Ending off the Year with a Bang

So! 2013 is almost finished and it’s been a very strange year for the most part. It’s been a year of change: new job, new sponsors, new projects and new friends. At my last count I spent 112 days on rock so far this year. The year came to an end for me on the 27th when I heard a pretty loud pop and my A2 pulley on my right ring finger popped. I’m hoping it’s a partial tear and not a complete rupture.

The year started off with a stage of (f)unemployment with about a month of solid climbing. I used the time to work out how to climb Boa Rodeo in Boven which has remained elusive for the remainder of the year. It’s been a tough one because it is very seasonal and is wet in summer for 5 days after rain but in winter it is in the sun by 8 and goes out of the sun at 5 as the sun is setting. Note to self and anyone else who wants to work the line — either climb this in April or in October so that you can optimize conditions.

Exiting the rest on Boa Rodeo (8a trad)

Exiting the rest on Boa Rodeo (8a trad)

Then I started my new job on 18 February and that was great. I started earning more money than last year and was able to do more with my time. Work has been great this whole year, even when I’ve been really busy I’ve been happy to work rather than feeling like it’s been a drain for me. I feel as though I’m able to work hard, give a great deal of my time to my job and still have enough time to climb and train. It is a bit of a balancing act and occasionally I have been going through periods of “forced rest” when I have deadlines but it’s probably the only way that I would ever rest voluntarily. It’s all been a bit of a balancing act at times, kinda like walking the line…

Slack lining in Boven -- Photo by James Barnes

Slack lining in Boven — Photo by James Barnes

The biggest change that happened for me this year (in my climbing life) was in May this year when I  made the transition from Edelrid and Vaude over to La Sportiva, DMM, Wild Country and Roca. It was not an easy decision to make but the time had come when it was necessary.

My Bling

My Bling (not Roca ropes though)

I had some fun in the Black Diamond Tradathon earlier this year where I climbed Twilight Floozie and a few other cool lines. Was a great day and Brendon Salzer was there to snap some pics.

In Bed with Madonna - Photo by Brendon Salzer

In Bed with Madonna – Photo by Brendon Salzer

This year has been a year of power gains. I wrapped up the majority of the lines in Wigwam this year (most of them on the same day actually). I’ve been focusing on shorter lines that have required a great deal of effort and less endurance. I think that the main reason for this is that I’ve always been weak with a lot of endurance 🙂 As a result I’ve taken this year to build my power with ascents like Frazzle (8b+) which was a second ascent, Axewound (8b), Death by Chocolate (8a+ in a day), Pit Fighter (8a+), Betamax (8a/+) and Twighlight Floozy (8a). I spent a lot of time projecting Shadowfax and Frack It at Chosspile but ran out of time as the summer conditions arrived. I have a feeling both of them will go down quickly next Autumn. I met this really cool photographer who has tonnes of talent! She made a plan to join me for the day at Chosspile and took some sick photos of my on Shadowfax. Zelé Angelides. She is fantastic and psyched.

Setting up for the crux of Shadowfax - Photo by Zele Angelides

Setting up for the crux of Shadowfax – Photo by Zele Angelides

Composing myself before the crux on Shadowfax -Photo by Zele Angelides

Composing myself before the crux on Shadowfax -Photo by Zele Angelides

The crux move on Shadowfax -- Photo by Zele Angelides

The crux move on Shadowfax — Photo by Zele Angelides

My major project at the moment has been Aqualung. Aqualung was opened by Paul Brouard at 8b in 2000 and it is currently unrepeated. I have been working this few a few sessions (3-4) and I’ve been psyched for the pure power of the line. Andrew Pedley got on the line with me on Saturday and eliminated 4 moves off of my beta resulting in me linking all the sections and doing the route in two parts!!! Very psyched to get back there when it is not dripping wet and my finger has healed. Below is video of me attempting Aqualung.

Working session on Aqualung

Training this year has been going through an evolution. At the beginning of the year things started off being really structured and I put in a lot of time into planning my periodicity; but as the year progressed I found that I was putting in less “training” and more “climbing”. I think it was in August when I had enough of it and realized that I needed to make a change and I joined the Virgin Active. Since then I’ve been splitting my time more wisely and I’ve been feeling some serious gains. I feel that the complementary training that I have been doing at the gym allows me to punish my body a little bit (yeah yeah masochist). I bought a heart rate monitor so that I could track my fitness levels and see exactly what impact climbing and training have on my heart rate. I’ve had some really interesting training sessions where I’ve been able to track my calorie consumption vs my  calorie burns and it’s been really good for understanding my energy levels and also where my weaknesses lie.

I’ve been using a High Intensity Interval Training program recently (for about the last month) which has been fantastic! Basically it is doing 800 reps in about 35 minutes with a total of 6 minutes rest in 45 second periods. I’ve noticed a remarkable improvement in my general fitness, my recovery times, my core strength and my burl. I have been able to execute far more hard moves in sequence than I was able to in the past. This coupled with with some maximum power bouldering has been part of my ongoing 8 weeks of power training.

Till I’m recovered from my finger injury I’ll keep myself nice and fit at the gym and slowly get myself back into climbing for my trip to Milner at the end of February (I hope). Oh well. Out with the old and in with the new.

