Rattling the Snake. Outdoor climb!

On this beautiful and hot Saturday we hit up Rattlesnake Point for some outdoor climbing. We met up with our friends James and Janet for a day of fun, learning and pushing our limits and potentially soiling our pants.  Anchors were set and off we went. Three climbs were set up, thanks to bumping into TCA members we knew. We spent the afternoon having fun, learning how to climb outdoors, sizzling in the sun and just enjoying the experience.  No guide book was brought so we basically climbed whatever we thought looked cool.

I think its safe to say we all learnt something today and generally had a blast. Sweet spot was topping it off with a dip at Kelso Lake. MUCH needed! Looking forward to the next outdoor climb.

First Outdoor Bouldering Experience at Niagara Glen

Last Sunday morning we were dressed by 8am and hit the road towards Niagara Falls. A bunch of climbers from TCA, our local climbing hang, had organized a day of bouldering in Niagara Glen. Neither Matt nor I have ventured outside of the huge man-made boulder at TCA with colorful routes which makes it easy to follow! So we thought this would be a great opportunity to try out our skills and learn from others in the process.

The weather was just right. We all headed into the Glen and started to look for routes. There was a dozen or so of us all ranging from beginners to intermediate experience which ended up being a great mix.

There was a wicked traverse to start off with. Get your feet and hands familiar with the rock. What a difference from the indoors. There is no colored route to follow; you have to feel it all out yourself which made my mind go into overdrive. The texture of the rock was so different from some holds I’ve gotten used to. I also had the pleasure of playing with many underclings (my enemy). I made an attempt at a highball (high wall) and my mental barrier of heights smacked me in the face and I retreated.

Matt was like a kid in a candy shop! He tried everything out and did it well. He managed his first highball (two of them in fact) and a few other bouldering problems as well. The best was watching him do it the first time and then him going back and trying it again differently, more effectively.

A good chunk of the afternoon I ended up observing – watching movements, hand placements, feet etc. If I wasn’t bouldering I was observing and taking in the Glen. Even if you are sweating and trying out some moves that may be beyond your comfort zone, the scenery of the Glen took it all away. It is that sweet there. I walked away trying out some problems, taking in advice, meeting some awesome people and generally having a blast!

A nice walk past Niagara Falls afterwards ensued followed by great tunes, thai food and some reflection. I have a feeling that we will be regulars at the Glen 😉

*Rookie move of the day? .. saying that a hold was “in”. In? *smack head here* Every hold is in, you numpty. It’s all the same effing color. Ugh.

Lead Certification at TCA

Last night I finished my lead climbing course at the Climbing Academy. Week 1 was all about clipping as you climb, week 2 was belaying a leader, and last night was cleaning the anchors and how to take a fall. I was a bit nervous about the falling bit, but in practice it was pretty stress-free. Well, stress-free for me anyway. Sean, the instructor who was belaying me, is about 2/3 of my weight so when I took a fall he went for a bit of a ride. Video below…

I’m The Leader…

OK, so I’m not quite “the leader” yet, but I have started the lead climbing course at my local gym. I suspect the next few trips to the gym are going to be quite stressful as I try to engage my brain as well as my body, and discover what a real fall feels like. Learning to lead climb opens up a lot of new possibilities for climbing more interesting routes in the gym, and eventually taking on sport routes outdoors. Exciting (but slightly scary) times.

My first 5.10c

This month has been an awesome month for climbing. Krista’s got back up to climbing 5.8, and I’ve moved into new territory, conquering my first 5.10b earlier this month, and then my first 5.10c last week. Here’s a couple of pics to celebrate…

[Pics courtesy of James Shin]

Climbing Review

It’s been 6 months since I started climbing again after dislocating my shoulder in December ’09. My first time back in the climbing gym was 20th July, and at that point I was back to 5.7 level. My Dailymile entry for that climb read…

Climbed a variety of walls. Completed a 5.8, failed horribly on another. Tried a 5.9 but wasn’t really up to it. The shoulder and hand injuries weren’t a problem which is great. Looking forward to going again on Thursday.

Progress has been slow but steady since then. I’ve logged about 40 climbing sessions which is an average of 1.5 climbs per week. Not exactly hardcore, but in the context of all the other things we’ve been up to it’s decent. In terms of technical progression, I climbed my first 5.10a in September, and my first 5.10b earlier this month. As of this weekend, I’ve finished several more 5.10b’s, and I’m even managing to flash some 5.10s at the first attempt.

Looking back through my logs, I’ve progressed well but have definitely lacked structure in my climbing. I definitely haven’t spent enough time working on my weak points, or even analyzing what my weak points are. I’ve spent too much time “just climbing” and climbing socially, and haven’t done enough skills training. That will change now, as I have a well-planned weekly schedule which mixes up bouldering, climbing hard, and practicing skills. I’ve also entered the bouldering league at the Climbing Academy which I hope will give me a good chance to pick up some new ninja-skills.

Improving My (Rock) Climbing

Rock ClimbingOver the last few weeks I’ve read a bunch of articles about getting better at rock climbing. There’s a lot of ideas and information out there from a variety of credible sources, which I’ve now sorted my way through and turned it into a fairly decent plan.

