Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Falling Up...

It's been an eventful year. A bunch of 'stuff' happened. Nothing felt too crazy at the time, but on reflection, some stuff was in retrospect, amazing.

Meeting Gwyn and Jay and the various climbing and coaching journeys they have taken me on.

Meeting the GB Paraclimbing Team then joining them as their appointed Team coach competing across Europe.

Being part of a filming project by the talented young filmmakers from Final Crux Films.

Belaying Gwyn on his first Trad lead since losing his sight 14 years ago.

Becoming self employed again after 4 years living in fear of business failure having watched my life impload when I ran my last company with around 40 staff and £2M turnover. I used to write cheques for £50k without blinking, and now I still get the sweats when I'm forced to the ATM.

Skipping the flight back from the Gijon World Championships to UK and walking across Northern Spain for three weeks.

Being a small part of a big book with the collection of photos and climbing stories that have become The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland by Guy and Adrian.

Revisiting the Pyrenees and taking John and Jay for a weeks coaching.

It's been a year where things have just happened without much control or specific direction from me. I've just tried to avoid doing stuff I didn't want to do and by default found myself doing stuff I do want to do. A kind of 'falling up' I suppose...

As someone who was in a very competitive business environment, I wanted Reach Climbing Coach to find its success through giving and being uncompetitive in a successful way. This makes sense to me because it stops me getting sucked into the world of high growth business environments where I previously lost myself but stays central to the core of coaching - which is giving.

Coaching within various categories of Paraclimbing has been fascinating and extremely challenging. Various coaching techniques learned, a new language if you like. This year has been about learning by doing and if I was talking in business speak I would describe this years coaching activities as part of an emergent strategy. Next year may be more focused on creating structured methods and a framework that is transferable to other potential Paraclimbing coaches. That way, we can do more.

Spotting Suzi at London Comp
Getting to know Suzi Rees from (an inspiring woman and founder of various social enterprises within my field) is exciting both on a professional level and a personal level as I know someone like Suzi has this talent of spreading her enthusiasm and passion for what she is doing onto those she meets.

A long way to go at my end but the thing I think I've learned more than anything is to experience and respect the 'loss' that some of my clients have sustained, endured and learned to let go of, so they could emotionally commit to risking again for success or happiness through their activities in Paraclimbing.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Pyrenees Paraclimbing at Base Calames...

Jay, John and I returned to the UK after a week living and climbing in the Midi Pyrenees.

Calames crag
The highlights of the trip were seeing John lead his first 6a, his hardest lead outside and watching Jay in his paradise enjoying all things French, enjoying his climbing and independence in another country, another world of mountains and climbing. Witnessing John's commitment on lead as a VI climber was great, great to see and great to be a part of.

Coaching on my own in the mountains with two very different human beings involving visual impairment, deafness, autism, varying personalities with the addition of climbing risk and the main objective of transferring coaching value was extremely intense and in turn extremely satisfying.

Sight guiding with John
Coaching Paraclimbing in the Pyrenees is something special for me as the place has a unique atmosphere untouched by tourism and getting the chance to show these guys this special find was nice. Sight guiding John along the mountainside to the crag with Jay following behind felt quite profound. We must have seemed a little bizarre to our French friends.

Jay leading outdoors

John on a 6a+ 
A big thanks from Jay to DMM and V12
 for sponsoring his trip with much needed gear
It's not just the climbing environment that is challenging to manage but the hours before and after where you are depended upon for physical support and guidance and mentaly restructuring explanations to make them more understandable but at the same time legitimate. Worth it to see their smiling faces on top of a mountainside with great landscapes falling behind them.

Revisiting the Pyrenees was a personal journey that worked out well for me as I hoped it would.

Base Calames
Thanks to Jon Stoelker and family for looking after us at their Gite : Base Calames.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Chasing Butterflies...

My daughter chasing butterflies
Jay, John and I are getting prepared for their coaching trip to the Pyrenees. Lots of madness with Jay's packing...

