Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fall Outdoor Courses

Untersberg South-face
At this time I have some new dates for the fall outdoor courses from the Kletterhalle Salzburg / denkundstein:

Outdoor Level I - Climbing Technique, Sat., 15. Sept., 10:00-16:00
Outdoor Level II - Single Pitch Rope Skills, Sun., 16. Sept., 10:00-16:00
Outdoor Level III - Multi-Pitch Rope Technique, Sat., 22. & Sun., 23 Sept., 09:00-17:00

I also plan on offering some guided multi-pitch bolted sport climbing routes in September and October.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July Guiding & Courses

Direct South-face, Untersberg, Berchtesgadener Hochthron
With the few days of good weather in the past week I fit in some guiding of multi-ptich sport climbing on the Hohes Brett and Untersberg.  I also had the last of my outdoor courses before leaving for six weeks to Kalmnos.

I climbed the very nice, "Wenn der Vater mit dem Sohne" (upper "Dreierweg" exit), VI+/240m with Wolfgang last Friday.  The face was mostly dry after the showers on the previous two days.

Earlier in the week, I was able to organize a kids climbing afternoon on the Gaisberg.  The small group of six climbers from 8 to 13 years old had their first experience with sport climbing on a limestone crag.  They were excited, scared, tentative, ambitious - a full bag of emotions that made for an unforgetable adventure for all!

Later in the week I had a basic outdoor climbing course, again on the Gaisberg.  We got the full course in before the forecast heavy afternoon thunderstorms


Thanks to all the course participants for a great time!  Click on the slide shows to download any photos from the albums.

Hohes Brett, Sothwest-face

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kalymnos Countdown

Were should we climb tomorrow?
Yesterday I finally completed a longish multi-pitch climb.  The way the weather has been acting this summer, finally finishing something in the mountains was a small victory over the forces of weather instability.  For the last three or four times out climbing or training, the weather has turned, bringing in thundershowers, lighting, high winds and even hail.  Every time out seemed to end with sitting in the car soaking wet with the heater going full blast.

The jet stream is abnormally low over north western Europe this summer.  The effect in the northeastern alps is very unsettled weather.  There has not been a strong high-pressure system with a dry and stable air mass for as long as I can remember.  Everyone is a bit fed up with the weather situation.

Fortunately a week from now I won't have to worry about afternoon thundershowers.  I'll be in Kalymnos.  Yes, it will be hot and perhaps there will not always be enough wind, but it will be dry.  Planning for the next day's climbing is simple when you don't have to factor in possible bad weather.

Jennifer on the overhanging jug-fest of "Phineas"
This past spring and early summer, I had planned trips to the western alps in France and Switzerland, or even a long week end in the Dolomite's.  Every time I had some free time the weather was not good enough to warrant an extended trip   Then of course all my outdoor guiding, coaching and course work got pushed back to the point that when ever we had a day or two of fine weather, I had to schedule all of my various appointments with course participants and clients.

I will be doing some personal training and 2 scheduled courses in Kalymnos this year.  There are still places available in the courses 29. July - 05. September and in the following week, 05. - 12. September.  There was a lot of interest from people at first when we published the courses and coaching opportunities.  But the initial interest has not translated into bookings and therefore I will only have at the most a handful of clients.  A great situation for the small number of climbers with me as they will get a lot of individual time climbing.

I must admit that I am somewhat baffled by the attitudes of people who want to improve their sport climbing,but don't really take advantage of opportunities that are so easy to take advantage of.  A week of sport climbing in Kalymnos for €450,-- (not including flight and accommodation).  Is just one of these opportunities.

the cliche of climbing above the Agean
I think it takes a bit of gumption to move outside of established habits.  At first it is certainly somewhat uncomfortable, but after getting past that, the potential for improvement more than makes up for the discomfort.  Most beginning and mid-level sport climbers are stuck in going to the same indoor gym and doing the same things once they are there.  They rarely climb outdoors, though they almost always say they want to.  What's the problem?

