Thursday, 16 February 2012


For some climbers training is the bane of their lives, a torture they endure occasionally and only when circumstances force them to. For others it’s the reminder of a climbing lifestyle in an otherwise busy life, an escape from their commitments for a precious 30 minutes spent hanging off a fingerboard or training wall, memories of past climbs and future plans are all the motivation they need.

For my part I enjoy a good training session, I love turning up to the wall with a plan and sticking to it, I love walking away 4 hours later with tired and aching muscles and a very real sense of achievement but most of all I love the focus it requires.

I warm up at The Quay, traversing and climbing some of the easier boulder problems then I head to the 40 degree wall and work out a ten move problem that’s near the limit of my ability. It’s strange to be climbing in a busy climbing wall instead of at a quiet crag, people and their conversations distract me; I climb the problem for the first time, feet skating everywhere. At the last hold I jump off, a 30 second rest and a quick chalk up and I’m back on the board. This time the concentration comes more easily, my footwork is more precise, each move is carried out more efficiently.

Jump off, rest, chalk, climb.

The third go and I start to feel tired, the pump in my arms won’t shift and I feel like Popeye just without the spinach habit. Fourth and fifth goes are a trial, the last move nearly gets me each time but I stick it, just. Five bolts stand in a row by the entrance to the boulder room, each one symbolising a go on the board and an inability to count whilst tired.

I take a rest then head to the other boulder room and repeat the process on the roof section then back to the 40 degree wall for round 3 on a new 10 move problem. Time for a break and some food and renewed psyche from an old edition of climb magazine.

Back on the floor I warm up again and head on to the auto-belay for laps on some longer routes. A slopey 7a is perfect for the challenge, only one positive hold on the route and hard moves requiring locking off and reaching. Five goes later and I don’t want to stop, my arms are tired but the moves are so absorbing that I don’t seem to mind. In the break between goes my mind wanders, in the lull between focusing hard on the route it explores the reasons why; why I’m training, why I enjoy this, why I keep coming back.

Sanctuary Wall - it's time to get strong!

I think I’m addicted to the feeling of moment, of freedom, of pain and resistance, of power and strength, of muscles working to their limit and my mind fully focused on each hold, each move. The beauty of it is that while my mind is full of climbing it is empty of everything else. The absolute commitment to each move requires rules out thoughts of anything more, of life and people, of the ever-changing future or the unchangeable past.  My life, and all of existence with it, shrinks to a heart-beat, a burst of power from my muscles, a single focused thought.

At the end of the session when the outside world returns to crowd out my mind I miss the feeling of being lost inside a move but the memory of it is as powerful as a drug, calling me back time and time again. 

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