Friday, December 30, 2005

Mixed tricks, aging

Mixed Movement:

I've been climbing mixed routes without spurs for the last couple of years, and the more I do of this the more fired up I get on the movement. Initially I thought I'd just end up doing more Figure-4 moves on steep terrain, but the reality is that I do about the same number of figure fours on a given route as ever--sometimes a figure 4 is all there is to do. But I've discovered a bunch of new moves (new to me anyhow, I'm sure others are well up on these) that make BB mixed cimbing a lot more fun than the the "spur over head, repeat to top" style that was en vogue for a while. I find myself climbing mixed routes much more like hard summer rock routes--here are some of the "tricks" we've been using lately on the steep cave routes or roofs.

Raking: Use the points under the ball of your foot on edgesor ice to "rake." You still have to keep body tension or your foot blows, unlike a spur, but you can really use the "rakes" to rest and setup for hard moves. It's a lot like having your foot on a bucket with a rock shoe--good as long as you have the body tension. You can also "paste" your points and let the rakes work a bit, this works suprisingly well even on relatively smooth rock.

Rake cams: Stick the side points into a crack feature then twist your foot--these can be bomber if done in a good spot, pretty cool. Still require body and foot tension to stay on.

Toe/foot Cams: These were key to climbing Alcatraz in Colorado last year--hook a "rake" point on an edge under a small roof, then cam your frontpoint or toe against something. It has to be done really precisely to hold well, but again it's a common move on rock routes, feels good. On routes with big horizontal cracks you can get a great heel/toe cam with the same trick. Sometimes it's even possible to get a no-hands rest, but it works your stomach really hard...

Heel Hooks: Again, just like rock climbing. Sometimes you can use the spikes on the back of your crampons for better friction in ice, or the rubber rand on your boot on rock.

Drop-Knees: These kind of died in the modern "power" era of rock climbing according to my bud Sonnie Trotter, but they are back with a vengance in mixed. They work better with mono-points and fruit boots for sure.

Dynos: Yep, with ice tools... Big reaches are really hard without spurs, often I find myself pasting my feet and trying to lock a big move, then falling. The solution is just to dyno. It's hard mentally at first, but I'm getting way into it for speeding things up through difficult sections--all key to beating the pump clock on steep routes.

As I get older (38 now) I find my training needs to be more flexible. I can still train about as hard in terms of volume and intensity, but exactly what I do in any given week or even month seems to add up differently than it used to. New exercises cause more damage than they used to for example, but exercises I have done regularly for years don't, even if I haven't done them in weeks. Slight variations in diet, drinking, sleep, sickness (a cold for example) or just life impact my training much more than they used to. I used to basically never take a designated training day off no matter what I felt like. Now I do--sometimes that means three rest days in a row, like over Christmas when I didn't feel great, but then I'll come back and feel like training hard for three days in a row. At the end of a month my total climbing/training days still seems to add up to around 20-25, but it is definitely a much less structured process than it used to be. Surprsingly, this doesn't seem to hurt my overall results (I climb better each week at this point). No real point to this commentary, I just find it interesting to see how my body and mind change as I age...

Dec 29's workout: Power

Did the usual 30-minute Yoga session in the evening then went to the Vsion (climbing gym), where I focused on front lever power and lock-off power, two tricks the line I'm working in the Cineplex requires a lot of. Feeling a bit tired after yesterday's session in Hafner. Warmed up by bouldering at the Vsion (I'm a worthless POS on plastic at the moment, mixed climbing does NOT make you strong there!), then six rounds of front levers on rock rings (can't do one good clean front lever right now, but it's coming back, just did my best effort then one-leg extended levers, qick cycles to failure) alternating with hand-stand pushups (sets of 3-5, I'm weak on those too) followed by a half-dozen rounds of big lock-off moves on the peg board. Finished up with campusing on the peg board and messing about with some figure fours. A couple of weeks ago I watched a couple of the younger climbers at the Vsion (Seb and Zak) busting out front levers, it inspired me to get after it again. These guys are STRONG, and got that way through regular training. Many mixed climbers aren't very strong (myself included) compared to well-trained rock climbers. I can think, "I'm getting pretty strong" when I can do half-assed front levers when other mixed climbers I train with can't, or I can recognize the truth that I'm weak and need to train harder when I see the youth busting them out way better than I can. No excuses for my ass dangling low on front levers...

Goal: Send my new route in the Cineplex...

