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...

September Training to November Chains...

Iain joined the Reach DF Programme in September and has just completed his project. Well done Iain! Happy days....

Segment from Iain's programme

Iain was training using the DF Online Programme while I was walking across Northern Spain popping online every now and then to see how he was doing. But his dogged persistence was impressive, right up to the end, when I got an email explaining he hadn't yet done his project but was happy that he had found a new way of training.

I knew between the lines that he was running out of time: dry rock time (in Scotland) and emotional time, having committed so completely to his training and our programme format.

So well done you Iain Ross, because when I am lucky enough to be part of a coaching/training journey with someone like you, it makes my week when you get the chains! :)



"I came to climbing late but it is now a passion for me. From the feel of the movement, to exploring old and new places, to meeting new people, to learning new things about myself, it gives so much. A natural part of this for me is training, I want to train as it helps me achieve my goals but more than that, I enjoy the process itself. Over the course of the summer I felt that I was lacking something in my climbing but I could never quite put my finger on it. It was at this point that I stumbled across Mark and Reach and I decided that his approach was worth trying. What I discovered was a new way of training that really suited me and put a sound structure around a lot of what I was already doing. Although there were a few hiccups along the way I stuck to my plan which was focused around a defined route goal and in the end after a right battle I did it. It was great to get the route done but on reflection it is what I have gained from the process that matters most. Roll on the next cycle!" (Iain Ross)

Font 7a to font 7c - 6 week cycle...

Contact for membership to our training data bank for 6 months ( £25 or 25 Euros).

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Getting some Good Wood: Training for a Project...

Good wood! Pyrenees GR10 Project
Old wood! 6a to 8a torture chamber in Glasgow (2010)
Very good wood...
Wood on wood! Campus rungs on board to drive
 maximal contact finger strength

Climbing a lot will only get you so much stronger, but I have found to break through a strength plateau, then you need some wood...

I've found that real strength and fitness gains come from methodically training your body and mind week by week (in cycles) using systems resources and methods. World Cup Competitors don't get to that level by just climbing a lot:

  1. Finger boards, 
  2. Campus rungs, 
  3. Campus Board
  4. 45 boards, 
  5. or a mix of all things wood!

Obviously getting stronger also requires training your core and supporting climbing specific training with antagonistic exercises and weights to reduce chances of injury. But the fingers are first in the chain and are the main focus for improvement.

Develop maximal strength then power then power endurance at the appropriate 'project level'. There is no point moving to PE at too low a level, so therefor you have to build that strength level first, then convert to dynamic strength (Power) and finally develop the correct level of power to Power Endurance - this has to be based on the level you are aiming for or projecting.

Jo & Marie strength training on the board (Scotland,UK)
So don't be random, build good methods with good wood and break the plateau in your climbing...

Random madness with wood on the GR10 project! (French Pyrenees)

Monday, 3 November 2014

Craig Maddie, Scotland's little bit of grit stone...

Craig Mad is a tiny little bouldering crag that I adored which was just three miles from my then family home. One of Scotland's limited pieces of grit. There were a few small bits scattered around the area but this was the little piece of genius that I fell in love with.

Craig loco es un diminuto peñasco de que yo adoraba, que era tan sólo tres kilómetros de mi casa de la familia entonces. Una de las piezas limitadas a Escocia de grano. Hubo algunos pequeños trozos repartidos por todo el zona, pero este fue el pequeño pedazo de genio que me enamoré de.

The friction was perfect in early autumn because it was exposed to the winds of the Clyde valley overlooking Glasgow. It was also on the flight path for Glasgow International Airport so it was nice, in a way, watching the planes fly over in between trying the smallest of attainable moves at the time, wondering if it was that flight that was headed for Barcelona.

La fricción era perfecto en otoño tempranoporque fue expuesta a los vientos del valle con vistas  de Glasgow. Fue también en la trayectoria del vuelo para el aeropuerto internacional de Glasgow, así que fue agradable, en cierto modo, viendo los aviones vuelan sobre en entre intentar el más pequeño de movimientos alcanzables en el momento, preguntándose si era de que el vuelo de que se dirigía a Barcelona.

I discovered the crag for myself in 2010 after a long depression from losing my business and the days spent there on my own, rediscovering movement on real rock was just amazing. There was only these bunch of cows watching my Craig Madness in between their grass munching trying to work out wither I was going to get back into climbing after the 15 years of family, business and my frenetic focus on trying to be a 'successful' person.

