A few days ago my good companion James arrived for his first stint in Innsbruck. Whilst we both may have decided to move here, he hasn’t spent any time here until now. I feel like a new chapter has just opened, as I’ve never lived with a psyched climber in an area with limitless climbing possibilities. The potential is incredible and the psyche is abundant.

We’ve been out climbing a couple of times, but we’re taking it a little slow as going too hard, too soon might be a schoolboy error. I’ve been on a couple of routes, and cleaned up a few others. I feel like my onsight climbing is getting better as I’m seeing sequences more quickly, thus getting less pumped, and hence getting to the top of more routes more easily.

However, I’ve also started to see a somewhat worrying difference between performances on different days. Some days I seem to feel light, don’t get pumped too much, and feel smooth on the rocks. Other days I have to dig so deep, releasing Sharma esque screams to get to the top of a 7a+. I’m yet to understand why this fluctuation occurs, but I’m looking for any tell tale signs and putting the pieces together.

It also feels like I’ve moved up a gear with James’ arrival. Rest days are now a thing of the past, with every day now being utilised. After all, if you’re not doing something productive, you’re not getting ahead and thus you’re falling short of your potential. This is something I don’t want to be a victim of. For the last few days we’ve been climbing day on, day off, with the off days being running days. First thing we do is wake up, have a brew, and hit the road. I’ve got a nice little application for my phone that tracks how far I run, how fast, plots the route and graphs the speed. It’s a nice way to measure once performance against another, plus it gives me an idea about how fit/unfit I am. I think that I should be running 4 minute kilometres. I’d like to be able to do this for 10km eventually, but for now I haven’t broken through the 8km barrier at that pace. Running with James is great because neither of us wants to quit, and so we just keep pushing each other. When I’m tired, I vow that I won’t quit before James, and I’m sure he does the same. Today, the pace was good, the distance was good, and the run was cripplingly difficult. When we finished we semi stripped off and headed down into the river, probably to the slight amusement of the many other runners, walkers, rollerbladers, etc. However, it was like a god send to my burning legs and when I came out I felt like I could run it all over again!

So, the heat has been switched up a notch in terms of lust for performance, but it’s also taken a physical shift upwards. The temps have risen to a daily high in the 30’s, which is fairly oppressive when you’re trying to do something physical. However, this is not an excuse for failure but a reason to sweat off a little more weight!

Climbers are without a doubt some of the most weight obsessed people I’ve ever met and I can’t claim to be an exception. I weight myself regularly but not in the hope that i’m losing weight, only as another indicator of possible ways that my performance may be influenced. Doylo swears that he was on another level of strength when he was his lightest, yet others simply claimed they had no energy. Malc padlocked his fridge closed and when that didn’t work he superglued the screws too! Now I’m not into such extreme measures, because after all, life is more than just the next climbing goal, but knowing if my weight is on the way up or down is useful info. After doing the north face roadtrip my weight was at its zenith and now, after climbing lots, it’s at a nadir (thus far!). This isn’t magic, I’m simply doing a lot more walking, climbing, running etc. Personally, I think that weight won’t make a lot of difference when it comes to my route climbing because I’m basically puntering around on jugs all of the time, even if I’m trying something like an 8b or 8b+. I think when I return to bouldering in a couple of months my weight will come into play a whole lot more. I’m not going to try and stay light though, because it’s not possible to force your body to stay at a certain weight for very long. I’ll simply continue to weight myself and attempt to draw a correlation with any sort of climbing performance… however inconclusive such a link may be!!!

One other thing that I’ve introduced since James’ arrival is the concept of a river ticket. If I don’t do at least an 8a every time I go out then I have to take a dip in the river. This is supposed to be some sort of punishment as the rivers are generally very very cold, but in reality it’s actually going to do me some good in terms of recovery. For some reason James also accepted the punishment scheme but with a slight modification in terms of difficulty. Currently we’ve  both got a river ticket and my last one was cashed in when I went swimming in Achensee. For some reason, as soon as Lisa and I arrived at the lake the sun disappeared, the wind starting blowing, and going into a cold lake suddenly seemed an altogether more difficult proposition. However, that morning I’d watched Bear Grylls (love him or hate him) enter a frozen river in Alaska so I reminded myself just how easy this was in comparison… 10 seconds later I was swimming around, struggling to breathe, but nevertheless swimming around! River ticket cashed. Cha-Ching!

Running, swimming in rivers, and no doubt many other past times all share one amazing facet. During the process of doing, the pain is high, the pleasure is low, and the easy way out is to quit. But if you push on, break through, then you come out the other side and the reward is incredible. That must be why any of us do the things we do, because the pleasure is ultimately derived to the pain and turmoil we go through to get there. What a way to live…