It’s all in the mind

The Roaches in December
I recently posted my aims for the year on UKBouldering.com – this is something I’ve done for the last few years. It seemed like an odd thing to do at first, to tell a bunch of people I don’t really know what I hope to achieve in the next 12 months of climbing. It felt less personal than putting it on my blog. I thought it might give me a nudge to achieve those goals, having a public record, and that a few of the folk I climb with might read it too.

It occurred to me though that the aims I put on there were good, but also ends rather than means:

Mine are really a repeat of last year’s…
Onsight E4 consistently. Hardly got on any last year, and chose bad ones when I did. This also involves rocking up to the crag with routes in mind and being motivated to go for it.
Onsight a couple of proper E5s.
Get on a Peak 8a that I’m motivated to do. E.g. Unleashing.
Flash 7b.
3 Font 7a+ and 1 7B.
Use fingerboard at least twice a week over the winter.

Money and time dependent it would be good to get some big routes done in Yosemite/Dolomites/Verdon or similar, at the expense of the other goals, but we’ll see!

Most of these have been long term goals, consistently climbing E4 has always been the target, the main reason being that when I started a lot of the routes that really inspired me were E4/5 and seemed attainable. It’s one I should realistically have been doing for a while (I’ve done 2 E5s and 5 E4s I think, but maybe 3 onsights?) Sport 8a is newer, it’s only in the past few years that I realised I would be capable of it if I applied myself, the bouldering targets are really just benchmarks to show I have the technical ability for the bigger routes I want to do.

Hen Cloud in the sunshine – lots of hard routes to do here!

The main issues with my climbing, as I see it, are:

Stamina – mine isn’t terrible by any means, but I’m not great at hanging around for ages fiddling in gear or at pushing on when I’m pumped.

Strength – In bouldering terms I suspect I’m the weakest person to have climbed F7c. I’ve never bouldered harder than 7A, and when I have they’ve been soft. Fingerboarding over the winter will hopefully sort this out, as well as a different attitude to how I use the strength I have, and really trying hard when I feel like it’s not going to happen.

My head – This is what it all boils down to really. I am pretty strong in reality, I’m just not good at really putting 100% into a route when I have doubts. I need to be much more comfortable with falling. I take lead falls regularly, but I’m too nervous about runouts, even between bolts, and I need to be a lot calmer about this. For people who know me and what I’ve done in the past, they’ll know that my head game is inconsistent, but perhaps not class it as something that’s a problem in my climbing overall. I’ve ticked plenty of bold grit routes, routes with big runouts, onsighted a few harder things. But I only really manage it in short bursts. I use a lot of mental techniques in my climbing, although I’ve never quite mastered some of them. One that people laugh at is that I smell the rock when I’m scared. It’s something I’ve learned to do to calm down, and I genuinely think I could tell you the rock type and area of the country by the smell alone. I happened across this technique in a self-hypnosis guide, many years after I’d started using it! The other things I need to do are to get more comfortable falling, by doing it more. I also need to get better at positive visualisation – I don’t think I’m too bad at this overall, but I can raise my heart rate by just imagining doing a particular route badly. I want to notice the same level of effect for the positive images too! I experience quite bad anxiety on redpoints and when getting on a big onsight, I need to channel a bit of that nervous energy into self belief.

Basically I’ve pretty much got the fitness to do these goals, I need to top up a bit and work on some areas, but more than anything I need to find that place in my head which pictures the buzz of success and the great feeling when you’re climbing something hard in style.

I got off to a good start: ticking off Moon Walk at Curbar, an E4 that’s been on my all time wishlist for years and on which I took the sizeable fall from the crux a few years ago. I was more nervous than I needed to be, but it went well!

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