How to get the best out of your sport climbing holiday
by Katherine Schirrmacher
In autumn 2008 Steve McClure and I ran a lovetoclimb coaching holiday to Geyikbayiri, near Antalya in Turkey. 20 people joined us over the two weeks and some great performances were put in all round. Putting together a trip like this, and making sure everyone has a good time, requires some careful planning.
Steve and I have mustered quite a bit of experience in this area, so here are 10 top tips we feel are important to make the most of your holiday and how some of our clients used them to full effect last September.
Places like Antalya are pretty much a dead cert. Us Brits need our rays and our vitamin D. Muscles work better when its warm and it always adds to the relaxing vibe necessary for a top trip. Geyikbayiri is south facing and a great winter destination – that's why we've booked up for next November already, perfect when the winter depression kicks in over here. Snatching some winter sun can feel great, but a few destinations do have prolonged rainy periods. Mid winter somewhere like Mallorca can be pretty damp!
2 Find good food and comfortable accommodation
We stayed at the Josito camp just underneath the crag. Camping is available but on our trips we book out all the cute, wooden bungalows on the site. A little bit of luxury is always good when you want to push yourself at the crag the next day. What might seem like a great deal on the internet can actually end up being a real pain in the bum. Accomodation that is close to the climbing, comfortable and has a good shower is essential. You'll feel better, climb better and smell better!
3 Build up slowly
This goes for structuring your holiday and also each day in terms of warming up thoroughly. On the first day, visit a few crags, get used to the rock get your head in gear and don't get on a route at your limit. Remember to warm up your head as well as your body - you'll be able to do more routes in a day and on your holiday overall. Make sure there are plenty of easier routes in the area you want to visit. Above is Andy on a lovely F4 literally two minutes walk from the camp in Turkey.
If you're limited for time, why not stick to climbs that you like and are good at. If you decide to try out something new (see point 8) then make that a conscious decision, but don't give yourself a hard time if you find it desperate or fail. Holidays should be about enjoyment and not about ripping your skin on an ugly crack when you know you don't like cracks. If you like delicate slabs, search them out, research the area first to find out if it's going to have your kind of thing. Luckily in Geyikbayiri there's pretty much every type of climbing available so it'll suit anyone. Here's Louisa showing how its done on Saxafon, the classic F6b+, you need to have good steep rock technique to do this one!
Look upwards first! You may have found a crag that looks great in the book with five available F6bs but make your choice based on which one you like the look of, perhaps in terms of style, length or rock type. On the continent the guidebooks don't include rambling descriptions like ours, or even stars – seeing is believing. Mel redpointed this F6c+, an inspiring tufa capped by a steep groove. What made this so special was how amazing the route appeared to her from the ground.
So we can all have a bit of a laugh, have a few too many drinks and stumble to the crag late when we're on holiday, but focusing really hard for just part of your trip can be very rewarding. Colin on week 2 managed to redpoint his first 7b. He's tried this grade before, but hadn't appreciated the focus needed to work the moves and take the appropriate resting time. Don, his friend belayed him and gave him the space he needed to focus. It was the last day, his skin almost worn through, but his careful preparation led to success.
It's so easy to set off up a climb hoping to have an adventure and successfully reach the top. 'Hoping' is where it can all go wrong. Try and work out where the resting spots and crux sequences are from the ground. Plan accordingly – aim for the rests, and follow the moves as you have planned, climbing quickly where necessary. These are difficult but vital skills. Carol perfected the art of onsighting. She onsighted her first 6a and 6a+ on our holiday. One of the most important things she found too was to prepare her head for how hard she would have to push herself.
Take this however you want! But I'm thinking along the lines of a style of climb or a new grade. Abroad the climbing is so different to the UK. Here's a picture of Misha redpointing his first 7a up a complicated tufa pillar. He found the style awkward and the strange moves hard to remember but success came in the end, the struggle made it all the more rewarding.
On a short trip many people think it's a good idea to climb every day. You can, but you definitely won't get the best out of your climbing. On our trips we always take a rest day, as much as anything to see something of the local area. We were recommended this top swimming spot – local knowledge goes a long way.
Often the most memorable part of any climbing holiday. For many coming on a climbing holiday with me and Steve and a group of strangers is daunting. But you always leave having made a whole new set of friends. Sport climbing is a sociable activity and often local climbers have great advice on routes, moves and the best places to eat out. Ask around, you never know where it might lead...
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