One of our Instructors, Charlie, recently took a trip south to escape the British Winter....
As the “coldest winter in 50 years” didn't materialise, and I had lots of free time, I decided to hedge my bets and book a flight to the mountains of the South of France to visit a friend and climb some ice.
One of the marvellous things about the Climbing Community is that everyone is ashtonishingy friendly and accommodating. I have, on multiple occasions, been invited to stay and climb with people that I've only met once or twice and of course, offered the same. This makes getting away and seeing new places great fun, with the benefit of local knowledge, and keeps the cost down! What's not to like?
In preparing for a trip, packing is an essential part. Unlike heading off to Tenerife where you just need some swimwear and suncream, an outdoor trip is a little more involved. This can be made easier by breaking it down into areas though, just as you would for your normal beach holiday. So instead of swimming stuff, fancy clothes and a walk kit, you need to work out the areas that are important for your trip. As I was heading out for some winter climbing I had the obvious areas of climbing hardwear (ice screws, harness, helmet), clothing (which I break up into head/hands, base layers, warm layers and waterproof layers) and footwear. It's easy to forget the little things, so you need to check through different eventualities, such as taking longer than expected (head torch), injury (first aid) equipment damage (gaffa tape). All of this on top of your usual packing routine and normal things (like socks).
You should have backup plans. I was heading with the intention of ice climbing, but given that I was going to escape the warm UK weather, I went prepared for equally warm European weather, which turned out to be very wise as we ended up sort Climbing as well.
Having landed at Nice airport, I was met by my friend Marj in her classic battered old French car. Now I was in France! We headed back to her house to be met by her other half, Alex who I was to climb with the next day as she had work! Sorry Marj...
They have such a lovely homely place, with an open fire in the living area, massive comfortable sofas and some pets looking very inquisitively at their new arrival. They are well sorted for their outdoor lifestyle, with the 'shed' (more like an outhouse) that has been fully setup for all their outdoor kit. With ropes, bags, gear, skis and much more all hung out in it's own specific area to dry out and store. It was like a smaller version, but no less organised, than something you'd find in Joe Brown’s or V12. They even had a workshop table which got utilised straight away for converting my Scottish winter tools, all dulled and blunted by numerous battles on the Cairngorm granite, to super sharp Euro ice crushing machines!
After dinner, we did what all sensible people looking to head into the winter mountains should do. Research! Luckily Marj and her partner are French, so we were able to check all the local websites for weather, avalanche risk, local climbing websites and anything else we could get our hands on. Knowledge is power as they say. It's a little bit of a dark art sifting through all the information out there and working out what to trust and what to disregard. Thinking back to home where the BBC give out a weather warning of 'severe snow storms coming' and advise you to stay at home and lock yourself away until spring with some hot coco and a book. Climbers and Mountaineers often rejoice at another's 'poor weather'. This means fresh snow, which is the beginnings of winter activities in the mountains. On the other hand if MWIS or SAIS says 'severe snow storms coming', then we batten down the hatches and get some coco and a good book as this advice really is to be heeded! The real tricky advice to sift through is climbing websites, such as UKClimbing, where people log their recent ascents and post small snippets about conditions. How do you know if this info is from a knowledgeable seasoned mountaineer or professional, or if it is just some chap that's only been out in the mountains for their first time and was lucky not to get avalanched. So he might think it was a great day, in great conditions unaware of having walked on a knifes edge all day and got away with it. This only comes from experience, and knowing what to trust and what not to. There is no shortcut here.
So after trawling round various websites, we worked out which valleys and aspects would be the safest given the conditions and opted for a nice 150m grade IV,5 icefall about an hour and a half north of us. The weather was looking like it was going to be a cold blue sky day. Perfect!
After an hour's worth of jet pilot driving through the mountain roads by Alex in the old Dacia (definitely the most terrifying part of the trip), we arrived at a small village. We had a final kit check, phoned his mum to let her know where we were going and what time to expect a call later. This is a very important habit to get into, even if you're going on a gentle walk on Kinder in the summer. You never know when you'll sprain your ankle while falling into a bog, killing your phone in the process. Then last thing before we start the hour long walk into the icefall, transceivers on! Any time you're heading into avalanche prone areas, make sure you have one, as well as a shovel and a probe, and of course know how to use them.
