Mountain Leader Training: Environment Today

Alpine Club Moss – A relic of natures evolution, club moss were the first trees

Well I know that this is a climbing coaching blog however due to my work from time to time I do a few post that are more relevant to instructors, coaches or in this case Mountain Walking Leader, who as part of there course have to know things about the environment. Whilst this is a broad subject, today whilst I was teaching a group from Coleg Menai at Plas Y brenin we look at what plant life we could see on our way. We saw quite a lot, so these are the pictures of what we saw on out day out on the hill.

Thimble Lichen – Looks like a Golf Tee

Star Moss – Its a moss that has a starry shape!

Reindeer Lichen – One of the stable diets of reindeer, according to Ray Mears or some other BBC programme in large enough quantities it makes the Reindeer ‘High!’

Geographicum (sic) looks like a map – aka Map Lichen. Lichen is a symbiotic relationship between Algae and Fungus. The fungus beds itself to the rock, and the algae roots itself to Fungus and photosynthesises providing energy.

Loose leaf lichen – likes wood, but will grow on rovk, has lots of loose thin paper leaves. Hence the name.

The Devils Match Stick – Looks like and old non-safety match.

Club moss – a slightly larger version of the alpine club moss. Looks like a mini club.

Meeting with the Editor

Well I went and caught up with Franco Ferrero at Pesda Press today, to see where we are up to with my coaching book. After giving them a few images that looked good for the cover I was blown away when I saw the image that they have chosen. Not only is it a strong image, but a classic and inspiration line as well. I’ll let you guess which one of my images they choose.

Anyway I have to admit to losing my way a bit with my coaching book/How to improve/Self help manual. However, as ever I feel re-vitalised having chatted through where we are and what I need to do next! You never know it might be out by next Christmas! Until then I hope you find a few of my mini-articles/post of use.


Coaching Workshop for Instructors

Well tonight I delivered a evening coaching workshop for instructor from the Beacon Climbing Centre mainly aimed at showing these instructor that they already use ‘coaching behaviours’, and that with a little thought they can hopefully start focusing on its use in a more conscious and deliberate manner. Rather than trial and error method that most climbing instructors have used to get to there current good teaching practices.

We basically looked at the component parts that make up up Effective Coaching, so covered topics like coaching models, VAK learning pathways, How the brain learns, Observation and correcting faults, Effective practice and the use of Self-Efficacy as a coaching tool. Basically in the time frame of a couple of hours it was little more than a whistle stop tour of what coaching is, however they all found it useful. For me it was a great use of the skills I have learnt on my MSc in Sport Science, especially after delivering a How to Teach Navigation course at Plas Y Brenin the previous weekend.

If your climbing or outdoor centre would like a short CPD course in coaching in either climbing, or teaching navigation then contact me via my website.

Imagery Scripts: Climbing Content

Well I introduced the concept of scripts for imagery in previous post, and thought I would elaborate the concept to allow you to develop a script for a boulder problem that you can climb in overlapping sections but not yet link. Meaning that basically you can do every move but need help in making the route climb as efficiently as possible. To do this we are going to use our imagination to ‘dream’ about climbing the problem successfully. In order to do so we want to concentrate on the not only a sequence of movements but a series of stimuli and responses that we might have when climbing it.

Setting the Scene
To start with we need to set the scene, so write down a description of the boulder its setting, and distinguishing features, a nearby stream or road, add in wind, sun, sounds even smells to that descriptions. To the general setting add how you feel emotionally stood below it the anticipation of the climb, the excitement of trying.

Adding the Actions, feelings and emotions
Now start by describing each move of the problem, and add to one a distinct feeling with each action. By this I mean what your body feels like, often this is a verbal form of description of what you need to do to achieve each move. If the problem is at your limit it will often involve many tiny micro movements, so be sure to include details like inside or outside edge of boot.

This script of the actual actions should when read back feel as real to actually climbing the route as possible, in terms of the moves and how they feel physically, the next step is to add how they make you feel emotionally. So when for instance you describe the crux move, use a positive framework to hanging the hold, it may even be relief.

These emotional tags, feeling success, winning, fighting for the next hold need to be added throughout the script especially at parts of the problem that you feel are key to the success. It may take several attempts to get a good script that includes all of these aspects.

