Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | February 2, 2014

Progress report, Feb’14

One month in, mixed results, but mostly positive. Definitely feeling stronger, climbing technically very well indeed, and hitting the occasional aimed-forĀ  heights…flashed F7a and bouldered V4/V5 recently, for example. Also back to running as the treadmill at work has been fixed, and this by itself has allowed the brain to relax a bit more and look forward to those all-important rest days.

The negatives are just a few minor injury niggles, some of them actually caused by the common and understandable effects of getting overexcited and rushing into things. Some of the antagonist work has actually caused a minor shoulder injury, and a few other bits and pieces have been tweaked here and there, but overall I’m very pleased, and need to balance things out a bit more. Tendons, as they say, don’t like rest or change.

I’m now going to take a few days off climbing, and possibly visit the physio, before moving onto phase 2, which is 4-week block of trying harder stuff but with more rests periods in between, as I am feeling fit and moving well, but need to address the strength aspect. The strength has improved, particularly on steep and overhanging stuff (my benchmark of being able to flash all the entry level problems on the ceiling area has been met regularly).

One of the major positives has been the response of my fingers to regular finger-boarding both with and without a weight belt, and systems board work. Not only do they not feel ‘tweaky’ and sore, they actually feel as strong and reliable as I can remember them being. Clearly I react better to static exercises (understandable as this puts less sudden strain on the joints) than to plyometric or dynamic stuff like campus laddering. This in turn gives me an idea of where I am in training terms; i.e. I’m not enough of a monster to do campus laddering!

So, looking forward to a nice break from thrashing myself. Last word goes to my regular climbing partner, who managed to red-point F7a today in a tenacious display of refusing to quit!

Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | January 10, 2014

Friends and antagonists

Was given this little fella by an old mate who I’ve not seen for a criminally long time…the things that seem like a good idea after a few beers…


Doubtless Lego Messner will be making more unlikely appearances, although probably without his suspiciously old school (and rather pickaxe-like) ice axe (because it pings off and gets lost really easily…he’s obviously one of those leash-less modern types).

So anyway, the beer was a welcome break from the latest training plan, which now involves a lot more of looking after the muscles that don’t do so much when climbing, the antagonists.

Or do they? When one muscle contracts, another one expands (or often more than one…). Climbing obviously uses a lot of muscles constantly and quite hard, pulling away at stuff, and this can result in serious imbalance and weakness. This in turn can lead to injuries, in both the main agonist muscles, from being inadequately supported/stabilized or overused, and in the antagonists, from being too weak.

Given my tendency to injury, and my intention to train quite hard over the next few months (the Ariege trip mentioned in the previous post is now on so I have something exciting to train for!), I’ve decided to do much more antagonist work, perhaps 2-3 sessions of this versus 4-5 sessions of climbing per week. The nice thing is, antagonist work can be done in quite short time compared to climbing sessions, for example, this program here:,592,0,1,training.html which I have found both useful and easy to do.

I have also finally got round to joining the gym at work, and have a number of free weights (e.g. bicep curls, bench press type exercises, eccentric wrist curls) and machine exercises designed to target pushing motions or muscle groups, i.e. in opposition to pullups or side-pulls.

The above article was also quite valuable, if only for the advice that a heavy antagonist session should not be followed by a hard climbing session, as all the stabilizing muscle groups will be weak. Fortunately the Castle also has a small gym where some antagonist exercises can be done after my lighter sessions, or I can come home and do them while cooking dinner.

It is of course much too early to say whether any of it is doing any good yet, but as I am aiming to peak around early April for the Ariege trip, I’m treating January as a fitness and strengthening period, and looking to up the actual climbing training workload in February, before easing off into late March to recover a bit. I’m also hoping to get up to Scotland and get cold and scared in the snow, but that’s another story…!

Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | December 18, 2013

Been a while…!

And only partly because I’ve been busy climbing and busy working…I’ve been lazy and unmotivated to blog until a friend recently started blogging about her new life in the Peak District, which I am naturally regarding with a mixture of admiration and jealousy!


Now where was I…? Coming back from Spain in March, having left myself with all sorts of areas to improve on.

Unfortunately it has been an injury-riven summer; apart from the usual collection of climbing tweaks (two fingers, one elbow, one wrist, one triceps, one shoulder, one neck…!) I have sprained an ankle slipping over on the walk-off from Bamford Edge, and twisted a knee on a wet rock at Shorncliff.

The knee has healed ok, the ankle is still weak and twinges a lot, so minimal running for much of the year. Training has been a constant battle of applying reasonable and realistic schedules only to see them end in another injury…but progress has still been made! I think.

However, in terms of outdoor climbing volume, it has been a good year; the return to my life of these strange things called ‘weekends’ and a determined and impressive effort from my regular climbing partner to learn (or re-learn) driving saw us managing trip after trip, including two to North Wales…

So, highlights of 2013’s Year of Trad?

