So, to start, what's been going on? I've been training for climbing... A LOT. Since moving back to Sheffield, the gym had been playing quite an important part in my training regime, being as it is situated in my apartment building and takes less than 1 minute to get to. This got me pretty fit (cycling for 1 hour before 1 hour of strength work will do that to you - especially if you're doing it 2-3 times a week on top of all the climbing). But the benefits on my climbing were slow to emerge. Yes, I felt stronger. Yes, I felt fitter. But I was also getting heavy. And there was a severe lack of finger strength work.
So, back to square one. I gave up on going to the gym as much (I occasionally return for a little cycling) and started climbing more - inside and out. Five days a week, trying to vary the exercises, but maintaining a routine. Simple. And this routine has been paying dividends. Circuits are getting easier, I'm feeling stronger on the wall, and I'm getting the sends outside to prove the work is paying off.
Over the past four to six weeks, I've sent so many good boulders on the beautiful Peak District gritstone. Some of those highlights include:
- The Full Green Traverse / Dope on a Slope at Stanage Plantation (7a+) - The Green Traverse (7a) is a brilliant problem in itself, and if you add the four or five moves from the sit start it becomes even better. Around 3 months ago, I only just had enough power-endurance to complete The Green Traverse, but after repeating it again recently I felt strong all the way through. I got the sit start in around 3 more tries. It felt amazing and proved to me that the training was paying off.
- Short Sean's Reachy Roof (without the foot block) at Rowtor Rocks (7a+) - I sent the problem with the footblock the weekend before, but had to return a week later to do it without. Sans footblock, it is definitely MUCH harder and worthy of the grade it gets. With and I think it's very soft for its grade (7a). It's a much better problem without the block.
- The Cave Problem at Robin Hood's Stride (7a) - I tried this at the end of a long day's climbing and nearly got it. I returned a week later and sent it in around half an hour. Some really nice toe-hooking action.
- The Kid at Robin Hood's Stride (7a+) - When I first saw The Kid I thought it looked miserable, I have to be honest. It's at the bottom of a huge wall, starts really low and there's a large block right at your back the whole way through. But the moves are really good fun, and there's an awesome knee-bar that can be a little tricky to sink at first. It's a reachy problem, that's for sure, and that's probably why it suited me. It didn't take too long to send and, I have to admit, felt a grade easier than it gets in the book.
- Hampers Hang at Stanage Far Right (7a) - I had done this quite a long time ago. I can't remember how many years before, in fact. But I wanted to include it in this list because I repeated it again recently and it felt great. I felt great on it and, again, it proved to me that the training was working. Tip: it's a much better problem if you finish further along the unnamed 5+ that begins at the end of Hampers. This doesn't add to the grade, but at least you don't finish squashed into a little niche in the bottom corner.
- Unnamed problem on Jason's Roof at Burbage North (7a+) - A brilliant little problem that is very deserving of a name. Someone please give this problem a name and make sure it's in the next guide book! It took a little while to figure out a decent start sequence, but there's a nifty little kneebar that makes it much easier and then I had a bit of a battle with the top section. I've still got the scars on my right forearm from that fight. It felt amazing when I topped out though.
They are just a few of my favourites from over the past month or so, all in the seventh grade bracket you will have noticed. I climbed loads of brilliant problems in the sixth bracket as well, but I didn't want to bore you with a longer list than is needed to prove my point. And that is...
Training works! I've tried training before, of course, but it hasn't been all that effective (such as going to the gym a lot). And I've climbed lots of problems in the low seventh grade range before, but never this consistently, weekend after weekend. Previously, they have taken a lot more work than they have been taking. And, lately, I've been feeling much stronger - never desperately clawing my way through the moves. So I think there's more to come soon... maybe this weekend. Who knows. (Admittedly, I'm still trying to recover from three days at a music festival last weekend, so maybe the weekend after this one before I start sending again ;-)).
What has made my training more effective than before? Who knows. A combination of things, I imagine. Trial and error was one day going to bear fruit, that's for sure. Taking on board what I read in Dave MacLeod's "9 Out Of 10 Climbers Make The Same Mistakes" also helped, I think. Certainly the tip to just "climb more" seems to have paid dividends. And climbing more often with other psyched climbers has also helped, especially with motivation.
So that's it. Self-indulgence over. Next time I'll write another review or an opinion piece, I promise. Hopefully it's given you some motivation to get out there training though. Good luck!
(Disclaimer: I've written previously that I was going to avoid including grades as often as possible in this blog but, as I was writing the list, it became a bit ridiculous trying to avoid grades.)