Sunday, August 23, 2009
The first and must important part of achieving good climbing technique is learning to use our feet effectively. We hear lots of people saying certain climbers have good footwork, but what does it actually mean?
In my opinion the two most important factors of good footwork are;
1.) Being able to place your feet quickly and precisely.
2.) Being able to transfer your weight over your feet.
1.) Be quick and precise:
When we are placing our feet we should be aiming to use the front of our rock boot as much as possible. This means the inside edge, outside edge and the front point! This allows us to be precise with our foot placements when standing on smaller holds, allows us to twist and turn when climbing by simply pivoting on our feet, and minimises the chance of our feet slipping off.
Using this part of our feet also allows us to gain more force and height from the foot placement. Think about how your foot works when jumping, you flex your feet and push off from your toes. Its the same principle when flexing your foot to stretch for a distant climbing hold or flexing your foot when powering up for that dyno! Obviously, we also have to learn when it is appropriate to heel hook or toe hook (usually of very steep ground), but the majority of foot placements should be made as above.
How do we improve this?
It may sound simple, but looking at your feet when you place them helps. Make a conscious effort to look at the foot hold, and place your foot exactly where you are looking. If you are clumping around with your feet, banging them off the wall each time you place them or hoping about on a foot hold to readjust, you are wasting valuable energy when you climb. The easiest way I have found to practise this is to think really hard about it when you are climbing easy warm up climbs, slow down and really concentrate on placing your feet quietly in control. As you improve at this, begin to attempt climbing these routes quicker, but still be precise and controlled with your feet placements. Over time this will improve your footwork on all of your climbs. Another training tip I have for improving this is to attempt climbing boulder problems in the EICA: Ratho arena using features only for feet. This will help you learn how to trust standing on small holds, it will help you improve your judgement with foothold selection and it will also help build up core strength as keeping your feet on small holds when climbing steeper problems requires a lot of body tension!.
2.) Transferring your weight over your feet:
Spend time during your next session watching a really good climber on a route up our main lead wall. As they move up the wall you will see them transfer their body from side to side or twist their whole body each time they reach for a hold! The climber is doing this so that they can move their weight over the foot that they are pushing off, thus moving in the most efficient way. If your weight is over your foot when you push up on it, you use far less pulling energy in your arms! A really good climber to observe doing this is Nat Berry, as she is phenomenal at this technique in climbing. Her amazing level of flexibility in her hips, allows her to transfer her weight over any foothold regardless of how awkwardly placed they are!
How do we improve this? This is a really important skill to master, as the whole point of good technique is 'minimising the amount of energy used in our arms' ! The less energy we use in our arms, the longer we can climb on a route before we get tired. Learning to transfer our weight over our feet makes us more efficient at how we use our feet and reduces the strain on our arms, thus making us more technical climbers.
The best way I have found to practise this technique is to spend time on the slab areas in the wall. Practice climbing the routes with one hand, but really concentrate on getting the upward motion from your legs!. If you have to pull with your hand to make a move, stop and think about your feet and body position, then try again. Once you have mastered this, make things harder for yourself by attempting these climbs with no hands. You can place your hands flat against the wall, but you are not allowed to touch any of the holds. It is impossible to achieve this without transferring your weight over your feet!
Finally start experimenting with how we can use twisting to help us transfer our weight over our feet. Again use the slab area to begin with. Force yourself to only use the outside edge of your climbing shoe, in order to do this you will have to twist your whole body round each time you stand up on a foot. An easy way to think about it is to say to yourself - 'if I am standing up on my right foot I have to twist to face left, if i am standing up on my left foot I have to twist to face the right'!
Spend a bit of time each session concentrating on practising good footwork and you will become very good at using your feet. Remember, there is more to being good at climbing than just getting fitter and stronger! If we don't move well when we are climbing we are not going to climb to our full potential!
Hi guys, Recently I have been very impressed to see that many of the BRYCS kids have been making the effort to come in and put some additional training in away from the club. This is awsome, as climbing more than 1 day a week is only gonna help your over all development as climbers. Just thought I would use this forum to offer some basic tips on training that might help you on your way to rock stardom.