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Right, I've been in Nepal and all over, finally back home in Canmore and finally training hard again. I came back from Nepal tired and with a bad case of the post-trip blues. I often find the aftermath of big trips very difficult mentally--all my energy and focus goes into creating something, then it's done, it's hard to fill the resulting void. Total commitment to an idea means just that, there's not a lot of room for the rest of the world or even myself when I'm in the midst of planning or executing a trip. I find it very difficult on return to do the daily life tasks, train, or get much of anything productive done. Nepal was a great trip, but we failed miserably to climb our planned line on Teng Kang Poche. I could write volumes about why, but the reality is that we just didn't have what it took in terms of organisation, commitment, weather, conditions, etc. It was a great trip with fun people, but I hate failing. I know I'm supposed to "learn" from failure, but failure sucks, and I've failed enough to have learned that very well. I spent a week after Nepal looking listlessly at the computer screen and reading pulp fiction. Then I started to climb mixed routes again, and I can feel the energy building. Nepal put me in a truly horrendous climbing condition--a month of hiking up hillsides at altitude makes you aerobically fit, but I am fundamentally a technical climber, not a high-angle backpacker (alpinist). That's the one good realization to come out of the post-Nepal blues: I know what I am a bit better. If I go back to Nepal I'll go back with either a technical mindset or a hiking mindset, there is no middle ground for me. Easy climbing disturbs my ability to enjoy the mountains--I'd rather just go hiking and groove on the mountains. If a rope is involved I want it to be there because the climbing is hard enough to be the only thing that matters. Mixed climbing for me is hard--on the average mixed route I'll fall off, pumped silly, and I don't want it any other way. We've been playing with some new styles for mixed climbing of late, this link goes to some of that. Basically I'm really exicted about mixed climbing again, I'm working a new line in the Cineplex, up on the Parkway. I've been training consistently since early Novemember, but it's still too hard. It's just too crazy good, three big swings and then some horrendous moves for 25 feet across a thin crack in a flat roof. Everytime I go in there my stomach feels like it's been beaten with a baseball bat, perfect. I hope to get it done by the time I head for Ouray, we'll see.

Workouts: Basically just a ton of mixed climbing for the last month, with an emphasis on front lever power and power endurance. I train in at the Vsion when I can't get out mixed climbing, but absolutely nothing trains you better for mixed climbing than going mixed climbing. It's a volume game, mixed climbing is jus too weird for anything but mixed climbing to simulate the movements and head space required. Yesterday Scott Semple, Raphael Slawinski, Valerie Babaonov and I spent the day in the Hafner cave doing laps. I did Cave Man, m10 four times, with as much downclimbing as I could handle each time, and three laps on Fire Roasted, M10. The Hafner cave is the best training cave we have around here, plus it's a really nice place to hang out. The 30-minute walk is just long enough to get really warm on. Last time we were in there a big crew from Japan was also in there, going at Caveman with intensity. Toshi, a Japanese bud of mine from Banff, was working Caveman bareback and getting close, he's fired up.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Red Bull X Alps, I'm in Austria

I'm in Europe writing and otherwise reporting on the Red Bull X Alps, this link goes directly to my rantings, check it out--this is one crazy race across the length of the Alps. Mad travel to get here--Kim and I went from Calgary to New York City on the evening of August 1, did a guest appearance on ESPN's Cold Pizza (right after the guy who plays "Deuce Bigalow", a D-quality movie if there ever was one, but entertaining hanging out with him and his entourage in the back room) on the morning of Aug 2, then flew out that afternoon to Munich, arrived Aug. 3in the morning, took a train for a couple of hours, drove for a couple of hours, met up with the Red Bull media crew that evening, crazy three days of travel. It's now Thursday morning, feels like I've been gone a week already. My cell phone works here and I have to do on-line reports for the X Alps gig so I should have regular email. So far McDonald's is proving to have the most reliable WiFi, scary situation to work in but when you need net you need net...

Workouts: This morning I can barely remember the last few days of chaos, but Monday was a short run followed by pullup/pushup/situp suffer fest done as fast as possible, Tuesday was early a.m. yoga, TV show, 5X 5muscleups, 25 squats, 20 lying stomach things, 3X 10 dips, "typerwriter" pullups, weighted back extensions. In Gold's Gym, full New York city freak show but good session, ran around New York for 20 minutes too, that's another freak show. Wed. was sit in a planes, trains and automobiles... Still psyched that I managed to stuff it all into the scheudle, been mad.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Willi, Paragliding, Fitness and lack of

It's Friday, I was "competing" in the Willi Muller XC event in Golden most of last week, and got behind on the Blog postings as usual.