I’m going to continue doing lots of bouldering, because I can get a good workout in a short time, and I enjoy it loads, and enjoyment is key to motivation. I’m going to try to climb V1s really well (maybe downclimbing them too) before I start thinking about harder routes. Climb better, not just harder.

I’m also going to stop climbing really hard routes (so currently around 5.10b for me) as often (maybe just try one or two per week), and concentrate on climbing 5.9s really well. And I’m going to do more “silent feet”, “low hands”, “pause over each hold”, “smearing with one foot” drills. I read about another drill where you have to get your arms dead straight after each move to teach you to find economical positions to climb/rest.

Climbing Exercise: The longer the time a climber spends with arms bent instead of straight, the more tired critical pulling muscles become. Climbers will find that straightening their arms is easier if they also turn their bodies. Work with climbing partners on a specific route that’s relatively easy and has lots of big holds. Attempt to find a way to turn those hips into the wall for each move, alternating from side to side, the whole way up — while also keeping those arms as straight as possible. This will likely involve a lot of back-stepping, as well as having one foot off of the wall or simply smearing/front-pointing for balance.

And to improve my endurance I’m going to climb laps of routes that I find challenging but not mega-hard. So that may mean Krista belaying for a little longer as I’ll want to climb a route, get lowered, climb it again, repeat.

I figure if I do all of that then my ability to finish the harder climbs will improve naturally.

The New Toronto Climbing Academy

Whilst we were away the old Toronto Climbing Academy at Queen and Broadview closed down, and a brand new one opened at Curity and O’Connor. The new one is a bit further away from us, but it’s a superb facility and well worth the 15 minute drive. It’s also on the way home from my new office which makes it convenient for a quick bouldering session on the way home.

Climbing Progress

Fri 26th June – 2 hours – Beginner’s lesson 5.4s and 5.5s, 30 feet max.

Sun 28th June – 2 1/2 hours – Belay check. Matt completed a 60 foot 5.6 and a smaller 5.7, and attempted a 5.8. Krista did the 40 foot “ladder”, completed a 5.6 and got 3/4 of the way up the BIG 5.6 ladder.

Tues 30th June – Matt got a tax rebate and went to buy his own harness and shoes.

Thurs 2nd July – 2 1/4 hours. Krista did the BIG ladder, a 60 foot 5.6 and attempted a 5.7. Matt successfully broke in his new shoes, almost completed the 5.7 that’s been bugging him (over the “doorway”), completed another 5.7, and attempted a 5.8. Had a go at a 5.9 too but didn’t get far. 60 feet no longer holds any (much?) fear for either of us.

Mon 6th July – 2 1/2 hours. Krista nailed the other 60 foot 5.6 on the 2nd attempt, finished a 5.7 and attempted the nasty “doorway” 5.7. Matt finally beat the “doorway” 5.7, climbed a 60 foot 5.6 and fooled around on a couple of 5.8s and 5.9s. Didn’t complete any of them but climbed a lot more smoothly.

Tues 14th July – 2 hours. Tough night, and it was really busy. 3 x 5.6 for Krista, 2 attempts at a 5.7. 2 x 5.6 for Matt, 1.5 x 5.7, most of the way up the unclassified red route in the yellow tower and a decent attempt at the 5.8 over the door in the yellow tower (which is my new project).

Tues 21st July – 2 hours with Matt & Inga, and Matt & Lillian. Routes are definitely harder than before. Matt got 2/3 of the way up the 5.8 over the door in the yellow tower (progress!), then fooled around on 5.6, 5.7 and 5.8s. Completed the 5.7 the other side of the doorway (just). Krista completed the 60 foot 5.6 twice, then tried a number of 5.7 climbs only to get stuck or gracefully fall off and almost hit Matt’s head with her backside.

[Summer Break]

[Toe Break]

[Rockies Break]

Thurs 3rd Sept – 2 hours. Signed up at Climbing Academy. Matt spent most of his time trying to master the tricky 5.8 with the big overhangs. Did it once untidily, then had 3 or 4 more goes at doing it with more grace but kept running out of grunt.

Tues 15th Sept – 2 hours. Matt did the 5.8 over the archway (it’s easier now), but the top section was a bit tricky), and got a fair portion of the way up a couple of trickier 5.7s. Climbed quite nicely, but definitely lacking in strength/endurance. Krista was up and down the high 5.6 like a rat up a drainpipe. Had a good stab at some tricky 5.7s but lacked the required reach!

Fri 27th Nov – 2 1/2 hours. Matt climbed with Dave Thornton for a change. Have only climbed once recently Climbed a big 5.8 in 3 attempts.Had a couple of stabs at a 5.9 and a 5.10a, but didn’t finish them. Climbed surprisingly well considering haven’t climbed much.

Mon 30th Nov – 2 1/2 hours at the Academy. Krista got back in the swing of things with a variety of 5.6s and a good stab at a tough 5.7. Matt climbed a 5.9 with a big overhang and a couple of 5.8s. The easy gradings seemed hard and the harder grading seemed easy, if that makes any sense.