Tip number 1: WARMING UP AND WARMING DOWN!
This is the single most important thing to get right with your training, as failure to do it correctly may result in poor performance, longer recovery time between sessions or even worse injury! Remember kiddies if you can touch your toes, how are you gonna tie your rock boots up? Just ask Billy boy, he has been forced to climb in slippers for years coz he didn't stretch as kiddie!
Warming up is not something you should rush, it takes me between 25 and 30 minutes to warm up properly before I train. I ease my self in gently and concentrate on slowly getting my body and brain prepared for what it is going to be doing when I climb. Coming in and jumping straight on to a steep boulder is a bad plan of action and may result in your head exploding (OK that's a bit of an fib, but it could result in strained fingers or other climbing related injuries).
Three important stages of warming up;
1. Cardio Vascular- Before you do anything, you have to raise your heart rate. It is important that you get the blood pumping round you muscles and also warm up your body. You don't have to run a half marathon, but running round the arena a few times or running up and down the stairs a few times would be a good idea.
2. Climbing Specific- This stage should involve super easy climbing and it serves the purpose of warming up all of the exact climbing muscles you are gonna be using. It also gets your brain working and ready to climb. The key is to ensure that the climbing you do here is super EASY. Traversing the bottom of the lead or top rope wall is a perfect way to do this. Another good tip is to concentrate on your technique and footwork during this stage. Thinking hard about transferring your weight over footholds and being very precise with your feet. If you start a session concentrating on climbing well, then you are more likely to continue this throughout the rest of your session.
3. Flexibility - Stretching and basic mobility exercises are the third and final part of the 3 main warm up stages. You all know lots of good climbing related stretches. Think about every different part of your body you use to climb and do an exercise for it. If you are stretching, try to hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds. It is also worth including some mobility exercises like arm swings, leg kicks, jumping and hopping on the spot etc. These will help warm up your joints and muscles through a full range of movements. Remember guys flexibility is a huge part of being a top climber, so stretching is an important part of your training!
These stages are written in this order for a reason. You should try and avoid stretching or working flexibility before you have raised your heart rate or carried out some easy climbing. Stretching when your muscles/joints are still cold increases chance of hurting yourself when you are doing it. Finally, you have to note that the warm up doesn't stop there! you have to then gradually ease yourself into routes or bouldering. Don't just jump straight on a 7a or a grade 6 boulder problem. Start on a 4+ then work up to your 7a attempt.
WARMING DOWN is just as important as warming up, but it doesn't take quite as long. I spend 5 minutes doing easy boulder problems, traversing or very easy routes. I then finish off carrying out the same stretching routine I carried out for the warm up. Making the effort to warm down will help your body wind down after a session and will speed up the time it takes your muscles to recover after a session.
Hope this helps and keep up the hard work guys!
How long have you been climbing for?
I joined Rocksters in November 2007, but started seriously when I joined BRYCS February 2008.
How did you start climbing?
My mum’s friend Cicci took me climbing and I was apparently really good so I kept going once a week to Rocksters.
Where do you train? EICA Ratho
You were a gymnast before you started climbing, do you think this helped you?
Yes it’s made me more flexible and also helped me with some balancing skills.
What is the YCS?
Youth Climbing Series, it’s a climbing competition for children age 8 to 16.
Who should try the YCS?
Anyone who thinks they would do well or even enjoy it.
You were the 2009 YCS British Champion, how did you prepare in terms of training for this competition?
I went climbing 4 times a week and focused on the type of climbing I expected to be in the competition and built up my strength, I also ate healthily in order to give me more strength.
What is the hardest thing about dealing with climbing competitions?
Probably the fact that you’re not sure how good people are going to do, and possibly the fact that your competitors are watching you all the time.
Have you ever climbed outdoors? Where?
Yes I’ve been to Malham cove in York, Rosyth quarry just outside of Edinburgh and others places with the Quickdraw Climbing Club. I also climbed in Krabi (Thailand) this year as part of our summer holiday.
How does this compare to climbing in doors?
It’s different and can be more technical because it’s not as easy to plan your route.
What future ambitions do you have within the sport?
