A Winter's Tale


Winters used to be easy to plan back when I was deep in my winter climbing phase, getting the axes out by the end of October and train until January, mostly drytooling. I would then take off somewhere cold and hopefully get something done. I didn't have to worry how to maintain my rock climbing fitness or power because I would loose it all, always to face a shock in Spring. Now having dropped my winter climbing, I struggle with how to train over the winter months. Or moreover, how to cope not getting outdoors and stay in the gym training. But in reality my boredom threshold is so low that I needn't to worry, because after a couple of weekends pretending to train I'm furiously looking at forecast trying to find a piece of dry rock to go and climb. That might as well be my salvation as my body just doesn't cope with heavy training. I might get away with a few intense sessions, but my 40-year-old body doesn't like it so much and I feel the ache still a week later. So I take the old school approach of training outdoors on rock, that's where Brean Down comes in handy. I've become a permanent fixture of the crag, but it serves my purpose and I never get tired being by the sea hanging out in the van. I structure my visits to Brean quite simply, either working power or endurance. A typical power day would be working hard cruxes, normally starting with trying the crux of Brean Topping (8a+/b) , which I can never do fully, and then doing some of the harder cruxes, hopefully getting a lap or two on the harder routes. The endurance days are normally a few warm up laps on the 7a's, then a couple of 7b+'s (Tide Rising, Chulilla) then a 7c and a 7c+ (Bullworker, Storm Warning), and sometimes the odd 8a thrown in (Black Snake Moan or the variation), all in a day.

Adam putting the game face on the onsight attempt of El Chocco (7c)
Viki enjoying the last rays of sun on Chepito (7a)
I had a great week in Brean with these two. Viki joined us as soon as she heard we were driving South.

All this training seemed to have paid off when we visited Sicily for a few days over new years. We wondered why it's not a popular xmas venue, as like everyone else, we normally head to Catalunya. But this time I wasn't going to put up with the crap Catalan weather over winter and took a pun to Sicily, and my god it paid off. Wall to wall sunshine, warm but a tad windy. It took a while, like it always does, to get used to the style. But once going it was nice to find a nice pace. The highlight was getting a 7c and a 8a, both in a day (separate days). Both were very soft as my favourite pillow but nonetheless I was happy how all the Brean dedication was working out.

The nice tiger-stripped limestone of Fakiroh's Beach sector
Viki dealing with the blobs on a 6c at Never Sleepping Wall
Italian chap on a 7c+ at Campo Base
The old tuna harbour on the east side of San Vito. Apparently the Med was known for its tuna back in the day.
The San Vito beach
The cliff band that runs all along the western side of the cape of San Vito. The prevailing westerlies makes it somehow challenging to climb here when it's above 20mph.
Rest day exploring in Custonaci, after trying to visit the Mangiapane cave.
Unknown climber on one of the glorious 6b's in Calamancina

But even then some weekends the weather is too miserable to get out. I had a proposal from Adam Booth to go to Scotland winter climbing for a week, which I originally turned down. After a coupe of weekends climbing indoors it driving myself up the wall, I quickly changed my mind and took the offer from Adam. As a warm up we headed up to North Wales on a Wednesday to make the most of good conditions and got a leisurely ascent of Travesty (VIII, 7) in Clogwyn Ddu. We drove up to Scotland pretty psyched to head to North West, but with appalling weather we only managed to get an ascent of Magic Crack (VII) which was really good.

Approaching Clogwyn Du
Travesty is one of the best winter routes I've done. The grade felt hard compared to Scottish standards.
The beautiful walk-in at Clogwyn Du
Getting stuck in on Magic Crack (VII), Cairngorms. A very good main pitch, albeit very short.

After spending a couple of days driving around and sitting in cafes checking the forecast every two seconds, we sacked it off and head to Brean. Yes, you read that right. We sort of fed the rat and couldn't be bothered with the whole Scottish malarkey. So we drove 9hrs South to be blessed with and amazing week of scorching weather. We had a great week getting the mileage under our belt and dosed Adam with a freight-train of beta for every route.

Adam on beast mode on "Prisoner of Bullworker", a not-so-soft 7c+ at Brean. He got it done pretty swiftly and turned his attention to "Milky Bar Kid" another not-so-soft 8a
Great views from the home of wheels

Now we seem to be facing another bout of bad weather and my patience is starting to run low. But I only need to hold on tight for two weeks as then we are off to Spain to join all the Brits under the Catalan cliffs.

Against the ebbing tide

Tuning the Piano