Monday, 19 January 2015
Readers of this blog will of course know that I have been working on a book on climbing injuries for some years. It has turned out to be a much bigger book than I originally envisaged. It has been a huge project, but in a few weeks I will reach the finish line. The book is currently with the printers and some time in the next few weeks, many boxes of copies will arrive at my house. The final stages were a rather exhausting process, but I’m excited to release it and potentially help healthy climbers stay healthy and injured climbers to get back to the fray.
I’ll write a more detailed post about the content of the book when the stock arrives in early February. If you want to make sure you get a copy as soon as you can, we’ve put it up for pre-order in the shop here, and it’ll be in the post to you as soon as it arrives. I’ve also added the table of contents below so you have an idea of the breadth of the areas covered.
My aim was to write the manual on how to stay healthy as a climbing athlete that I wished I’d had when I was 16. The first priority was to base my writing on the cutting edge of sports medicine research, wherever it was available. The second was to include all the diverse aspects of injury prevention and recovery, and then present them in a way that allows you to see them in the whole context of your efforts to stay injury free. As with the world of training, too many injury texts focus on or overplay the importance of just one aspect of sports medicine.
Having spent around 4 years researching, thinking and writing the book, I do feel that if I’d had access to the information contained in it when I was a teenager, my health and climbing achievements over the past 20 years would have been significantly better. I hope the book can make this difference both for both youngsters who have yet to experience injury, and battle scarred climbers like myself.
Below is the table of contents, so you can get idea of the scope of the book. You’ll find the book in the shop here.
Section 1: Make or break
Why the treatments you have tried aren’t working, and what to do about it.
How to use this book
The real reasons you are injured
Stress and injury
The reason you are still injured
The language problem
The practitioner problem
The sports medicine problem
The missing link
Exceptional use: the luxury of doing your sport badly
Your visit to the doctor’s
Section 2: Know pain, or no gain
Pain and how to read it
Seeing the patterns in your pain
What is healthy soreness?
Understanding your pain
Going beyond reading only pain
Section 3: Removing the causes of injury for prevention and treatment
Are you only treating symptoms?
What was the real cause?
The big four: technique, posture, activity, rest
How to rest
Warm-up and injury
Section 4: Rehabilitation of climbing injuries - treating both causes and symptoms
When to move beyond acute care
Goals of mid-late rehabilitation
Modern understanding of tendon injuries and recovery
Therapeutic activity - basic exercises
Therapeutic activity - climbing
Walking the line of rehab ups and downs
Drug and other emerging treatments
When to stop rehab?
Section 5: Psychology of injuries: dealing with the anguish of injury
Face it: it really is that bad!
Section 6: Young climbers
What young climbers should know
Too much, too young: a warning
What parents and coaches should do
Section 7: The elbow
Golfer’s and tennis elbow
Other elbow injuries
Section 8: The fingers
Different grips in climbing and consequences for injury
When and how to tape the fingers
Painful finger joints
Flexor unit strains
Other finger injuries
Section 9: The wrist
Triangular fibrocartilage injury
Carpal tunnel syndrome
De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
Other wrist injuries
Section 10: The shoulder
Shoulder impingement/rotator cuff tears
Biceps tendon insertion tears
Thoracic outlet syndrome
Shoulder and neck trigger points
Section 11: Lower body injuries
Foot pain in climbers
Heel pad bruising
Ankle injuries in climbers
Ankle impingement syndrome
Achilles tendon pain
Knee injuries in climbers
Anterior cruciate ligament tears
Medial collateral ligament tears
Section 12: Further reading
Further reading and references
Getting access to good care
The author’s tale of woe and hope
Glossary of key terms
Wednesday, 14 January 2015
Apart from a brief break with my family over Christmas, I have been on something of a lockdown to get my climbing injuries book ready to send to the printers. No distractions, no messing about, just getting down to serious work. Such is the way with big projects, both on the rock and off. It can be relatively easy to get to the nearly there stage. But exponentially harder to see off all those hurdles that jump up between ‘close’ and ‘done’.