I think it is hard to accept that when you change from climbing indoors to out, there is the shock of finding that your perceived climbing level is many times drastically lower..  The problem(s) could be 1) you have overestimated your climbing level, 2) you have no experience outdoors with utilizing hand and foot holds, 3) you have to put time in outside, just as you have indoors, 4) you are too nervous and fearful in the new environment and it has a negative effect on your movement, 5) you are unaccustomed to the distance between bolts on many outdoor routes, 6) etc., etc.

Read Dave, he'll help too
There are techniques and strategies to overcome all of the above problems.  A good climbing coach can help you overcome these issues in a smart and efficient way.  But first, you have to take that first uncomfortable step and overcome your ego to put yourself in a situation in which you will most likely not be "successful" or "good".  Many people are not strong enough to allow themselves to enter into a situation in which they may feel embarrassed or seem to look out of control.

Of course Kalymnos is not perfect, but there are now over 2000 routes on the island spread over about 70 or so different climbing sectors.  The climbing is centrally located with very easy access.  If you go in the summer through the early fall it will not rain.  You can always climb in the shade, moving from sector to sector avoiding the sun.  You can train on-sight climbing, endurance, power, multi-pitch, push your grade, etc.

On Kalymnos, you can climb more outdoor routes at a beginning to mid-level of difficulty in one week than you could in a month or two in the Salzburg area.  A personal breakthrough and improvement in your sport climbing is almost guaranteed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

May & June Training, Nutrition, etc.

My training in May and June centered around gaining strength.  A short term negative side effect of strength training is weight gain.  This comes through muscle hypertrophy and some extra body fat.  towards the end of June I have concentrated on getting my overall weight back down, and hopefully retaining the increased muscle that I built up in the last six weeks.

soloing mixed ground on Les Courtes
In April, I calculated my lean body mass at 64 kg.  2 months ago, with about 10% body fat, my weight was between 70.5 kg. and 72 kg.  At the beginning of June I had increased my weight to almost 74 kg. but my body fat did not go above 11.3%.  The math than indicates that during my strength phase my lean body mass increased to about 65.5 kg., which means an increase of 1.5 kg. in muscle gain.

That sounds all well and good, but for all practical purposes that extra 1.5 kg. was simply what I call "dumb muscle".  In other words the newly gained muscle had to be converted into usable strength in all types of climbing applications.

The goal in body composition for climbing is the highest degree of strength at the lowest weight.  Additionally, you want to be able to recruit the highest possible percentage of muscle fibers when you exert force. So to paraphrase a cliche, quality of muscle over quantity.

boldering in the Watzmannkar
In May and June I had around 80 hours of training each month with over 30 training sessions.  I averaged 3,000 meters of elevation gain per week in my endurance training.  I did a lot of supplemental strength workouts paired with basic endurance climbing.  Along the way, I had a few days were I could test my fitness and effects of my training and diet.

First, my diet:  I have been eating a lot of protein to gain the extra muscle.  Secondly, I have been trying to condition my body to burn fat stores for energy.  I eat very little carbohydrates, and the carbohydrates that I do eat are complex carbs made up of mostly leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds.  I do not eat grains or simple sugar.  I have almost stopped eating fruit to limit fructose as well.

trail running & scrambling on the Untersberg
I have been doing a lot of training in a fasted state, trying to force my body to burn fat stores to fuel the exercise.  I have also restricted the amount of water that I drink during training  The purpose of these two practices is to physically and mentally adapt to functioning in a depleted state.  On long alpine outings, you can not possibly carry enough calories or always be well hydrated because of the weight of the food and water, or the time it would take to melt snow or cook.

I had a few different "test" days to evaluate how things were progressing.  The following are a few examples across a broad spectrum.  Basic alpine endurance was tested by climbing the Hochkalter (2600+m) over the Blaueis glacier route with a moderately heavy pack and doing "sprint" intervals at the upper part of the glacier where it steepens to 50 degrees.  I did 1900 meters of elevation gain in four hours and completed the descent to finish the training in under seven hours.

