Friday, 30 December 2011


Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness - It seems to me, that the older you get the more each aspect of this errrr 'syndrome' is exacerbated: The onset is more delayed, more muscles are affected, and they are more sore.
27 is not old, but still, I notice that I am no child anymore - able to undertake any strenuous activity, without considering how my body is going to punish me later... This is why, you see, that I undertook a strenous activity without considering how my body was going to punish me.

First indoor climbing session, three days ago. Three whole days (Tuesday) and my body is destroyed (Friday). It fits the 'delayed onset' criteria, because on Wednesday I felt fine, Thursday mostly fine, but today, I am so stiff and sore it is incredible.

Forearms, shoulders, wrists, stomach, neck = sore

The plan is to go again tomorrow, but honestly, I don't know if I'll be capable. If I can't, I'll certainly be keeping my eye out for more climbing videos like the one below. Seriously impressive! Enough to inspire any newby climber.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Alpine Experiences - Stage 4

What better time to get an under par night's sleep than the night before your most athletic undertaking of a hectic holiday!

Again, this video is a far better representation of this climb than my words will ever be, so for an insight into our journey that day, watch from 3.20 ish, summit from 5.30 onwards, then descent.
I was angry on leaving the car. I believed that my bad state and annoyance was going to affect my enjoyment of the experience we had come for. Then we had to go back to the car, because my bro, had not tightened his pedal fully. I don't blame him, there was a lot to remember and sort out prior to departure: clothing, for any conditions, tools, nutrition, ah and suncream, but you don't think like that at the time - It pissed me off! Luckily I had noticed only a couple of hundred metres from the car, so things could have been worse, as a pedal spanner is not one of the things you tend to take with you.

Once underway I forgot about all my frustrations though. The Alps seem to be able to distract like this. I felt pretty good actually, better than I had ever imagined. We made good progress through the lower slopes and the vineyards and dwellings. Vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see - A terrific site in itself.  The vineyard rush hour of the morning had dissolved into an incredibly quiet mountainside, which was a pleasure to cycle up. The contrast from the anxiety inducing rush of the earlier morning, probably made the peace all the better!

This peace, was nothing compared to the lonelyness of the higher reaches of the route though. The Col du Sanetsch, is not a pass, so there was no through traffic. Only some tiny dwellings on the mountain side and a power station just the other side of the summit account for the presence of about 13 miles of this stretch of tarmac. The experience is all the better for it!

I remember the various stages of the climb. The lower slopes, covered with vineyards and villages. The classic alpine tree line, before hitting the higher slopes, with spruce and fir giving way to a few hundred vertical metres of alpine grasses/meadow. Then finally hitting the baron, tundra like expanses above the meadows. The distinct sections, give an insight into your upward and downward progress.

I remember one of the most juxtaposed visual experiences of my life, seeing a superb alpine cabin adorned with hundreds of Swiss flags, in all shapes and sizes, standing next to a sign that told us that we had 15 kilometres to go to the summit, all after over an hour of climbing. Around 10 miles uphill still to go.

I remember realising after a depressive mood gave way to a few minutes of elation and then swiftly into angre, that I had by about 11 o clock that day experienced pretty much the entire spectrum of human emotion.

I remember the tunnels, one 800 metres long hewn into the rock, that allowed for the otherwise impossible traverse of the road.

I remember that after an entire mountain of going at my speed, my brother finally felt he needed to push on for his own good. Slowly his advantage of power to weight showing through as he extended a gap between us on the final couple of miles of baron lunar like landscape, leading up to the Col. And him waiting for me, so we could summit together, good chap!

The elation of reaching the top and then the thoughts of the absurdity of the way we create goals like these for ourselves. Boy, it was awesome though and the kind of thing everyone should experience.

Then it was my turn to be able to gain ground on the bro. I was always better at descending than ascending! Great fun. Another athletic experience in itself, descending an alp. You learn quickly that even if you want to, there is no way you can slow yourself down for the entirity of a descent, you need to just let go and give your forearms and brake blocks a rest, before slamming on the anchors just before each switch back.