So long as you don’t look at your email inbox, living in the highlands does make it easier to pile drive through work tasks of this nature. I’m desperate to finish them all, stone dead, and then move on and go back to the rock and ice in time for the good conditions arriving.
I spent Hogmanay in PDF print settings hell, and since then have tidied up countless other loose ends that need to be sorted to get it there. Although the little things keep coming, it will be off to the printers imminently, and I will post up more information about it then.
I’ve also just finished three climbing related films, all of a very different nature which will be online soon to show you. As the January gales and rain have raged outside here, I’ve been dashing between the house and the board for training.
Two or three little mid-winter tasks remain on my list, most of which ought to be crushed by some time next week. And then it will be time to climb.
Sunday, 7 December 2014
We’ve just added a pile of fresh products to the shop of essential reading and viewing for climbers. First off is Volker Schoffl and Thomas Hochholzer’s climbing injury book One Move Too Many. Reliable information on dealing with climbing injuries is still hard to come by in 2014 and climbers really have to make themselves experts in this field in order to minimise the disruption that injury will inevitably cause them in a life of climbing. As many of you will know, I am just finishing a book on this subject myself. However, climbers really cannot read enough on this subject and advice from such prolific researchers as these authors will reap huge benefits on your climbing. One Move Too Many has been around for a while, but this is a revised second edition, just out.
I was excited to see Steve McClure’s story finally out. Steve is a rare thing in climbing, or in sport in general. He is a brilliant athlete and has shown amazing commitment and vision in how he has achieved his world class routes which are still giving the likes of Adam Ondra something to chew on today. Yet almost everyone can relate to him as he has pursued that tricky balance of trying to make these achievements happen while still leading a ‘normal’ life of family, work and a generally well-rounded perspective on life. In other words, he is one of the best role models we have in climbing, and every climber ought to listen to what he has to say. Since he is also an excellent writer who has an ability to get to the core of why it’s worth talking about all of the themes explored in his book.
Next up is Alastair Lee’s Brit Rock 2014 DVD which is a collection of climbing and other outdoor sports films. As a climber, this DVD is a must have because of the first film on the disc; Stone Free, following the free solo exploits of Julian Lines. Although he is one of the world’s best solo climbers (if it’s a good idea to even say that out loud?!), he is the polar opposite of some of the other famous solo climbers around at the moment. And this is why we should watch it. It’s not just a jaw dropping, nerve tingling scare fest (although there is plenty of that). We get to see a very honest look into Jules mind and way of life. It is a way of life that is largely forgotten even by plenty of climbers these days. Listening to what Jules has to say about what his experiences on the mountain cliffs mean to him is a deeply inspiring watch. The running and biking films were bonuses for me, but they were both fantastic films and ones that I may not have seen unless I’d bought the DVD.
We have also added the Avalanche Pocket Guide to the shop. Now this is something it might be tempting to skip. It’s not the coolest (no pun intended) reading material to part with £7 of your hard earned cash for. However, think for just a moment about the scores of young folk just like you and me who die every winter under tons of snow. They are not different from you, they are not idiots, and they travel on the same terrain as you will be in the coming months. And they are dead. In many cases, their only mistake is ignorance. Having watched with my own eyes three climbers walk straight into an inevitable avalanche on Ben Nevis last winter (they survived, this time) it really reminded me how little we can afford to be ignorant on this subject. It’s up to you - you could either make sure you are fully briefed on the skills and lessons for making sound judgements in avalanche terrain, or you could take the risk and just hope for the best. If you can’t bear to read something so uncool yourself, at least fill your climbing partner’s Christmas stocking with it.
Finally, we have The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland in stock now and in a world where climbing media is increasingly cheap and cheerful, this book is a treat - well written by a who’s who of the activists on the crags, filled with great photography from the likes of Dave Cuthbertson and other talented folk and a wonderful reference to plan your adventures of future seasons in our mountains. Something to treasure.