I would like to make it on to the British team, compete in the Europeans and hopefully the Worlds in 2010.
Do you have any tips for other young climbers that want to improve and do well in competitions?
Focus on doing well yourself and not how others are doing. Don’t be afraid to go for competitions and have fun.
Adam ‘Begbie’ Hughes (Hughes Mountaineering)
Neil ‘Geek’ McGeachy (EICA: Ratho)
Jonathan ‘Weegie’ Stocking (British / Scottish Junior climbing Team)
After a conversation with Neil near the end of the winter season about the climbing he has been missing out on by sports climbing and cragging mainly in Britain, we got talking about the dolomites. By the time we had finished we were checking rotas, and had an objective, the Brandler-Hasse on the Cima Grande. At an apparent E5 (7a+) and one of the most sort after routes in the Alps, it was going to be good. After a few weeks talking about the trip we thought that it would be a good opportunity for Johnny to experience something different. Secretly, it was nice to have another rope gun along. This would be the first alpine experience for both of them, and what a place to start. So, the team was set, the goal an exciting and challenging one and training about to start.
Being the weakest link in the trio I was keen to get as fit as possible after a good winter season. Things started well, straight back on E3 to get the head back in gear and ticking 7b+ as the first sport route of the season. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start. Then at the beginning of April I hurt my back very badly. After going through the usual ‘it will be ok in a couple of days’ process it was clear it was going to be a little longer. Long story short, 4 months later, only 10 days cragging under my belt, we where in the Dolomites. Good job the other two are fit.
After driving for two days we decided to get the muscles moving on an easy route and see how we were climbing together as a three. We chose the South Face (Cassin Route) VII- (E2) on the Cima Picola. This is a short route at 300m with some good climbing and excellent situations. The perfect warm up and one I would recommend to people who are thinking of climbing in the Dolomites. All went well, as we moved quickly up the route with only a little bit of grip at the loose bold sections. Even the decent went well with only one minor rope jam in the 6 or so abseils down the rubble filled chimney, Result. Once we had packed the kit away we headed over the shoulder to have a look at the Cima Grande North face. It was just as big as I remembered from my last trip here, and from the look on Neil and Johnny’s faces it was a lot bigger than they had thought. With nervous excitement we were psyched to return tomorrow.
Thursday morning saw a 4 am start and an excited walk around to the route. We were the first people there and got started straight away. We had a mix of topos that I had found on the tinterweb, all of which where not overly clear about the starting two pitches. I started and thought that I had linked the first two pitches and belayed below a good looking pitch, pretty happy to be on the move. The others came up quickly and Neil took over for the next stint. After another pitch and a half the climbing was suddenly much harder than it should have been. Even after mine and Johnny’s helpful comments to push on and man up, Neil was back at the belay. It appeared that we had wandered onto the Super Directissima. A little harder than planned at E7. A quick retreat and a rather bitty chat with another Italian climber and we had the right direction, over there! Very helpful. We headed over there but things still didn’t go to plan. So we bailed, with the view of coming back tomorrow and going the right way, simples.
A less enthusiastic 4 am start and an even less enthusiastic walk back to the route saw us ready to start again. We all felt a little pressure to get up the route and this made things a bit more focused. Armed with a better sense of direction I ran up the first pitch. The second pitch involved easy but bold climbing that went sideways, down, then up. No wonder we got lost. After this things became a lot more obvious. We made very good time, block leading and climbed at the same time as two seconds. After what seemed like a very long E5 already, we arrived at the crux section. Johnny did a sterling effort linking a solid 6b pitch into the first 7a pitch. After some hard sustained climbing he ran out of quick draws short of the belay. This gave us all an atmospheric hanging stance. I took over and did a short section to get us to the main, better belay. From here Neil went into over drive, leading the next three hard pitches. A truly inspiring thing to watch as he power screamed his way though some extremely tiring sections. Things eased off after this but tiredness and frustration at the never ending final sections
caused some entertaining mood swings. I earned my keep on the last five or so pitches which took in some bold and less solid climbing to take us to the top. With not much daylight left, cloud coming in fast, we needing to descend quickly. This proved to be a bit difficult. It appeared that only one of us had remembered to bring a head torch. We managed to descend the abseils with the help of a French couple, but with no head torches the down climb sections were too dangerous. This was the first time I have been benighted, and hopefully the last. After a very long and cold night with much manly hugging to keep warm, the light came back and we could pick our way down the descent. By 7am we had made it back to the car and could finally get some food, but what an experience.
