Things I’m learning

Climbing has been a great joy in my life for a long time now. It’s allowed me to visit many amazing places, to meet many kind people, and to push myself fairly hard. Through climbing I’ve learned about myself and also developed myself. It’s a full workout for mind, body, and sometimes soul.

The North Face roadtrip that I’m currently on has been a concentrated version of my 7 years climbing. I’ve been to many new places, met many helpful people, and ultimately been inspired in so many ways. I wasn’t sure how this trip would evolve or what it would ask of me, but I did know that saying yes to such an interesting offer was always the right move. I’m beginning to realise now what an understatement that was. This trip is perhaps just what I needed in so many ways.

For several years I’ve been a boulderer, and the main reason for this was that it was hard to find people who were as psyched as me for climbing and training. This led me to training alone and eventually building my own wall so I could get on with training without any fuss or hassle. Bouldering is something I truly love, with the search for me always being the hardest move and not much else. I’ve often lost interest in a boulder problem once I could do the moves, which is a bad habit so don’t develop it! I still have a great deal of desire for bouldering, but this trip has opened my eyes to just how much is on offer and more importantly just how good sport climbing can be. It’s a weak position to be in if you refuse to do something because you’re not good at it, and this has never been my reason for not going sport climbing. I am certainly terrible when it comes to climbing on a rope, something which I’m not happy about, but I’m now extremely motivated to begin to change that. I don’t want to move to spain and become a sport climber, merely to level out my climbing skills. My original goal which I fulfilled a few years ago was to climb Font 8A, Trad E8, and sport 8a, since which time I’ve raised the bar a little in bouldering so now I feel like the other two are lagging behind.

I’ve never had an aversion to sport climbing, in fact some of my main climbing goals are related to putting on a rope. I’ve always wanted to do routes such as Stonelove, Agincourt, and Hubble. Whilst these are not the best routes in the world they are important to me and I think I’d be a little sad if I never got to try them. However, I’ve now been around Europe and seen some incredible lines which have only served as pure inspiration to get my forearms working on things longer than 8 moves. Apart from the obvious upside to getting a bit fitter there is the wonderful fact that progress will come quickly because I’m starting from such a low base level. I literally have zero fitness and what fitness I may appear to have on a 7b or 7c is only due to the fact that the moves are so easy. I don’t yet have a master plan as to how I’m going to do this as there is still the problem of having someone to train with all the time and finding somewhere suitable to train, but I’m sure the pieces will fall into place (as they always do).

My main goal for the year remains to climb 8B+ bloc but I now have a secondary medium term goal which is getting fit. I want to experience the joy of being able to climb smoothly and efficiently on something big!

The most impressive thing I’ve seen on this trip was Nina Caprez climbing at Voralpsee. Of course it’s impressive to see Gaz and James climbing 8a’s every other day, but they don’t climb as smoothly since they possess the evil known as strength. Gaz is undoubtedly fit, but he is also strong and so he doesn’t need to climb super well to get to the top of these routes. Nina is also strong, but her climbing style is one of exceptional movement. I want to know what it feels like to move that well and to remain calm, peaceful, and in control whilst pushing ever higher. I’ve had one go on a few routes during this trip, either because they were amazing or short and after doing a critical self assessment I can safely say that the word “smooth” has no place in my current climbing style. I’d really like to change that. I don’t want to brute everything and I think to see an improvement in my sport climbing I need to go back and learn how to climb routes. It will inevitably lead to an improvement in my bouldering too, so I’m eager to try and make this change in style. I’m not technically inept, but I’m certain that I have a HUGE amount to learn in the art of climbing well.

For this reason alone this trip has been a huge success. It’s also been a huge success thanks to the fact it’s given me a chance to sample a wide variety of venues, giving me a clear idea of where I’ll be returning to and where I’ll never lay foot again. I’ve spent time with one of my best friends and also got to know Gaz much better, and I’m sure we’ll be going away together again in the near future. All of this whilst also earning some money… what more could I ask for?

[I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but had no time to publish it - my world cup experience is coming soon!]