As ever, we are dispatching daily to worldwide destinations via Royal Mail right up to and over Christmas. The main shop page is here.
Monday, 1 December 2014
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
At this time of year, I often get manic. Im not really sure why. I know it’s not related to the season, because I’ve had the effects at other times in the year also. In a gradual process that takes many weeks to build up, I notice a string of quite striking mental and physical changes.
My mind tends to race all day long. When it gets to 2am and I’m still working or training, I’m exhausted and can barely conjure a rational thought. But I don’t want to stop. Going to bed and sleeping is so obviously required, but the other part of my mind resists it to the last. I find that I have amazing daydreams while driving or walking and find that these yield some strong ideas about whatever I’m working on, and all sorts of other things.
Because I’ve noticed this happening to me before in most years over the past decade of my life, I don’t mind it. It’s a kind of polariser of everything. It can cause me some serious problems, chiefly insomnia and being quite unreasonable. But I also find that I have the kind of fire of motivation that can drive a lot of things forward. The challenge is to tame it to harness the great benefits and try not to let it turn me into a sleep deprived zealot.
The first time I really became aware that this was not normal was in 2006. I was living in Dumbarton. I’d just done the first ascent of Rhapsody and after having pulled my climbing up from the odd 8b sport redpoint to 8c+ in a little over a year, I hadn’t done any work and was completely broke. I was counting out 2 pence pieces from a jar in my flat to by tins of beans and realised that I needed to change my life if I wanted to move forward onto new horizons in my climbing. The fire at that time was directed (outside of my climbing of course) onto starting to write this blog and trying to learn how to communicate what I’d learned from my life as a climber and student of sports science to coach other climbers. My accepted cut off for going to bed got later and later and I used to forcefully press the off button on the computer when I saw the sun start to rise out of my window.
My best effort at harnessing it was while I was writing my book 9 out of 10 in 2009. I found that I had so much mental energy that I was able to focus for up to 12 hours a day on writing with only trips to the kettle as breaks. When I don’t have the fire, I find it desperately hard to concentrate for long, uninterrupted periods. After I’d read, thought and written furiously for my shift, I’d attack my board at 10 or 11 at night, for a couple of hours. In less than two months, I got to the end of the book, and left for a sport trip in Spain.
The fire hadn’t gone, but I was physically exhausted. On the first day of the trip, I let my partners climb as a pair while I set up a rope to work on A’ Muerte (9a) by myself. After I’d set up the rope, I sat down at the base, put on my rock-shoes and paused for a moment, realising I felt pretty tired. I sat back against the rock to take a moment’s rest. Four hours later I woke up, and stumbled off to my sleeping bag. Despite being deprived of real rock for the previous two months, I started the trip with three days in bed before I felt recovered enough to begin climbing. But two weeks later I climbed the route for my first 9a, and felt in really great shape.
Right now, every night I feel like I’d need to hit myself over the head with a frying pan to stop my mind racing into the wee small hours. It’s really good being at home for a little while after spending most of this year out of the country on climbing trips. I wonder if it’s that opportunity to focus on climbing, training and work projects for a spell has brought on my current state of agitation. One minute I’m falling asleep over my dinner, the next I feel really good climbing on my board. One thing I have learned is that trying to work against what your mind and body want to do doesn’t really work. Not working, when I want to work, makes me depressed really quickly. Yet a mind that doesn’t have a diurnal ‘off switch’ is trying to square a circle. Like many problems in productivity, it may come down to an issue of habit replacement and self-discipline. I’m not really strict in following the simple rules of overcoming insomnia. I ought to be. An extreme problem requires an extreme intervention. I probably need some formal coaching in the field.
Complaints aside, I don’t really want this period to end. I know that I’m pretty lucky to have the feeling of burning motivation for the work I do, and I do enjoy it.
