climbing lets me forget

October 16, 2012

It is only when I haven’t been outside climbing that the news stories and history programmes and the world around me becomes like a sadness. It all seems to be death, pain, loss and fear.

When I stand at a crag, a mountain, beneath a blue, grey or cloudy sky I forget. Everything feels ok, everything feels possible.

When I stand inside the bouldering co-op alone on a grey morning and have to push myself to train, I don’t train for strength or glory, I train so I can stand beneath more crags, harder lines and longer days beneath blue, grey and cloudy skies.

When I stand inside the gym, with loud music and muscled men around me and I lift weights or pull up and I feel my muscles shaking I imagine a line. I imagine a crack system that I have fallen out of because I am not strong enough, I imagine a line that others have taken with ease and that I struggled with on second, and I do the last pull up in my set, shaking.

And I can’t tell if it is ok to forget, to turn the news off, to climb.


I have a list of reasons why I don’t want to go to the Irish Bouldering League and only one reason to go…because everyone tells me to!!!

My reasons included;1) I don’t like competition, 2) I don’t like climbing around big groups of people and 3) I don’t like bouldering!

1) I don’t like competition. I don’t know if this is a girl thing or not but people screaming at you and you screaming at yourself is at odds at why I climb BUT…

I wasn’t actually competing against anyone. It was so chilled out and I spent a lot of time with the other two girls in my category talking about how we would do certain moves, I also spent an insane amount of time chatting with the young guys from CYCC, spotting them and shouting encouragement. I also walked up to people during the day and said…will you shout sh*t at me to keep me going or point out moves…which brings me onto my second reason for not going

2) I don’t like climbing around big groups of people. I knew about 70% of the people in the place and the other 30% I had chatted to by the time we left. Nobody seemed to care how anybody else was doing except for to shout encouragement. Also…we were scoring ourselves and could do the problems in any order we chose!!! After I did the easy problems and realised I wasn’t getting to the top of the hard problems I had fun trying moves and having people shout at me to go for it. I went for it and failed…and never has failing been quite as funny.

3) I don’t like vegetables BOULDERING!

Bouldering is usually powerful, strong moves with lots of body tension and sloper strength. Precisely my biggest weaknesses. So half of all my training is bouldering, I am a member of a bouldering co-op and I have just taken part in a boulder comp. 

I have about a month before the the next IBL and I have a few things I can work on. Core strength to help with body tension moves, figuring out how to do power moves and TRYING to get the ladies of cork to come up and give it a go!



Having battled with injury and bad weather the summer began in August for me (and most Irish) and I celebrated by cracking my helmet open (with my head inside it!)

Apparently I need to learn lessons more than once! My trad gear has been poor, I didn’t understand why until there was an *intervention* style conversation with two of my climbing partners.

Years ago I was told I had mechanical dyslexia, I pretty much ignore it so my climbing buddies didn’t know. To them it is second nature that a nut goes in the lowest point in the crack, or that a hex should be deep, to me it has to be learned and (like a lot of trad climbers) I learned by just doing it. Unfortunately my *just do it* had resulted in two bad falls.

So, I decided to get some training to keep me safe and also to keep those safe that I climb with outdoors. Last weekend I did my Single Pitch Award training. Here is what I learned:

-Everyone learns differently

-Just because I read it in a book doesn’t make it right (or wrong)

-trusting yourself and having confidence in what you do know is half the battle

-having the knowledge to know you’re wrong is the other half of the battle

-lots of people lose nuts in Dalkey quarry!

The big lesson of the summer for me is how important training and knowledge are especially when they are combined with psyche. I started a strength training programme with a guy who not only has the qualifications and knowledge but the passion to work with me to find what I CAN do.

I started getting coaching on my climbing so I have a new training plan which, bizarrely  says rest more, train less, train smarter! Having felt exhausted for a year this is a welcome plan! My *coach* has the knowledge and enough enthusiasm for a world of climbers!

I also started seeing an Osteopath who said she could fix me. She is the first person to say that so…I am going with it! She is curious and passionate about getting me back to 100%!

After a summer of stalled starts and rainy cups of tea staring at routes out of car windows I have managed in the last month to improve my grade, just by the application of others knowledge and being surrounded by psyche!

I also teach rock climbing and have found a new passion that is driving me forward, teaching female climbers!!! In the last few months I have worked with Mammies and teenagers and children and it has been amazingly rewarding to watch women do their first leads indoors, girls get psyched for climbing outdoors and the new round of students push their grade (and men out of the way!) on the boulder wall.