Thursday, 13 December 2012

If at first...

A fortnight ago, I made the decision to go on a diet. It is at once the best and worst decision I have ever made. I don't carry reams of fat yet there does seem to be something making me heavier than I ought to be. Come on man admit it, it's FAT! I'm not surprised that a largely recent sedentary existence has brought me here but most importantly, like an alcoholic admitting to being as such, I have crossed the threshold of realisation.

Week one went by in slow motion. Every path I trod seemed to be some sort of trail to a honeypot and I was very much the stupid bear. Alas, after the first few days I was in business and could turn down a carb-based meal at the drop of a hat. A banana was for breakfast, a tin of sardines and bag of salad for lunch with a chicken breast or piece of fish with heaps of steamed vegetables for tea. I happened upon a brief relapse into sinking a few pints with a good friend and a pub tea a week on but by and large it's not been too bad. I'm back locked in to the programme this week and becoming an expert at shunning mince pies.

This week, I read two seperate quotations by two different legends of the British climbing scene. Each seem to articulate differing perspectives on the nature of sieging a project but both entertain. Why entertain? Consider this:

"...we find said boulder long can one ‘work’ on a problem before conceding its impossibility - that one is simply posing; decorating the difficulties with a fumbling presence."

Compare and contrast to this:

""if a line inspires you it doesn't matter how long it takes""

The former quotation stems from North Wales trad stalwart George Smith. I always enjoy his pieces on North Wales Bouldering (as do many others judging by recent UKB comments) and find them very much akin to the style of writing found in the Guardian's Country Diary (of which I have an excellent compendium - you really ought to purchase it). I love this quotation for the author's humourous self-deprecation and answerability only to himself.

The latter quotation excites and instills fear in equal measure for it's cold, hard, eternal, unknowing, brute nerve - non disistam.

It may come as no surprise to you that the utterer of these words is John Gaskins. I feel no shame in admitting the level of inspiration that John has afforded me with over the course of my climbing and study life. I feel no shame in admitting also that the past seven years in university have tested me to the ends of the earth. I have for long been at the bottom of a financial ruin to pursue a single-minded academic intention and as strange and fanatical as it may sound to you, the transcendental presence of such committed individuals who have achieved so much have always kept me headstrong.Thus far, he has been the only deserver of a place in my fingerboard hall of fame mounted above the door.

That is why Mr Smith, I hope you will always write in such an excellent fashion as you do and Mr Gaskins, you really don't need to write or say anything more to keep my commitment to the project going. Thank you, really.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Waller Waller Waller woo

My head says Gaskins but my body says Waller. It's perhaps a bit extreme at both ends of the spectrum but at some point in time, you'll probably have experienced the gist of what I'm getting at. Three weeks spent so far in Leeds and life is really quite good. It's been great reacquainting myself with the city and being situated a few hundred metres from City Bloc. I can't big the style of setting up enough and there's an ace little scene going on in there. Perhaps it's the scale and the intrinsic intimacy of the place that brings it to life much like the atmosphere of the old Climbing House in Liverpool. I've been trying to work my way through as many circuit problems as my Victor Meldrew lower back will allow. Thankfully, owing to some good stretching advice and an enforced routine, things are starting to gradually ease up now and I can move my leg a fair bit more than in previous weeks. How fucking interesting for you. As much as I'm loving the close proximity to some exquisite grit crags, my mind is absolutely honed in on my ultimate aim which is to box off my project. I've been doing a lot of conditioning work with weights, the bar and the fingerboard and it feels good to be swinging around on back two once more. There's really quite some work to do over the next few months but I'm hoping come the Christmas vacation, I'll be in relatively good nick to attempt it once more when home with the rents. It'll be interesting too to see if I can gain momentum with this fat burning diet plan I've adopted. Let's hope so otherwise it's Wallertime.
I know at least one man that finds him handsome anyway.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Pastures old

Finally, everything seems to be falling nicely into place. After a frantic week spent calling, prospecting and visiting, we've finally found and been able to move into a really nice apartment in the centre of Leeds. Not only is the apartment super nice but the River Aire is outside the door and City Bloc just around the corner. Being both a keen fisherman and (trying to be) a climber, this can only bode well in the stimulus department. I had been a bit reticent at first about leaving Liverpool but I'm really not sure why now. The Leeds lads and lasses will undoubtedly have a good scene and plenty of actual rock to boot. I had my inaugural City Bloc session this afternoon and all concerned have done a very good job of providing precisely what one wants in an indoor wall; well, that's certainly the way I see it. The space has been really well thought out and large roofs have been wisely omitted given the fairly slender width of the building. Varied consistent angles and great hold selections were very welcome and problems throughout all grades I'd say were very well set. It's been around the seven week mark of having had a super painful lower back injury and so it was nice to feel in control working through these. Massive props to all concerned. Just my possessions to collect from Wirral now and some life admin then hopefully in a few months I'll have gotten a lot of mileage in and be fully immersed in all of the delights that Yorkshire has to offer. "Lovely stuff, not my words Michael, the words of Shakin' Stevens". What a peg to have outside your door!
Finally, a lesson we should all learn when in a toilet cubicle

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Which way to The Chevin?

