|Old picture from Siurana|
What came out of this trip to Siurana (previous blog post) was a really interesting expierience in relation to performance on routes in general after this winter of bouldering non-stop. Pretty much since the last summer (and even before the lead comp in mid-October), I haven't tied into a rope at all. And to top it off, I've had very little time out on 'real' rock - regular damp weather not to mention that crazy December we had, and commitments at weekends due to regular commutes to Ireland.
Probably the biggest and most noticeable issue that occured, and is plainly evident anyway(!), is that I was really lacking time on rock. Yes, you do get a lot of strength gains (usually a lot more than you can gain easily from just climbing routes or boulders all the time) and climbing movement from just climbing on plastic or wood, but it's just not the same as the technical requirements of actual rock, be it limestone/gritstone/granite, whatever. It was also noticeable from the point of view of comfort above draws and falls. I'm usually pretty chilled out about taking lobs, but the first few times you end up above a bolt and are facing a lob, you're not as composed as you should be - but again by the end of the trip, I was considering skipping bolts, etc like usual!
One of the biggest things that was evident on the first day or two was the lack of instant vision in seeing foot placements, that familiarity of the friction of rock, the multitude of hold and foothold choices, etc. All things that lead you to climb much slower than you do when you just don't think about it and it happens naturally. You don't think about how your feet touch the ground and balance when walking down the road, and when you're on rock regularly it can be the exact same - all you have to do is focus on the difficulty of the moves. There is a huge time delay and it was evident in how slow I was moving, with a major lack of fluidity on the early routes - I just wasn't 'seeing' how to climb the routes.
Even with 12 years of climbing, it takes at least a few days (I'd say it took me four full days before I was feeling fluid) to get back into the flow of things. The obvious big lesson is to try and get out on rock (and ideally routes) to get familiarity with the routines before a trip. Obviously, being in the UK or Ireland that is easier said than done at this time of year but I'll be making sure to go and spend some time on routes before the next trip!
One of the interesting things is that I've been doing some regular laps on the system board at the Climbing Works. There's routes from 6b to 8c on it, I've been spending some time lapping the 7b+ and playing on the low 8's. The flaw in this type of training though is that some of the gains you make are through familiarity of the holds and movements, but not in pure fitness. Little things like having to stop and clip draws are things you don't have to do while on a lap of a board so they're times where you're body just isn't adapted to it. I noticed this a lot on on-sight attempts early on in the week - I had to climb continuously but was really struggling to just shake out like I normally do when I get to a good hold.
Of couse, the big benefits that were noticeable was that moves felt relatively easy - in comparison to just bouldering on an indoor wall, the moves just aren't very hard. The only thing is that this doesn't really matter if you can't keep up 'the resistance' - on Anabolica, a local Spanish climber who was noticeably weaker on all the early moves to myself was still getting a bolt higher than I was as he looked like he just had more route mileage than I did recently. As he described though, he'd been bouldering a fair bit at Albaracin recently, so even he was suffering from "no resistance" so we both had some work to do there :)
It was very evident was that I was seriously lacking in the skill/habit for climbing multiple mid-level difficult moves continuously over 30 meters. You just can't get on and pull as hard as you can as you'll pump out!
all of this is pretty evident, but I'm guessing there's a few people who have trips planned away in the coming months so hopefully this gives a few of you incentives to get out on routes, or at least even hit the indoor lead wall to get some route fitness!