With the berries looking fat and the autumn colours starting to sweep across the hills, it's time to shuffle the axes and crampons towards the front of the cupboard in anticipation of the first freeze and flurries from the North.
"As with all technically demanding sports, the more you practice the better you will be, the more specific the training is to your sport the more effective and relevant the practice will be and so improvement and gains in fitness and skills and techniques will be faster. Tooling on rock is the closest you will get to sport specific training for mixed winter climbing, tooling on holds is the next best medium. The fact is that you will do more hard moves in one training session that in an entire winters climbing. So it's a no brainer – grab those tools and pull as often as possible – even better improve your onsight skills, under some degree of pressure, personal or peer by taking part in the tooling series"
Scott Muir, BED PE, MIC
Dry tooling has become a well recognised way of training for winter climbing and has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of climbers operating at the highest level - just take look at the high standard of first ascents going up over the recent seasons. It certainly helps with gaining strength but it also hugely increases technique and style offering a chance to practice and train different moves and more efficient ways of climbing. It's not to be done on crags with existing rock climbs though but places have sprung up such as Newtyle Quarry near Perth in Scotland, the intimidating chalk cliffs around Dover and the South East, various roadside cuttings and disused quarries.
A perfect way to start getting the arms and axes synchronised again is the up and coming Scottish Tooling Series which offers a great way to train and swap ideas and learn new tricks that might help with some winter ticks you have lined up for the season.
The Tooling Series began back in 2007 with a one-off event held at Glenmore Lodge in Aviemore - a great event which attracted sixty plus participants who competed in a series of slots throughout the day on various problems and routes. Pauline Sanderson went on to create the Series in 2008 under the auspices of Glenmore Lodge and was the driving force in getting it successfully up and running with sponsors and venues. Pauline stood down at the end of the last series giving way for a change in co-ordinators - Pete Hill (MIC) and Neil Silver taking it forward for the 2010 Series and beyond. Both Pete and Neil have been competing in the Series and are keen dry-toolers and climbers.
Having entered the first event at Glenmore Lodge and more events throughout the Series I noticed how, although it has grown in size, the positive atmosphere remains the same. It must be unique to most sporting competitions since it very much has the feel that, whatever your age or ability, you are welcome to enter, the one rule being that you have fun and enjoy the day. People compete in the heats altogether and everyone, including the best climbers, are keen to offer advice and have a chat. While there is a very convivial atmosphere those competing for the top slots always put on a show at the end in the finals making it feel like a proper competition.
The days always have other aspects to appeal with great prizes donated from the ever-growing sponsor list. These aren't just for the winners either with spot prizes giving everyone a chance of winning something. There are also lectures by some top winter climbers such as Andy Turner so keep an eye on the website for some exciting lectures this season. At some events there should be a good party to relax with after the event. So don't be shy whether you have forearms like Popeye or you just want a fun day to warm up for the winter then dust off the tools and come have a go.
Series dates and venues
Full details of the days events and for online booking head to the Scottish Tooling Series website