Monday, 26 April 2010

Training Hard!!!

Hey Guys

This weekend has been flippin' mental! Training to the max!!! Saturday I was doing hard routes at ratho with Nat, this was her first hard route session since the hernia operation! It didn't seem like it though, 10 minutes into the session and she made a quick and effortless ascent of Busby's new Tan 7b+ on the comp wall! Not soon after she made two more annoyingly easy ascents of two more 7b+'s, my blue 7b+ on the old comp wall and my yellow 7b+ on the new comp wall, both onsight!!! She then attempted one of my 8a's, falling of just before the roof (7b+ to there?). This girl is a total BEAST!!! The fact that she can do all this after taking more than 8 weeks off climbing makes me feel rather... well... crap! I train nearly everyday, doing everything I can to push my limits and she can just waltz in and run up stuff without a sweat! WHAT AM I DOING SOOOO WRONG!?!?!?!?

Nah... I'm proud of her! She is certainly a star... I shouldn't really expect anything less from Britain's most accomplished competition climber!

Anyway, my session was a little slow due to the fact that it was my 3rd day on or so... but I still got some good routes in! I made a first ascent onsight of Busby's new 7b+, then moved onto my yellow 7b+ which I must say, isn't short of a total masterpiece! I had an attempt on my grey 8a, managed to get far into the roof before nackering out. I didn't expect much (I was feeling like a sac of potatoes), but i continued to push it, got on Lisandro's ripple 8a (one of the best routes at the wall) and did that fairly effortlessly which felt good at the end of a pretty crappy session!

After the route session, Nat and I had a hardcore pull up workout! We attempted to do lock off's for as long as possible with various amounts of weight taken off our body (using a pulley). Every time I took a weight off my stack (for a new set), I would add 6kg to Nats weight stack, which evened itself out quite well! Its funny though, locking off without weight taking off, my record is about 14-20 seconds or so, but once you've done about 8 sets working down to 0kg taken off, trying to do a simple lock off with 0kg taken off is almost impossible!!! I think 5 seconds was my record with 0kg that night hahahahahah!!!

Sunday was a bit more fun! I started off bouldering with Buz and Nat, still feeling destroyed but managed to hold in, even though the body was unwilling, the mind was fighting for more! I did a couple of V7/8's, almost flashed one and did another after quite a few attempts! Then I moved on to circuits, Buz and I crushed some of mcgeeks circuits in the boulder cave (a good workout despite the crappy angle of wall), then I moved on to campus board power endurance! My forearms felt like they wanted to break free of my body, they where screaming in pain by the end of this! 3 sets of 50 moves of 4 fingers and 3 sets of 40 moves on 3 fingers! Usually I do 2 fingers as well but I was now, well and truly gubbed!

What a weekend! Finally, I would just like to congratulate all of my friends who competed in the Leading Ladder Final in Leeds! Rachel Carr who (I heard) was a machine, placing first in U16's! Eddie Barbour (always a beast!) placing 3rd in Mens and Eleanor Hopkins (MRS T!!! - T for training) who placed 4th in U16's!

Congratulations on your awesome results!

Your all champions!!!


Oh yeah! We also at the Phillips household had the pleasure of Tilly Billy's company (Nats dog)! Heres a picture of Donny, KT (Mine) and Tilly playing in the garden. Notice how KT is eating Tilly's football, its no longer Tilly's...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Hurly Burly + Where's Wally?

Hey guys!

Well, I forgot to post a little thing about my trip to Birnam Quarry last week! I went up with my good pal Eddie Barbour to attempt the coveted "Hurly Burly"! Weighing in at a healthy 8b I wasn't expecting too much on my first attempts, but was looking forward to hearing what all the fuss was about...

We where meeting up with one of Eddie's pa
ls from Aberdeen, Gordon Lennox. Gordon had been trying the route on and off for the past 8 years, quite an incredible dedication to a single climb! Eddie had had four previous sessions on the route (one which he had had the flu, so we won't count that one). On Gordon's previous session, he had reached the final hold before the clipping jug before falling, GUTTED!!! But he was back for more and hopefully, this session, he would see the fruit of his labours...

After warming up (pull ups on a branch), everyone was getting stuck into the route! Both Gordon and Eddie cruised the route from the 2nd clip and all they had to do was make a successful ascent from the start to get the tick. I had a couple of plays on it while the others were resting, from the second clip, nothing seemed to give me any bother. From clip to clip, I did every move first go and just had to figure out the best places to clip and the best foot and body positions. The redpoint crux at the to
p felt rather easy actually so that was a really good omen!

