Climbing is a very universal and evokes many emotions in everyone who invests themselves in the sport at any level. I hope my insights from my trip and experiences strike a chord and help you through your day filled with lovely climbing thoughts. Get out and get inspired!
Celebrations and slacklining
While I was in Magic Wood we went to a BBQ at the camp site. It was an advertised event, with a DJ and beer on sale in the little shop. The prices were inflated, but the shop is good for little things. It was a great night despite a short spitting of rain. Music and beer flowed and conversation was entertaining. The camp site at weekends, summer being peak season, resembled a small festival. Climbers from all over Europe flock here and the atmosphere is chilled, endlessly cheerful and carefree. What a brilliant place.
Due to some beer and a late night, the next day was a rest day. I passed the time as usual on a rest day with stretching, eating and lazily praying for fingertip skin to grow. I also had a play around on the slack line, situated next to the lower camping space. I hadn’t been on one for a while, but the relaxed and wavy style of balance required to walk the line in apparent comfort soon returned. It was quite a taut line, so not the most difficult to walk. I soon started trying to do simple tricks like starting from sitting, turning around and walking backwards. After doing these successfully for the first time I decided to save the rest of my core tension and energy for climbing. Slack lining does drain you after a while and is frustratingly addictive. If you have not tried it I urge you to give it a go! The rest of the day passed with swimming in the river and stone skimming. A useless but brilliant skill that all fathers should teach their kids as a rite of passage into camping and the general outdoors.
I exchanged climbing beta and stories with a Russian guy and Polish couple, sheltering under the hut while the rain pummeled our tents. It is always exciting arming yourself with new information to go back to a previously frustrating boulder. Thanks to the individuality of climbing styles, strengths and weaknesses, half of the time other people’s suggestions end up failing for you, even if it worked spectacularly for them. Sometimes though, it works a treat. Working the same problem with people can leave you with more questions than answers about how you should approach things. Too much information is not necessarily a good thing. It can be a tricky balance assimilating all the different micro-beta, or even worse completely different moves, and formulating your own plan of attack. Often it’s best to focus on one thing based on what feels natural for you and put effort into that after careful thought. For harder problems it may still take multiple attempts and rehearsals of several movement options over many sessions before something clicks. Sometimes success on a move comes down to the smallest movement, other times you may need a totally different approach.
An added difficulty to navigate on a lot of problems is people chalking up holds that just are completely unusable for me and I suspect most other people too. It’s all part of the fun, figuring out what works best for you. I found that there was a high proportion of couples on the camp ground. There are so many girls climbing hard, all as psyched as the guys, it’s awesome! I did chat to a few strong female climbers and shared some beta. Strong girl beta is hard to replicate… complex series of moves on small holds. It is always interesting how someone can make a problem look flowing and effortless using their beta, while I struggle to get off the ground until I find less elegant way of doing things. I learn a lot from female athletes.
After climbing one day we went to have a look at the classic problem, River bed (8b). It was great to get a sense for what it takes to climb 8b. On the whole the holds were fairly positive, but awkwardly orientated on the pump inducing roof. It therefore requires a series of intricate bump moves and complex foot placements. The strong French guy who was trying it described it neatly as a choreographic problem. The climb is the only line on the narrow roof, providing a pure and visually exciting challenge. I would much rather climb a problem which is an inspiring line with no distractions, than bust a gut on a grotty eliminate problem, whatever the grade. The beautiful setting and great landing makes this route a project for the future.
One useful thing I learnt in hindsight is that sometimes good to go back to recently started projects when you’re a bit tired. It forces you to look for and try different and sometimes easier beta. So long as you take care not to push yourself too much and creep into injury risk territory, a short and thoughtful session can do a lot of good. When you eventually come to trying to send, make sure you believe you can do it. Thinking you can do the problem beforehand drains a lot of mental energy and provokes more frustration if you fall off. But it’s the best way to ensure you want every move on a hard climb and therefore do it in the end. It also means it feels more rewarding in the end too!
A roller coaster
On my trip to Magic Wood I climbed the hardest boulder of my life so far. A personal high point and one which will be improved upon soon I hope. However, it is easy to second guess yourself after success… That was an easier such and such for the grade… It was a fluke/lucky attempt/suited me. It is easy to feel like that when working easier problems after a recent triumph when you are tired and need rest, skin or different beta. If this resonates with you I now give you permission, within reason, to take your achievement(s) and be proud of it. Form and confidence fluctuate and long term progress is about patience (along with many other things). There are things I am trying to do to capitalise on my recent improvements like trying to do other problems of the same grade of different styles to get a feel for that grade, focusing more than ever on my weaknesses and planning ahead to give structure to my next goals. The message here is that aboard the roller coaster of climbing, don’t overlook the points in which you feel strong, relish them and don’t be afraid if you dip in and out of form in the long and short term.