Tag Archives: training for climbing

BLOG: What Exactly is my Training Plan?

I’ve had quite a few emails about this blog post: From 6b to 8a in 4 Weeks asking me exactly what I have been doing and how I went up through the grades so fast.

Well, I’m happy to report my level has increased a notch again since I wrote that post, and I feel in pretty good shape. So I think I am on target for 6b to 8b in 3 months, we shall see.

Note: I am no training guru, in fact I am quite the opposite, so if you do know something about training, and you have any opinions on how I could be doing better, or any other advice, then do let me know!

The Training Plan Explained:

Firstly, if you have never climbed harder than 6b please don’t expect to follow this plan and climb 8b in 3 months. It might work but it most likely won’t. My previous personal best sport grade is 8b+ and I have onsighted quite a few 8as, so although I did start this season by climbing 6bs, it didn’t take me long to get above that level.

Coming back to rock climbing after a full winter of skiing, and a summer of little climbing last year did mean I started at a low level. I ticked over for a couple of weeks by doing 2 route climbing sessions per week at the indoor wall, climbing about 6b, then I started trying to improve. The first 2 weeks were actually just to get used to climbing again.

The main difficulties for me trying to train with no base fitness is the simple fact that I am not fit enough to train. Reading articles about doing circuits and laps and 4x4s etc is all well and good, but my arms were not up to that sort of thing.

So I went steep multipitch climbing in the 6th grade, and basically this meant that I did lots of pitches of the right standard to get me tired, and this also stimulated me to keep trying when I was already a little bit tired (nothing like a 400m drop beneath the feet to give a little extra mental boost…). It also got me psyched. I love climbing, and I love long routes, so this was a great kickstart for me.

I added to these days with 2 very short indoor bouldering sessions. I had wanted to do 4x4s (picking 4 boulder problems and climbing them each 4 times, but the first session I actually only managed a 1×4 (one problem 4 times), and then the second session I did a 2×4!)

Summary of Week 1: 3 big days of multipitch climbing in 1 week, plus 2 very short indoor bouldering sessions.

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Then I went to Spain for a week, to be inspired by friends, and climb more pitches.

I started off pretty easy, and (the grades are a bit easier in Spain) I could onsight 7as by this time. I climbed a little bit every day for 5 days in a row, just three or four routes per day, and by the last day I onsighted 2 7b+s. My friends were encouraging me to try harder routes, but I resisted the temptation for several reasons. Mainly because actually I had tried really bloody hard to do the 7b+s, but also because I was wary of injury, and also I wanted to finish the trip on a high note.

Summary of Week 2: Climbing outdoor sport routes in Spain for 5 days in a row from 6c to 7b+.

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Coming back from Spain I took a rest day, and then started training again.

I stuck with doing 4x4s in the local bouldering wall, choosing moderately steep crimpy problems of a basic style. I added to these with some basic finger boarding exercises.

I usually did double session days with 4x4s at lunchtime and fingerboard (just 30mins) in the evening. On the board I did repeaters on a few key holds, and 20 sets of 10 pull ups on jugs.

I also climbed outside 3 times during the week, and redpointed a tough 7c in a couple of attempts. The outdoor climbing was overhanging, physical sport climbing, mainly on routes that I had done before. I was climbing several pitches each session until I was tired, but not exhausted. This included toproping a couple of routes after leading to increase volume of climbing etc.

Note: Throughout this training plan I have never trained to exhaustion, and I have never felt exposed to injury. It is worth noting that on top of all this climbing training I have been doing stretching and push ups around 3 times per week.

Summary of week 3: Three outdoor climbing sessions trying as hard as I could on routes up to 7c. 2 days of indoor training with double sessions: bouldering wall and finger board.

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Week 4 was very similar to week 3, except that instead of redpointing a 7c I redpointed an 8a. This took 2 visits, and I had quite a few tries on the route on my first visit, making sure I had the sequences dialled for the next visit. I managed to do it on my first try the second visit with relative ease (and cold hands!). I still didn’t have loads of fitness, so I think one or two redpoint attempts were all I would have been able to do, so firing it off straight away was the best idea!

Interspersed with the 2 outdoor sessions were indoor bouldering and finger board sessions similar to the previous week.

Summary of week 4: Two outdoor sessions on steep rock resulting in an 8a redpoint. 3 or maybe 4 indoor days on bouldering and finger board doing double session days.

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Week 5 and 6: I have just taken two weeks off from hard climbing, and been on holiday. I have climbed quite a bit, onsighting fun routes up to 7b, plus I have been trail running and cycling.

I’m now back to training and trying hard routes again, this time an 8b. I have increased the difficulty of the finger board routine, and added leg raises and core work to the routine. I’ll report on this section in more detail when I tick the 8b! (I hope!).