The walk was lovely, albeit through knee deep snow. The Alpine is so beautiful and picturesque, so different to the UK: the sharp snowlined edges of the mountains; the carpets of pine trees covered in snow; and the sound of water way down in the valley winding its way past all the old wooden alpine homes scattered about the valley.
After an hour of trudging through deep snow, we gained sight of our objective for the day. The only problem was the stream we needed to cross to get the start of the route. Given the slightly warm conditions, there wasn't a nice frozen lid to the stream, and just some sloppy snow bridges which Alex kindly suggested I test out first as I was the lightest. Thanks Alex!
The ice was in great condition, but the recent snowfall impeded progress a little. By the time we got to the final pitch we decided the amount of fresh snow sitting at a steep angle wasn't worth the risk, so we set up an Abalokov thread and abseiled back down, via a bolt belay further down. It's always worth scoping out as much of the route as you can before you get on (binoculars are good here). Luckily, we got a great view from the other side of the valley before we started, so we already had a backup plan for when we got to the snowfield at the top incase it was as bad as it looked. Don't be afraid to back off a route if you're not comfortable with it. There are a whole host of skills that once learned weigh nothing, and give you lots of tools and tricks to get yourself out of tricky situations safely.
Day 2 saw us as a team of 3 going to a much steeper and longer icefall in the next valley along. The walk in was about the same distance, but on a less travelled path and steeper. So we opted to bring the snowshoes after the previous day's snorkeling expedition through the soft snow. But the cold conditions overnight had caused much of the soft snow to consolidate. So it was much firmer and easier to walk on. This was also reassuring as it meant the avalanche risk had also gone down for the day. (Note, this isn't necessarily a hard and fast rule).
This was a BEAST! The guidebook described it as the same size as the day before, but this was sustained 80 degree ice pretty much all the way, compared to the previous day's ice route which had large sections of 50 degree ice which you could almost run up. Climbing as a three can go one of two ways. Either you're switched on, and you can share all the jobs out between you, and you've got someone to chat to at the belays. Or you end up in a tangle and get really stressed out with all the ropes and slings and gear at belays. Luckily we were the former and had a fantastic day out, with Marj being thrilled to second the whole thing clean. Given that this was the first ice climbing she'd done in over 2 years, this was a great effort! This thing was STEEP!
There were a couple of interesting sections higher up where we could hear the water running behind the ice against the rock. It was still ok to climb on, but if you kicked, or swung your axe too hard, you went straight through! It was quite unnerving at the belay when the second was hitting the ice, it was just reverberating under your feet. Good job there was a bolt belay.
On the way home we spotted a few avalanche debris fields from the previous few days when the warning had been high. The brief cold snap had consolidated things somewhat, but now it was getting warm again!
The next few days were far too warm for playing on ice. So I headed for the coast for some bolt clipping. Remember folks, always pack a back up plan!! Packing rock shoes and a chalkbag weighs little, but can turn a write off winter trip into a impromptu sport climbing trip. I managed a day at Chou Chou Place crag, managing some great 30m sport routes.
This was followed by a great adventurous day out on the amazing Arete du Marseille, overlooking, you guessed it, Marseille. This involved a jump/stretch between a finger of rock and the remaining ridge to the summit. Such an amazing route, and only 5c sport. Get yourselves there. The walk in is pretty spectacular too.
The last day was the best day. We had planned to do a big alpine route, which we'd wanted to do since the start, but conditions hadn't allowed. But as I'd had so many days in a row doing big walk ins and pulling hard on sport routes, I was absolutely trashed. So instead, we decided to go hard! Opposite the big icefall we did on day 2 was a vertical ice pillar known as Cigare de La Vieille. It is a 20m vertical icicle that touches the floor when it's in condition, which it was, just.
After the walk in from the previous route, we then had a massive slog straight up the hill! The snow started to get pretty dubious and steep, so we opted to go one at a time in case the snow gave way, then the others would have a chance to spot and dig them out... By the time we had got to the icefall we were tired but psyched. It looked awesome!
After gearing up and giving it a go on the lead, we decided the quality of ice wasn't enough that if we fell off, that an ice screw would hold. The ice was in good condition to climb, but there were quite a few air pockets, meaning the ice screw didn't have much purchase in the ice. So we decided not to risk it, and Alex and I missioned around to get to the top to set up a top rope.
Once, we had carefully negotiated some further dubious slopes and got to the top, we rigged a top rope and abseiled down the icefall, checking the condition of it on the way down. We had made a wise choice. The higher up ice was more solid to take screws, but very fragile for climbing on. This would have meant that we could have just fallen off without warning before getting to ice that would have safely taken the life saving ice screws. Being a wimp paid off again!!