Sends and New Arrivals

I’ve had a really exciting weekend, again! Andrew and I headed off to Boven with the intention of doing Boa Rodeo, an 8a+ trad line. Both of us tried it for three days but had no sends. We discovered how hard it is actually is to place the gear! Wow. We ended up finding a good nut placement backed up by a Wild Country Z3 cam to protect the crux… Basically, for anyone who isn’t familiar with WC Zeros, this is a black Alien cam — it’s small and we’re falling on to this gear with from a pretty descent run out above it.

All pics are by Jahne Theron — Thanks bud!

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The gear is all great but I think that both of our heads weren’t quite in the head space they needed to be in.

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Two much cooler things happened this weekend… I finally made time to climb with Andrew on his Shear Force Project down in the Right Wing and holy 5h!tb@lls, it’s amazing! We are guessing it will weigh in around 8c/+. On the first day on it Andrew and I managed to piece together a sequence that seems to work; on the second day we both did some great links on it. The route is sick! It overhangs by about 8m, it’s 28m long, but it zigzags so get ready for about 35m of climbing all-in-all. The best part: the holds are not too bad on the skin and the rock will never polish. Photos and video are going to be shot when Jono from Outward Ventures makes his way up here early July for an awesome chance to take some pics and vid of La Sportiva Ambassadors Paige Claassen and Jon Glassberg. I met them at the airport today and they are psyched to be here! Enjoy your trip you two! See you in Boven!

Andrew demonstrating how he is going to kung fu Boa Rodeo

I had the opportunity, or stubbornness, to get back on Frazzle this trip. Now admittedly, I’ve been working this in (not so) secret by building a simulator problem at the gym and making the holds worse and worse. On Saturday by the time I got on the climb I was tired and couldn’t even hold on to the holds to start the crux. Not a good sign, but at least I had a chance to put the draws up and climb to the anchors (VERY LUCKILY).

Monday afternoon came around, Andrew put in a massive effort on Shear Force and I was totally psyched to climb it, but I really wanted a good shot at Frazzle, although I felt like I was miles from the send. I set off from the ground and had forgotten that I removed the first bolt so I needed to do some funny business to safely get to the second bolt before coming back down to remove the biner I used on the first. Not a smooth start, hmmm, maybe I’ll go to the shake and just sit there for a few minutes, brush holds etc. Well, I got to the rest, not in a particularly efficient manner but I’m here. May as well try the crux before I brush the holds.

I reach up to the sloping crimp and it feels amazing; my skin is just locked on to the hold. I mantle to get my foot high and then lock off to the horrid intermediate….I stabilize for a split second, and snatch to the crux crimp! WTF?!? I’m still on! FOCUS BRIAN! Hold it! I reach my right hand up to a good hold and scream! Andrew is cheering at the bottom! Now I’m starting to panic! I have only been to the chains once or twice and there is a bunch of tough climbing ahead, nothing hard but definitely tricky enough that I could blow it… I compose myself, chatting with Andrew for some psyche, and then set off. I almost come off at the next bolt but refuse to let go. I do a few more moves and I’m on a monster jug. I think I shook out for about 5 or 6 minutes, could have been longer, it felt like forever to be honest. But I was pretty confident from this point that I could get to the chains.

The rest of the route went down smoothly enough. I climbed to the last bolt before I started screaming again. I was psyched. Frazzle 8b+, second ascent. I know that Paul opened it at 8a+ more than a decade ago but it is the hardest thing I’ve climbed by far. I guess that’s where a personal grade has to come in. I know a bunch of strong guys who have tried this line and none have had success on it.  Whatever grade it is, it’s hard, fingery and a hell of a bouldery crux!

The only pair of shoes I used all weekend were my Pythons. Now, this was a big surprise to me. I did not expect them to work on a vertical wall. I figured they’d work in the cracks on Boa Rodeo and the steepness at Choss, and therefore the Shear Force line too, but on Frazzle?? That was confusing. Maybe they’ll surprise me on Rodan too (doubtful).

Now…. Off on a completely different tangent, I did the weirdest thing last week. I joined a gym. I’ve decided that bouldering just isn’t enough anymore, so I’ve started a training regime at the gym.

Yesterday was pretty tough:

  1. 20 min run @ 11 km / h at 3% gradient on the treadmill to start
  2. 12 min rowing
  3. About 10 one arms L & R
  4. 5 x 6 pull ups with 20kgs load
  5. 1 lap of the “super circuit” –> weight training with stepping intervals. Generally 30 reps of moderate weight.

The whole point of the exercise is to push my comfort zone a little further than what I’m currently used to. I feel like I can climb 6 days a week and not be making massive progress. So maybe I need to climb indoors 2-3 days a week, gym 2-3 days a week and climb on rock 2 days a week on a set program. Currently I’m busy with a 4 week power cycle at the wall; I’ve been working shorter, powerful routes at Chosspile and even in Boven. The idea is to raise the bar so that when my power-endurance cycle starts Rodan will go down. I have a date with Rodan from 6-14 July! Can’t wait. Hope to share the experience with a bunch of my buds!

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