Yesterday when coaching Jay, I asked him how many routes we had done ( I was packing them in as much as I could to get his mind and body synced for leading in the Pyrenees). He couldn't tell me the number, and I replied "that's not very autistic of you!?" I laughed, then Jay got it and laughed. Makes me chuckle now as I right it down.

Taking him to the Pyrenees is more than just another real rock coaching trip. It means a lot for me to show him a place, a place where I chose to change my life, Climbing is changing his life.

Jay's courage in his everyday life dealing with things that confuse him inspires me every day. When I committed to making changes with help from a psychotherapist in these mountains, I was broken. I was a man broken by my childhood. But working with Jay has taught me that every single day he requires a level of courage that it took me 30 years to find.

My balcony in Auzat, tough times in a far away place
I thought I could never go back to this place as there is so much pain left behind there but I think when we land in that place, it will hold real meaning to me. Only this time, I have my daughters in my better life and the company of two exceptional people, John Churcher (VI Paraclimber) and Jay...

On one hand, I am scared to face this place again, in case it triggers bad shit, but at the same time, I know it is the right place to be for me now.  I did a 1000 pull ups one night on my balcony in Auzat to ease the psychological pain during the therapy sessions as I had lost the will to climb! Luckily I don't feel that now...

Recovering at Colin's Cottage in Scotland after the sessions in France

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Hidden Disability... Not the constapated asshole

Dave on the slate, North Wales. 
I had the pleasure of working/climbing with our other GB Para Climbing Team coach, Phil Blue here in Snowdonia along with Jay, Katie and GB Paraclimber Dave Bowes.

A good day in the quarries on the slate to give Jay a days real rock practice before we fly over to the Pyrenees in a few days.

It was good for Jay to meet Dave because of Dave's hidden disability ( Dave was in a serious motor bike accident leaving him brain damaged with various after effects. )

"I have persistent post concussion syndrome ( basically permanent concussion symptoms forever: affecting memory, concentration, attention span, confusion, sensory overload, anxiety), central vestibular disorder, vestibular dysfunction in both ears (both mean I have no sense of balance, I have to focus on fixed objects ahead of me to use as a tilt guide, like the dial in a plane), REM sleep disorder leaving me unable to get regenerative sleep, post traumatic migraine, moderate to severe depression. Finally the worst, complete change in personality, as in Dave version 1 died on 08/09/07, a new Dave is who you know. Commonly called frontal lobe syndrome..."

I've been to various Paraclimbing Competitions with Dave, most recently Gijon at the World Championships where he came 4th in his category. An exceptional guy!

When I first met Dave I thought why is he here amongst such obviously disabled and challenged paraclimbers but that was my mistake and spending more and more time with him has lead to a greater understanding of him and his hidden disability. I realized I had been an asshole and I even think I like him now!

That's the thing with all this... You don't need to like people with a disability by default. That's something else? People are people, and some are nice and some can be assholes. I wouldn't say I have gotten to know all the team yet nor do I like their assholes. But the more time I have with them climbing and coaching the more growth they give me as a more caring human being. Sorry about the asshole comment but it was just a running theme!

Phil and Dave

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland...

This book is now published representing some of the best mountain crags in Scotland along with narratives from some of those who had experienced them over the last three decades.

I was asked to write a piece on my solo ascent of Shibboleth in Glen Coe and I did. Partly from the mountains of Pyrenees then finally from my ex girlfriend's cottage on a hillside in North Wales. I haven't seen the book yet as I gifted her my copy direct from the publishers since she persuaded me to go ahead with publication and it was her birthday (Happy Birthday Cordelia! x ).

I had never written about my solo ascent on this wall, partly because I didn't know what to say as it was a truly personal journey up there in that grand unpolluted special place so long ago and it was all a little unreal in Glen Coe that day but luckily the ascent was recorded on film by Stephen Yates and I walked away for more, so it became real for me and now for others.

It's great to see the book being so well received as the content and photos from others look stunning from what I have seen on social media.I can't remember what I wrote, just the truth probably, but I hope it added value to the publication. 