We had a great afternoon climbing the icefall and mucking about as it was our last day. Many antics were had and much tea was drunk before we finally headed back home for a final night feast!
I hope you guys manage to get away on adventures soon, be it near or far. As long as you've got good company to have a laugh with, a flask of tea, and let the wimp in you make smart safe decisions, you'll have a great time. Remember, anytime you wimp out of doing something, it just means you've got an opportunity to come back another time for another adventure!! Stay safe folk, and enjoy yourselves.
Charlie Mackie is an Instructor at Horizon Expeditions. He holds the Mountaineering Instructor Award, and is a member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors. You can find more about Charlie here: http://www.horizonexpeditions.co.uk/meet-the-team.html
You can meet Charlie this year on our School Programmes and Climbing Courses.
Crampons! A piece of kit that can be so simple, but so frustratingly complex if you don't have the right ones! Unfortunately, one size does not fit all, but have no fear! We are here to guide you through the choice, and ensure you end up with the right kit for you.
There are so many Types...
There you go, striding confidently into Joe Brown's or V12. Today is the day ! You're getting some new 'poons and, as such, are becoming a real mountaineer. That confidence often lasts as far as the crampon wall, where your world implodes a little when you realise the choice... and what are all those numbers and letters???
The first bit of knowledge required about crampons is that they are (very) broadly divided into three categories; C1, C2 and C3
C1 Crampons tend to have a full "Strap System' for attaching them to your boots such as the Petzl Irvis (Above). C1 Crampons can be used with B1, B2 or B3 boots. Normally with 10 points, they are flexible crampons that are best suited to level walking, such as snowed and iced tracks and paths. This category of crampon becomes less and less effective the steeper the ground gets. These are generally not suited to mountaineering or climbing.
C2 Crampons generally have 12 points and are designed for all round mountaineering and climbing. They usually have an attachment system with a "Clip" on the back and a Plastic Toe Bail on the front.
A good pair of C2 Crampons, such as the Black Diamond Sabretooth above can be used for all general mountaineering and climbing. Most climbers will want to move to a technical (C3) pair of crampons as they move towards higher grades, but a pair of C2 Crampons will happily climb up to Grade V Ice.
C3 Crampons are technical climbing crampons, designed for steep ground and hard ice. C3 Crampons tend to have vertical front points, such as on the Grivel G14 above. These provide better penetration on hard ice, and when set to monopoint, make for very accurate footwork when mixed climbing.
Note that many C3 crampons have a wire bail at the front, as above. If this is the case then your boots need to be B3 rated and have a "Step" on the from of the toe, as shown below.
Note that this is where it gets a little confusing...
Both C2 and C3 crampons can come with a plastic Toe Bail or a Wire Bail. If they have have a plastic toe bail, then they can be used with either B2 or B3 boots. If they have a wire Toe Bail, they must be fitted to boots with a "Front Step" which is usually only found on B3 boots.
So what do you need?
The easy answer is... If you are just starting out, buy C2. If you are more of a mountaineer than a climber, buy C2. If you are climbing up to and including Scottish Grade III, buy C2. If you are heading to the Alps to do lots of classics, buy C2. See the theme? A good, solid pair of C2 mountaineering crampons will get you up most things and will last a long time, as long as you look after them.
If, on the other hand you are regularly climbing above Grade III, and want a pair of Crampons for lots of climbing, then buy C3. A pair of climbing crampons will suit you much better and you will notice the difference on steep ground.
So.... What is Monopoint?
Monopoint crampons have one front point (usually with 12 points behind). These are brilliant when mixed climbing, as they make more very accurate and precise footwork. They can also be inserted and torqued into vertical cracks, when dual points would not allow for this. Monopoints can also provide better penetration on hard ice.
Generally, you can buy two types of monopoint crampons, ones the can be converted into either dual or mono point, such as the Black Diamond Cyborg or Grivel G14, or Crampons that are permanently Mono, such as the Black Diamond Stinger (above).
Yes... It is worth noting that you can buy C3 crampons with removable front points, such as those above. These allow for you to replace the front points at a relatively low cost. You can also by C3 Crampons where the front pints are part of the crampon, shown below:
Crampons such as the Petzl Dart and Darwin above have an "all in one" front piece. These are considerably lighter, but will eventually require you to replace the whole front section when the points wear down.
