/ NEW ARTICLE: Wall Warriors! A history of training for climbing

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UKC Articles - on 26 Jan 2011
Steve McClure on Mecca Extension (8c) during the filming of 'Magic Numbers' from the Psyche dvd., 4 kbMick Ward takes us through a brief history of training for climbing.

Who were the pioneers? How have standards risen?

"Although a few people undoubtedly wrecked their bodies, in only 20 years, from the early 1970s to the early 1990s, European climbing had gone from about F6c to F9a..."

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=3398

Lemony - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: See that, that's quite good that is.
Ewan Russell - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:
Hey the first bit was really good. Out of intrest though you refer to the first wall as the Leeds Wall. Im guessing this was how the one in leeds university was referred to rather than you meaning the current wall known as the "Leeds wall" on geldard road. Just thinking other people may not really realise the difference and therefore attribute the title of first wall to the one on geldard road.
I hope this makes sense, I am not sure If it does myself!
John2 - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Excellent article but was the 'feeding the rat' man not Al Alvarez rather than Joe Brown?
Lemony - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to The third: Plus my dad's always been absolutely adamant that there was another wall in Leeds before the one at the university but I suspect he may just be getting muddled.
Tyler - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to John2:

Or was it Mo Anthoine?
ukb & bmc shark - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to Tyler:> Or was it Mo Anthoine?

I thought it was Al Harris and then used by Al Alvarez as the title for a climbing based novel. I also thought feeding the rat wasnt about needing to achieve and more about the compulsion to regularly scratch the climbing itch.

Loved the article Mick.

IainAM on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

I really enjoyed that, cheers
Mick Ward - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to shark:

Thanks Simon (and others). Glad you enjoyed it.

Re 'feeding the rat', the first time (I think?) I came across it was in an essay of Jim Perrin's where (again, I think) Jim attributed it to Brown. Later Alvarez used it as the title of his book about Anthoine and others.

The original meaning certainly seemed about scratching an itch, not pushing yourself physically perhaps, but more psychologically, like, say, going on the Lleyn and scaring yourself shitless.

If you divide climbing into fun and achievement, feeding the rat seems less about fun and more about pushing yourself. That's just my take on it though; I may well be wrong.

Good point about the Leeds wall. I've had great times at both venues. The earlier wall was hallowed ground. A tiny shard of our history.

Mick
Adam Perrett on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: Great article.

Thanks for helping me 'feed the rat' last weekend. ;)
Mick Ward - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to Adam Perrett:

Adam, your ashen face was a delight to see!

'Don't think I distinguished myself particularly. More a case of feeding my inner mouse perhaps. Blame it on old, cold bones.

Things have perked up a bit since then with a (very) unexpected indoor success last night. Moral of the tale? Keep on struggling...

Mick

Al Randall on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Great article Mick. Entertaining informative and well written. Your recollection of the detail never fails to amaze me. I used to go to the Leeds wall albeit it infrequently. I think it marked the time when climbing became a sport rather than a pastime.

Al
Scarab9 - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

great article thanks Mick. Although I'm now close to quitting my job to run to a crag immediately because of reading this at lunch time :-p
John2 - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to Tyler: Silly me.
full stottie on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

An excellent read Mick, giving a very insightful perspective on the decades of climbing that I too have lived through, but in blissful ignorance of what was happening at the leading edge. As I bumbled along as one of climbing's bottom feeders (that's not a euphemism for anything), the notion that dedicated training was a good idea to expand my enjoyment of climbing never clicked until embarassingly recently.

Never went to the Leeds Wall, but I do remember a brick and breezeblock horror in the sports hall of Richmond School. Even the crumbling virgin limestone of Orgate Scar, Oxnop Scar, Redmire Quarry was more attractive than that.

Although 'training' is a bit of an exaggeration of what I now fumble around doing at my local walls in the winter, it has made a difference even at my advanced age and decrepitude. Walls have also helped me overcome old prejudices about 'indoor climbing' and sport climbing. They obviously now have a secure place in climbing. (Outside is still miles better though).

So my fellow bumblies, its never too late to invest in a bit of effort. You too can turn last year's 4+'s into this year's 6a's. Next year, well watch this space.....
sutty on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward:

Great that Mick, looks like a lot of research went into it as well.
Waldmeister on 26 Jan 2011 - 198.28.92.5 whois?
In reply to UKC Articles: Just one addition: Gullich's famous board was named Campusboard after the fitness studio called Campus, where it was hanging and not because it was on a campus!

