Learning to Climb Smarter

Alice coaching me on how to climb in a more fluid way.
Alice coaching me on how to climb in a more fluid way.

My main priority in my return to rock climbing is to build up my strength and develop my climbing technique in a way that reduces the chance of injuring myself again.  To do this I need to reassess how I climb.   My hope is that if I do this now, I can stop slipping back into any bad habits as well as stop new bad habits developing.  I decided that the best way to do this was to get an expert to assess my climbing and coach me on what to do to improve it.  So, I booked a climbing injury prevention session with Alice Turner, a qualified mountain instructor (MIA) and physiotherapist.  What I learned has really got me thinking about how I can climb in a smarter way by changing some of the fundamentals of how I move. Read more

Mostly Yellow in Fontainebleau

Me climbing problem orange 12 at Buthiers Piscine in the forests of Fontainebleau.
Me climbing problem orange 12 at Buthiers Piscine in the forests of Fontainebleau.

If it were not for bad customer service, I wouldn’t have been bouldering at Fontainebleau this week. On my first trip to Fontainebleau a year ago I tore the meniscus in my right knee while pulling hard on a heel hook. Since surgery on the knee, I’ve been trying to get back into climbing in a way that is slow, gentle and careful enough to avoid injury. Bouldering outside on boulders that often have sloping holds and rounded top-outs wasn’t necessarily what I would have picked as my reintroduction to climbing on real rock. However, I’d really enjoyed bouldering at Fontainebleau and I had a free Channel Tunnel ticket that expired at the end of June. This ticket was by way of apology from Eurotunnel for a four-hour delay to the train taking me to France on that first Fontainebleau trip and for failing to even reply to my initial complaints. That ticket was a good excuse to go. Read more

Back on Plastic

I’ve taken my first steps back into climbing following surgery on my injured knee.  They’re just small steps at my local climbing wall, because I worry that anything else will see me injure myself again or at least slow down my recovery.  My physio was clear about how to not hurt myself – avoid jumping down or falling off from boulder problems until my legs have regained the strength needed to cushion the impact.  The only way to follow that advice was to carefully climb easy problems and down climb everything. Back to plastic

This was limiting and could have been a bit irritating, but I decided the best thing to do was to accept climbing this way and ended by enjoying my session.  It’s sometimes fun to just focus on moving well during a climb and to forget about pushing yourself to climb harder.  I think that I’ve been guilty in the past of getting so caught up in things like the next gear placement, the fall below me, reducing rope drag or how to complete the next move that I just forget to enjoy moving on the rock (or on plastic).  My injury has been frustrating, but it is getting me to think differently and to think more about how I move, how I balance and how I can just relax into climbing.  If I can change my focus in this way then may I can  enjoy the climbing I can do more and build up the fundamentals of good climbing technique so that I can be a better climber in future.  Maybe I can also not get frustrated about how rusty my technique is right now and how much strength I’ve lost. 

My climbing wall session was the start of all this.  I’ve got quite a way to go yet to return to my previous climbing standard, but I’m happy to be back climbing.

One Year On

It has been one year since my injury. One year since I tore a part of my knee using a heel hook while bouldering. One year in which I made my injury worse and in which I’ve been trying to recover so that I can climb again.

In retrospect, this was a bad idea.
In retrospect, this was a bad idea.

I was unlucky, uninformed and an idiot. It was near the end of our second day of my first bouldering trip to Fontainebleau and I was with a group climbing just a few more problems before it got too dark and late. Some of the group had climbed this tricky problem up the flat front of a split boulder and I wanted to do it too. It was different, a challenge and looked fun. This was partly because completing the problem required a right heel hook and I don’t do heel hooks often. Climbing in the lower grades means that I either don’t need to do them that much or can get away with using different moves. But I wanted to try them now because I want to make the most of my time in the legendary Fontainebleau forest and wanted to do this climb. Read more