Saturday, 24 March 2012

The truth about exercise

By coincidence, HIIT was featured on Horizon recently, worth a watch:

Also goes into The Central Governor Theory (where the brain rather than the body limits exertion)  I have a strong suspicion I am toward the 'non-responder' end of the spectrum  of aerobic response to exercise too!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

HIIT me!

After reading this interesting blog; I decided I may give this HIIT business a go.  High Intensity Interval Training is basically some very short but VERY hard intervals interspersed with some very easy recovery – in this instance I followed Amby’s suggestion of six x 30sec all-out sprints with about three and a half minutes of walking/jogging in between.  I rarely have need to sprint anywhere so am a little out of practice and felt a bit silly sprinting round the park like a mad man, but sprint I did.  Immediately niggling my right hamstring.  I am also really slow.  As I was running I thought to myself ‘really? is THIS how fast you can run?’.  I guess this training will also increase my sprinting ability, not that that is what it is for or what I am interested in, but you never know when you’ll need to scarper out the way of an avalanche or some marauding chavs.

The niggle didn’t get any worse so I managed the six sprints, getting a bit slower each time.  It hurts.  Though that’s no surprise, trying to squash a whole workout into three minutes of effort will do that.  Now, if the gains are as good as people report but the resultant fatigue less, this could be an important component in my training.  As soon as I get back to commuting on foot three times a week, I could do HIIT on the other two days.

I also realised the old trainers I keep at work are well past their best, squidging all over the place (the ‘cell’ cushioning has all cracked in the heel, stupid design anyway) – although as sprinting is much more on the forefoot, it makes little difference so they’ll do for this HIIT for a while longer in these austere times.

After the worst climbing session in years last night, flailing around on 6as and running out of power almost immediately, I could really do with discovering a HIIT equivalent for climbing...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Post trip summation

I have now been home for four days, since cutting our trip short and retreating in shame from the Great Norge.  Truth be told, it wasn’t a very good trip – actually that’s not fair, the trip was fine with the laughs and comedy disasters that usually occur (including the now mandatory ‘driving the car off the road’ episode), but the climbing were a bit shite.  We climbed eight of 18 days, and only got to the top of four of those eight routes (the easiest four I would add).  That’ s no success rate to write home about – I usually bank on climbing two-thirds of the time (and don’t often consider not getting to the top).

I didn’t even get the chance to climb anything particularly hard.  This was due to backing off routes – a set of decisions I haven’t really had to make before.  I have decided against things as they look to hard before, but never really backed off at the crux pillar due to dodgy ice – at least not on three climbs in a row.  Very frustrating as they probably would have been fine.  Or they could have collapsed, shattering into a million pieces, crushing me to death in an instant.  So I can’t say that I regret the decisions.

Really? The tangle that required me to reclimb a 60m pitch in the failing light

The worst thing about being sat on your ass in a cabin with naff all to do is the feeling of rot.  At a time when I should be at least getting better at ice climbing and probably staying reasonably fit from walk-ins, I am in fact getting weaker and fatter and worse at ice climbing, rock climbing and running.  I do tend to turn to cake too.

I guess I have to think long term – one duff trip over four years isn’t too bad.  It’s just horrible when it is that duff trip.  These things are too expensive in time and money and energy to be duff.  But, such is life, and perhaps it’s a good omen for the rest of the year – now the duffer is out the way.  We are already considering next year – I will be a home owner by then, so the brakes will have to be applied to the spending – a euro-road trip seems like a good idea as it should be substantially cheaper and allow more flexibility to consider conditions.  I have set my sights on ‘Le Dame du Lac’ in Morzine – not sure why as it’s way too hard really...

At least we saw these this year

So in terms of athletic endeavour, now it is time to re-focus on a) running and b) rock climbing  and nothing else.  Today was my first run in to work for over three weeks.  The run itself was a breeze, but my hamstrings are a bit whacked now, low down near the knee.  Every time I run I seem to get aches and pains in different places.  I guess as long as they keep moving around my body there isn’t too much of a problem.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Norwegian art?

Are these trolls, or just ugly people?

As Nelly once said, 'It's getting hot in here...' 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nothing to see here, please move on

Went to lake, saw climb, climb had been fried by sun, returned.  Possible big dump of snow tonight, but if not then we may go for Soylafossen tomorrow, a big WI5/6 that involves another pillar that we'll no doubt end up running away from.

Shite ice

Watch this instead.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Normal service continues

James describes today here:

Here is the route with another comparison to a previous year.