Gamsalmkopf south ridge
I did trail runs at a pace of 850 to 1000 meters of elevation gain per hour.  I did the standard hiking route to the top of the Höher Göll (2500+m), doing about 1500 meters of elevation gain (over a long distance) in 2.5 hours in a fasted state without food or water - though I had a real dropping spell on the descent and had to back off the pace.

Lastly, I was able to do a classic alpine rock climb with my friend Alex in the Reiter Alpe (Berchtesgadener Alps).  We did the Direct South Ridge on the Mühlsturzhorn (Hinterstoißer/Kurz, VIII-, VI+/A0, 350m) including a long approach with 1000 meters of elevation gain.  I did the 11 hour outing  in a fasted state with just drinking about a liter of water during a very hot day.  I had one spell of mental tiredness during the climbing, but overall felt really good and strong all the way through the descent.

Other small indications that I am on the right track with training and nutrition are the overall strength increases in pull ups, presses and fingerboard holds.  What has really shown improvement is my ability to generate power in climbing and running/hiking.  I feel a lot more dynamic while climbing and feel a "springiness" in my legs.

Italian ice in Cogne
I could on-sight my first 7a in the gym about a week ago.  I have been able to climb 450 to 500 meters in the climbing gym on endurance days.  I am in a phase of power endurance training in which I do climbing sets of up to 8 route laps without rest.  I have been able to push this up to 6c+.

I still have not reached my body composition goals with a standard weight of 68 kg.. (going down to 66kg. for hard sport climbing) and a body fat percentage of 6-7%.  I am now at about 70 kg. and 9-10% body fat, with my plans to reduce this further during my six-week stay in Kalymnos as I train hard sport climbing and off-day trail running.  I feel that I am primed to make some major advances in my sport climbing grades.

What is most encouraging to me is that I still can improve a number of elements of my training and nutrition, which will produce further benefits.  I always think there are ways of tweaking, balancing and adapting that bring about new physical and mental stresses that cause further gains.  I feel there are so many different elements in how I train, eat and live that I want to slowly adjust to get everything in harmony and working in a synergistic manner.

the search never ends
I have always loved jazz guitarist Pat Metheny.  In the 1980's, I first heard the Pat Metheny Group recordings.  There is a song of his on the American Garage album called, "The Search".  The tune fits into the fabric of the album as a part of the concept of the musical energy of young, idealistic, garage bands in the American mid-west.  The music is an aural metaphor of a basic philosophy of how to go through life.  Always trying, experimenting, evaluating, being open minded, knowing that you are fallible, and fully embracing change and evolution.  Because once one starts behaving in a way of repeating the same things, trying to repeat the past and fearing change, then training as well as life rots away, becoming boring, depressing and full of frustration.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July Outdoor Courses

In the last month I have been doing a few outdoor courses.  The latest was this past Sunday at the climbing tower at the Rif sport center.  The focus of the course was rope technique & safety for outdoor sport climbing.

A short list of resources that I recommend to the course participants are:

1) Sportkletterfibel, Österreichisches Kuratorium für Alpine Sicherheit
2) Seiltechnik (3. Auflage, 2008), Michael Lacher & Heinz Zak, Osterreichisches Alpenverein
3) Roch Projects (Salzburg & Berchtesgaden Kletterführer, Auflage 2011), Joachim Mayrhuber & Timo Gastager, Dreyer Ventures & Management
4) Vertical Secrets (Technik, Training & Medizin fürs Sportklettern), Peter Keller & Andres Schweizer, , turntillburn GmbH, Zürich

I enjoyed being able to help and work with all the Madels - thanks Martina, Nicole, Karolina and Nina for a great course!  Click on the slide show to get into the web album and download photos.