Monday, 24 November 2014
Drag Race 8A Rannoch Moor from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.
On the vast, beautiful expanse of Rannoch Moor, a handful of granite erratics dotted around are kind of distracting for boulderers trying to drive in a straight line on the A82 into Glen Coe. In the low, crisp winter light, you’re always looking to see if you somehow missed a hidden boulder out there somewhere. I knew that the one big boulder close to the road had a few problems on perfect rough granite, but they were all easy.
But last year Alan Cassidy told me that a large flake had broken off the steep side, leaving a smooth sloping shelf and an excellent project he thought might be 8A or 8A+. I had a quick look in May and realised I had to come back as soon as it was cold enough to drag those perfect slopers.
Last week I had a quick try in poor conditions and worked out the moves. On the first day of proper snow in the mountains, I was straight back there and managed it. What a gem of a problem. As good quality as you’ll find anywhere. You can’t miss the boulder, easily seen from the road, five minutes walk from the first layby south of the Rannoch Moor summit.
Boulder season is ON!
Monday, 17 November 2014
Ben Nevis - The Hidden Side (TEASER!) from Nevis Landscape Partnership on Vimeo.
In August, we shot a film about a survey. It was the most fascinating fortnight I’ve had in a long time. The newly emerging Nevis Landscape Partnership has numerous impressive projects lined up for the Ben Nevis area, and this was one of them. A large team of climbers, botanists and geologists teamed up to explore the length and breadth of the north face over two weeks and try to get a better understanding of how the mountain was formed and which rare plants were hiding in the depths of the gullies as yet unrecorded.
We were asked to film the project. I’m editing the story that emerged at the moment and it certainly wasn’t what I expected. Generally speaking, I find most aspects of science interesting. But I have never spent any time learning about botany before and have only limited knowledge of geology. One overarching theme I wanted to explore while filming was what made these scientists tick. Climbers wax lyrical about the lines on Ben Nevis, the character of the ice, the weather and all the other ingredients for adventure. I bluntly asked the botanical and geological experts on the survey what the point of their work was.
One of Scotland’s leading botanists, Gordon Rothero’s reply was equally blunt. “Because it’s fun”. As I asked more and more of the scientists why they spent their lives studying the details of mountain environments, the same theme came back. Their studies made them happy. More specifically, It made them feel connected to the places they studied. This is something I felt the whole team, climbers and scientists of various disciplines had absolutely in common. By knowing the details of the mountains, they felt connected, and happy.
As for the survey findings, one story that emerged kind of took everyone by surprise. The geologists Jenny and Roddy had already told me when we shot the film for their FieldMove Clino app on the Ben in June that the available geological mapping that had been done 60 odd years ago was not matching what they had seen on the mountain. After a full two weeks gathering huge amounts of geological readings (using the app meant taking readings ten fold faster that traditional methods) it seemed like the old model of how Ben Nevis was formed was looking all but dead.
Roddy and Donald abseiling down the line of my own route Don't Die of Ignorance on the Comb. This part of the mountain is made of volcanic breccias; the result of violent volcanic eruption. I was kind of strange for me going back here after having climbed hard through this part in winter several years ago.
The traditional model of the formation of the Ben is that it was a ring fault where the centre of the ring collapsed into the earth’s magma below, with violent eruptions around the periphery. It now looks like the real picture may be very different. Their attention focused on the straight line of the Allt a’ Mhuillin itself and it may be that this was the fault in the earth’s crust that let granites come to the surface. It’s still unclear whether the rocks on the Ben Nevis side of the Allt a’ Mhuillin collapsed down, or the rocks on the other side rose up. It will take some time for them to analyse the data and they may need to collect more in order to obtain a clearer picture.
The problem with the traditional caldera subsidence model is space. What happens to the vast quantities of viscous magmas displaced by a sinking lump of the earth’s crust? There are subsequent surveys planned for the next few summers, and it may be that we cannot make a firm conclusion about Ben Nevis until after these have been completed.
