Monday, 19 March 2007

Risk and reward

In keeping with me and Dob’s cross blog musings on all things climbing related I’ll attempt to expand on my outlook to climbing in a country renown for it’s unpredictable weather. A quick disclaimer here, I’m not trying to diss how other people approach climbing, just explain my own philosophy.

Ben’s comments about not wanting to risk a wasted day got me thinking about what a fine balancing act the grit season can be. Given that time available to climb is limited and the ultimate goal is to climb good hard problems, what is the best strategy? From Paul’s reply he seems to favour the climb loads inside and unleash infrequently outside when conditions are perfect approach. Whilst I can understand the logic behind this I’m not convinced it’s the most efficient way forward. On the other hand you have those who never go indoor climbing, just go out a lot and get very good. Again I’m not convinced this is the most efficient strategy either. One extreme seems over reliant on pure strength gain and the other over reliant on skill gain. The latter approach might work for Sharma, but if you have a full time job and you live in Sheff it's not going work like that. Both elements are in my ever humble opinion, of even importance if your goal is to climb hard across a range of styles.

One of the main inefficiencies of the former approach is that you are reliant on predictably mint conditions arriving at the same time as your available time slot. The UK being as it is, this will happen very little. However, good conditions are far commoner than people think, they just require a level of knowledge, flexibility and risk to access. The risk is of a wasted day, but really this risk is a lot lower than people often think. Yesterday is a prime illustrative case. The forecast was for high winds and frequent snow and hail showers. On the face of it a total non starter, but with several key bits of information we managed to find the correct problem in extremely good condition. The key information being that the days prior had been dry, the wind was a strong westerly, the crag was east facing and the problem was a roof. Coupled with insider info from James who lives close by, the odds looked worth taking a drive out for. After all, if it doesn’t work out we could always fall back on a wall sesh. People often seem amazed that A I bother going out on days which look awful on the face of it and B that nine times out of ten I find things in good nick. It takes some learning but eventually you get a feel for what will be in on what day. So long as you keep your ticklist long and open to adjustment there is pretty much always something to go at. So many people get fixated on one or two probs and have a hideously frustrating time going to the wrong crag in the wrong conditions. Bend with the wind, grass-hopper.

With a long ticklist and an intimate knowledge of which crags suit which condition you also develop a hierarchy of condition scarcity which allows you to maximise what you get done. Put simply each days weather will allow a certain number of crags to be worth going to. Some crags like Almscliff or Cratcliff are much more likely to be in good nick than crags like Caley or Burbage South. The rule of thumb being that you always try to go to the crag with the narrowest conditions window that the weather will allow. In so doing you catch the rare good conditions at places like Caley and you don’t run out of things to do at places like Almscliff, saving it for iffy days.
Or alternatively you could txt me.

I’ve kind of lost my thread now and I have to do some work so I’ll leave it there.


dobbin said...

Brilliant post. Favorite sentence - 'bend with the wind grasshopper'! Think theres a lot to be said for local area knowledge, just the amount of time to learn/upskill to a level where I can make such judgements seems like it might bear a lot of heartache! SOon however it will be Sausages and custard time and I will be back to my spiritual home - raven tor. Follicle said Joe Brown went on the weekend and says its good!

Board tonight.

bonjoy said...

Yeah, I reckon the lime will be drying quite well at the mo. Weather looks set to be cold for a couple of weeks yet though. Reckon I'll manage to hold out until some time in April.

bonjoy said...

No board tonight. Nearly succeeded on an awesome 7c+ish project at the weekend. Saving energy and skin for a Weds arvo/eve attempt. Also off for a week climbing in't dales on Sat, so will probably not do any walling this week. Might pop down to see the boys though.

Tim said...

Run out of things to do at Almscliff? That comment makes no sense!

bonjoy said...

This will no doubt sound snobby and dismissive, but I'd only really want to make the journey for good strong lines like Pistol Whip, Jess's, The Gypsy, when there's so much other good stuff to do in Yorks.

Tim said...

Sorry, I forgot the little ;-) I completely agree that the strong lines are what the visitor should be after, and it would be foolish to spend time on an eliminate such as the real keel when Caley or Earl was dry.