I hope that is useful to someone (Bjorn or Jim? – and good luck with your operation Jim) and happy climbing everyone!

Me on the initial section of Parsifal (8a+) at Sarre Roof. The extension is 8b... come on arms! Photo by Adam George.
Me on the initial section of Parsifal (8a+) at Sarre Roof. The extension is 8b… come on arms! Photo by Adam George.
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BLOG: Orpierre – 15 Years Later

Back in 1998 I was lucky enough to visit the limestone paradise of Orpierre in France on a college trip. I was studying Outdoor Education and we took a sport climbing week to the polished slabs of the region as part of our course. It was my first ‘Euro Sport’ trip.

All I remember from the trip was being really impressed that one of our tutors (Rob Gale – an all round fantastic bloke) could speak French. And I also remember redpointing a 7b called Toutes les Chances plus UneI was climbing with my good friend Aide, and I went up first and gave Aide the beta for a flash attempt. I’m pretty sure he fell off on the flash, but either way I recall that just before the crux there was an option to rest on the right on a good handhold, but it was quite steep there.

On arrival at the ‘resting’ hold, Aide shouted that I had sandbagged him, as it was too steep to rest, and he moved to the left to rest in a wet manky hole – a much worse handhold, but less steep, and an option I hadn’t even considered.

With this memory in mind I set off up the route last week, after some young climbers from Southampton University had redpointed it in a few goes. They reminded me of Aide and I back in the 90’s.

When I reached the aforementioned resting area I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could rest in either position, so despite not being a technically brilliant climber back then, I hadn’t been too far off the mark. I will hand it to you though Aide – your rest was marginally better! 😉

Looking down from Aide's rest on the Orpierre 7b - Toutes les Chances plus Une
Looking down from Aide’s rest on the Orpierre 7b – Toutes les Chances plus Une last week – 15 years older, 15 years wiser than the first time. If I knew then what I know now I think my climbing tick-list would be a little fuller!

It was lovely to go back to this beautiful village, with hundreds of routes to climb, many in the low grades, and a smattering of high 7s and 8s to go at too.

And 15 years later I have to say that this technical and pumpy 7b was actually little more than a warm up for me, and the very obvious holds and sequences flowed by in a series of polished moves that were almost automated. I guess my climbing has moved on in 15 years after all.

What a joy to go and climb a route again after all these years and have such a different experience. I am full of admiration of young climbers achieving goals and climbing routes that I wasn’t even ready to dream of back then.

For me now the experience levels are there, the skills are in the tool bag, so it is back to the training program to bring the body up to spec. Very excited for what 2014 has to offer climbing-wise.

I’ve also had a couple of days down in Oltra Finale in Italy over Easter, and both this and Orpierre are fantastic venues for this time of year, Orpierre with its afternoon shade, and Oltre Finale with its amazing restaurants! 12 courses with wine for just €35….. better get back on that finger board!

A weekend in Ceuse, now back to training.

Back in the spring I was on the fitness train, and it was going well. Arriving in the UK I felt good, climbed a few routes I wanted to do, including a new one at Gogarth. I enjoyed my trip to the UK, but although five weeks of trad climbing in wet weather was fun, it didn’t do much for my fitness.

Since arriving back in France a few weeks ago, I have been coasting along, working a lot, and climbing a bit, but not getting the ‘bit between my teeth’. I think it is good to by cyclic in training/climbing, and after a high point, it’s best to mentally chill out for a while. Okay, that’s enough chilling out, back on the fitness train.

To kick start the lactic acid I nipped to Ceuse for a couple of days with a fun team including Sandra, the golden girls Hazel and Maddy, the elusive Jude and the ever-young Alan. I managed to throw myself off the top of several 8as, which was somewhat telling in terms of endurance. Oh dear! But it was such fun!

The highlight of the weekend in climbing terms was seeing Maddy totally ‘killing it’ and climbing really well.

As my trip to the Himalaya is looming in only 6 weeks, I have a really limited window to achieve a hard rock route this summer, but I think I can up my game slightly, and get something ticked around Chamonix, if all goes according to plan. A five week intensive training mission is about to commence, but I need a project to focus on. Hmm, what to do, what to do?!

I think I will also have time for 1 more weekend trip to climb something fun, so psyche is generally high. Lets Smash! 🙂

A few photos:

Maddy cranking on an 8a+ to the right of Femme Noir. Looked really cool
Hit Girl Hazel Findlay on the 8c L’arcademicien. Smash time!
Although the trip was not a photographic one in any way, I was pleased to grab this snap of Alan Carne. Alan is always psyched, and a great person to climb with. Here he is just before taking a huge whipper off the run out 8a+ Femme Blanche – Go Alan!