Practice makes perfect

One of the downsides of living in The Fens is that, for a climber, it’s pretty uninspiring scenery. For a watercolour artist I’m sure it’s breathtaking, and it’s pretty handy for my cycling exploits. But it must be said, as a climber, it’s pretty dull. Any climbing involves travel. And if I want to climb anything more than a single pitch, it means lots of travel. This means that I’m woefully unprepared for climbing anything more than about 30 metres high. Which is a bit of a pain, as I’m hoping to climb a few things considerably higher in the next couple of weeks in the Gorges de la Jonte.

So, last night, Sol and I decided to have a crack at setting up some belays, leading through, lowering off, all sorts of technical stuff that involves ropes, knots, hardware and general confusion, all of which we’ll need to face in France next month. We both figured that it would be better to practice this kind of stuff in the controlled environment of the wall at Harlow, rather than finding out while dangling 30 metres up a French cliff face that we’d forgotten something vital. The team at Harlow were as accommodating as usual in allowing us to clog up two of the popular beginners routes on a busy night, and were even happy to shout up advice from the ground. Admittedly, the advice amounted to “keep it up, that looks about OK” but it was friendly all the same. And, somewhat surprisingly, we managed to achieve all our objectives with very little confusion, no swearing at all, and only one comedy moment where I dropped my belay plate and caught in with my foot.

All in all, a very successful evening, and a few hours well spent. Can’t help wishing that they’d open the cafe a bit more often though. It’s getting to be a right pain, driving 50 miles to get there, only to find that there’s nowhere to park and I can’t even get a cuppa.



I’ve been very lucky in life so far, as far as fitness goes. I’ve broken a few bones here and there, and had a small problem with CFS that has dragged on for a few years, but really I’ve not got anything to complain about whatsoever. However, I fear that middle age is finally starting to creep up on me… I first noticed this a few months ago, when it appeared that all my trousers were simultaneously shrinking around the waist.

Now, obviously, carrying a spare tyre isn’t going to help my climbing at all, so I made a plan to do something about it, and then forgot all about it and carried on with my lifestyle in exactly the same way. And so, the spare tyre remained, and my motivation for getting rid of it kind of fell by the wayside. Until, that is, I booked my trip to France, as mentioned previously. If I’m going to all the trouble of getting myself down to the Gorge de la Jonte for a long weekend, I want to be in a position to make the most of it. And so, for the past few weeks I’ve been a lot more careful about what I eat, and have been cycling & walking everywhere I can, including trying to get about 10kms cycling in when my lunchtime schedule permits it.

The end result is that my trousers now fit properly, and my climbing has gone up a grade just because my fingers are now pulling about 5kgs less. The only time I’ve ever really worried about fitness before now was when I started stamina training for a 24hr motorcycle race (which in the end never happened). So to suddenly start thinking about it again is a sure sign that I’m more motivated about climbing than I have been about anything else for a long time. It also shows that I’m starting the gradual descent into middle age that will doubtless end in Radio 2 and a nice comfy pair of slippers.