Friday, 31 October 2014

Base Calames, Pyrenees - 1 Week Real Rock Coaching Trip

The Pyrenees coming over from Barcelona
(my monthly commute in 2012!)
We are running a Real Rock coaching trip for climbers and para climbers to the Pyrenees ( either the end of November or beginning of December. We will be staying at Jon Stoelker's family Gite - Base Calames. The Gite is directly below the crag which is just 5 mins walk behind the accommodation. A fantastic location. If interested please email The trip may be filmed so if this is a problem then please flag it up at the beginning.

Prices of trip including accommodation and coaching fees available on request to

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Living by the Lake...

The stunning view at the bottom
of the road from the new place
Life as a climbing coach this last year has been nothing less than 'relatively pleasant' to relatively mental returning to the UK without a home (after moving out by text whilst walking the Camino across Northern Spain).

It felt a bit mental sight calling with John in front of TV cameras at the World Championships and flying straight in from Santiago de Compostela after 3 weeks of mainly solitude reflecting on the last year and finding clarity about a few things then to be plonked into a UK World Cup with John and the other para climbers. A few stressy days in a city then I pointed towards Snowdonia and walked on the coast biving out under the stars until I organised a new place to live in this wonderful country. Some rough nights but they were worth it to follow through with my plans to live just a little further out from the centre of things in Llanberis.
A forced bivi: 'relatively pleasant'
The UK comp was more demanding as the other Sight Caller for Reanne and Adam couldn't make the comp due to unforseen circumstances. So I agreed to call for the others but the radio sets needed to effectively communicate with VI climbers were not available so I had to call out for all to hear as the audience is asked for silence.

It felt hard as you are not just passing on technical information ..."sidepull at 11 o'clock for right hand with right foot up to thigh on a sloper..." Because I knew Reanne and Adam as people as well as para climbers and knew stuff that the audience would not and so when I was trying to keep Reanne's feet higher than normal to help drive her signals from her leg to her brain and push her hard to keep moving when the effects of her cerebral palsy were showing the signs that I had learned to recognise in Austria, it felt a little uncomfortable as I tried to verbally motivate her for all to hear. But I was so proud when I managed to put my own discomfort aside and give Reanne what she needed to hear as she gave it her all for the medal she was so keen to take home.

Reanne taking her medal from Gijon
Living in a great place enjoying my own great job. Everything I wanted when I began this journey in 2011.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sherpa Adventure Gear Masterclass Lecture Tour - Aberystwyth

Reach Climbing Coach will be running a Masterclass alongside Neil Gresham for Sherpa Adventure Gear Lecture Series at Aberystwyth this Saturday before Neil and Kenton Cool's evening lectures. See link below for details:

Reach Masterclass will be structured around the following:
* 6a to 8a in 180 days - Projecting Strategies for 'stretch' goals
* on sight strategies
* psychology and  methods for breaking through a plateau using systems training
* Contemporary Training Programme using Reach DF Theory combined with a Strength ∆ Power ∆ Power Endurance Cycle
* Coaching Partnerships - finding the right coach for you and committing to a practical term...

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Final preparations with Jay for his first Real Rock Trip to Europe...

Jay's climbing progress seems to be on the move again as we prepair for his trip to the Pyrenees. As well as maintaining and increasing his physical training with an emphasis on driving his bouldering grade as close to font 7a (V6) as we can get within the next few weeks, we have been combining these sessions with power endurance lead climbing. But today, we began the challenge of learning how to help Jay climb the easier ground as efficiently as possible in between the cruxes when on lead. 

This is a learning challenge and goes against Jay's instinctive urge to pull hard and dynamically, but without this element being trained (like muscle memory and dogged repetition) then simply instructing the process fails. Luckily I'm a repetitive lunatic and Jay's will and determination to improve his life through climbing makes every challenge we face to get the best from and for him in climbing seem achievable. Well, we think so! And now. So does the two climbing companies below with their much appreciated equipment support. Well done them them and well done Jay!

Next, we begin a 5 week programme to induce a climbing/fitness peak for Jay and start looking for cheap flights to his first experience of climbing paradise...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Are Crocs cool or am I just taking too big a risk?

Trying to be cool when things around you feel like a load of croc is obviously sometimes easier said than done. In climbing (as in life - mine anyway), belief has been the factor that has held my cool when in extremis on a wall way above with no ropes, too far out to fall and seemingly still so far to go.