Today vs some time in the past

So, overall thinner this year, but arguably the pillar itself is fatter this year but on close inspection had all kinds of horrors within it, including fangs hanging in front of ice making the pillar seem much wider than it is and a horizontal break across most of it with an inch of space between (is suspect it had partly rejoined deeper in the ice though).

Friday, 9 March 2012

2012 vs 2006

Here are some pics of Skredbekken in different years - I think we had it pretty thin.

2012 vs 2006

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Skredbekken's Revenge

Guess what? Another failure.  What a surprise.  But this time it was an honourable failure I think.

We awoke at 1am because we are so hardcore, and slow, very slow.  This meant we were at the foot of our 700m WI5/6 objective, Skredbekken, at 4am.  The route involved some easy (WI2/3) climbing for three pitches, then a long snow slope and then finally onto the meat of the route - another six pitches of steep ice.

We simul-climbed the first part - James leading, placing runners and me following, removing them - moving at the same time enables you to cover lots of ground quickly but it also means it's pretty important not to fall off.  We didn't.  I however did develop a desperate urge for a crap.

A room with a view (yes, I am doing what you think I am, needs must)

Then the route got more interesting, a full 90m of WI4 without any opportunity to rest (ie very uncomfy belay) led to the base of the really steep section.  This began with some really funky and large cauliflowering of the ice - big bulbous formations that are created by drips and splashes.  I navigated my way through these, again another educational experience - I have climbed on routes with these before, but never to this size (think elephant heads).

We got to behind the top pillar

I finally reached the 15m free standing pillar.  It was here that the mighty Skredbekken took his revenge on me for turding on him earlier in the day.  I placed a screw and moved out to the front of it, wondering if I should start up it - once only a few moves up it, you'd be hard pressed to return. The pillar was approx 2m wide by 1m deep, the front of it was kind of fluted, like maybe it had had water running down it, melting it.  It was very glassy and see-through and 'boomed' when struck with an axe.  The top section was also overhanging where maybe wind or splashes had sculpted an incut section.  Now, any of these features on their own and I probably would have given it a go, but hollow glassy ice combined with long, steep and overhanging meant only one thing - run away.  So there began the epic descent of eight abseils.

So frustrating that the pillar wasn't in better nick - the photos we have seen show the whole route being much fatter.  But it was still a great day.  And a long one - another 14.5hr day, seems to be standard issue in these parts.

Now the debate begins over whether this all warrants a rest day tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Another day, another retreat

Another day of fantastic weather here in Norway.  A bit mashed after yesterday, we decided to have a wee lie in and then tackle a three pitch WI5/6 just up the road, approached by a ten minute walk across a lake.

Impressive, aye?

The main pillar on the left was the obvious line, but even in the -6 degree air, it was dripping big time.  So I started off up the right hand line.  The moral of today, is don't climb south facing climbs - the sun had baked the ice and the recent weather has caused lots of chandeliering.  The ice that was good was super hard and quite shattery.  So I bailed after thirty metres when I couldn't safely move across to the left to get on the main line again.

Oblivious to the horrors ahead

As the pitch had to be stripped of the ice screws, I set up a super-abalakov (by luck it was a full 22cm deep) and James top roped it.  While it was set up, I had a play on the even worse ice to the left.  When you lead you just don't know how close to the limit you are in terms of ice holding your weight as you tend to err on the side of caution.  With the top rope in place I thrashed and smashed my way up it - and it all held.

Ideal ice is not like this

So not a great day in terms of climbing, but useful as another exercise in building experience of dodgy ice.  It may come back into condition if we have some cold and cloudy days - I hope so, its very convenient.

We then went to the supermarket, twice.  One big shop, and then again under the pretence of forgetting a vital ingredient for the chilli, only for James to reappear with yet more beer.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Henrikkafossen snags

We are now on the mainland, at the end of the Lavangen fjord.  The nearest valley is Spansdalen, which we drove through on our way here yesterday.  It has been called 'valley of ice'.  It is. Game on.

Today we climbed Henrikkafossen, a pretty long WI4/5, that is reputed to be the most famous climb in the area - we can see it from our cabin and it's pretty darn large.

Bottom to first snow ledges is a full 60m

This was the first day so far on this trip where is has been properly chilly - the car read -11 degrees this morning.  And the ice confirmed it, shattering a lump off at me and hitting me straight in the mouth.  A good start.  I chose the steepest line for the first pitch, certainly highish WI4, and whilst not hard, the cold ice took some relearning.  Throughout the whole route there has obviously been some recent melting and refreezing with some rotten ice underneath a skin of seemingly good ice.  The ice must have been under a lot of tension in places to, due to recent temperature fluctuations, as the screws often felt like they had hit rock, for it to be just really hard ice beneath the surface.

