Improvement!

We got a lot of climbing in last week, possibly a little too much as my elbows were pretty sore by the end of the week! It seems to have paid off though, as I’ve managed to top-rope a technical, balancy 6c+ route at York that felt impossible last October, and almost led it last night. It’s really motivating to see these tangible gains every so often, as so much of the time, week to week it’s hard to see any noticeable improvement.

I’ve been thinking about the training I’ve done over the past few months – the first time I tried this 6c+ route it felt ridiculously hard – I seem to remember it taking me weeks just to link any of the moves. Now, having tried it on lead a couple of times, I only take one fall on the entire route. Much as I would love to pin down one specific part of training that has moved me on to this new level, I don’t think I can. Training over the past few months has included some fingerboard work (sporadic, and not particularly focused), some strength work in the gym (I’m not sure how applicable this is), some semi-regular core strength work, and regular work on a pull-up bar. It seems to me that the most useful training thus far has been the last two – regular pull-ups and leg raises on the pull-up bar, mixed up a little by using 3 or 2 fingers of each hand to hold on to the bar, and core work – sit-ups, roman candles, crunches, superman’s and planks and dishes (if anyone knows the more technical terms for these, please feel free to suggest them in the comments!).

It seems to me that some of my gains have been down to spending more time on this climbing-specific training, but not all. Right now, the most significant driving factor in my progression stands out to me as…climbing more, and attempting routes harder than my current grade. Since I first lead a 6b route, I’ve been working (on lead and top-rope), routes up to 7b+. Some of these attempts have involved dogging up a wall, working a single move multiple times, or working multiple moves without being able to link any of them. This is (at least to me now) an interesting observation – oftentimes in climbing, I think people are looking for a magic bullet, some magical training technique that is going to propel them to the next grade. My opinion on this is likely highly influenced by where I am with my personal climbing now, but the way to move up through the grades in climbing is simply to climb more, and climb harder. Attempt routes beyond your ability, and eventually they will be within your ability. Discussions on how you feel you make the periodic gains in climbing ability welcomed in the comments!

2012 Current Climbing Level

Jumping back onto the wall after around 15 days off for Christmas felt hard. The biggest loss seems to be in power endurance – something I feel I needed to improve anyway, but now definitely an area I will be making a concerted effort to focus on. I feel I’ve slipped back maybe half a grade – 6b+ routes felt hard at towards the top, and the pump was noticeable in a way I haven’t felt for a while. Training plan for the next few weeks to come in a post shortly!

Rokt Indoor Climbing Centre, Brighouse

Today we headed to Rokt Climbing Gym, in Brighouse, which is south west of Leeds, north of Huddersfield. It was our first time there, and it’s a really great venue – set inside an old flour mill, the climbing is varied and interesting. Registration was quick and easy, with just a standard members agreement and a few questions to establish competency. The staff are great, really friendly, and gave us a tour of the whole centre when we registered – recommended as the old mill layout seems to have been retained, leading to all sorts of tucked away places to boulder and climb! Their main leading wall is 21m high, which is a good height – after a couple of routes we were really starting to notice the extra metres not found at other walls – good endurance practice! There’s a good selection of lead routes, graded between 5+ and 7b, and a number of volumes spread out across the routes, which lead to the climbing feeling more similar to being outdoors. As well as the lead wall, they have really made the most of the old mill venue, with top-rope routes inside multiple old grain silos. There’s currently three silos open, with currently being redeveloped. The route setting is good, with plenty of variety and interest. One of the silos is currently a “blacklight” climbing solo – an interesting concept where you’re climbing in the dark under UV light, on florescent holds. Aimed more at beginners and parties, it’s an interesting, different concept nonetheless. Speaking with the staff there, there’s plans to develop another silo as a dry-tooling venue, and to develop a full caving system inside another.

There’s also a large amount of bouldering facilities at Rokt, including circuits and some wooden holds (easier on the hands!). We didn’t spend any time bouldering on this visit, as we were too enamoured with the climbing!

Rokt is a great venue, and after working the routes there, we came away feeling stronger, so the plan is now to try to work the venue into our regular climbing rotation – still on the quest to 7a! More details about Rokt can be found on there website here: http://www.rokt.co.uk/

Have you climbed at Rokt? What are your thoughts on the unconventional venue and setup? We’d love to know – comment below!

BMC Leading Ladder at Harrogate Climbing Wall

We headed down to Harrogate to have a go at the leading ladder currently running there. It was our first attempt at competitive climbing, and it seemed to push us both. For me, I found that the added motivation to not weight the rope pushed my grade – I managed an onsight 6b lead, and almost managed a 6b+ onsight, failing due to missing a hold, hidden behind a large volume and not seen from the ground! Frustrating, but a good lesson in route reading! I’m feeling stronger and stronger as the weeks progress, which hopefully means that the focus and training is paying off!

As it took us longer than expected to work through all of the routes, we’re heading back tomorrow for the harder routes! I’ll post the scorecards tomorrow!

Training on Overhangs

The closer I get towards leading at F7a, the more I notice certain physiological elements that need attention. It started with a feeling that I was lacking in finger strength – regular finger pull-ups and hangs from door frames have helped a lot with this. I then noticed I was struggling to hang small pockets, so focused on working routes that contained a number of them. All of this quite directed finger training has meant that I’ve been finishing training sessions with fingers that feel they’ve had a workout, but not much else. The area I feel I’m now lacking in is power-endurance – my forearms are pumping out far too quickly on sustained routes. To this end, we went to the Leeds Wall and jumped on the big overhanging routes there. It’s interesting to notice how the grades suddenly feel much harder when climbing a different style of route. The aim of cranking out some big overhanging routes is to improve both overall power, and stamina. We’ll see how the next few weeks pan out..