Scottish Climbing in the 80's and 90's was never written about that much as change from adventure towards sport began and bouldering took hold in Scotland and the climbing media, which was a good thing, because it eventually lead to harder adventurous behaviors from the climbers of the day.

... Anyway, I need to finish my Tesco Online Grocery delivery before I miss my slot!


Good luck and much success to Guy and Adrian with their book...

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Behind The Scenery... Slate Heads.

Wales is such a lovely place to live and I was inspired to take a walk back up behind the house today to the Bus Stop Quarry after watching local Guide, Libby Peter's short film of her taking her daughters out for an evening climb. It reminded me just how lucky we are living in Snowdonia and being right next to this mass of slate climbing.

If I'm honest, I find it hard to get motivated for the harder TRAD slate, mainly because I did most of the harder routes to E6 when I was 17 back in 1986 and to genuinely dig up the commitment required to on sight E7 on slate is not something I have in me (or if I think I do, I don't want to wake up eyeballing a 70ft ground fall and realize I really don't). But I absolutely love climbing at my limit on the sport routes because they are like no other rock type...

Eyeballing the 70ft ground fall when I did...

So I'm keen as mustard to get back up and finish some outstanding bits at Bus Stop Quarry and continue bouldering harder in conjunction with refining some slate head technique!

Filming work at Bus Stop Quarry for Reach 
(Final Crux Films)
Behind the scenes at Bus Stop

Ramón Julián Repeats Chris Sharma's Power Inverter (9a+/5.15a)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Training back to fitness and beyond...

Having recovered in the main from my shoulder injury from hitting a fence post... I've started training specifically to increase my bouldering level beyond my previous f7b.

Kyloe In The Woods from Will Atkinson on Vimeo.

Below is my personal analysis of what I need to do to try and get beyond my previous plateau...

Planned Strategy:
  • Increase maximal finger strength
  • Build core strength
  • Strengthen shoulders from injury
  • Increase flexibility and strengthen  hip flexors and ham string for heel hooking!
  • Consistent Antags training


Session #1 :

  • Bouldering maximal moves ( work 2 moves above goal, then 5 move sessions with shorter rests,)
  • Fingerboarding - maximal hangs 5 grips x 5 secs x 5 sets
  • Core - bar work
  • Stretching throughout during rests
  • Antags

Actual session #1:

Bouldered the parts of the f7c that I could for 30 mins with big rests - HARD!

Did some easier problems with heel hooks in them up to f6c+

Great fingerboard session concentrating on enslaved fingers in vertical sequence for 20 mins mixed with Antags...

Didn't do core... Long way to go!

2nd part of #1: Began working on another f7c. could top easier moves and  did some half moves on crux area. Miles off! did moves with feet on bigger footholds of any colour to get body,mind and fingers used to moves with muscle memory. Productive but need to engage more in projectio!...

Session #2:

Thought I did a f7b+, but it turns out I went wrong way. Loser! Found the right route but too hard. still havent engaged in training yet. Long long way to go!

If you are going to Spain in January? We are Recruiting for December Training Team for Online DF Programme...

Collegats en Pirineos, Espana
If you are thinking of a post crimbo trip to Spain or the like, and are looking to get in shape, then why not join our Online Training Programme for 6 weeks beginning December. If you climb between 6a and 7c and are looking to improve your sport climbing grade, either projecting or for on sight, then fill in form below or contact to discuss our programme. The cost is £100 or 100 Euros for the 6 week DF Online Programme.

Mi amiga Sonia en 7b
Sonia en Espana

The ReAch Online Dual Factor Training Programme: How to use…

The ReAch Online Dual Factor Training Programme: How to use…

Home Gym

Front Tab:

This is just a strategic outline of the tactics and main focus of training activity over the 6 week period.

The DF method relies on achieving a fatigued state during ’fatigue week’ to induce a deeper and more prolonged peak to assist in completing projects a few weeks beyond the ‘taper’ phase. We load the volume of activity to fatigue, then unload to taper.

The climbing specific training is based on a Strength > Power> Power Endurance cycle.

