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Rock Action 2013

29 Jul 2013

It was an excited group of young people, which met James McHaffie (Caff) and me a week ago at Thornbridge Outdoor Centre.  I was actually slightly nervous as the weather report was pretty poor.  After weeks of hot stable weather, rain was to stick in its unwanted nose.

Rock Action 13 Team

However Monday morning was, in fact met with glorious sunshine.  Stan, Ollie, Emily and Catrin were to spend their first morning getting to grips with friction at Cratcliffe.  Chris, who was delayed with a tummy bug, was to miss out of the first day.

Rock Action 13 Emily Cratcliffe

Emily on a rather desperate 6a+ at Cratcliffe - it'll be a lot easier in the cooler Autumn!

Grit is so completely different to the wall or limestone or in fact most other kinds of rock. But I can’t help feeling that if you are happy to stand on nothing, then any kind of foothold on any other kind of surface is going to be a bonus.  Most said that they didn’t normally like bouldering, but then indoors it’s so often about power and pulling hard.  Outside that is not always the case and refining technique on slabs, arêtes and slopers comes first on Rock Action.  It’s safe to say that everyone had fun.

Rock Action 13 Ollie Cratcliffe

Ollie going for it on a dyno at Cratcliffe

Still having a blast on Jerry’s traverse was something everyone was keen to go for, just to experience such steep and desperate terrain (even Caff was stopped by this font 7b in July heat).  We even found a slopey dyno to contend with.  The woods provided a welcome break for the powerful beating sun.

After dinner we sweltered at the airless Curbar learning to place gear.  It seemed as good a place as any with the inspirational lines of Peapod, Right Eliminate and Lindon leaning overhead.

Rock Action 13 Emily Martial Music

Emily going for the flash on Martial Music 7a

Tuesday was met with a whole different weather system: Torrential rain.  Determined not to go to the wall, we headed for the Cheedale Cornice.  Very few other groups would have coped with this venue, but cope they did.  I really questioned the condensed, wet conditions, but we got ropes up on a couple of things and the group embraced classic British conditions.  As the day wore on things dried out and Stan and Emily were keen takers for Martial Music 7a.  Emily was unlucky, but Stan secured success after a few misses passing the reachy moves by the second bolt.

Caff took over on the Tuesday night and after learning to set up belays the group was treated to a slideshow – everyone certainly was up for an exclusive on the Indian Face.

Wednesday was met with the most beautiful conditions at Stanage.  The sun shone, but clouds swept in now and then and the breeze was perfect.  It was time to put trad skills into practice.  Everyone led routes:  Ollie and Stan, their first ever trad leads.  And the others built on previous experience – at the end of the day, Caff treated them to a group ascent of the Asp (E3).

Rock Action 13 Catrin Christmas Crack

Catrin on the super classic Christmas Crack HS Stanage

After all this climbing it was time for a bit of a break and the group hit the Skyropes – an aerial assault course.

Rock Action 13 slacklining

Thursday night slacklining

It looked like we were going to escape the rain, but with a bit of shuffling and decision making we swapped Friday’s sport to Thursday.  After warming up on the Embankment and Max’s wall we headed over to Two Tier.  By this point, everyone’s confidence was elevated from 3 days of climbing outside and all were leading routes.  Leading the pack in terms of confidence was Ollie.  It was his 12th birthday.  He arrived on the course wanting to improve leading and clipping.  By the end of the day he’d flashed a 6a+, redpointed a 6b and flashed a rather tricky 6b+.  But he hadn’t finished there; he joined Catrin who was working Quality Street 7a.  They were doing rounds on the route, each one udging higher, but neither was quite able to make it (and clip... Ollie!) to the resting hold marking the end of the crux.

Rock Action 13 Stan Lightweight

Stan about to push himself on Lightweight 7c

At the other end of the crag Stan was testing his limits.  In fact he wasn’t really, as this guy has a LONG way to go.  But for now the limits are mental – getting on routes he would never previously have considered.  Caff showed him the way on Lightweight 7c – Stan was very unfortunate not to nail this one, but it will surely go down next visit.

