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New feature: talking heads

28 May 2009

I'm really excited to introduce a new 'Talking Heads' feature to the website.  I've been busily interviewing some of my friends about their views and approaches on various climbing topics. As with everything there is no fixed or set way to improving your climbing. More than often it's a very personal journey.  I've always found it very interesting hearing other people's experiences and thoughts so I thought I could share them with you on the site.

How to get your head in gear for trad climbing is the first one. Spring is finally here and generally we're all (especially me) a bit wobbly on our first leads of the year.  Some people can click straight into gear, but most people can't.  First off hear Sam and Lucinda Whittaker's approaches to headpointing (climbing after pre-practice) dangerous routes.  I was especially interested to hear about Sam's preparation for his first ascent of Appointment with Death (E9).  I think many of the points they make are applicable to onsighting too.  To continue this theme my husband Nic, Tom Briggs and Mia Stacey will talk about their approaches to onsighting trad.  I'll be putting up these interviews in the next week or so.

Appointment with Death

Other topics are in the pipeline over the next few months... such as staying motivated, key differences people have made to improve their climbing and getting back into climbing after having a baby. I'll let you know when these are up on the site.






Sam Whittaker on Appointment with Death (E9) at Wimberry

Photo: Adam Long  

Caviar progress

27 May 2009

It seems my fingerboard grit-limestone conversion training has been working quite successfully.  This blip in the weather has given me a good opportunity to get on the fingerboard and turn my attention to Caviar (8a+), which I had to abandon last Summer because it got flooded.  My first couple of sessions on the Beastmaker were rather hellish actually and the full body shakes weren't very pleasant.  But then I had a breakthrough. And in between the showers I've now had 3 sessions on Caviar.

The difficulties of the route are concentrated into what is for me 15 moves; basically not very many - intense is an understatement.  Finger strength, power, body tension are all crucial, and there are no rests.  Some of the holds are what I would call finger arrangements and willpower propels you upwards as much as anything. This is followed by a very steep 6c+/7a section.

Last Summer I noticed that my best attempts on the route were when I was feeling most tired and I had to dig in to another level that I'm not used to.  So I've spent the last few days thinking about just how hard I'm going to have to actually try.  Last night I had my first redpoint and I got really quite high.  I touched the crucial hold that will be the key to the next 2 moves and the end of the main difficulties. But today I am truely broken. My friend Zippy, who was belaying, pushed me and pushed me into total thrash mode trying this desperate move over and over again.  He is also a coach and it was interesting being on the receiving end.  So I'll keep you posted on my progress.

So my bank holiday was quite relaxed!  Because this route is so hard, I can't have many goes on it.  This means I don't spend much time at the crag, which means I have more time to see friends!  I also need 2 days to recover, so Sunday was spent pootling up HVSs at Stanage High Neb and Sunday wandering around Bleaklow with Janet.  All very pleasant.

For something else very pleasing, check out my new grit photo gallery.  Thank you to all the photographers who make this website a much brighter place.

New Focus

12 May 2009

Well, my climbing came to abrupt halt with the onset of a very frustrating cold. It crept up so slowly putting me in one of those infuriating states not knowing whether climbing would make me any worse. After 3 days of being careful I went climbing and guess what, it made me worse!! After almost two weeks I’m out the other side.

In the meantime I’ve been gathering motivation for my next plan of attack in my climbing. The trad’s going to tick along the background, but now I am heading for my limestone project, but first off: the training. One of the great things about living in Sheffield is being able to touch base with some of the best climbers around. They never get past me without a mini-interrogation on how to get better. Man of the moment, and person to put Queens crag on the map is Dan Varian. I’ve seen his new beastmaker finger board up at the Climbing Works, but have to be honest been a bit stumped on how to use it.

So just as I was plummeting with the cold, I caught him there (I hope he didn’t get it) and he gave me an inspiring tour of the 1x3 ft board. One session down followed by a day at Malham, my forearms have never hurt so much before. It’s got to be doing some good.

And what about looking even further afield for motivation – I got sidetracked whilst sitting at my computer and found this video of the 2008 European bouldering championship women’s final.  It follows the head to head between two of the most inspiring female climbers out there right now: Anna Stohr and Natalija Gros. They have completely different styles and are super impressive to watch.

PS This ‘jack of all trades’ approach for climbing is not necessarily recommended.  Its way too complicated, but it’s fun and keeps me on my toes!  We’ll see if it works.