On Tuesday I managed the landmark of one hour of laps on the boulder with no rest - this consisted of a lap of v2, then v1, then vb (using any hold) then repeat. So I reckon probably in the region of 40 - 45 laps. Unfortunately this has given me actual blisters on my hands which will put me out of climbing for a few days, but hopefully I will be okay by the weekend for two sessions on the chalk.
This got me to thinking about the ways I have trained for ice climbing over the last few years. The first thing to point out would be that, despite improving ever year, I am still desperately weak if you put me on a dry tooling route or any remotely difficult Scottish mixed. But I can definitely hang on axes longer every year, so here are my thought thus far...
The limiting factor for me is holding on to the bloody axes. All the rest – core strength, calf endurance, tricep strength for repeated swinging – are important, but pale into comparison to gripping the axes. This last trip to Norway was the first time I have been properly comfortable climbing leashless at my limit – in previous years I have had deploy the leash at the top end of my grade. Gripping something metal, above your head, in freezing temperatures, is no way to have either warm hands or good forearm endurance – there ends up being no blood in there to do the work – so relaxing and shaking out are key.
Chalk – short of actual ice climbing, traversing the chalk cliffs at Saltdean, near Brighton, is probably the most effective training I have found. I say probably because one could argue that the time may be spent better down the wall as it’s a much shorter drive and so would leave more time for the training – but I think chalk still wins. It’s very steep so in some ways is more demanding than ice, but it tends to be hooking rather than swinging. It is surprisingly similar to ice though. I guess upward climbing would be better, but a) it’s a faff and b) its dodgy as hell.
Fig4’ing – These are like wooden axes with a loop of rubber instead of a pick, intended for use on indoor walls. I was persuaded to enter a completion using Alpkit’s Fig4s just before xmas. I came third from last (and I won’t mention James’ performance). But actually I was satisfied at my performance, given the routes and who else was competing. In preparation for this we did a few sessions at The Reach with the Schmoolz (very similar but not quite as good imo). They are bloody hard work, and if chalk takes too long, then they are a good fall back. Walls could do with specific routes for them though.
Bouldering laps – see the beginning of this blog. Before Canada, three years ago, I worked up to twenty mins of traversing laps which I thought was quite good at the time. That was holding anything. So I have obviously improved no end. Infact even my V2/V1/VB circuit is too easy I think. After a while I seem to stop getting more pumped.
Repeats on the wall – climb up, climb down, climb up, etc. Very dull, but a good workout – for ice purposes, steep on big jugs are best. I try to finish off a climbing session with some of this.
Gym work – so far, for this year’s trip I have done very little as I had to lay off the pull ups after getting various worrying niggles. A few exercises I like for lunchtime gym sessions though: pull ups, levers (well, half levers), rockring training, and kettlebell swings. I have, in the past, tried doing the bar work off some old bike bar ends with a loop of rope tied to the end – hook these over the bar and you have something similar to ice axe handles to dangle from, but without the extra two feet of length (or the carrying Nomics into the gym). Works quite well.
So far, my bouldering laps are going well, I have once chalk session under my belt, and have done some Fig4’ing. So performance wise I am on target, but volume of training I am behind (ie I should be even better than I am at this point in the season). So time to step it up, starting with a weekend in Brighton this weekend, and then back down the gym at lunchtimes next week. Boo-yow.