We completed the majority of the descent. I left Andrew on one section, where one of 3 cars we had seen in four hours, found the gap between us and I really put caution to the wind. Part of it is caught in the video around 8.30 I think, though you cannot grasp this from footage. Great fun! A bit further on I waited for Andrew, but then he decided to spend time looking at a particularly spectacular view.

My descent of the last section, back into and through the villages and vineyards was truly awesome! Alone, I pushed very hard and loved really investigating how hard I could push myself and the bike. Transfering weight hard when taking a racing line through an S bend on the limit at over 40 miles an hour is a great experience. The close proximity to the road of some of the houses, really highlighted the speed and my bike showed its true colours on that descent. Something to be remembered.

It was not long before Andrew rolled  towards the car at the bottom. Huge smiles!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Coast run fun

I am starting to love running coastal trails!

Steep, undulating trials. Changing, uneven, often awkwardly cambered or slippery surfaces all add a bit to your standard run. 8 miles, probably equivalent to a few more flat miles. A peaceful day with very few people around. Great! Few days calf recovery needed though. Those hills really grab at them!

Bolt Head and Tail, South Devon, a fantastic area to visit!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Snowdon by bike

Last weekend was a Snowdon attempt on Mountain bike. Was under a little time constraint, so didn't end up sumitting. Stopping to film at various points also took a long time. 

Felt fantastic so a shame not to summit, but absolutely blindin' experience nonetheless, with snow present from the llanberis path, half way house upwards.

Suffered slightly from having a very unaggressive, race orientated rear tyre, but not in the manner you'd imagine-when it comes to grip whilst climbing - but because it wasn't quite so resistant to the thrashing it had on the way down with all the high speed rock impacts.

I am definately going back!

Short video above.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mountain Anxiety - The hoods of our jackets

Mountains, even the small examples we have here in the British Isles, can be dangerous places. Until you actually experience how quickly the weather can change on a mountain, you probably can't quite grasp just how fast and dramatically it can go from clear sunny weather to chilling horizontal hale.

There are reasons why these mountains can make people anxious and I suppose this is, in part what brings visitors onto the mountains time and again. They are wild, they can be barren and even when we are properly prepared, they are dangerous places.

Obvious right?!.well you'd hope so!

I suppose the below is a discussion on flirtation with the understanding of the above and where anxiety fits in.

On my first visit to Snowdon in my adult life, I remember getting vertigo just above the railway bridge, at the top of the [almost] scree slope, the steepest section of the Llanberis path. For the purposes of this post, vertigo is just anxiety focused around height. I was keeping myself well to the left of the path on the way up, to keep as far from the drop as possible. I pushed on as luckily it wasn't a desperate fear. We summited the mountain and that is the first I remember of mountain anxiety.

Since then I have seldom felt uncomforable at height, as I have built up progressively, on slightly more difficult paths, with more and more precipitous drops, each time. I suppose it is simply down to conditioning - The more you experience something the more you become comfortable.

Two things have brought these thoughts about mountain anxiety forward -

1. My older brother started rock climbing at university. I am jealous. I would like to start doing the same and then transfer it from the wall onto the rock faces of real mountains. I have been considering taking this next step for a while, though it is just another activity to fit into the already crowded life. Then there is also the other aspect, the progression of hiking into the winter aspect of mountaineering, crampon and ice axe required. I have wondered, whether in taking these further steps, I am likely to experience anxiety. I expect so.

2. I have recently been part of a few friend's first forays into the mountains. It was the first time in a while I have experienced mountain anxiety (indirectly) and it seems to have all come at once. One friend, bit of an animal, talks about his vertigo here and it was awesome to be alongside him as he mastered himself to overcome. The other experience came from a friend who became uncomfortable in high winds.

Naturally, we feel exposed, we feel miles from anything we would regard as comfort. And in the mountain environment, everything seems to exacerbate these issues. Tiredness, warmth (or lack of), then the weather. Mist, rain, hail, snow and wind. Each acts independently, but conspire to increase anxiety. Then the most unlikely of culprits and one that you may only have considered an aid - the hoods of our jackets. I have thought about before but tested the other day.