So... For the vast majority of Winter Hill Users, a pair of C2 Crampons will be the right choice. If you already own a pair of C2s, and want a more technical crampon for harder climbing, then C3 is the way to go. It is VERY IMPORTANT to ensure that your crampons actually fit your boots, ALWAYS take your boots to the shop when buying crampons, as all crampons do not fit all boots!
When it comes to choosing Ice Axes, you are not short of choice! The amount of ice axes on the wall of your local climbing shop can be both confusing and intimidating. There is no need to worry though, with this simple explanation we will guide you through your choice and ensure you can buy the perfect tool for your adventures.
Mountaineering or Climbing?
The first choice when it comes to Ice Axes comes down to what you intend to use it for. You will either need a Mountaineering Ice Axe, or a pair of Climbing Ice Axes.
If your goals in WInter are Walking and Trekking based, then a single Mountaineering Axe is for you. If your goals are graded Winter Climbs, then you will need a pair of Climbing Axes. Lets look at each in turn:
Mountaineering Ice Axe
The mountaineering axe is one of the essential tools for mountaineering. Whether you aspire to long walks in the Scottish Highlands, Beautiful Ridges in WInter or Classic Alpine Routes such as Trois Monts to Mont Blanc, then you need a mountaineering axe.
What to Look For?
What's it made of?
Although wooden ice axes are retro cool, these should be avoided. They are unlikely to be strong enough to reallytake a battering, and most wooden axes are quite old now. Also avoid the "superlight" ice axes. These rae great for Ski Touring, but are not sufficient for mountaineering.
If you read some old-school mountaineering books they will tell you that an Ice Axe should be long enough to reach your ankle when the head is held in your hand with a straight arm. After these books were written there was also a "trend" to carry very short axes. As a general rule, longer axes are much better for your back (as you have to bend less) but too long and they become cumbersome and in the way.
Mountaineering axes tend to come in 50cm, 55cm, 60cm and 65cm. Other lengths are available but these are the most common. I am 5' 11'' and carry a 55cm mountaineering axe. I would suggest that this is the most common length. If you are much taller, a 60cm is likely to be more comfortable.
Axes will come with either a "B" or "T" rating. These stand for Basic and Technical. Essentially, a "T" rated shaft is strong enough to belay from, a "B" rated shaft is not. "B" rated axes should be fine for most hillwalking and trekking. If you are planning some lofty mountaineering goals, a "T" rate axe would be better.
Mountaineering axes are either straight, or have a slight bend. Avoid the Banana shaped shafts of technical climbing axes, as these are much harder to plunge in the snow.
There are lots of other "extras" with axes. Personally, I do not use a leash with my axe as it can get caught on your crampons and see you tripping over an edge! The only exception to this is when cutting steps, as I do not want my axe to fly out of my hand. I carry a leash or sling in my bag for these occasions.
We love the DMM Raptor and DMM Cirque. These are brilliant Ice Axes with a sensible price! Other good options include the Petzl Summit and Black Diamond Venom.
Climbing Ice Axes
Climbing Ice Axes come in a huge variety of shapes and it is easy to either be completely confused, or to buy the wrong thing.
Most climbing axes are metal, but there are a few Carbon Fibre models. These are excellent, they reduce the vibration through the shaft and, crucially, are not cold to touch like metal axes. They are, however, VERY expensive!
There are a variety of shapes of Climbing Axe. These can roughly be divided into the following (hover on Image for description):
Broadly speaking, all of the above can be used for technical climbing, but are best suited to different needs.
Generally, leashes for climbing axes are considered "old hat." Climbers now tend to use axes with pommels on the bottom of the shaft; axes that are designed to be used "leashless".
However, if you are a beginner, or looking for a good deal then a straight-handled axe with leashes may be a good option. Leashes go around your wrist and are designed to take some of the weight, which means you do not need to grip the axe as tightly. Good deals can be found on popular auction sites!
Most climbers will now use leashless axes and for good reason. Not having the axe tied to your wrist allows much more freedom of movement. You can move your hands around the axes, swap hands, and shake out with ease. I would reccomend using a tether though, to ensure you dont drop them! Here is a good one: Dmm Freedom
Handle with Pommel
These axes are well suited to General Winter Climbing and Mountaineering. The big advantage over the next axe is that these axes are still a shape that can be plunged into the snow. The also usually have a substantial spike at the bottom. This means they can be used to safeguard you on the way to, and from your climb of choice. An excellent choice of axe for most climbers. I reccoment the Black Diamond Viper and Cobra, the DMM Apex and the Petzl Quarks.