Anyhoo, Gordon was up for his first redpoint attempt of the day, I was a little nervous for him because I knew that he had invested a lot of time and energy into this and the fact that he was so close to it now was pretty nerve racking. The route also has a slight downside to it, because of the nature of the cave it resides in, if you fall of clipping you are very likely to hit the ground, a good belayer will try and avoid this by giving out just enough slack to clip and no more, If i screw up, I could yank him of the wall by accident (Like i did to Alan Cassidy in spain!).

So off he went, cruising up the start, he made every move look effortless and smooth. As he approached the second clip, he avoided clip
ping and went straight to the third! I was crapping it here as he would for sure deck even if I ran back at a hundred miles an hour! He continued to move solidly and very static, not showing any sign of fatigue. As he clipped the third clip(2nd clipped), a great weight lifted off me, he continued into the first crux looking still very solid...

As he rocked over high on his left foot, he seemed to faulter slightly, this was for me probably the hardest move on the route, the left foot is gash and the undercut was very powerful to get into... But still he cruised on, grasping the hold solidly and powering through into the next moves he continued to astound!

Finally reaching the rest, he flipped his feet horizontally onto a leaning ledge out right and recovered. He looked less convincing now of his sol
idarity on the route, shaking out quickly and breathing heavier, but he hadn't shown any sign of letting go so far, and off he continued...
Keeping on crushing up the wall he finally reached the redpoint crux!!!
Slapping into the two finger pocket, he reeled in hard on his right arm and jumped straight into the stuck on edge!!! Latching it with feet flying off the wall he maintained his attachment to the rock... powering up, looking drained, he continued to head into the final wall, slapping for an edge, matching it, ebbing off the wall and his left hand thrust up into the final edge to clip from! Catching it, he grasped for what rope he had left, I ran into the wall to provide it and bent armed and shaking like a leaf he clipped the chain... YAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!!!! YAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSS!!!

What an epic adventure! 8 years in the making, he had finally succeeded! I was honored to have belayed such a momentous event in his climbing and was powered up and psyched for my remaining goes!

Not to make it sound anything less of an achievement, but soon after Gordons ascent, Eddie snatched the second of that day as well... two ascents for Hurly Burly in one day!!! I'm not writing a breakdown of eddie's climb, but it was certainly impressive and i'm hoping to put a video of it on soon!

Also to add to the list of events happening in the past week, Nat has been staying over for the time being and we went on a little trip into town yesterday... see if you can find Wally?

Hangin around Waterstones on Princes Street, we searched for the elusive Wally...

Can you spot Wally?

Friday, 16 April 2010


Yeah... so like the title suggests... I did some trad... WOOOOHH!!!

My first experience of traditional climbing (the activity in which you climb a rock face placing your own protection in the rock as you climb) was with my old friend Johannes Felter at Lime Kilns about 3-4 years ago! I remember climbing "Humbug" VS lead and traversing the whole of the big boulder, and thats about it. Yesterday, my good mate Charlie "Mr one armer but can only climb 6b+" Mackie took me once again to experience trad climbing at Lime Kilns. After work (5ish), Charlie, Pocket Sarah (Sarah Kelly) and Shawn (can't remember his second name) headed off from ratho to experience some awesome local climbing!

After reaching Lime Kilns, Charlie gave me a quick briefing on gear and what I'm to do once at the top, and that was it, I headed up on my second ever trad lead "DTs" VS 4c. It made for interesting climbing with quite a cool top out, I was a bit scared when all the final holds seemed to be shaking whenever any pressure was put on them... oh well, just get on with it aye?

After Charlie seconded, we moved on round the corner to try "Dead Ringer" E1 5b! This was a bit trickier. The climb set up the start of a corner, moving out left you hit some cracks and then from there you move into the crux. The crux is on small crimps that would be bad on a hard boulder problem, the only difference is you have big ledges for your feet. The final challenge of this climb is to do 3 pull ups on the iron ring at the top of the wall... hahahaha, it didn't feel too safe but it held... thank god!

The next route was something a little trickier... "Elgins Crack" E2 5c. Charlie told me that this route was a bit trickier than the others and more difficult to place gear on. He also exclaimed that certain Ratho colleagues and friends of mine were projecting this and still hadn't managed to climb it so far, this made me quite apprehensive as these guys where no punters when it came to trad and where especially handy on sport. Knowing this made me feel that perhaps my strength and fitness levels from sport may not help so much on this route. Anyway, I headed up the start, placing some early gear in the first crack made me feel a lot more confident as I continued up into the main face. Not realising, I continued climbing without placing any gear and before I knew it I was well above my last piece! Placing some gear quickly, I headed on up and finished the route without much difficulty...

