Monday, 31 March 2014

Getting beyond the past...

After a few weeks from Gwyn's competition success in London, he managed to achieve something quite special today at the Beacon back in North Wales. He managed to redpoint at a higher level as a VI (Visually impaired) Climber than he did as a fully sighted climber!

Gwyn came to me climbing 6b but with huge potential and appetite to improve his climbing - for himself, but this shift away from his previous bench marks as a sighted climber is important ground for us because now we say good buy to previous boundaries and are free to push into the 7's.

I am excited about the changes in climbing style and the strength gains Gwyn has made but now it's fingers, fingers FINGERS!!! TORA TORA TORA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

BMC PARA Climb Competition... 1st Round

Gwyn, myself and Gwyn's friends (Chris and Mike) took the trip from Llanberis to London to support Gwyn in his first PARA Climbing competition. Gwyn did all the organizing of what bus or tube we had to get and used his special app on his phone to guide us to where we needed to get. So our blind guide got us there where we joined the other competitors at The Castle Climbing Wall (cool bunch of people running the place) and got ourselves registered to compete then a coffee and some cake in the cafe. 

The last time I had competed in London was around 1990 against the likes of Jerry Moffat and other climbers of the day. I came 5th then but today as a 'caller' to Gwyn we came 1st! Gwyn won his category for the Visual Impairment category and climbed amazingly well. I was more nervous in this role than competing directly back in the 90's!

Gwyn flashing final boulder problem
The competition was made up of a bouldering and top rope event with 3 routes in each. We were allowed 3 tries on each boulder problem and 1 go at the top rope routes using a standard competition points system.

Spotting Suzi Rees

As the place filled up with competitors the buzz began to fill the place like any other competition. But this comp felt very different to me. It seemed to hold more resonance in terms of what is was all about for the competitors and the supporters of the PARA climbers. Watching a person with one arm or one leg combining explosive campusing power with climbing techniques I could not have imagined in a million years blew my mind. I pride myself in being able to read routes well, but I was continuously perplexed by some of the sequences that were being unlocked by the climbers (especially the one armed climbers) on boulder problems up to V4!

I was so pleased for Gwyn and I's success but I am so excited about being involved in these amazingly inspiring events. Although I was there to coach Gwyn and be his sight caller, I couldn't help myself but get involved with the others as they psyched up, chalked up and took their turn in something that really mattered. Competition is something my climbing has been part of but this feels so much more real to me as a person. Coaching someone to this great event is a journey I hope continues further.

Coaching people is a very personal thing, it takes time for trust to build and when someone has restricted sight and is listening to your voice over the other noises in the building for instruction in a competitive environment is so frightening but also so rewarding when they climb well for themselves. Gwyn climbed exceptionally well and won. But it feels like this is just the beginning for us.

The route setting by Ian Dunn was excellent and I couldn't have bettered it. But, it got me thinking about maximizing each para climbers full potential in a climbing environment and I believe we have a great opportunity in setting routes that test these climbers in a way that not only creates an obvious challenge, but perhaps setting in a way that allows them to truly demonstrate their athleticism and technical capacity totally specific to them as PARA climbers. For example, having more technical knee bar sequences that allow a one armed climber to test their core? The routes were set as able bodied climbs and watching Phil with one leg campusing off a crimp from the deck that you couldn't hang a snotter from, really woke me up to what he and the other competitors were truly capable of and it seems it is up to us to give them the routes that will blow them away and in turn blow away the spectators at how just amazing these dudes are... Dunno, maybe am wrong? But I know this, I want to coach more of these guys...

1/2 Boulder the Breck from George Sewell on Vimeo.

The VI 1st round winners! 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Coaching with Jay : 5 weeks on...

Working with Jamie now for over 5 weeks and the journey has been amazing and very progressive (for both of us). His first attempt at leading a 4c was filled with frustration (his) and fear (mine) as I allowed him to begin lead climbing very early on (maybe our 2nd session I think?). The danger was that the combination of difficulty in clipping the the rope safely through the quickdraw and the sometimes overwhelming fear of being in a lead fall situation too early on could have been very regressive, but we took our chance. The quickdraws were clipped using both his hands while he bridged his feet in the corner! Some were clipped correctly and some were ‘back clipped’ but I made the decision to let him continue as we were going to have to take some risks in this journey, calculated but there none the less. If I had stopped him in that moment then he would not have succeeded a few sessions later on his first 6a lead up the main overhanging wall that demanded smooth clips with one hand whilst hanging on with the other in strenuous positions on the overhanging wall. From 6a we quickly moved onto a hard 6b project, which will take us longer but will act as a false barrier for harder routes I think, because it is not the grade that is the challenge but the style and sustained nature of the climb. When this one falls to Jay, then 6c will come quicker than this 6b. (I think!). Increasing Jay’s flexibility has been a focus and completely changing his climbing style so that we can slow everything down to a manageable climbing pace for him to cope with a higher level of difficulty (both physically and mentally). Jay's strength is not a problem at the moment but finding ways to positively change Jay’s climbing style has required much thought and experimentation. But the change has begun and he is moving differently now on the routes with a much more focused coordination and use of tactics that we have developed to wind our way round the standard challenges of lead climbing. It is difficult to understand just how hard Jay will climb, and yet, if I allow us to set any specific long term goals, then I suspect I will let us down with that strategy. So we must concentrate on only believing in the unbelievable and simply focus on a wider objective…

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)