These axes are very well suited to harder Mixed and Ice climbs. Although the previous axe can be used up to some very hard grades of climbing, the shape and ease of use of these axes is better suited, especially above Grade V. These do tend to be a specialist tool, however, and most do not have a hammer or an adze, which many will miss, especially in Scottish Winter. I reccomend the Petzl Nomic and DMM Switch.
So There you have it! Hopefully this has given you a better idea of what is out there. I would suggest the folowing:
If you are after a tool for General Mountaineering and Mountain Walking, then a single Mountaineering axe is for you.
Most Winter Climbers will use a Climbing axe with a Handle and Pommel. This is, realistically, the best suited axe for those operating in the lower to middle grade range (up to Grade Vish).
If you are climbing hard mixed and ice, then an axe with an ergomonic handle may well be for you.
Like a lot of climbers, I have axes from each of the categories above for various types of climbing, and select the axe I take out based on what is most appropriate for the day's objectives. Personally, I use the Petzl Sum'Tec as my mountaineering axe, the Black Diamond Cobras and the Petzl Nomics for Winter Climbing, and I love them all!!
Be safe this winter! Always think ahead.
Copyright © 2017 Horizon Expeditions
All Rights Reserved
It's that time of year! The mountains turn white, water freezes and we get to go Winter Climbing :) Winter Climbing is one of the most satisfying, inspiring and incredible things that we do in the mountains. But it is also one of the most dangerous activities and as such, we need to ensure that we have the right kit for the job. Below, I have highlighted what I carry in my bag for a day's Winter Climbing.
It is worth noting that some of this is a personal choice etc, and will differ slightly from what I carry when teaching or guiding in Winter. If you have any questions at all, please leave them in the comments below.
What to pack for Winter Climbing
Personally, I prefer light, simple bag that is thinner than my profile. I don’t like lots of faffy straps or pockets on the outside. These just tend to get caught, or flap around in the wind.
As a general rule, a 30 – 40L sack is an appropriate size for Scottish Winter Climbing. Try to ensure your sack has a removable hipbelt, or one that is low profile enough to be fastened out of the way whilst climbing.
I love the Arcteryx Alpha FL series, and have both sizes of this. I also love the Blue Ice Warthog, which, although smaller than mentioned, has a helmet strap on the outside which reduces the need for so much space inside!
Waterproof Jacket AND Trousers
Fully Waterproof Shell Outfit is essential in Winter. Despite the numerous and well-advertised benefits of Softshell fabrics, the weather can change fast in winter, and you need to always be prepared for the worst.
You will hear lots of contradicting recommendations for Hardshell garments (I only use Gore-Tex Proshell). Whatever you decide to get, make sure it fits and it works. There is no point in wearing it if it a) leaks or b) lifts out of your harness every time you raise your arms.
Most climbers prefer full salopettes for winter, due to extra warmth and protection they provide.
I am a fan of carrying a big, warm jacket as my belay jacket, rather than a “mid warmth” jacket like many others carry. If it all goes wrong and I end up sitting still for hours, I want to be confident that I will be warm.
I LOVE the Black Diamond Stance Belay Jacket. This is one of the best belay jackets on the market. Honourable mentions go the Patagonia DAS and the Mountain Equipment Citadel.
Scottish Winter Climbing can be very gear intensive, so ensure you have a harness with lots of gear loops. A well padded harness is less necessary, as all the layers you are wearing will pad you out! I love the Arc'teryx Harness and currently wear an AR-395 A. I use this all year round for everything, the only exception being big-walling.
Although considered a matter of personal choice in Rock Climbing, a helmet is an absolute necessity in Winter Climbing. Bits of snow and ice will fall on you!
Lots of opinions with this: I wear a light helmet that doesn't get in my way; a Black Damond Vector. Some will tell you to wear a hard-shell as you get hit more in winter. Whatever you choose: WEAR ONE!
Preferably clear or orange lenses, when the wind picks up, these are often to bit of kit that saves you, as it enables you to see.
I carry a small repair kit in case my crampons etc break. Normally it contains: A Crampon Spreader Bar, Some Cable Ties, A spare bolt for Crampons, Some Duct Tape and a Small multitool.