Que descubrí la peña para mí en 2010 después de una larga depresión de perder mi negocio y los días que pasamos allí por mi cuenta, redescubriendo el movimiento en la roca era simplemente increíble. No sólo fueron estos manojo de las vacas viendo mi Craig locura en medio su mascando hierba intentando averiguar marchitan que me iba a regresar a escalar después de los 15 años de la familia, los negocios y mi enfoque frenético en tratar de ser una persona exitosa

The journey that lay ahead from the soft days on Craig Mad was something I could never have imagined. But in a sense, I also knew climbing at its core level and just trusted in that to find my way through the immediate and past problems of my life and beyond the valley that I would sit and stare to from the little crag in between goes on the grit bloc.

El viaje que tenía por delante de los días suaves en Craig loco era algo que nunca podría haber imaginado. Pero en cierto sentido, también sabía que sube en su del nivel básico y sólo confié en de que para buscar mi camino a través de los problemas inmediatos y pasados de mi vida y más allá del valle que iba a sientan y miran a partir de la pequeña peña en medio continúa el bloque grano.

In the main, it was great recording my climbing journey back into the world of climbing from 6a to 8a, mainly to help motivate myself but also to share honestly with others.

En el principal, fue genial grabación mi viaje de escalada de nuevo en el mundo de la escalada de 6a a 8a, principalmente para ayudar a motivar a mí mismo, sino también para compartir honestamente con los demás.

From these great little sessions I fell head over heels with climbing movement again and the feeling it gave my body and mind. I knew it was right for me to  go back to the rock after all those years and this fantastic little place took care of rekindling that passion.

A partir de estos pequeños sesiones me caí de cabeza sobre los talones con la escalada movimiento otra vez y la sensación de que di mi cuerpo y la mente. Yo sabía que era correcto para mí volver a la roca después de todos esos años y este pequeño lugar fantástico ocupé de reavivar el esa pasión.

A few months later I got on a plane to Barcelona and began to let go of my old life.

Unos meses después me subí a un avión con destino a Barcelona y empecé a dejar ir de mi antigua vida.

Three or so years on, I feel like that again, where I am about to push on to new ground again. As if it was obvious yet until the last week I was unaware. Learning to rebuild a life that feels true is the scariest experience I have ever had, yet looking to what I believe in; the natural landscapes of Wales, Scotland, Spain & the Pyrenees is what I enjoy about life the most and taking photos, writing and sharing what I know in climbing helps me grow.

Tres años más o menos, me siento como de que de nuevo, donde estoy a punto de empujar a un nuevo camino de nuevo. Como si se tratara evidentes todavía hasta la última semana yo no sabía. Aprender a reconstruir una vida que siente verdadera es la experiencia más aterradora que he tenido, sin embargo, mirando a en lo que creo; los paisajes naturales de Gales, Escocia, España & amp; los Pirineos es lo que me gusta de la vida al máximo y tomando fotos, escribir y compartir lo que sé en la escalada me ayuda a crecer.

I have been reading about Nelson Mandela and his ability to overcome the oppression afflicted upon him and his culture and it is something that he said that had a profound impact on me as a more caring, feeling person than the person that I was only a few years ago walking up to Craig Mad:

He estado leyendo sobre Nelson Mandela y su capacidad para superar la opresión afligido sobre él y su cultura y es algo de que él dijo de que tuvo un profundo impacto en mí como, sintiéndose persona más humanitario de la persona que sólo estuve unos pocos hace años caminando de hasta Craig loco:

                    "People learn to hate, they can be taught to love...For love comes more naturally to the human heart..." (Nelson Mandela).

                    "La gente aprende a odiar a, se les puede enseñar a amar ... Por el amor llega más naturalmente en el corazón humano ..." (Nelson Mandela).

It seems that when you lose everything as he did, you understand what really has any true worldly value aside from the beauty of nature and it is simply the capacity to just love.  I bet he would have loved Craig Mad, and I know I will love Africa one day.

Parece que el cuando pierdes todo lo que hizo, usted entender lo que realmente tiene un verdadero valor mundano, aparte de la belleza de la naturaleza y es simplemente la capacidad de sólo el amor. Apuesto a que él le hubiera encantado Craig loco, y sé que voy a amar a las tierras altas de África un día.


En fin ...

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)