Along the way I captured huge amounts of great interviews with interesting folk and footage of the deep dark gullies on the Ben. I also had a great night along with my mum up on Carn Mor Dearg bivvying out and shooting nice timelapses of the stars and sunrise on the north face.
If you want to see the film it’ll be showing at the Fort William Mountain Festival in February, and then released online afterwards. In the meantime, enjoy the teaser above.
Thursday, 6 November 2014
The Anatomist, Torridon from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.
Bouldering in Glen Torridon at this time of year does make me feel pretty lucky. The best rock in the British Isles, amazing scenery, solitude, good conditions, easy approaches and even some superb cafes. It doesn’t get much better. I’m pleased to say I’ve still got most of it to explore as well. I really ought to bend the ears of Ian Taylor, Dan Varian and a few other folk who’ve scouted about a bit more for good projects to try. I know of a couple of great ones, but they might be too hard for me, in the Font 8C region. Not that this will stop me trying.
In the meantime I wanted to just tick off some of the existing stuff. Last week I went to Dan Varians ‘The Anatomist’ (7C+) behind the new house in Annat. After 10.4 inches of rain in a couple of days in the west highalnds, it was dripping. Today I went back, armed with a towel, which was just as well. The landing is a bit on the poor side and I hauled up 5 mats since I was on my own.
I still managed to slip off and somersault backwards down the boulder gully, off my mats and onto some rather nasty rocks which took a fair chunk out of my elbow and added various other good bragging scars. At least I still did it. Check out the video above and see what you think of my falling technique. Classic problem.
This is always a busy time of year for me, finishing writing and filming projects and travelling around doing lectures and coaching events. In between all that, I’ve loved getting a bit of time in my climbing wall and starting on the ladder of finger strength and agility again. After the last two years of ups and downs, I feel I have am starting from half a rung lower. But my motivation is maybe that wee notch higher than ever. Hopefully soon I’ll be back in Torridon when the sun next shines and the slopers are even colder.
Friday, 31 October 2014
The long awaited book The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland, collated by Guy Robertson and Adrian Crofton is about to be released. Our stock is on the way and it’s up in the shop here for pre-order. We are expecting the stock in the next few days.
Having written a section of the book myself, on the Cobbler, I have been able to get a sneak preview of some of the other content. It’s going to be a brilliant book, and of course a must for anyone who climbs, or aspires to climb on the mountain crags. It’s great to see that in the internet age that big, chunky books of climbing inspiration, comparable, if not better than, the old extreme rock books can still come out. In my section I described my earliest days of climbing, jumping on the train after school and soloing some of the mountain's best mixed routes using whatever gear I could find or borrow. I had so much fun there.
With so much content, and so many contributing authors, this has of course been a long time coming. I think climbers will feel it has been worth the wait and will treasure their copy. I was both surprised and honoured to see that I have made the front cover!
We have also just added the new book by Martin Boysen on his life of exploratory and adventurous climbing all over the world from our own mountains to the likes of Cerro Torre and Annapurna. It's in the shop here.
Project Fear 8a+, Cima Ovest north face, Dolomites. Something I'll speak about in my talks coming up in the next month. Photo: Matt Pycroft/Coldhouse Collective
In the coming weeks I’m speaking in quite a few places around Scotland and England. I’ll be talking about some of the big wall expeditions I’ve been on recently; the big roof on Cima Ovest, The Mermoz in Patagonia and other very big lumps of rock. As always I’ll also try and make sense of the thoughts that run through my head that motivate me for climbing, training and getting back out on the lead after some rather nasty ground falls.
Inverness, Tiso Outdoor Experience on Nov 10th. Tickets here.
Edinburgh, Tiso Outdoor Experience on Nov 11th. Tickets here.
Aberdeen Transition Extreme, Scottish student's climbing festival Nov 12th. Tickets here.
Hathersage, Outside. Dec 6th. Tickets here.
See you there!