Rock Action 13 Chris Terrace Crack

Chris focussed on Terrace Crack VS, Frogatt

It’s always good to know you’ve made the right decision weather/crag wise and on the last day we had a cracker at Frogatt.  Now it was time to put everything together.  Emily, Stan (impressive ascent of Strapiombante E1) and Ollie all led harder than the day at Stanage and Chris and Catrin consolidated.  This time, with the clock ticking it was time for a group ascent of Synopsis E2. 

Rock Action 13 Chris & Stan Frogatt

Chris and Stan at Frogatt

“What was the best bit about the course?” was one of the questions on the feedback form.  The only two answers that were given were “Everything” and “Climbing”.  It was a great course.  New friends were made and climbing ambitions were hatched.  We’ll be back for more in 2014.

Rock Action draws closer and inspiration everywhere

11 Jul 2013

In less than two weeks Rock Action 2013 will be upon us.  Five young people from around the country will be coming to the Peak District to scale our amazing rock.  Some have climbed outside before, some haven’t.  Whatever the case they are all extremely accomplished climbers already.  E8, 8a and British Team membership are already features of the group.

Still it says something about the course and the people coming.  You can always learn more and you can always get better.  Rock Action, over the three years that it has already run, has proved to be not just a jolly good week, but a meeting of minds (it's also run by people with the Mountain Instructor Award qualification and years of experience).

About one and a half months ago I saw Anna, who came on the very first course, charging up a 7c at Malham.  I regularly see Josh, who came on year 1 and 2, out there with his mates loving climbing just like we all do.  And Ellie is going for it in the British Bouldering Championships.  This makes me feel really proud to see I have had an influence in someone’s future climbing.

The course isn’t supposed to be about big numbers – far from it.  It’s about giving young people a climbing experience, without the parents, just like we all experience it: a week of going climbing, talking about climbing, watching climbing dvds and generally having a laugh (of course with some top quality coaching and instruction).  What results are firm friendships and skills that last beyond the course and into people’s climbing careers.  The ‘performance’ aspect of the course is a sideline.  The ratios of coach to climber couldn't be better this year with 1:2 and 1:3 attention meaning care and safety are paramount.  It doesn't get better than that.

Ben Davison Pata Negra

Ben climbing Pata Negra 8c, Rodellar Spain PHOTO Jonas Wiklund

One of those meeting of minds involved Ben Davison and Buster Martin.  They were both very inexperienced outdoors and met on the course.  The other common denominator was their incredible psyche.  It was very, very clear at the time they would go far.  As a coach I feel that attitude is one of the biggest things that will influence a climber – even more than natural talent.  You can’t climb hard without psyche.

Buster Martin Bat Route

Buster climbing Bat Route 8c, Malham Cove

Caff (James McHaffie) saw it too as he coached both of these young talents.  Ben very almost burnt Caff off as he got a 7c one go after Caff.  And now look what’s happened.  Ben and Buster have each climbed an 8c.  This is truly remarkable and I applaude them both.  Here's a link to Ben's blog and here’s Buster’s report on Bat Route at Malham.

I can’t take any credit for their ascents, but I hope that Rock Action got them off to a good start.  I insist on the highest quality of coaching, which makes the course so special.  Our coaches and instructors aren’t just there to show people how to do things, but more importantly inspire.  And this year Caff, who I am coaching with, is coming with no shortage of inspiration.  We’ve heard all about his amazing achievements, but his recent one day ascent of the Indian Face E9, Cloggy, Wales, must be near the top of his biggest accomplishments.  Well done to him too.

Caff Indian Face

Caff high and lonely on Indian Face E9, Cloggy North Wales

The course starts on 22nd July – I can’t wait!  There are still spaces if you are keen!

Unleashing the Wild Physique

03 Jul 2013

WARNING: this blog’s content is about a topic I’m sure many people will find very dull – food and diet – but it may help your climbing.  Feel free to click off.

At the end of April I went for my annual asthma review and the results were depressing.  Out of nowhere I’m worse than I have been in a long time.  After a winter of endless chest infections I knew I needed to do something – but the options seemed limited.  Like an obsessive hypochondriac (that’s how I felt) I got some food intolerance tests done.  It came out with a pretty long list and cynical Nic felt it was all some plot to make money out of hopeful desperates like myself.