In climbing situations like that, I remember just shifting the perceived reality of the potential disastrous outcome to a belief that all I can change is the elements of the situation that were within my perceived control, like the simplicity of just making the next rock over on a small hold as if I was just bouldering back at my wall in Glasgow. A coping strategy, obviously. Coping with perceived danger...

Being honest with your self is it seems key to being able to manage risk. But sometimes you don't know what your capable off until you choose or have to face it. It's obviously easier to face challenges when you have no choice but putting yourself in a position of danger when you have a choice forces a default to the question "why am I doing this?"

That leaves you no where to look but straight into the centre of your self. Usually I'm doing it because what I think I have isn't enough for me and taking this risk could be worth it as it should make me feel better about myself and satisfy the 'rat' that wants that amazing heightened experience that perceived danger provides. And that's fine so long as it doesn't hurt others.

Back in the eighties soloing was rewarded with an image of 'cool'... A cool head to handle the fatal danger of a fall from high above to the terribly firm Terra firma. A bit uncool to the more risk averse, or even deemed selfish. For some; get it right and your a hero, get it wrong, and you were an idiot. Taking risks in climbing is obviously an inherent part of it. Does it have to be so risky wearing crocs? I think so. Even in sport climbing and bouldering there is a small feeling of risk before you fall. So maybe Crocs are so uncool, that they are actually cool? I think I'm wrong here, but there are two 'cools' here: being cool (comfortable temperature) and trying to seem cool (like branding). Which one rings true when up there on that beautiful endless piece of rock without ropes, just the updraft corressing the back of your hands as you reach over to that important rounded side pull, take the tension on the opposing foot and move up with belief... Or is this just a croc of shit to keep me busy on the real madness of the National Express bus from hell down from Scotland to Snowdonia. I prefer walking but that takes weeks...

Manchester next stop. Hope that's cool?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Recruiting for November Team for Reach Dual Factor Online Programme

New routing on Gozo Island

Malcom Smith on Hunger (9a) at The Anvil

If you climb between 6a and 7c and are looking to improve your sport grade using our online training programme then please contact to design your programme beginning mid November. The cost is £100 for the 6 week programme and payable via paypal

Coaching in Montserrat

Finger board session at The Beacon in N Wales

Reach Coaching and Sight Guiding - Finding our Way at the IFSC World Championships Gijón 2014...

The GB Para Climbing Team 2014
John & I discussing the best choice of Crocs for my Camino
and also his climbing tactics
... I found myself in Northern Spain in the September of 2014 coaching and competing as a sight guide to John Churcher (The GB Visually impaired Para climber) in the Gijon World Championships. We flew in for a week and came 3rd and John proudly won a bronze medal (which over time I began to realize was for his family).

I had only been working with John a few times and initially found our personalities to be quite different. But as we spent time together in Gijon in the day taking long walks sharing our lives and then competing together as his climbing caller in the televised spectacle of the World Championships, I began to understand  him more and build a friendship and the trust that we needed to go out into the arena for the final in front of the TV cameras streaming worldwide and a packed international stadium.

GB VI Category - John Churcher and
some handsome footwear behind...
I told John that I was maybe not coming back on the flight and considering going for a walk in Spain. He found my idea as amusing as me as I only had 200 Euros to last the three weeks I thought my walk might take. I had training shoes, a pair of Crocs two sizes too big and my sleeping bag in my black waterproof coaching bag (well it was the stunt woman's actually - must give back!).  Not well equipped for such a long walk.  John and I wandered through Gijon looking for the few 'necessities' that I still required to take on my walk across the 350km to Santiago de Compestela: foam sleeping mat (7 Euros), blank pad and pen to keep a diary and that was it really...

... As team GB took their medals and prepared for the coach back to the airport, John asked if I would be available for competing with him in the World Cup in three weeks back in Sheffield in the UK, but all I could say was let's see how long the Camino takes me and if I can I will, but I didnt want to rush one minute of this truly spontaneous and personally inspiring adventure ...

The Way... El Camino de Santiago de Compestela

Santiago de Compestela
Three days from Santiago John text me and told me to hurry! He had booked my flight out of Santiago and I was to be in Sheffield for The World Cup. I made the flight, adjusted our calling strategy and John  found his way to climb the best he had climbed in competition in front of his home crowd. I went back to Snowdonia...


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)