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.