Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The importance of getting out

First weekend of the year, and we were back in last year's winter stomping ground of Brean Down.

The forecast wasn't great, the rock was damp and chilly at times (waking up to thick fog on Sunday morning, it seemed like a bit of a lost cause) but once we were warmed up and cranking, it was all worth it for several reasons.

After two months laid up with a slipped disc, I'd been back in the climbing gym for a couple of weeks before christmas, but hadn't really been out on the rock at all. Factor in the couple of weeks off over the festive period, and I think it's fair to say there were a few cobwebs needing blown out.

The gym got me used to falling where there was nothing to hit and bolts every half a meter, but it didn't get me used to falling in the real world, so I needed a few lobs to sort out the fear.

The gym also got my muscles used to pulling again, but it didn't get me used to the subtleties of rock climbing, so once I'd got myself relaxed, I needed the rest of the weekend working on body position and footwork.

And what a good school for body position and footwork Brean Down is! For such a small place (made even smaller this weekend due to seepage on most of the upper lines) there's so much to learn at Brean.

We did a lot of laps of the two 7as Chepito and Pearl Harbour, and despite all three of us knowing the routes well, I don't think anyone used the same sequence twice. There's so many ways to do each route there you can really just explore the rock - a line up decent crimps one time, and a more strenuous line on sidepulls the next; or endless variations of footwork to refine and climb the route more efficiently.

Then there was Tide Rising (7b+). I spent several hard days of projecting to send this line in 2011, and although a repeat was never likely to be on so soon after the layoff, I figured it would do me good to try and work the moves.

Despite remembering most of the hand sequence I had used, it felt totally impossible to begin with, and even after several goes on saturday and two on sunday, I hadn't figured out a really reliable way through the bottom crux.

It's so sequency - with a bit more fitness I could have powered through, but as it stands everything would have to be optimised, and I couldn't quite do that. Finding the easy way to do one move would leave me in a poor body position for the next.

It felt like I was missing one little trick that would link everything together for the bottom half, and the same for the top.

But no matter, every second I spent trying it out was valuable; I was reminding my body what it feels like to be on a piece of real rock instead of a slab of chipboard with friction paint and bolt-on holds - and working the muscles that don't really get worked in the gym.

So I came away with the feeling that a bit more practice will have me cranking hard again in no time.

The final reason it was all worthwhile, was simply the psychological boost. The months of inaction had left me a bit down, and if there's one thing guaranteed to lift that cloud, it's a weekend with the guys on the rock, whatever the weather!

So here's to getting out more often for a year of cranking... happy 2013 everyone!

Ramon with total concentration on the crux hold of Tide Rising (7b+)

Tom working the extremely technical crux move on Storm Warning (7c+)

Dog walkers making the most of a grey seaside afternoon

Sunset at the end of a great day's climbing

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