Nice article!
Chris Craggs - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

I don't remember the date, about 1978 or a little later, I lived on Wayland Road, and Graham Parkes lived across the way. My place had a long garage that ran into a passage up into the kitchen - about 40' long in total. It was a mixture of brick and stone and we improved some holds, covered it with textured paint and traversed our little hearts out. Mark Stokes was a lodger at the time, and one evening he brought one of his mates down - a certain Jerry Moffatt - to show him what we were doing. And the rest is history - well maybe!

Chris
Chris Craggs - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to Chris Craggs:

Thinking a little longer it was more likley 1980/82.


Chris
Offwidth - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Thanks Mick great article. Especially like to see John Gill getting more of the respect he deserves.
racodemisa - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Tony mitchell,Rob Gawthorpe,Alan Manson and not forgetting Mike Hammill took bouldering standards to new levels at leeds Uni.
The Sheffield based climbers in early 80s lagged behind(J.allen was travelling the world at this time).
Certainly in my view the stuff@leeds that was being tried was really futuristic and compared to harder stuff in the US(V5-V8).
Others really pushing things were surely Jerry Peel and Stevie Haston-the latters hardest dinos@the sobell corridoor possibly not repeated still-25 years later.
mark mcgowan01 - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:
good read dude.
johnl - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Fantastic history Mick. To think I lived (in Sheffield!!!) and climbed (well bumbled along) through all those periods of development in blissful ignorance of how my heros of the time did it. Still starting to catch up a bit now. Right - campus board and wall tonight!
John.
Yanis Nayu - on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Cheers Mick - enjoyed that.
jon on 26 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward:

> ... with a (very) unexpected indoor success last night (...)

You can't just leave it there, Mick!
PeteH - on 26 Jan 2011
Awesome article Mick, thanks a lot.

Pete.
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to full stottie:
> (In reply to UKC Articles)

> ...its never too late to invest in a bit of effort. You too can turn last year's 4+'s into this year's 6a's.

Totally agree. And 6a (E1 in old money) opens a wealth of opportunities.


> (Outside is still miles better though).

Isn't it just!

Mick
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to jon:

Jon, it was nothing to anyone else but me, just pushing hard through physical limits and fear of failure, giving it everything you've got and living with the result.

When you did your last new route, the fear of failure must have haunted you for an hour uphill, and every pitch up to the crux. But you still did it. And the expression on Hilary's face said it all.

Probably the happiest experience I've ever had in climbing was opening an email from Pete Oxley and learning that he'd done the first ascent of Lifeforce, F8b, in crap conditions, no warm-up, etc. I was delirious with delight. I knew a little of how much he wanted it, how much he'd given of his mind and body and soul for it.

It was interesting reading Jerry's (and Grimer's) book and learning how he was always training his mind, not just his body. I think that's what made Jerry truly great. He was a master of psyche. He trained himself (all of himself) better than anyone before.

The lessons are there for us to learn...

All best wishes,

Mick

P.S. And thanks to everyone else for their kind comments.

P.P.S. Apologies about the campus board error. Although Jerry does point it out in his book, I'd lived with the earlier myth for far too long!

jon on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward:
> (In reply to jon)

> Jon, it was nothing to anyone else but me,

I know what you mean (and I think I have a vague idea of what you are referring to... ). It was maybe unfair of me to ask...!

> (...) the fear of failure must have haunted you for an hour uphill, and every pitch up to the crux. (...)

You're right, it did.. Success was the biggest surprise ever. I'm still smiling about it now.
seankenny - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: Great article Mick, really enjoyed it. Interesting to see you put John Gill's best ascents at V11 and E7. I'd heard he'd done something that would be around E5/6 (somewhere in South Dakota?) back in the 60s and bouldered high V grades. Any links to the problems he did at such a high level? Perhaps a piece on Gill would be a great read...
Al Evans on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: Out of interest Manor Park on Gogarth was named after the wall in Glossop's Manor Park (not a climbing wall) where the Glossop lads like Gabe Regan, Jim Moran and occaisionally myself used as training. There were some very hard problems and traverses there.
simes303 - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to UKC Articles) Thanks Mick great article. Especially like to see John Gill getting more of the respect he deserves.

The article seems to imply that Gill was the first to do a one finger pullup.

