindly to being left in the dark.

Down the wooden stairs I trod, flashlight to hand, dispelling the darkness.
At the end, suddenly I clash with my mother, together in half-darkness we travel.

Clinging to the torch, we traverse the kitchen.
Alas there is a spot, the darkness, unilluminated.

Together we cry.
Knowing of its origin.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snow Day

The scale read 109 pounds this morning. My miserable flu-like-thing returned with a vengeance. I had a rather hectic week and yet again I didn’t sleep properly. I guess it’s no surprise that I got unwell again. The most frustrating bit is that walking the length of the flat is a challenge, let alone going for a run. So now it’s been about 4 months since I’ve had any opportunity to climb regularly. Exams are fast approaching, so no hope in sight either.

It was however nice to have an extended weekend… this seems to be the winter of snow!

I still throw like a girl...

Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Hollow Woman

Two weeks ago I got back from Font, where I scarcely did any climbing. Since then I was entirely occupied by a project for uni and subsequently I got the death flu that’s going around. This meant that I didn’t eat a full meal or sleep for a complete night in two weeks.

I finally dragged myself back to the wall and had the worst session I could ever imagine. It was so bad that I actually considered giving up completely. I felt as though the simplest moves were impossible and my body just ached.

I can’t blame it all on being ill. Yes, my rubbishness was exaggerated by being ill, but even worse I think that’s where I’m headed. I’ve lost quite a bit of strength through not regularly climbing. My course has been taking up a ton of time, as I thought it would and I have exams in exactly a month’s time, so I won’t be able to devote any time to climbing until afterwards. But will it be too late.

While I was floundering on the easiest stuff I couldn’t help but think about how difficult it would be to get back to where I was, let alone better. For the first time, I felt as though I didn’t know if it would be worth it.

I guess I always had in the back of my mind, no, I’m not good, but I can get a bit better. That has completely gone and along with it my motivation. I don’t take kindly to bimbling. I think it’s a waste of time. I have never climbed ‘for the fun of it’ (or at least not as an ultimate goal). Climbing is an all out battle. It exists only in those moments of complete intensity and sharpness, pushing - no willing myself to do what I cannot. For the moment that’s out of the question.

And to add to the joy, my shoulder is a mess from writing all the time.


And just for Peter - here's your link ;-)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Of Gates and Doorways

Poised on the transition between the beginning and end, I am finding January rather a struggle.

It’s been a month of invoking old demons, battling wars that should have long finished but even in this state of change, an uncomfortable yet growing hope has been born. There is clarity to be had when all seems uncertain, the focus afforded by the intensity of the moment.

I question why change if it often seems too much. Paradoxically this is only ever resolved by admitting that giving up didn’t work.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Snowy Font

I have never gotten on with Font at the best of times, but lack of funds and dictated holiday periods made Bleau in January sound like not too bad an idea.

We arrived late on Saturday and woke up to cold, but decent conditions on Sunday. Still tired from our trip we wandered around nearby Buthiers scoping out potential projects. Sadly, this was to be our best day out. It snowed on Tuesday and the temperature never got above -5C.

The rest of the week was spent attempting to clean problems and giving up in despair as you can never seem to get all of the ice off the slopers and given that this is Font, nearly every problem contains at least one requisite sloper. Also, our fingers and toes would pretty much go instantly numb. One day our car thermometer registered 12F (-11C) in the afternoon!

I did however manage to find this gem with big sharp holds way off circuit at Isatis. Yes, I found the only pocketed overhang in all of Font, but sadly, it’s just a 6a+.

Angle Incidence, Isatis

Here’s a video if you’re interested. I don’t top out in it as the last sloper was gathering a lot of ice by the time that I got around to recording it and I didn’t fancy slipping off it and landing on my back.

It was nice to get away, but equally, I don’t feel in a rush to go back. Is it just me or is Font not all that it’s made out to be? I will admit, the general style of climbing (technical, tedious, err… tenuous) was never my thing, but all those boulders… and I don’t want to climb any of them… except maybe Carnage, but I’m not standing in a queue to boulder.