He might be right, but I’d suspected for some time, that my diet wasn’t right.  I get really hungry, all the time and sometimes no food seems to help other than a massive sit down meal, ideally involving a big juicy steak.  My energy levels are very up and down and I get very tired (even before I became a mum). In my 20s I chomped down the Frosties every morning, ate all my lunchtime sandwiches by 11am and every other day headed for a pork, stuffing and apple sauce bap.  Why not, I got away with it, I wasn’t overweight.   But, towards the end of my 20s after a similar winter of seamless illness, I did a month long Carol Vorderman detox, which if nothing else taught me about some new foods and a different way to eat (not crap).  And I felt better – my energy levels were much more stable.

For years I ate healthily, until I got pregnant and then of course my old favourites made another appearance: the salty buttered toast (nothing better), cakes (one of life’s real treasures), frothy cappuccinos, Cadburys flakes, wispas, snickers and a regular bar of good old green and blacks.  How can you resist what with all the cafe visits, my life of new mum, involved?

This winter I kept promising myself to get back to the oat cakes and bin the bread.  This spring, it just felt it was time for action.

I will not bore you with my list of intolerances, but for 2 months I tried to stick to cutting out all of them (mainly dairy, yeast and egg white – there were 10 others, but there is only so much typing my fingers can do).  Yeast is a killer – it’s not just in bread, it’s in salad dressings, wine and in fact most things I enjoy.  And how do you make a cake without an egg – that seemed like a real blow:  NO CAKE.

Life was not as fun as normal – but on my birthday and at a wedding I caved in, however the reaction afterwards barely seemed worth it.

Despite all this I had my best run of climbing form ever...

Still, how is life worth living without chocolate or cake – no magnificent climbing achievements compare to a life without chocolate – not in my world anyway?

Rock Idol

Me climbing the truely magnificant Rock Idol E1, Pembroke last week.  One of the best routes I've ever done

As we were driving down to Pembroke, out of sesame bars and depressed about a week on holiday with no wine, I did something I literally can’t remember doing in years.  I WENT TO MACDONALDS.  There we were, Vanessa loving the climbing frame, and me singing the praises of what good value for money the place was:  £6.29 bought us a happy meal, a large fries, a chicken and bacon wrap and an extra orange juice.  Vanessa couldn’t get enough of her plastic toy that came free with her happy meal and we got 20 minutes chilling out taking in the scene.  Clearly all perspective was lost.

Vanessa macdonalds toy

Vanessa with her special new toy - what is it anyway?

In Pembroke I drank wine every night, ate chocolate bars, paninis, cakes, felt crap climbing, my cough was bad but I had a brilliant time.

So what is the point in all this?  FINDING A BALANCE.

What I failed to mention was my purchase, just prior to the trip, of raw cacao powder, cacao butter, cacao paste, chia seeds and all sorts of other stunningly expensive products to help me in my quest for chocolate and satisfy my sweet tooth.  Two days before Pembroke I made my own delicious chocolate free from sugar and general crap – it was just what I needed.  Although the Macdonalds blow out was more necessary.

We met up with our friends Charlie and Gilly in Pembroke.  Charlie has ankylosing spondylitis (a type of arthritis) and he also climbs E9.  He’s solved most of his problems through diet.  We spoke lots about the reality of following such strict diets.  I was inspired about new food ideas and being realistic living life.  So for the last 5 days I’ve been back on the diet, but not as strictly as before.  I’m doing my utmost to keep off the dairy and bread.  Other than that I’m flexible.

My chest seems a bit better – maybe that will take time.  But here is the other benefit:

On Sunday I went down the Cornice (it’s dry, hooray) and jumped on Unleashing the Wild Physique 8a, a vertical test piece on tiny crimps.  It’s supposed to be hard for the grade so I expected my normal drawn out siege.  As usual I got all the moves quickly and a reasonably link.  But I expected a 3 - 4 day timescale plus extra days for general cock ups and getting unnecessarily pumped.  On Tuesday I returned, put the clips in, then went for a link.  Back on the ground I suddenly thought I could do it.  And I did.  This is the fastest I’ve ever done an 8a.  What a feeling it was latching that final hold.  My body worked as it should do, no frustrating pumps or fading, that I am so accustomed to.  This is most certainly not coincidence.  It feels like I have just unleashed my new physique.

Unleashing the wild physique

Someone else climbing Unleashing - mid crux

PS this blog will not turn into regular gluten free recipes but if you are interested, get in touch.