First Aid Kit
Hopefully you will never need this, but you will be glad of it if you do! Most package first aid kits are full of superfluous “stuff” that you do not need. Keep it simple and appropriate, you need something to absorb blood and some painkillers. Unless you know what you’re doing, you won’t be able to treat anything else on your own anyway. Army Issue Field Dressings are great for a “leave in the bottom of your bag” piece of kit.
In my first aid kit is a mobile phone, fully charged, switched off and waterproof.
More often seen in the packs of instructors or guides, this is a real lifesaving piece of kit. A two-man group shelter weighs next to nothing, lives in the bottom of your bag but will save your life if you get caught out! It also makes a great lunch stop on a blowy day…
Joe Brown;s currently have a 2-Man Lifesystems Group Shelter for just £27.00! At that price, theres just no reason not to carry one. See Here:
Joe Brown: 2 Man Group Shelter
Map and Compass
Never venture into the hills without these tools, and the knowledge on how to use them. GPS is great until it fails. I carry two maps and two compasses, as once one os ripped out of your hand in the wind, or a compass breaks, your scuppered!
Absolutely essential, it gets dark quickly! Make sure you have spare batteries and/or a Spare Torch.
Hats and Gloves
It is common to go through at least 3 pairs of gloves on a winter climbing day, so I carry at least this. Also two hats, one to wear and a spare.
High energy days require high energy foods! Don’t just survive the day on a flapjack from the petrol station, fuel yourself properly and well and you’ll be ready to go again the next day as well. Keep coming back for a post on Winter Nutrition, coming soon.
Just because it’s cold does not mean you cannot be dehydrated! Bring a drink and make an effort to keep sipping it all day.
An old trick is to add a slice of fresh ginger to some undiluted cordial in your flask the night before. In the morning, top up with hot water. Ginger is known to aid circulation (and flavour) and it certainly seems to stave off the Hot Aches!
12 or 14 point step in crampons, relevant to your objectives. Strap on Crampons are next to useless for Winter Climbing and have no place. Post to follow on choosing crampons!
Again, stay tuned for a post on choosing a pair of axes.
Single Rope or two 1/2 Ropes, appropriate to your objectives. Whatever you bring, it should be Dry Treated, wet ropes are heavy!
60m is much better than 50m in winter, as the belays are often far apart.
Relevant to your objectives. I will often carry:
2x Set on Nuts size 1 – 11
BD Camelots Purple – Blue (doubles of Green and Red!)
4 x 120cm Slings on Screwgates
3 x Screwgate
Note that Hexes are MUCH better than Cams in Iced up Cracks!
When Ice Climbing, I will bring between 3 and 10 screws and an Abolokov threader depending on the route. I also bring less Rock Gear.
Warthogs and Hooks are often “Get you out of Jail Free” pieces of kit when nothing else goes in!
Shovel and Probe: Sometimes!
I will also commonly carry a Shovel and Avalanche Probe. I decide whether to carry this based on a number of factors: where I am going, the show conditions, and my objectives. I nearly always carry this at work. When in doubt: it does occur to me that if I witnessed someone caught in an avalanche, and could do nothing to help them, could i live with that afterwards?
Now, writing a blog regarding what to pack or carry in the mountains will always be an opinion piece and as such, not be perfect for everyone. I would encourage you to think critically about your needs and objectives regarding what you carry. There is often a fine line between "Light and Fast" and "Light and Stupid" and it is important to stay the right side of this.
Consider especially how many clothes you need: if you tend to run cold you will need more! Often it is a case of experimentation and while you are dialling your systems, spend a little time at the end of each day evaluating what you carried and why. Do not venture into far-flung, remote crags until you know you have you kit dialled!
Be Safe out there!
Stay tuned for Posts on the following:
What to Wear for Winter Climbing
Nutrition for Winter Climbing
Training for Climbing: Blog 2
Today, we will start with some definitions:
- Aerobic Endurance
- Anaerobic Endurance
Climbers often use "strength" and "power" to mean the same thing, but they are, infact, distinctly different.
Strength is the force a muscle generates.
Power is strength and speed, or explosive force. For example, moving slowly on small crimps requires strength. Moving quickly to a hold, latching it and holding on requires power.
Aerobic Endurance occurs when your body has a sufficient amount of oxygen to perform. An example of this would be climbing efficiently over easy to moderate terrain. The waste products of this are Carbon Dioxide and Water, both of which are easily expelled when breathing. A high Aerobic threshold is what people commonly refer to as "fitness."
