Friday, 18 July 2014

Hottest time of the year - to climb or not to climb, that is the question

It has been almost a month since I last posted a blog and, to be perfectly honest, it's probably been roughly the same amount of time since I climbed on rock. I do miss it. I miss my exhausting weekends, heading out into the Peak District for eight hour days on the grit, stopping off at a pub on the way home for a traditional Sunday lunch and a pint of real ale, before heading home and collapsing on the sofa in front of a great film. This is my idea of an exceptional weekend. 

However, the summer months tend to put a stop to this, for me. Not previously one for avoiding grit stone just because it's a bit warm, I seem to have developed an aversion over recent years. Before you say the word "limestone" - I'm not a huge fan of hanging out with 100 other people at a tiny crag that seems to suck in the sun's heat, reflected from a stream running almost side-by-side. You know where I mean. The thought of pulling on tiny crimps with sweaty, soft skin sends shivers down my spine, and not the cold kind. The same goes for palm shredding grit stone too; those tiny crystals feeling sharp as razor blades stabbing into the body's largest organ like a cactus. It's the sweat. The midges. The closed, humid air. The sunburn. The sliding. The failure on climbs you know should be easy.

And there, in that last sentence, is the allusion to summer climbers' most overused excuse for braving the warm grit stone. Climbing throughout the summer will make everything much easier come the colder temps. Bullshit. It will be easier anyway - there's no need for me to expend a ridiculous amount of skin sliding off an enormous sloper when I can wait two months and hang it with ease. I'd rather wait. Maybe that's me getting a little old; I feel like a grumpy old man writing this blog. Life's too short to do something you don't want to do, just because some magazine editorial tells you not to retreat to the confines of indoor walls during the summer months, but enjoy the countryside in all it's summertime glory. Thankfully, I can do that from the comfort of a picnic blanket, or a beer garden bench, or right over there, next to the boulder, on the path, watching others sliding off that enormous sloper and feeling smug as I walk on by.

I'll take my indoor walls, with their whirring fans blasting cool air into my face while I imagine myself as Michael Jackson in Earth Song. You see that big, white rectangular object in reception? It's called a fridge and it dispenses ice cold drinks as and when I want one. Recline on a sofa for ten minutes to cool off between bouts on the wall? Don't mind if I do. And when I do come off the wall, all pumped to hell and struggling to close my fists, I can look down at my veiny forearms and not see a hundred black midges, using me as a giant, walking blood bag, gorging themselves at my expense. I prefer not to look like I've got measles the day after a good climbing session.

Having said all of that, I cannot wait for the cooler temperatures to prevail so I can once again contend with real rock climbs. For all its amenities, indoor climbing can get dull fast, sapping motivation at the same rate as those midges sapping blood supply. I am one of those people that loves training, though, it has to be said. I like the feeling of pushing myself to my limits - especially when it comes to pure power training. Put 20kg on my back and tell me to do five pullups off a half pad crimp and I'm a happy chappy. That's a bit weird, isn't it? Well, sod it. It's true. You know that old adage from the summer climbers, that blather about climbs feeling easier come the cold temps if only you brave the warm, well they'll also feel easier in the cold because I've spent the two warmest months of the year training my ass off. 

I love climbing on grit stone and feeling strong. I don't love it as much when a sheen of sweat on my hands makes everything super hard. Like a wine connoisseur who buys a bottle of Merlot and stores it away until it's ready, I will bide my time. And, when it's time to pop that cork, my motivation and strength will be all the better for it.