Finally! After twelve months spent commuting on public transport to Denton from Liverpool, it's over! I'm absolutely elated to be finished with my first year in practice and similarly enthralled to have gained so much experience. It's been a very steep learning curve on so many fronts and I've certainly had a big insight into the profession. Naturally, there have been highs and lows and as ever in architectural design, the highs seem to be very high and the lows very low. On many occasions I was in positions of great responsibility where I had perhaps not even realised it. In the early months when everything was slightly intimidating and all very new, it was probably for the best that I didn't realise it. More recently, I've had a few idle moments of realisation of just how much more I am capable of doing than I had been initially. To be able to go to site and converse with some degree of fluency in what needs to be done is something I derive great satisfaction from and it's precisely such feelings that always keep me moving forward with what seems like a life sentence of an education (seven years already and three to four to go!). I must admit, it's been rather dismaying feel my body take a predominantly downward spiral in terms of fitness but despite this insane commute, I have managed to train as hard as I possibly can given such little respite. I'm pleased about this and my love for climbing couldn't be any greater. Now that the year in practice is over, I'm moving to Leeds to live with my girlfriend which is a pretty exciting step to take. Over the course of the next ten months the plan is to source any form of employment and to enter a number of international architecture competitions in conjunction with some young architect friends with the aim of developing the portfolio. I'd actually love to do some more wall work and setting ideally but will need to take whatever might be going. As much as I haven't ever gelled with gritstone, it'll be amazing to be so close to Caley and Almscliffe and to really give it a go. If you see some weak skanky punter flapping about, please do free to come over and show him the error of his ways. You wouldn't mind a few tips would you Crouchie? ; )

Monday, 13 August 2012

New school inspirators

I've realised that it's a little tricky trying to pick a blog up from where one last signed off. Though I have been climbing, much of what I've been doing has been just enough to tick over at times varying to concerted efforts at other times. Since September, I've lost four hours a day to my commute which hasn't been conducive to facilitating solid climbing performances on a consistent basis. I've really been trying to eat as well as possible in work and at home to give myself a fighting chance. Obviously getting straight to the wall from work at 7.30 means a late dinner afterwards and then not wanting to eat too heavily with a 6am rise the following morning. I feel constantly tired and it's not something I wish to entertain for too much longer. All of the work I've been investing in to my project has come to mean very little but I know the levels of despondency that one can come to associate with injury and time off and how in fact, the body is an amazing entity that can always develop when asked.

Undoubtedly, life could be made a lot easier both financially and economically by making a move to Manchester. For many reasons, this isn't a move that I have wanted to make and it's actually quite nice dipping in and out of a different city each day. Though that might be me putting a positive spin on it, I really am fond of Liverpool and enjoy rolling back into Lime Street each evening through the murky, cavernous underbelly of the Edge Hill cuttings.

I thought for the subject of this post, I might pass idle commentary on some of the things and people that I find inspire me. In actual fact, I can certifiably say that the vast majority of 'dedicated' climbers I meet inspire me in their various different ways. We each have our own respective life pressures exerting their influence and attempting to suppress our abilities to climb consistently and in style. To then be able to climb to a standard which is above average requires maximal focus and an ability to translate all of the peripheral minutiae of life into a sort of ambient noise. This is no mean feat and I am very much aware that some of my cohorts would seem to be masters of this particular art. As phenomenal and groundbreaking as I find many of the top level modern athletes to be, I find it much easier to trace the simplicity with which the path to their present condition has been forged. Whether through the aid of parental contribution, sponsorship or just getting by, the vast majority of these young uber talents have grown into a climbing world that in terms of training facilities is wildly more sophisticated than it was twenty years ago. Historically speaking, though training on brick edges in a back yard before becoming one of the worlds greatest rock climbers might sound a romantic notion, one must also remember that a great many members of this previous generation were forced to reside in caves or in squalor in order to become the finest athletes of their day. I have a deep seated admiration for the commitment that was very necessary for these climbers to make in order to be the best they could be but although this hardcore (almost homeless) means of existing and climbing seems to be far less rife than it had been during the 80s, there seems to be a new breed of hardcore; those individuals who manage to hold down reputable and demanding professions whilst managing to remain focussed and strong. Doubtless the proliferation of indoor training facilities assists said individuals, but it's a different kind of struggle that they face.

I'm inspired by Matt Donnelly's return to form having had a long layoff from the sport. Despite managing a large team of people and working long days, his devotion to training and pushing his own personal boundaries is immensely impressive. Lorenzo Frusteri's commitment to training is equally as impressive given his arduous commute between Siena and Florence each day in 40 degree heat. After a day spent teaching Italian to foreigners, I can hardly think of anything less appealing than pulling down on small edges on a steep board or dangling under tiny pockets with many kilograms attached to oneself. I could reel off a list of countless friends and acquaintances whose devotion to their own progression never fails to impress me and as we humans only ever seem to laud our peers posthumously which seems to me to be rather tragic, I'd prefer to take the opportunity to do it here and now and to congratulate these people for offering me a very real and familiar source of inspiration.

Lastly, though I never really get time to write any more, I hope to write soon of a very exciting personal matter. My thanks to all sources of inspiration whether you know me or not.

Sunday, 12 February 2012


The last five months have been a big motivational struggle. After training hard since the start of last summer, I thought I had my project finally satched up. Alas these two middle finger A2 strains took a long time to heal and upon a two month rehabilitation spree with a zero crimping ban I ended up back at square one which forced me to lay off completely from climbing and work solely on the pullup bar.

The pain didn't seem to be the usual sort of that of scar tissue and I didn't want these strains to flare up again. I'd been making good progress with healing and some good progress on the bar before I acquired a horrendous foot infection that resulted in my inability to walk for the best part of a week. Some stupid triage nurse tried to fob me away from my admittance to A&E but my insistence to speak to a consultant proved correct and they were glad that I'd come at that time. Doubtless I would have needed IV antibiotics had I have not insisted upon seeing the doctor.

I'm about to begin normal service this week and I'm looking forward to my first proper half-crimp in five months. I'm also looking forward to Lore's imminent visit and getting him some good ticks as he's unleashed upon our hallowed crags. Get yourself over pronto champ!