Getting some classic routes done in the famous Llanberis Pass, all over Idwal Slabs, and some ‘classic’ vegetated fun and games on Milestone Buttress as well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView from Idwal, North Wales

Cruising all over Shorncliff again, I love this place, and despite the failure to attempt my biggest wishlist route, Touch the Fire, I have now left myself virtually no other reason to go back to Shorncliff as almost everything else under E2 has been ticked! Side Effects (E1 5b) was particularly challenging and a varied route of great if somewhat unstable quality.

A monster day at Froggatt ticking at least 12 routes and taking a career best lob off a Joe Brown jamming crack! Being reduced to giggles by the various tortuous methods being used to overcome Tody’s Wall (HVS 5a).

Two days’ coaching with Katherine Schirrmacher, inspiring and useful stuff, and just generally hanging around on Stanage in the sunshine.

Checking out Shining Clough, one of the Peak’s most remote and striking crags.


So, what next?

I am contemplating 3 things next year…

  1. Joining a climbing club – I need more friends and partners after seeing many of my social circle depart these shores recently, and I need a greater variety of partners, partly to preserve friendships from too much stress, and partly to broaden my experience and give me more options, particularly regarding winter and alpine climbing.
  2. Return to Ariege – my favourite and first ever sport climbing holiday destination, and a region that has a hold on my heart like no other. Everyone has had to put up with my frequent nostalgic ramblings on how I need to go back, but I am determined that 2014 will be the year.
  3. The Alps – another place I am keen to get back to after a mountaineering hiatus in 2013; plans and partners aplenty in theory, but money and time will decide (i.e. I’m going…!) Nebulous plans include Mont Blanc by one of the more untrodden routes, Gran Paradiso by any route, and making use of a recently relocated friend to hit the western Valais region (Weisshorn!).

Given that I was promoted in October and now get paid properly, all this is now affordable! Probably.

Enjoy your festive seasons and dust off those plans for 2014.

Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | March 30, 2013

The rain in Spain…

…wasn’t too bad, fortunately. We managed to climb every day, although only managing a couple of routes on some occasions, and even got a bit of tan.

All in all, quite pleased really; my suspicions about my form were mostly correct, and while I feel I climbed well and generally improved on the last visit, I didn’t manage too many hard routes.

I did successfully top-rope my main project, the F7a El Arabe Perdido, on 3 attempts out of 4, but simply ran out of time to get the lead. I didn’t even get a shot at my other F7a project as it was wet, and the weather wasn’t conducive to any of the multi-pitch routes I was intent on.

On the positive side, I’ve come back very enthusiastic and determined to improve by addressing weaknesses. We learn by our failures, and one single route told me far more than all the successes; a tricky and hard-to-read F6b put me in all sorts of bother, but I really could and should have led it cleanly and easily.

Why didn’t I? I’m still too worried about falling off on lead; not terrified, but enough that it affects my form and concentration. This in turn means I fail to read moves and sequences, or fail to give a move 100% where only 100% will do. My stamina and ability to hang on while pumped actually exceeded my expectations, so almost all my failures and falls occurred because I simply ran out of options and gave up.

Inability to actually perform the moves at grades below F7a didn’t account for any of them either, so while getting stronger is still important, it isn’t the main problem. I’ve still got lots to think about and process, but incorporating fall practice into my leading is the first and most important step to take.

Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | March 18, 2013

Holiday time, and where I’m at…

Excited as hell cos I’m off to El Chorro in Spain tomorrow for 10 days of sunny bolt-clipping…the winter here has been so long and cold and damp that it feels like forever that I’ve been waiting for this.

Not sure where I am form-wise, bouldering well but leading poorly (in terms of pure grade and also in terms of volume). The Castle has been rebuilding much of their high lead wall area and, while the new stuff is a fantastic addition, it does mean I’ve barely led anything that’s both high’n’hard for about 6 weeks.

In terms of all-round fitness and core strength (both of which I tend to concentrate heavily on leading up to trips, while gradually dropping off bouldering intensity to avoid injury) I have never been better. I’m a little worried about a couple of twinges in my fingers and I’ve no idea where my head is at (and I’ve been very busy at work and am looking at some sweeping but positive changes in my role as well), so the first few days might well be a cautious re-acquaintance with real rock.

However, I have goals to go at, I’m in good shape and the forecast is decent so Rule Number One: Have Fun should be accomplished! Trip report and the start of a new training cycle focusing on trad-climbing to follow in a couple of weeks…

Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | February 6, 2013

Winter chills

It’s been bloody freezing here in London, to the point where I can’t really remember being warm! However, I’ve been putting the time to good use; the last few weeks have seen some of the hardest sustained training I’ve put in, and results have been good.