Written versus MP3 scripts
Once complete you can either read it back to yourself and image the problem, eventually you’ll probably find that you remember it by heart, this is probably the right time for you to try the problem because you can now visualise success in your mind. An alternative is to record it onto you laptop and upload it onto an MP3 player to allow you to listen to and imagine the script one or twice a day.

Imagery Scripts: A practical Introduction

Imagery Scripts are under used in climbing mainly because very few people have an idea about what an imagery script is and what information should be in them. Again like all things to do with imagery when you look into the research the decisions are from from straight forward, a lot at my first blog on imagery will highlight some of the important consideration in terms of script content.

One of the main take home message from the last blog on imagery was the perspective you choose to use in terms of internal (viewed through your own eyes) versus external (viewed like someone watching you). Now to find out which perspective is your preference you need to try and image something both internally and externally. For example, sit down and take a few deep breaths to relax and try and imagine yourself doing the following activities first from an internal perspective then an external perspective.
1. Kicking a Football.
2. Climbing your favorite boulder problem.
3. Belaying someone on a top-rope.
For each activity and each perspective, note down which was the most vivid, and which was the most easily controllable. Hopefully one perspective either internal or external will be the come out best, this is your ‘preference’, if you find you don’t have a preference then concentrate on an external perspective, as this has been shown to be better in climbing based tasks.
Whatever your preference is you need to add in the Kinesthetic imagery, which is the feelings and sensations the activity induces. This should include sounds, touch and smells. If you’d like to try the exercise below, to help you to understand the concept and practice you preferred imagery perspective, combined with kinesthetic imagery.
This time we will be making a cup of coffee. What you need to do is first read through the script, and then used the props (don’t use a boiled kettle, as your eyes are closed) as you imagine the exercise, then actually make yourself a cup of coffee following the script, before finally re-reading the script and then imagining it a final time.

Picking up the spoon you feel the cold stainless steel on you hand.
As you smell the coffee as you delicately scoop a pile onto the spoon.
Tipping the spoonful of coffee into the cup you hear the sound granules bouncing off the china cup.
As you wait for the kettle to finally boil you hear the water bubbling away inside and the kettle turns itself off with a final click you watch the steam rise from the spout.
Pouring the water into the cup you feel the heat from the kettle on your hand and the sound of the water filling the cup and smell the aroma of the coffee.
Pouring a final splash of milk the drink is ready.
Taking a drink from the cup you finally taste the smooth coffee and feel the warmth in your stomach.

Training for Aerobic Endurance

When I refer to aerobic endurance I am talking about our ability to keep climbing for a long period at an intensity where we don’t get pumped. Whilst this might not seem that appropriate if we want to improve the grade we climb, this ability to keep going for long periods can help us recover quicker if we get pumped. It does this through two mechanisms the first is helps develop the heart and lungs like I suggested in a previous blog about cross training, but more specifically it helps us grow, reinforce and widen the capillaries within our arm and upper body muscles to help promote blood flow, and therefore get oxygen and energy supplies to where we need it.

In essence this type of training requires you to do a large volume or number of routes at a level that you do not find yourself getting pumped at. Again like everything start of with maybe 10 routes up to a certain grade, and then try and increase the number of routes in each subsequent session (12, 14, 16… or 15, 25, 30…). The important thing is you don’t feel pumped so this could mean that you end up repeating very easy routes a few times if there aren’t enough easy routes at your wall. With this type of training it is often better to start by increasing the number of routes rather than the difficulty.

Outside I have sometime used long enchainments of easy routes on places like Idwal Slabs for this purpose. i also get to take clients up what are easy routes for me, so often I can train for aerobic endurance as I work. If you are not that lucky just think high volume and low intensity.

Improving Motivation

Well most of the time I adopt a do as I do rather than a do as I say approach to coaching and climbing. Until August last year I was a smoker, who only got out of breath when I was walking up hill, and then only briefly until I told the group to slow down. Quitting smoking was hard, really hard, however in doing so I needed something to fill in those gaps which hitherto were spent chuffing my lungs with smoke, tar and of course nicotene.

So I started to train at first it was going to the wall, then it was mountain biking. Now I am running and climbing a few times a week. At first the difference was quite noticable, I went to town training indoors during the poor weather we had last summer and come a sunny spell manage to cruise my way up Right Wall on Dinas Cromlech, which was quite a task for climber of my age and bravery.