Hoods are an interesting one, because they present us with a far reaching opposite to that which the mountains naturally bring. Confinement. Humans are rediculous huh?! You present them with an exposed, open space and they get scared of the exposure. You present them with confinement and the same happens. Humans feel very comfortable existing in finite conditions, finding a middle ground of comfort. A home, not confined, but not hugely expansive, protected from the extremes of the elements and conditions within our control. This it seems is what modern life is about, seeking the best ways to find those most comfortable conditions. A heated house, with water on tap, equipment for any eventuality.

How ironic that in pushing for these finite conditions, we are irreversibly pushing our planet towards a state of incomprehensible extremes.

So I found that having a hood up, on a mountain, for me actually increased the feelings of insecurity. This might become a huge post if we discuss these things at length, but in discussiont the other day, my mountain colleagues and I thought about a few points.

Peripheral vision - loss of peripheral vision, if even partly is not going to be a positive. Being an animal, this is one thing we rely upon for our protection is our sight, part of our survival awareness I suppose. To be unsighted is to be apprehensive, even if just by a small amount.

Feeling of being enclosed. Even if we are not, to feel that we are enclosed has an affect on our interpretations. Our head is where most of our awareness is centred, so to confine our head is paramount when it comes to experience. It is like when you put on a tight full face helmet for the first time, it is by no means a comfortable experience, or put yourself down a caving hole, where you can't move or lift your head. [I suppose this combines, both the confinement and unsighted points and you wonder why you'd be uncomfortable]

Created atmosphere - So, yes, it is windy, but with a hood up, your perception of wind is scewed. It seems weird, but this is how I felt. As soon as I took my hood off the other day, my grasp of my immediate environment became much clearer and the ominous atmosphere that I felt, faded away. I enjoyed it much more, despite being pounded by sideway rain/hail and getting a numb face. Up until a point this is quite fun!

Maybe these above points, are just my feelings, I don't know. I'd be interested to hear what others have to say.

This weekend I plan on heading to Snowdonia again. I am taking my rock climbing brother. He hasn't done 'real' rock climbing yet, and hasn't spent any time in the mountains so I will be interested to see him experience some proper heights and see whether mountain anxiety makes an apperance for him.

I just find it so interesting that people have such different relationships with mountains. It is fantastic to share these things with people. I look forward to again feeling mountain anxiety. If you're experiencing mountain anxiety - it normally means you'll be pushing yourself, your skills, your appreciation and invariably this leads to having a darn good time, and if not - then at least some good old life experience.

And next time you have your hood up, take a minute and put it down. See if you can understand what I mean!

Friday, 2 December 2011

First mud

In regard to Mountain biking my chums and I have spent the last part of the summer and early autumn repeatedly riding the short, fun trails around our local spots, rather than mixing it up and getting out on longer cross country rides as well. We have very much neglected our riding fitness. This neglect shall be rectified soon.

Having agreed that we must get out and do some proper mileage, we chose to follow a route from a magazine, something I've never done before. Apart from having to stop to work out the different route sections, it was very enjoyable, partly because it was the first real mud of the season.

We did end up finishing a bit late, (well 4.30 is late this time of year) so a short cut and some twilight pedalling was the order of the errrrrr, evening. Not ideal, but then if you were never out at twilight, you'd never be able to appreciate sunsets like this.

You can see the beautiful sunset, but there were two other occurances I enjoyed very unexpectedly.

The first gave me another reason to appreciate the full suspension bike. On getting some air off a tree stump, I attempted to pull a small tabletop. The result of which was me loosing my footing on my pedals. If I were on a hardtail, I would have undoubtedly landed on my man jewels very hard, lost control and crashed dramatically down the chalk slope we were on. Luckily the compression of the rear suspension saved my jewels and the subsequent fall. Which was nice! One of those situations, where the positive comes from not experiencing something quite as negative as expected.

Another was riding at speed down a fairly wide bridal way, heading towards an open right hand corner in the trail. The camber and left and right tracks forced me to into the left hand gully and without even considering the changing surface, I found myself riding through what can only be described as slurry. All I could do was close my mouth and enjoy the smell for the next hour and a half.Sometimes you have to just laugh.