Mixing up hard bouldering (working problems at or slightly beyond my limit), two combined fingerboard/overhanging systems board sessions a week, a ‘weights and core’ session and a bit of leading has given me a nice spread of exercises.

It’s not thrashing any part of me too much but is leaving very few areas untouched, with the result that I feel much stronger and much more resilient but am not starting to fall apart at the seams, although I can feel a rest day coming on and curiously the last bouldering session seems to have given me tinnitus as well (I don’t remember using my ears to climb that last V4 but I could be mistaken…!).

Very inspired by Dave MacLeod’s recent posts about his triumphant return from a serious ankle injury, and starting to get motivated by the prospect of some sunny cranking in El Chorro in March!

Now if I can only stay off the biscuits, I might be in business!


Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | January 3, 2013

Trawling the memory banks (Part 2)

…and on we go.


Number 7: my Dad leading his way across some very hot Tuscan limestone on a funny little trip that mixed tourism, climbing, hiking and lounging around by a swimming pool.


Number 8: a more recent trip, James following me on the Penon de Ifach in Calpe harbour, Costa Blanca, Spain. A morning’s multi-pitching by the sea!


Number 8(a): multi-pitching can be uniquely hazardous, of course…when we arrived on top this little fella and his mates turned up to try and scrounge our sandwiches. Which is better than the snake I once found waiting for me on the belay ledge of another route in Catalunya…!


Number 9: God’s Own Rock, t’grit-stone. Stanage, Neil seconding in the evening sunshine on a sneaky day trip.

Unfortunately, while I’ve been to the very photogenic El Chorro twice now, I didn’t bother with the camera on either occasion!

Ah well. Here’s a photo of me freezing my ass off in Scotland many years ago instead.


Hideous. Right, back to training!


Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | January 2, 2013

Trawling the memory banks (Part I)

Happy New Year!

Back in training again after being a lazy fat git (sort of…I did go running quite a lot despite the incessant rain), starting with a load of volume/stamina work and general conditioning. All very well, a bit dull, so I’m going to inspire myself a bit by posting a selection of shots from various nice sunny climbing trips I’ve done in Europe…


Number 1: view from the cave at Goulier, Ariege Pyrenees. It was incredibly hot and we spent a lot of time lurking in here trying not to disturb the tiny bat at the back…


Number 2: ‘Dangerous’ Dave picking his way along the final ridge of the Rock of Calames, Ariege Pyrenees, to finish off a nice multi-pitch route, my first.


Number 3: two of my best climbing buddies in action, Patrick belaying Steve on the lovely granite of Auzat, Ariege Pyrenees. Possibly my most favourite crag in the entire world.


Number 4: the remote village used by the Castle’s Climbing Centre’s ‘Climb Catalunya’ trips, run by the mysterious ‘G’. Bad roads, no guidebooks, approximate grades, lots of hiking, big adventure!


Number 5: the wild and mighty walls of Paklenica, Croatia, shot from, er, the gift shop by the car park…easy access and ice cream!


Number 6: my charming Croatian friend Lidac belaying me on Diagonalka in the central gorge, a fun multi-pitch with some gnarly exposure.

In Part 2, more bits of Spain and possibly some bits of Italy. Plus maybe some grit-stone comedy thrown in for a laugh…

Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | December 15, 2012

Winding down

Been too busy lately really, new job, Xmas parties, bit tired and run down from cycling to work and getting the hang of everything, so I’ve just been tooling along and trying to climb as much as possible.

Strangely my running seems to be going well at the moment, 2-3 times a week for 40 minutes and I feel very fit, so I’ll be taking the running shoes off to Herefordshire with me for the holidays.

Generally quite pleased though, looking at my training log I’m about where I wanted to be approaching the 3 month interval.


Looking forward to a week’s rest and recuperation (otherwise known as sitting on the sofa eating and drinking too much!) and I’ll reassess things in the cold painful light of January…

Hope everyone has an enjoyable festive season, roll on 2013!

Posted by: mattgrangeclimbing | November 28, 2012

Monkeying about

So…bit stuck for inspiration for training this month…then I watched the Reel Rock film series and got very inspired! All the films were good and full of jaw-droppingly mad people, but the one thing that struck me was how hard these people try, which is of course why they’re the best.

Adam Ondra: the best?

Duh, paging Captain Obvious. Yet it’s amazing how many people don’t try hard all the time.

So I’m going to try harder, which means two things.

One: falling off more. Falling off is good, because it means you’re trying hard at your limits, pushing it.

Two: confronting things I don’t like because I’m bad at them, or perceive myself to be bad at them.

This mainly means climbing on the ceiling a lot more. I hate roof climbing, ceiling bouldering, whatever you call it, it’s a horizontal world of confusing pain for me because I’m very very bad at it and have weak puny arms, usually dropping about 3 grades when I get onto it. But no more. December is Monkey Month. I shall become a Monster.

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