The Willi: This is a great event. I've been flying XC in Golden for over ten years--my first long flights were there, and I continue to love flying along the big peaks. We had a couple of decent days, but I think I'm burned out on flying at the moment, I've done a lot of it this year. Keith and I flapped down the range for about 30K one day and I just never really got my groove on, we both flew out and landed despite being high. Brett, our best Hang Glider pilot, is finally showing what can be done on a hang after many years of lackluster hang glider efforts (the hangs and the paras fly on the same range each day, normally we kick ass on the hangs despite the fact that hangs glide way better, go way faster and all-around ought to dominate the meet). Anyhow, Brett has done some very cool out and return flights.

I finally had a good one on Wednesday, flew 50K out with my bud Othar Lawrence and then back some. It was slow, difficult going on the way south despite having a good tailwind, not really getting high, turning circles in harsh lee conditions, but fun enough. Othar had had enough after about 40K and bailed, I continued on to about 55K out and then thought, "what the hell, I'll try to go back." The day wasn't going to offer up any huge downwind distance, and flying 150K down the range for a late night retrieve/hitching festival doesn't honestly fire me up all that much, I've done it a dozen or more times. Maybe that's arrogant, but it's true, I'm not interested in downwind XC flying unless I'm going to break Chris Muller's old XC record of 244K, or think I can do a huge out and bck flight. Anyhow, I wasn't that high, but flew into the wind with a lot of bar until I found a spine sticking off the main range. Came into it low, then ridge soared it all the way up to the main ridge, a gain of something like 1500M from ridge soaring, pretty cool. The main range runs more or less north-south, and the wind was blowing 20-40K north, so against me. Hmmm... I noticed that right on the main ridge the wind was a bit more west, so I following the ridge back north between the high peaks north, surfing through mild rotors from sub-peaks until it got really trashy. About to give up, I noticed that my groundspeed on my GPS was 30km instead of 20 or less. Hmmm... The air was buoyant, so I kept flying along the ridge a few hundred feet over the jagged rocks and watched my speed climb all the way to 35K. I was definitely well into the lee of the next big peak on the range, and my speed went up to about 40K. Interesting... Down to about 100 feet over the alpine meadows glowing in the late afternoon light I surfed up the lee side of the peak and hit a boomer thermal that yanked me through the rotor and put me up to almost 11,000! Cool, go on glide. At all of 15kmh... Soon I was back on the ridge, and the same increase in speed happened as I glided toward the next peak in the lee. Cool! Banging thermal right in the lee, through the trash, 11,000, 15kmh, back into the lee, repeat.

I did this for 25K until running out of steam. I'd pushed my luck a little flying so deep in the lee, and decided to call it a day. I flew out into the valley, where it was blowing about 40K. Picked a field and settled into it vertically, but not before throwing the best roll reversal I ever have, the wing got WAY down there, yeah! Ryan Letchford was there with the truck, perfect, a cold beer was exactly what was needed after five hours of flying to go 70 or 80K, honestly not much for Golden and nothing distance-wise for the contest. Still, I'd look at that flight back into the wind as one of my best of the season, I learned far more than if I had of just kept blowing downwind like a dandielion. Part of the fun of paragliding is that you can try new things, and, as Vincene told me, "Ya gotta have a GOAL!" As usal she's right, I got motivated flying back into the wind, it was a challenge.

Golden has been turning on late all week, I have to get ready to go to the X Alps on Monday so I called it good and drove home a day early to get some work done. You really need to be in the air and going by about 12:30 to either fly big downwind distances or have a shot at the world record out and back (213K), neither of which looked likely. I had a great week of fun flying and hanging out with friends new and old, that's about what matters in the end. Josh Briggs just called, today wasn't very good either. No not very good at Golden still means longer downwind flights than are possible at any other location in Canada, grin. I would love for the Canadian Paragliding Nationals to come back to Golden, Lumby has been fun but it's just not as much fun as flying in the big peaks for hours and hours.

Workouts: Not much, lousy week for training, paragliding just wastes me. This often happens during flying season. I just have to remind myself it's OK, relax, fitness comes and goes with the seasons.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Willi XC first two days

Windy, windy, storm, windy. Golden didn't have a great weekend for flying, but was good to see a bunch of friends and all the improvments at John and Cathy MacIsaac's golden eco-adventure ranch near Nicholson just south of town. Pretty cool campground directly beside the landing zone, it's the most euro-style flying/camping setup around. Nice sites, casual, decent prices. The Muller Wind Sports party Saturday night well, Tihi on the grill and everyone on the keg.