After a rest day and some fishing we decided to leave Italy and head to Austria. Johnny has the world cup coming up and needs to do some hard sports climbing to train. He had heard about a valley called Zillertal near Innsbruck, so off we went. It was a Sunday when we drove over, thinking that this popular tourist valley would have many tourist info office to help point us in the right direction. NO! It would appear that they don’t do Sunday. After driving around for about three hours looking for crags in this Austrian Mecca of granite sports climbing we decided that another rest day was not the worst thing. Next day we had more luck at the tourist info, but no luck at the climbing shop. Looking through the window we could see all the guide books on the desk, but the shop only opens 3pm to 6pm (what is that all about). More frustration and pastries later, we were 30 euros down but new where we headed. I have forgotten to mention that it also appears to rain all the time in Zillertal. So, having found some steep looking crags in Ginzling, we finally got on some rock. The climbing was awesome. Due to everywhere being mostly wet, even though the weather improved as the week went on we climbing in Ginzling the whole time. This was no bad thing. There are many sectors, but we where based in the Bergstation. Sector By The Way provided some good routes to warm up on, as well as breaking up the trudge up the hill to sector Sterne. Despite the climbing being very burly and bouldery, we all enjoyed it. Johnny flashed a hard 7c I was working and made very short work of his first 8a+. Neil made a quick ascent of 7c and worked a number of harder climbs. I even managed to on sight a hard 7a+, which felt like something special after the preparation I hadn’t had for the trip. The final day climbing before the drive back saw us doing a little bouldering. With no mats and some bad landing we didn’t push things out. It only when you climb on the boulders you can see how this would help on the routes, a good way to get used to the rock and climbing style.
Overall, a successful trip with some excellent climbing in fantastic setting. Defiantly recommended.
Thanks to my sponsors Edelrid for great kit.
Jonny would also like to thank his sponsors Metolius, Evolv & Prana. He would also like to thank the MCofS & Birnie Trust for financial support towards the trip!
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Scotland's young climbers' training seems to be paying off at both the British bouldering and leading championships. All the young Scots put in great performances on the day with some very positive climbing and showing of the talent that lies in abundance these days north of the border.
Nat Berry made the smooth transition from Junior to Senior taking the BLCC crown at Ratho with consumate ease. Mutant only just describes Jonny Stocking who did the deed in the junior males at both the BLCC at Ratho and the BBC in Sheffield. He was joined on the podium by another young Johnny, Jonathan Field this time who's training paid off with a fabulous 2nd place in Sheffield and was only denied 3rd place on the BLCC podium by the presence of a foreign vistor in the form of Israeli climber Alon Gurman who took 2nd place.
There is great strength in depth in the junior field with the list. Ellen McCaskill took 4th and 6th at Ratho and Sheffeild respectively and was joined in the Ratho final by an up-and-coming name; Eleanor Hopkins, a strong tip to take on the mantle of Nat Berry in the future. After less than a year of starting to lead climb she grabbed 6th place. By all accounts both competitions had great showings from all the other Scottish juniors.
In the seniors Ross Kirkland’s battle with qualifying route 2 was great to watch and as young climber continuing to improve the future is getting brighter in the senior competition too. As for the more senior seniors, Roddy Mackenzie put a few demons to rest and got into a well deserved final at Sheffield where he finished 6th and Alan Cassidy surprised himself and many others with his 4th place at Ratho
And for those who say "but what have they done outdoors?" the answer is quite a lot really! The highlights (but by no means the only things going on) belong again to Mr Stocking; flashing 8a with Mussel Beach at LPT and working his way through the trad. Onsighting E5 is a doddle E6 has been ticked and the Brandler-Hasse is in the pipeline...the future is in safe hands.
Comp report from - Alan Cassidy British Team Member
Alans sponsors include- Pod Sacs, Metolius & Evolv.