A short post about what I have been doing, last month’s The Outdoors Show and this months Crack Climbing Masterclass

At the end of January half of February I took a few weeks off from climbing indoors because I had a cold after the last week of January I planned to go to Birchen Edge with Nathan for some climbing on gritstone – sadly the trip did not materialize due to my cold getting worse. During those three weeks I visited the gym to stay active and keep in shape.

On February 17th I attended two the AMI (the Association of Mountain Instructors) technical practical tutorials at The Outdoors Show which was held at Excel London. The first of the tutorials was called Now Get Out Of That which was all about self rescue, problem solving and escaping the system. I was in a group of three with two quite experienced climbers and there was one instructor for the three of us. Our instructor called to one of his colleagues to help out the experienced climbers so he could team up with me. Since I was a complete beginner to outdoor climbing the instructor started from scratch by telling me how to belay my second. We then moved onto the first thing to do when something goes wrong – which is to secure your second and then un-clip yourself from the belay point/anchor so you can help your partner. Here I learned how to tie a clove hitch knot and use my belay plate to secure my second/partner – I struggled with these two things at first but eventually got the hung of them. After I had lunch I attended the second of the two tutorials called Trust your Anchors which was as all about placing trad climbing gear well and build anchors/belay stations using trad gear and your rope – I attended this tutorial last year so it was more like a refresher to me. I was in a small group again with one instructor. There was several plastic/resin artificial places to put a place trad gear in and what we had to do was place the gear in the most secure and tight way we could. First we were told about nuts and wires and then each of us were given a variety of them in a the artificial places the best we could – like last year, where I got an 8/10 for a placement, I did very well in placing the nuts and wires. We then got got about cams which have several moving parts and repeated the same process with them – I found placing the cams a bit hard but I did better than last year where I needed a bit of help placing them. The final part of the session was on using trad gear, ropes and karabiners to build anchors/belay stations. The first thing was how to equalize an anchor consisting of two gear placements attached to quickdraws and a rope using either two snap gate karabiners or a large screw gate karabiner then we were taught how to attach the anchor to our harness using a clove hitch knot – like in the first session I found the clove hitch knot hard – but with a but of practice I managed to do it. Last year we used a different knot and a sling for the anchors. I still practice the clove hitch at home with a bit of rope The Castle Climbing Centre gave me a few years ago.

On Saturday I attended The Wideboyz Crack Climbing Masterclass at The Castle Climbing Centre in Manor House – I had already attended this class two years ago. The class was a split into two large large groups – one was taught by Tom Randall and the other by Pete Whittaker, I was in Tom’s group. The first thing that were were taught to do was to make a tape gloves using fingertape so we could protect our hands when we crack climb – the gloves resemble the cloth gloves boxers were under their boxing gloves. We then headed to the Pen where Tom taught us how to climb hand cracks using the correct jam called a hand jam. He first demonstrated the technique to us using the artificial cracks that were made for his and Pete’s masterclass then each of us had a few goes on the hand crack using the hand jam technique – I volunteered first and managed to do it correctly on my third go. Next up it was the turn of the finger crack using finger jams  – I enjoyed the finger crack the most and I think I did very well on the finger crack. We then headed to the quarries/slab are where we learned and practiced chimneying technique for chimneys which are very wide very wide cracks that resemble chimneys – I found this technique the hardest. Finally, at the end of the class we had a go on the offwidth crack machine which is very hard – it involves getting your feet in the crack whilst upside down then trying to get your hand inside the crack or on the outside edge. After the class was over the artificial cracks were left in place for a short while so we could practice the various techniques some more and get in some mileage – not only it was these cracks to practice on but the cracks from Pete’s group too including another finger crack that narrowed at the top and a harder hand crack. During this time my finger and hand crack technique improved quite a lot. forgot to say that at the end of the session each of us got a free goody bag which consisted of a poster, a Wild Country t-shirt, a Wideboyz II – Slender Gentlemen DVD and Wild Country stickers.

I had great fun and learned a lot on all the above and I would like to thank Tom Randall, Pete Whittaker, WIld Country, the AMI and DMM for a great time.

As far as my own climbing goes I think my main physical weakness is my core strength which I think is improving. Why I think core strength? The reason is my feet seem to pop of when I rainbow climb on overhangs and verticals using very small foot holds.

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