The final challenge of the day was to be the well known 3 star classic of Lime Kilns, "Velvet Glove" E4 6a!!! On this route I felt very much that my fitness helped me loads! As the route was steeper than the rest, the holds where bigger and it required more weight on your arms, you got pumped a lot quicker hanging around, especially when your placing gear... I wasn't so good at this which meant I spent a lot of time faffing around... I laid back up a crack on the left hand side and got some good pieces in before the crux. The crux was just a rather large span to a good crimp , to hold myself in I got a heel hook on a good flat edge under the small roof and pulled up to a new crack! In this crack I got a really good hand jam and could shake out easily enough, reducing the pump in my arms... Moving on up I pulled over the final lip and topped out!

Trad has never been something that interested me to be honest. From this experience, I can definitely see myself doing more of it in the future, but truthfully, I don't think I'll be pushing it too hard, purely of my ambitions in sport! If I get injured then I'm off sport for a long time and thats why I'm going to use easy trad as a good rest day activity and keeping motivation up for hard sport for when I peak in my training! I won't be out pushing the limits of my Trad anyway, maybe just as a relaxing fun day at the crag with my friends...


Sunday, 11 April 2010

Nat's First Day Back...

Today was Nat's (Natalie Berry) first day back climbing after 8 whole weeks off due to surgery on a hernia! She has literally been, sleeping, eating, watching movies, more sleeping, eating copious amounts of chocolate and basically doing nothing for the past 8 weeks! Her first day back into training so she decides to take it easy. Her day went as follows:
1. Warm up (6c)
2. 4 x 4's set 1: 6c, 6c, 6c, 6c
3. 4 x 4's set 2: 6c, 6c, 6c, 6c
4. 4 x 4's set 3: 7a, 7a, 7a, 7a
5. 4 x 4's set 4: 6b+, 6c, 7a, 6c

Now I know what your all thinking... 8 weeks off nothing and suddenly this! Well I lied about this being her first day back... she did 10 minutes last night on her home wall. I suppose though that from being able to onsight 8a to doing laps on 7a, its not really that hard comparitively, probably felt to her what 5+ feels to the rest of the world?

Anyway, Nat wasn't the only one crushing, young Eleanor Hopkins was attempting a few projects before her 3 x 3 session, looking strong on a potential first 8a! The yellow on the new comp wall, originally graded 7c+ but everyone on it is convinced 8a! A technical start leads to a severe overhang with deep, powerful moves on positive holds with bad footholds! As the climb leads into the roof, you hit the crux, slapping into a gaston crimp on a semi-sphere volume. You then press out horizontally into two bad jugs before reaching the daunting roof, and into some jugs. However, the jugs are awkwardly placed with bad footing which means your always out of balance and can't get much rest...

Anyway, she was looking solid on that, cruising until the crux before the roof... I'm sure its only a matter of time. I got on it and managed to get well into the roof but failed due to a lack of courage as i missed a couple of clips...

After my project work I moved onto 3 x 3's! I managed to do 2 and a half on the ripple 7c, then the same again on the white 7b and then the same again on the yellow 7c! Not bad, although I did manage to complete all 3 of those 3 x 3's a few weeks ago, but I haven't done them recently due to comps and work etc...

Yeah... so training went well today, and after, we watched the art show that was taking place at ratho... ya know? Those people who've been wandering round ratho with drums, doing cartwheels whilst twirling ropes in the air and hanging behind you when your belaying trying to emulate your movements... those guys... Well turns out they were trying to do some sort of homage to diamonds or something, yeah.... it was a bit weird... but hey... buz, geek, callum and stuart got to dress up as cows whilst attempting to scale the old comp wall to the theme tune of the clangers...
that song makes geek a bit horny... Below is a picture of his preparation dance... part of his courtship of buzcow...

Now we see the geekcow encroaching on his mate... notice hand placement and tongue undulation... also his crouching poised position is typical of a mating stance...

It appears from this picture that the buzcow has accepted the geekcow's offer of courtship and is enjoying the ensuing pleasures... very much so...


Thursday, 8 April 2010

Coaching Andrew "Has Steve McClures Fingers" Barr!

