Training For Climbing

Training for climbing was a notion I only came across when I arrived in Carlisle in the sunrise of the eighties. To me it seemed like a slightly posy kind of carry on. However, at that time the climbers in Carlisle were making quite a name for themselves, producing bold new routes the length and breadth of the 4 nations. They had really taken on board Pete Livesey’s lead and had been steadily training themselves up to a level that really hadn’t been seen before.

At that time the training facilities here in the Border City were a little bit rudimentary. Trinity School had a very basic and pretty unforgiving wall at 1 end of the sports hall – bloody freezing in the winter, when of course, all the indoor training took place. I well remember the figure 4 move on 1 particular hold that I first saw Pete Whillance using. Took me months before I dared try that one! Despite the fact that it was just a doctored breeze block wall, plastered with a fairly random selection of natural rock climbing holds, it did start a habit. The habit of climbing regularly and pushing yourself at harder and scarier problems.

At 5m high, this wasn’t a training ground for vast exposure; but it was a place for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone with the real risk of getting a good twatting if you messed up. No fancy mats in those days! We were introduced to the idea of traversing, repetition and circuits. Slowly but surely, even my feeble muscles and dithering brain became stronger and more focussed. I actually managed to get up climbs with E numbers attached to the grade! It was a real insight arriving in a place where the climbers were so good compared with the people I had associated with in the past; that my climbing grades and body were dragged up rocks that were a lifetime away in my previous ambitions.

For all that, though, the training was still rough and ready. I never saw the proof, but there were plenty of tales of Whillance, Dave Armstrong, Pete Botterill and Jeff Lamb taking their training down to the sandstone at Armathwaite… on winter’s dark nights… after work and getting a few hundred feet of traversing in by the light of a headtorch. They were ‘ard those boys!

Another favourite was the nearby rugby club gym where, again in a freezing room, pumped a bit of iron. I still never managed more than 10 pull ups!! The idea of warming up and cool downs were still some time in the future at that point. As a result injuries and long term damage were part of the scene. I managed to blow my elbow tendons and eventually Big Dave ended up with really knackered fingers. (As a side note it was good to see him back on the rock again and looking amazingly smooth after a 10 year gardening leave!)

Nowadays the science of training for climbing has been truly mastered by young Mr MacLeod from over the border. Dave MacLeod has made it a mission to understand the biomechanics and ppsychology of training for our sport. His ascents of Don’t Die of Ignorance on the Comb in winter and Echo Wall, round the corner of Tower Ridge, have seen him turn the Ben into a real forcing ground. He came down to Carlisle to do a lecture for the Carlisle Mountaineering Club a couple of winters before his Echo Wall ascent. Even then he was quietly discussing the psychology of the project in the bar afterwards. You’d never imagine that such a quiet, modest unassuming guy was the beast you see in the Hotaches and Rare Breed DVDs.

Dave MacLeod training for rock climbing
Dave MacLeod training for rock climbing
Aside from the actual climbing of these astounding routes, his other achievement is in putting all his study, experience and intelligence into a book that’s readable by the masses of people who would desperately like to improve their game. One of the stated aims of the book is to cut through the variety of often conflicting advice that is out there. Unfortunately you have to go to his blog to get it as he hasn’t put it up on Amazon. A couple of our brothers over the pond have however put their similarly well recommended training guides where us lazy chaps can get them.
If you’re not sure how committed you are to training for your rock climbing comeback, then maybe the less expensive option from Clickbank would suit you. Training for Rock Climbing

by Brian West.

training for climbing book Dave MacLeod
training for climbing book Dave MacLeod
And lest I forget, wee Davie MacLeod, the guy who has clearly revolutionised the climber’s approach to training he’s flogging his Tome 9 OUT OF 10 CLIMBERS MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES on his own blog – thought I better give him a we plug!

Training for climbing has changed immensely over the past 3 decades. I often wonder if I would have a fully functioning pair of elbows if the information in these guides had been available!