Saturday, 12 January 2013

Technology, Training, and Porth Ysgo.

Winter Sunshine on the Llyn
We live in a constantly evolving world, where the pace of societal change is dictated by technology's metronome. As this pendulum swings its return time shortens leading to an ever more frenzied rhythm that most look awkward dancing to at best. Some will always get it, look cool and ride the crest of technology's wave whilst the rest of us dad-dance on the fringes of the disco, embarrassed, waiting for an opportunity to sit out.

Social media, communication devices and the amorphous landscapes of the Internet dictate the ebb and flow of change in the present era. I am only to aware of this as I type on my smart phone ready to e-mail to my computer and upload to a blog, a process I obviously struggle with being a dad dance hero who prefers to hover diffidently at the edge of the metaphorical disco. However as I look in to the flashing lights and frenzied movements of the leaders on the dance floor I can't help feel that things are starting to move so fast that no one can keep up. The sources of information about climbing and Bouldering have become so numerous that marshalling all of this news is very much like transporting soup in a colander; most escapes and only the important lumps remain. As an obsessive boulderer it becomes clear that there is too much out there to do and you will never be able to do it all, so it is time to pair things back, take stock and return to the familiar. I can't visit America, South Africa, or Australia in the foreseeable future, but I can go to Font! Now there is a place worth training for in the midst of a typical British winter.

So training is the order of the day, month, or even season. Conscious moments are filled with plywood, plastic, and chalk. The cellar board at the Hanger becomes a second home, a cave of pain whose steep angle shades the eyes from the hyper-reality and luminosity of the indoor experience. Time is marked by reps and sets; minutes are no longer temporal way markers- rather they are disciplined intervals of rest before the next frenzy of activity. Numbers take on a near mystical significance, 1 - 3 - 5, 1 - 4 - 7, 1 - 5 - anything become phrases of communication and aspiration. Things can become very minimal indeed.

There are inherent dangers when indulging the training urge. Flat wooden edges, constant repetition, pre-determined movement and an unhealthy interest in stop watches can have a hypnotic affect. Enthusiasm begins to leech away lost to the ether, the world contracts around you and the whole point of the exercise (to get stronger for a trip or problem) seems to inch further away. Relationships with non climbers become strained, they simply can't comprehend the true meaning of encore and repeater and laugh when they overhear conversations involving woodies. In light of this how can you stay psyched, continue to train and reach the finish line?

One option is to turn to the tidal wave of digital media available, to get your psych on by watching others climb your 'must do' problems. However will this really lead to a resolution of your issues, or is it the path to madness? You Tube and Vimeo hold so many visual Bouldering resources hours of your life can be lost mining these seams; and what lies at the end of them? Nothing substantial, just that same monotony born out of repetition! Click, watch, consume, click, watch, consume; time for another set? The only way out of such a morass is to immerse yourself in a Bouldering experience that can remind you in one hit what its all about. A venue that distills and concentrates everything you want from bouldering- aesthetic lines, lovely holds, breathtaking landscapes and the potential to stretch you to your limits. Bouldering videos can't do these things - Porth Ysgo can.

Ysgo is a strange mistress, moody and unreasonable in the summer, empathetic and forgiving in the winter. My annual yuletide visit was timed to lift me from the deep pit that disciplined training had created. My comrades 'with' arms Hip Hop Ben and Fatneck were optimistic as we tumbled across North Wales in the van, however the journey was anything but dry! We pulled up at the parking and the rain intensified. The walk to the beach left everything drenched besides my undecrackers! It seemed that all was lost; another piss-wet day on a piss-wet weekend punctuating the worst piss-wet year in climbing. My psych was draining, dripping from my coat. We reached the beach and it rained some more. I could almost hear the echoes of "I told you so" resonating from those climbing the steep boards of Merseyside. Then it happened! Ysgo took one look at our plight and she understood. The rain stopped and without the aid of sun or wind, the rock dried!

Dry rock this year has been scarce- almost as hard to find as an honest banker. However if you mix this valuable commodity with the rich, comedic patter which normally emanates from Messrs Hop and Neck then we are beginning to describe a very good day indeed! These comedians deliver their lines like a well practised double act, my own post modern version of the two Ronnies. As they strut along Ysgo's rocky stage I'm reminded of the importance of the social side of climbing for keeping motivation flowing; I don't ever remember a time when a campus rung has made me laugh. We climbed for four hours and the sun even made a cameo appearance in our multi-sensory variety show! Knees bleeding, hands burning, senses sated we headed to Llanberis and Pete's to indulge our need for warm grease and a perfect day was complete.

So now Christmas is over, work has started and the rain continues to fall. I've moved back into my 50 degree hovel at the Climbing Hanger, with its colourful lumpy decor! Life has returned to a routine of crimp pull and rest, minutes pass and a new rep starts. However things are different. Training does not seem pointless, it's worthwhile and focused. Ysgo does that to you. Messing around with mates on the boulder beach, finding dead cows, trying new lines; it helps you focus, it tells you to get stronger so you can get those prized lines done next time. Psych is high and the status of my relationship with the campus board has returned to positive with long term benefits. So let the training continue! In six weeks time I'll be in Font!

Here's a video from our last big trip - don't watch it, go climbing instead!

Font in a NutSack from Owen McShane on Vimeo.

Words and video - Skinny Dog
All Photo's Simon "Fatneck" Huthwaite

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