This kid is something else guys! I don't know what planet he's from but wherever it is they must have some sick crimp training on the go because this lad hangs tiny edges like most of us hang handle bar jugs! The future of Scottish crimp fests are in his hands : P

Andrew Barr is one of the few kids I have been coaching for the past 6 months or so and he is by far one of the most promising young climbers I have ever seen in the scottish climbing scene! He has a natural talent for crimping (as I've already made clear) and with specific focus on the other aspects of his climbing, he could do some crazy stuff in the future! One thing that inspires me about Andrew is his hard work and determination, he isn't afraid to put the time and effort in and he reaps the results from it. Because of his attitude, I felt that he was ready to take a long term program to follow that would cover all aspects physically, mentally and technically in his training. The program lasts 24 weeks and is designed to peak him physically for the YCS Final in June and the BLCC's in October.

Its going to be hard but I believe he can do it! I had a session with him and his Dad last week to go over the first block of training and all the exercises he should be doing in them. He starts his first block on Monday, this first block is largely fitness orientated with a lot of lapping and keeping on a low level of forearm pump to work aerobic endurance, this will bring his fitness level up for the next block which will still be fitness orientated but focussed on more intense routes.


Malham Weekend

Hey Everyone!

Haven't posted in a wee while as I've been incredibly busy, so today I will be making up for it with a couple of new posts! First one is on my recent (3 weeks ago) trip to Malham...

So anyway, I went down to Malham with my good mates, Neill "The Buzzard" Busby, James "Don't Mess" McCartan and Will "Choir Boy" Carrol. We stayed with James' and Will's good friends Chris and Catherine Speakman. These guys where incredibly generous and I am very grateful to them for letting Buz and I stay for the weekend. Having a good bed to sleep on and breakfast, lunch and dinner made for you is something you don't get on most trips down to malham thats for sure, they will be my new best friends this summer : P

The weekend was certainly eventful though, lots of climbing, climbing and more climbing, followed by some more climbing... This lead to me being battered and broken for the remaining three weeks, but hey, got some good mileage in though.

The first day started with a quick warm up, "Consenting Adults" 7a, "Free and Even Easier" 7a and then "Yosemite Wall" 7a. A good selection of choice routes to follow an excellent day at the crag. I left the draws in "Yosemite Wall" so that James, Will, Chris and Catherine could have a blast and not soon after, Will got his first Malham 7a of the trip! Only a few goes and he crushed Yosemite into submission! My sights however, where on the upper tears technical masterpiece "Toadall Recall" 8a. I had been told by a certain Neil Mcgeachy that this route would be good to onsight or flash (Neil had got agonizingly close to the flash on a previous trip). To be perfectly honest, I think that this route (for 8a) would be relatively easy to flash because of its very basic style of hard moves, the crux is simply, pull, hold, pull, hold, pull hold...

No need for any crazy foot or hand sequences, a pretty easy sequence for a malham 8a! So on I went with Buz belaying, cruising the first two clips, easy enough. When I arrived at a rail about 1/3 of the way up, the sun peered round the clouds and blasted the crag! Unable to see which way I was meant to be going, I attempted to mantle the very small rail, heel up and crimping on some total gash I stood up, undercutting the crappy crozzel i had crimped on I searched for the next hand hold, all was blind in the burning sun and I attempted to traverse li
ghtly across the shelf my feet where now standing on... Of course, It wasn't long before I was hanging on the rope wondering how in hell anyone could possibly have climbed that... but as usual, sitting on the rope now, I had a new perspective on the route, and as the sun (the evil "illegitimate child") passed under the clouds again, I saw a new path of chalk ebbing off the right and up what appeared to be a manky, choss tufa! Lovely! Getting back on the route I walked it up to the top, I can't believe I fell of there! The Crux higher up was easy if your strong on plastic, and if the sun doesn't blind you the all the footholds are easy to see... oh well... 8a flash/onsight in Britain isn't far off!

The next thing to do was perhaps either to try a harder route such as a potential project, or another flash/onsight? I opted for the latter and went for the flash of a famous 7c+ called "Mescalito"! After getting beta from Bruno Marks (another friend of mine whom I met in Spain) and another guy at the crag also trying the route, I headed up for the flash!