The ‘Daily’’ Tab:

This is where your training is scheduled in advance in a calendar format allowing you to organise and record your activities. The cells should be overwritten by you once complete, with as much detail as you see fit. Important! It will help you measure progress and motivate later as you go through the weeks… Record weight every monday morning if possible.

Comments Tab:

It is just that… A place to communicate with coach instead of email. It is easier to manage at our end. Use it as you like, say what you like, ask for help or just update your progress… It yours!

DF Trend Tab:
This is just a measure of your DF volume of activity to reflect the required trend towards less volume with higher intensity training...

Fatigue Response Form Tab:

This is the private online form to measure your weekly fatigue levels. The link is found at the end of every week on the right column in the ‘Daily’ tab and results are store in your programme.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The buthcher!

I got propelled back into the world of the London based climbing wall (Big Rock in Milton Keynes) to set for their youth academy comp. When setting for youths one is more mindful of avoiding injurious moves or tendon damaging mono dedos. After a little consideration I removed the mono from the pull over the roof on the final route which was a pitty but no point snapping tendons for the sake of a competition place or for anything else for that matter! Unless your a butcher?

We did a couple of Reach Coaching workshops in the evening with the academy then private clients on various topics from competition, trad, onsight, training methods etc. Enjoyed that then fell asleep dreaming about that mono just left of the black hold over the roof... I used to train on monos from age of 14, but then again, there was less awareness about growth plate damage just the butcher on the corner where you could buy tendon soup... Honest! 

Anyway, back to Snowdonia on the Virgin time machine to a nice plate of special Brynrefail soup...

Monday, 10 November 2014

Jay's Journey : 2014 ... 2015

It's been around eight or nine months since I began working with Jay as his climbing coach and five months as his support worker to assist with his challenges with autism and developing an achievable pathway for Jay towards a sustainable and more independent life.

It was a big decision for me to involve myself with the support network of working alongside Jay's social worker and her department because deep down I am a little too anarchic these days but when Jay volunteered his psychological profile report for me to read a few months ago, I knew the gravity of what he was doing and what he was asking of me with the gesture: its the same as handing over your difficult life story to a psychotherapist and that is simply trusting someone enough with who you really are. I know about that from the Pyrenees in 2012.

So in twenty days or so Jay and I will be flying in to The Pyrenees to show him some great rock climbing in a very special place where my own life began a profound change.

It's been great to see and be a part of the change in Jay's climbing from fighting with both hands to clip the quick draw on a 4c to seeing him onsight 6c and work his first 7a.

As he prepares his list of equipment from the climbing companies that have kindly sponsored him and meticulously plans his clothing for the trip. I am so proud of how far we have come together in this climbing journey and the level of mutual trust we have built to allow us to be all we can be, in his life and in mine.

So its not all been a breeze. Jay suffers weekly sometimes daily with anxiety driven by confusion which can lead to self harming and suicidal tendencies, stomach pains from stress and more. I understand all of this but most of all I admire his continued bravery, hope, and his inteligent ability to navigate the learning gaps he experiences to continue on his exceptional journey to push hard for the best life he can achieve for himself, so 2014 has been great for Jay and winning his category at the BMC Para climbing competition in the UK was such a great feeling for him and his family.

So what is on for 2015 for Jay 'stomping' Owen in the climbing world. Exactly that... The Worlds...

I want the IFSC to recognise and implement Autism as a World Championship Paraclimbing Category so that Jay and those like him can enjoy and express themselves as athletes on a world stage. So come on IFSC...

Referrals from clients:

"...This training season I decided to get all the help I can to speed up my improvement. I needed guidance to work towards my goals in long term. I also needed more vision and opinions about my exercises and weak links. I am glad I can share my training with Mark..." (Ville Mustonen, Finland)

" I met Mark in Glen Nevis on his return to climbing to check out some lines he had in mind for me, I wasn't really training at this point but after a day or two talking and training with him I had a much more structured idea of what to do to improve and I did" (Kev Shields)