Anaerobic Endurance refers to when there is not enough oxygen present. In this scenario, your body is demanding more oxygen to produce energy than you can provide. An example pf this os when you are sprinting for the top, or desperately pumped. Waste product of this is lactate, better known as "the pump!"
Today, we will look at training your aerobic system.
Training your aerobic energy system is important as it raises your "aerobic threshold." This is the most intense level of performance that can be sustained by the aerobic process. Essentially, training the aerobic system means that you can go for longer, and ultimately on harder ground, before getting pumped.
The most practical method for training this is climbing for long, sustained periods as close as possible to the aerobic threshold. Training regularly in this way will increase the aerobic zone, or help to prolong the pump. It will also help with grip control (over gripping gets you pumped faster!) and will aid recovery time on route.
Sustained climbing at the aerobic threshold. This means climbing at an intensity that is "just before the pump" or at a level where you can sustain a mild pump.
One set of the above consists of continuous climbing for 25-35 minutes. This can be on a bouldering wall, or on a rope. If on a rope, you will need o keep lowering off during the set. This is ok, as long as you get straight back on!
One training session of this should consist of three or four sets of 25-35 minutes of continuous climbing. Try to do this twice a week.
Some things to consider:
You will probably have to vary the difficulty to stay "below the pump."
You need to judge this by feel; not too hard and not too easy. Getting pumped? Too hard. Feeling comfortable? Too easy. You should be breathing heavily after about 10 minutes.
Don't think that you need to stick to routes. Use any holds you want! This is training!
In summary, in order to get fitter for climbing and to prolong the climbing time before the pump sets in, we need to train with prolonged periods of climbing as described above. BUT don't forget to enjoy your climbing! Make sure you go climbing for climbing's sake, and not just for training.
Welcome to our new series on Training for Climbing. In this series of blog posts we will aim to de-mystify the seemingly complicated world of training for climbing. Contrary to popular belief, "just going climbing lots" is not the most effective way to train for, and improve your climbing performance.
Of course, we have all read the complicated books and articles on training, and for the vast majority, that is where the process ends, as it never seems to be written in a way that is easy to understand.
By the end of this series, you will understand how to train, and how to write and follow your own training programme.
The first post of this series is about Training Principles. In order to understand how to train, it is important to grasp what works, and why it works.
Specificity: Your training needs to match the needs of the goal for which you are training. You will mostly gain physical adaptations in the systems that are stimulated by training. For example, there is little point in doing a lot of endurance training if your goal is a short, powerful bouldering problem.
Overload: You need to push your body's current capabilities in order to provide a catalyst for physical adaptation.
Essentially, you need to step out of your "comfort zone" and move beyond your routine. For example, if you can perform five pull ups, just doing this will not promote change. You need to increase the training stress by either increasing the number of pull ups, or the resistance.
Recovery: Recovery is an absolutely essential component of any training programme. It is whilst resting that the muscles repair and our energy supplies are topped up.
It is during this recovery period that our body will adapt to the stimulus provided by training.
Conversely, overtraining and under-recovery can lead to injury and a long time off climbing!
Reversibility: Physical adaptations achieved through training are reversible. Essentially, they can be lost if you stop training. As a general rule, the harder they are to get, the longer it takes for them to go. Regular training is required for progression.
Regularity: Training isn't much use it you only do it once or twice and expect dramatic results. Regular training sessions (at least twice a week) are required for progression.
Progression: As you adapt and improve, the overload should increase. This will ensure consistant and ongoing improvement.
Variation: Your training must be constantly varied. Your body will adapt to a new load relatively quickly, and therefore progression will halt. Changing up your training routine regularly "keeps your body guessing" and forces it to keep adapting to new training loads.
Individualisation: Everybody is different and will respond differently to training. Therefore, your training programme should be specific to you. Personalising a training programme can be challenging, and requires observation as to what is working and what is not.
Transfer: Transfer refers to transferring the new found skills and performance to the goal-focused arena. For example, if your project is somewhere very hot, it would make sense to conduct so,e of your training in hot temperatures, so as to prepare yourself to perform in this environment.
Any good progressive training programme should be put together with the above principles in mind. It is incredibly important to understand the underlying principles before embarking on a training phase, in order to ensure that the maximum progression can be achieved.
Next Post Soon!!
Horizon Expeditions is one of the UK's premier providers in Mountain Adventures, Courses and Guiding.