As usual, bigger than it looked

On the third pitch I put my foot through a bit of ice acting as a dam, unleashing a few gallons of water on James.  How we laughed.

The last of the six pitches, again, wasn't hard but took a lot of digging to find decent ice, teetering up on crumbling crud hoping it didn't cave in.  So, although not technically difficult it was a good learning experience on weird ice.

We then began our decent.  After the first ab, we pulled the ropes only for them to get stuck.  We heaved and we hoed, but to know avail.  I had to reclimb the pitch (and not even on the same line, so more digging was required).  Its amazing how unpleasant ice climbing can be when you aren't in the mood.  The rope had caught on the plastic tag that wraps the ends, I think just a random act of entanglement.  I ab'd down, cleaning the pitch - it was now dark. 

We eventually got back to the car after 13 hours.  13 bloody hours!  Ridiculous.

Some locals even came out to offer us coffee, saying we climbed it very nicely.  The lad, who must have been approaching his teenage years as he had overdone the Lynx Africa (the standard stench of all yoofs), was particularly impressed.  Perhaps he had noticed I climbed it so nicely that I did the last pitch twice.  Alas, we had to high-tail it to the shop so James could buy some weird excuse for a sausage to have with our go-to lazy meal of pesto pasta.

We also saw a great display of the Northern Lights tonight (about time!). We have seen them for the last couple of evenings, but this is the first time they have been bright enough to impress me.  But still, would I come all the way here to see them? I think not, nice though they are.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Epic Fail

Today was supposed to be WI6 day.  We  knew about a route on Finnkona, that is supposed to be amazing, so despite the reported slog in we decided to go for it.  To be honest, I am far from convinced I can do a WI6, but I need to try - bailing or resting is always an option.

Anyways, we got up at 0330hrs and left the car at 0510.  The two hour walk-in turned out to be a three and a half hour sufferfest negotiating our way around the fjord - next time, we go by boat.  This included me getting my foot stuck down a hole for maybe five minutes.  It was constantly 'foot stuck, foot sunk, rucksack caught on something, fall over, walking pole stuck, flick snow down back, trip over, sink again'  - makes for a depressing start to the day.

A torrid time

When the climbing finally started we had a 90m approach grade 3/4 which took a while, then a snow slope to cross before tackling some mixed ground and then we should have had the final approach ice (WI4?) before the two full pitches of vertical WI6.

After the snow slope, I tried to take the mixed ground way too far left, and had to ab of a wee sapling.  I then tried what I believe to be the proper line.  Nearly an hour and a half later I reached the belay, a gibbering wreck.  I got a useless stubby screw in very low down, but then had a, maybe, 25m run out.  Next time, we take rock gear (though I have no idea where it would have gone).  The groove involved some cruddy ice and loose snow, if I could have retreated I would have - there were a few pull ups on dodgey axes while praying they didn't rip from the cruddy ice.  I guess maybe Scottish 4 or 5.  I am sure that chimney must usually be choked with ice or buried completely.  When James reached the belay he pointed out if was 1430hrs, and we were still probably two pitches from the beginning of the route proper.  So we bailed.  Epic fail.

One day...

With the abing and the hike out, we reached the car 14.5hrs after we left it.  So I think the decision to bail was the correct one. I was mashed - a combination of the stress of that pitch, the terrible approach, and not drinking anywhere near enough water.

Do not take up this sport

My psyche had weird evolution through the day too - beginning with a 'hey, may as well give it a go' moving to 'I really don't think I will get up it' to finally 'yes, I think I will' - just as we ran out of time.  I think probably due to first the demotivation of the slog and then the fear of the mixed pitch (the WI6 would NOT be that scary!).

What went wrong?  Well, sure, as usual, we could be more efficient but generally I think things just conspired against us.  The walk-in plagued by shitty snow and the approach being on horrid mixed ground at the moment.  I will be hydrating better.

This is our last day on the island of Senja, and it's hard to separate one's feelings about the place from the weather we have had.  People say it has a different feeling to it than other 'ice' destinations and they are right - its much more alpine and Scottish-like.  I reckon, if you come with good weather and a decent snowpack it would be awesome.  We have only climbed half the days during our time here, and one of them was on the mainland, so we haven't been able to make the most of it.

Tomorrow we leave for Lavangen, Sordalen and Spansdalen - and I have my eye on a few WI6s down there, and with the weather improving, here's hoping luck gets on our side.

In other news, we finally saw the Northern Lights tonight after missing them on our three week trip last year.  And the loo, thankfully, is now unblocked here at the Lodge - times were getting desperate.