After an injury stopped me in my tracks and now I am on the way to recovery, if I can remember to fend of re-injury. However I have started the task of training in earnest.

As well as climbing at work this week, and having a bouldering session, which included some pretty sustained linking of boulder problems; I have also been doing routes after being rained off the crag, this afternoon. Instead of going in and doing the usual ten or so routes, my climbing partner and me have been setting goals. The last time it was 20 routes, and today it was 30. It took a couple of hours but seemed to do the trick, i can barely raise my arms now!

What has really done my motivation no end of good is having a goal. This goal is a series of routes, as well as a holiday, that if I am at the peak of my game has the potential to be one of the best climbing trips ever. Another big boost is the improvements that I see and feel happening almost everytime I climb. My recovery time is reduced, the level it takes me to get pumped has increased and as a result my confidence levels seem to be improved as well.

Here’s to a good year, and I hope that any of the tips you have got from this blog are helping you as much as some have helped me!

Cross Training for Climbing Fitness

The winner of the Snowdon Race storming past Cloggy!

Whilst in an ideal world we would train by climbing every single day , the fact remains that we are not in an ideal world. So at times we have to alter our training to fit with our lifestyles. So whilst we may not be able to make it to the climbing wall every night, there may well be somethings that we can do in order to maintain or develop areas of fitness.

With more general fitness in mind it is possible to do many different type of activity that will have an effect on your climbing. One of the main things is developing a higher level of aerobic fitness, now whilst you might want to be working on your strength unless you have a pull up bar, finger board, multi-gym or training wall in the house that might prove impossible.

However going for a run or cycle might not be as hard as you expect, you might even find that the local swimming pool or aerobic class is closer than the wall. Generally any form of exercise that raises you pulse rate above the everyday amble is going to do you good, even if it is just boosting the power and efficiency of you heart and lungs.

Activities like swimming, aerobics or circuit training that exercise the upper body as well, will also help with helping build and strengthen cappilaries in the arm muscles by forcing blood through them, this will help deliver more oxygen and fuel to them when your need it climbing.

Whatever the activity you choose there is a right way and a wrong way to develop it into a habit and not shock your body too much into your new regime, and instead break it in gently. So to start with limit the activity from twenty minutes to half an hour and build up slowly, starting with exercise every other day. The best thing about cardiovascular work is that you can do it on the rest days from climbing.

If your going out running, then get some decent shoes, I have been really surprised with the difference a good pair makes, secondly some high-viz clothing if you running on the streets at night, a head torch helps for night running and I can’t recommend an MP3 player highly enough, to keep you psyched. You can almost escape the real world whilst running to music. Similarly cycling, you need to consider safety in the form of lights, helmet etc..

CV fitness will help:-
Improve you recovery time.
Make long walk in’s easier.
Potentially help shed a pound or two.
Improve oxygen supply to your arms.
Improve your climbing!

Tips for Starting Out:-
Keep it Short at first (20 Minutes to Half an Hour).
A nice flat route helps.
An MP3 player really helps.
Build up slowly.
Get a good pair of running trainers.

A life in the Vertical

Wolfgang Gullich soloing Seperate Reality in Yosemite

Now for those of you who don’t know I have another blog that I tend to rant on, as well as put some articles and mini-topos on. When I was dreaming up name I came up with life in the vertical. It was only recently, when my housemate was looking for pictures of Wolfgang Gullich, I went up stairs under the vague recollection of having his biography that I found I had stolen the title for my other blog from the title of this book ‘A Life in the Vertical’.

Why am I writing this on here, well the answer is Gullich was one of the first people to train for climbing, and train in a big way. He basically revolutionised the concept of climbing, moving it from obsessive past-time where some people performed better than others to a more athletic ‘sport’ where an intense training programme lead to some phenomenal ascents.

More than that in his life time Wolfgang was attributed with many training quotes, and it is these that I would like to share with you.







Wolfgang was an amazingly strong climber yet, from his book and even these ‘sound bites’ above, you get the idea that he also focused on the psychology of not only performance whilst under the intense pressure of lead climbing or soloing, but the use of goals in climbing and life to stay motivated.

As such I like to think that this blog offers some of the cutting edge insights into the psychology of climbing, as well as a few more regular training and coaching ideas, as well as some more traditional ropework skills, but If there is anything you’d like to be covered then give us a shout.