The Psychosis downhill was going on today in Golden--there are some insanely good downhill riders doing that gig, don't know how they ride down stuff most people can barely walk up, amazing. OJ, Chris and Miles did various cool aerial stunts for the crowd both Saturday night and Sunday as part of the RB Air Force. Their parachutes kept opening kind of low for my taste, but they seemed to be having a really good time...

My parents, Ben and Cia Gadd, were in town all weekend to visit and chase me as they have done other years, but the chasing was pretty limited as nobody went anywhere including me. I did launch the "wrong" direction last night facing east out over the Kicking Horse Canyon, got blown down the ridge for a bit, then into the lee and out to land. In the near-dark. At least I did manage to pull off a stall on my Zoom over the LZ--no great accomplishment obviously, but I'm an XC pilot not an aerobatics pilot so I was pumped, pulling down on the brakes and watching the glider fold up just isn't right. This was the 20th stall of my life maybe, I hope I get to like 'em more. It got my mom wound up a bit too. I just like my glider flying, but if I'm going to fly competition wings at speed I need to have better skills at recovering them via stalls and such. I learned in Chelan (US NATS, last week), that in order to win you need to hammer the speed bar, which makes any paraglider less stable. Less stability=more wing foldups...

I'm back at home in Canmore tonight, back to Golden Monday a.m., the forecast for the next three days looks GREAT!

Workouts Friday and Saturday:

Friday: Ran 30, then as many rounds as I could do in 20 minutes: 10 L-sit pullups, 6 handstand pushups, 20 air squats (with good form). About puked per normal.

Saturday: Got all of 30 minutes of stretching in while parawaiting, rest day.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The "Willi" and such

The weather forecast for Golden just gets better and better for Monday and Tuesday. Even Saturday is looking OK, good for the Psycosis fest tomorrow and party tomorrow night. For those of you who don't know what the Willi is, it's a week-long paragliding comp where the tasks are open distance every day. The Willi is named after Willi Muller, who pioneered flying in the Rockies and deserves remembering for his strong character and the contributions he made to flying around here among other things. It's one of the best paragliding competitions I do, I really look forward to it every year.

The basic program is to fly as far as possible, usually down the range past Radium and on to Canal Flats. Extra points are given for flying from Mt. 7 to anywhere down the range and all the way back. Last year Keith MacCallough and I had few great days, flying a 168K flight out and back on the best day. That flight went almost to Radium from Golden and back, a great day of flying. Golden is probably my favorite flying site in the world, there is nothing like bombing along the tops of peaks for huge distances. There are a lot of good pilots coming including Canadian HG champion Bret Hazlett, should be a great week of going far and high, yeah! Hope to see lots of friends there. My friends OJ and Miles are in town, wanted to do a little base jumping but too windy (I don't jump anymore, I was just going to walk up and down).

Yesterday's "maintenance" workout:

Ran on Bench for 30 minutes, did Yoga. I'm glad to be at home where it's easy to get out the door and do stuff, plus the dog is motivational...

Roger Chayer photo of Chili, the high-speed mutt caught in an unusual still moment.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

First post

I've been posting Blog-style writing for a long time, thought I'd make it easier for everyone to use by posting it here.

A lot of my old stuff is up at under the gadfly pages (link at right). If you check that site you'll see my web skills are weak, that's why this is here now.

On deck this week is the Willi Muller paragliding event over in Golden, BC, along with the Red Bull Psychosis. I'll be posting daily or near-daily commentary on that event as it progresses.

It's been one hell of a month, starting with the Canadian Paragliding Nationals (Canadian Champion, second overall, RESULTS) to an iceberg climbing trip in Labrador (check out FHM mag Sept 8), to the US Paragliding Nationals down in Chelan, WA (First, RESULTS).

So welcome to the page, hope people enjoy it!

Each day I'll also post my workout routine from the day before, whatever it was. Early summer is full-on paragliding season for me, so I tend to spend a lot of time flying and relatively little time working out, but I try to maintain some level of fitness through it all.

Yesterday's Workout: Canmore, Alberta

Rode the mountain bike for an hour on the Canmore bench with Kim, went to the Vsion and did one of my favorite standard off-season workouts: 100 pullups in sets of 20, 100 pushups in sets of 20, and 100 lying stomach things in sets of 20, for time. I got it done in 28 minutes but was tired and other excuses. You have to do 20 pullups before moving to pushups, same with pushups before doing the stomach cruncher mess...