The bouldery crux at the first two clips I totally pissed, this was a good start, heading up the vertical face I encountered some more trickyish moves (apparently I used every foothold on the wall excluding all the handholds, making the sequence more like 9b!),

my hands began to get increasingly cold until they where totally numb by the main overhang... Unable to feel anything in my fingers, I stood before the daunting overhang warming them up on my neck... no use, they where FREEEEEEZING!!!! I headed up the steep face, every move felt easy but getting ever more out of control as the holds got bigger and the feet turned into smears! The climbing was excellent but my fingers where feeling pain now, real pain, I was determined to reach the top, still totally feeling fine, unpumped, unstressed about the moves I continued climbing, reaching some big jug undercuts I only saw one handhold straight up, miles away, I built up my confidence, saw my goal and leaped like predator catching its prey : P Catching the flat jug I yelled "YESS!!!!" Building my feet up, I felt totally at ease, still totally fine, no pump and the only thing wrong was my fingers where dead! Clipping the clip at my face, I built my feet up and move to the next ticked hold, couldn't feel it, before the end, I held onto three or four different holds before my foot popped of the giant polished edge it was resting on sending me hurtling towards the ground, stopped dead by buz's GRI GRI! I was so mad and so cold the only word I could say rhymes with chuck... Again not one of my finest moments but thats what happens when you devote everything to one simple goal, and its snatched away from you at the last second...

Still though... an excellent trip and I look forward to the next one!

Congrats to Will on his second grade 7 of the trip "Appetite" 7a which he almost flashed!!! And thanks again to the very hospitable Chris and Catherine Speakman!!!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Coaching Eleanor "Nat Berry 2.0" Hopkins

Eleanor Hopkins is probably the most promising young climber that has hit the British Competition Climbing Scene since Natalie Berry (My Girlfriend : P ). She is only 13 years old and already has made a name for herself amongst the top youth climbers in the country by winning the British Team Trials, placing 2nd in the YCS 2009 and making finals in the British Championships earlier in the year. Since she started climbing at Ratho, I have been helping with bits and bobs in her climbing. It started out with just a bit of beta on some boulder problems when she needed some help and since then it has moved onto me having full coaching sessions with her around once a month. As well as being incredibly talented, she is also gifted with an amazing drive to achieve and push herself. With her Dad (Martin Hopkins) as her training coach and Neil Mceachy, Neill Busby and I as assisting coaches, she can't help but improve at an alarming rate. Last year she succeeded in redpointing her first 7b+, this year she redpointed her first 7c and on my session on Thursday, onsighted her first 7b+!!!

My last session with her was on Thursday of last week. In this session, I wanted to concentrate on the mental side of climbing. I know most climbers are mental to a degree... clinically insane in my case, but all Eleanor needs is that extra push on hard routes. For a while i've been watching her harder attempts on routes and have felt that she really had more in her than what she gave to the route.
So to start of with, we warmed up and went into the bouldering cave. She chose some specific boulder problems she has been struggling with and I helped her with the techniques required to complete them. First go she completed her V4 problem, which she couldn't quite make the reach on originally. Second she made excellent progress on a traverse V5 (more like 7b route grade?). And finally she saw some pretty substantial gains on a tough V5 which isn't her style. One thing I notice with her (similar to Nat and most girls to be honest) is she lacks in shoulder strength. When it comes to wide moves on big pinches or open handed holds, she really struggles. Also core intensive moves she struggles with, but I believe the two areas to be connected. We must all remember Malcolm Smiths Pro Tips "Keep it Wide!!!". We will now be having regular bouldering sessions which we will be focusing on this main area.
The second stage of our session was on routes. I spent a long time discussing with her psyche up techniques and exactly what is required to climb hard onsights and redpoints when it comes to the mental game! I am a big believer that most climbers don't push themselves to their fullest, a climbers forearms must be screaming, their body must be shocked and their fingers must be peeling of the holds before they fall, any less and they shouldn't have fallen (I accept foot poppage though : P).

Eleanor spent 10 minutes route reading, getting psyched and getting ready for the onsight attempt of my new 7b+ up the old comp wall. When she was ready, she walked up to the wall and began her ascent. After seemingly cruising the supposed crux, she headed into the final roof, obvious she was struggling with some big moves, she asserted her self and changed body position decisively, slapped round for the lip of the roof and mantled. On top and clipping the chain she had onsighted her first 7b+! 30 minutes later, young hot shot Jonny Field steps up and gets the next ascent asserting the first asencionist (Neil Mcgeachy) and Eleanors 7b+ grade!

Seeing the difference in someone's climbing performance when adequately psyched up makes me ever more confident that what holds most people back is their confidence and decisiveness on a climb more than their physical abilities!

The futures bright, the futures Eleanors!