This article:

http://www128.pair.com/r3d4k7/Chinups.html

suggests he wasn't by a long way.

Si.
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to seankenny:

Many thanks. I agree John Gill is a fascinating subject, by all accounts a wonderful man (never mind the climbing). It's really hard to give gradings for what he did. I think Mick Ryan has seen Gill's solos on The Thimble(?) in the Needles. (And probably others also have.)

My understanding is the two first ascents were onsighted (I know this doesn't affect the grades, per se, but it's bloody impressive) above a fence/railing - so - very serious injury on 6b/c(?) moves if you fluff it (= E7?) The fence has long gone and, apparently, with mats, they're not so bad. But, in 1961 or so... Gill memorably described his experiences as, "the turning of my soul."

Recently, on Supertopo, Pat Ament commented that cutting-edge Gill problems were deliberately harder versions. I'm guessing at something like V11. Even if I'm out, it was still amazingly impressive for the day.

My guess is that Gill is far too modest but it would be great if we could get Pat Ament to do an article (articles?) Although he has his opinions (which is fair enough) he really does seem to be the man where American climbing history is concerned.

Mick

Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to simes303:

I had absolutely no intention of implying that Gill was the first to do a one-finger pullup. My understanding is that he was inspired by stories of Hermann Buhl doing one-finger pullups.

(Apologies, haven't clicked your link, work beckons!) but the 19th/early 20th century strongmen probably nailed most feats of strength. I'd be amazed if they didn't do one-finger pullups. And there was probably some stick-insect before them in the mists of history.

The point is that Buhl, Gill, et al were doing their best at training for climbing - long before 'the rest of us' had caught on.

Mick
Al Evans on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: You are aware John has a website?
http://johngill.net/
Al Evans on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Al Evans: Actually he has several, this one may be more interesting since he has changed his website
http://www.freebooknotes.com/wiki/John_Gill_(climber)
simes303 - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward:
> (In reply to simes303)

> (Apologies, haven't clicked your link, work beckons!) but the 19th/early 20th century strongmen probably nailed most feats of strength. I'd be amazed if they didn't do one-finger pullups. And there was probably some stick-insect before them in the mists of history.
>

Have a click when you have time. There's some seriously impressive stuff in there...

Cheers for the article too.
Si
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Al Evans:

Hi Al,

Yes, I've looked at his website from time to time. He's great about other people but tantalising (to me) about himself, e.g.

'After exploring new routes - I was never a 'counter', and I have no idea how many I did there - I would sometimes stop at the Roadcut and do my special contrivance: the gymnastic True Torture Chamber Traverse. This was not a simple but strenuous traverse of the overhanging face, as many believe, but a hand & foot hold-eliminate exercise that was fairly short but severe - it would probably be rated 5.13 these days.'

I think he was chasing experience, not numbers...

Re Manor Park, I have fond memories of Gabe and Jim.

All best wishes,

Mick
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to simes303:

Wow - that's a great link. Thanks. I think I've seen it before but there's loads more stuff on it now. Amazingly impressive. To think that someone as tall as Jim Holloway could do a front-lever! Tim Freeman used to do one on the bar in Pete's Eats while the rest of us pigged out, but at least Tim seemed to have the right physique for it. (Still very impressive.)

Like Gill, Holloway is a real dark horse of American bouldering. It would be fantastic if we could persuade Ament to do an article on him also.

The great thing about the internet is that we can see this stuff pretty easily. Pre-internet (and certainly pre 'Mountain') you had hardly any idea of what had been done by people in other areas/countries/times.

Thanks again.

Mick

John2 - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: I attended a lecture by John Gill once. I remember him talking about how he used to be a competitive rope climber at a time when it was an Olympic sport, and I remember an astonishing short film made by Pat Ament of Gill climbing a severely overhanging boulder with no use of his feet.
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to John2:

Gosh, didn't know that rope climbing had been an Olympic sport. Ages ago, I reviewed Ament's rewritten 'Master of Rock', the biography of Gill. It was hard to get an estimation of how good he'd been. Some of the body positions seemed amazing. e.g. the shot of Pennyrile Forest in this article. I just can't imagine holding that position. He makes it look relaxed.

Jerry and Noddy (RIP) had a mate called Pete Kirton. According to Noddy, Pete could go up and down a half dozen ropes, with his lower body horizontal - no problem. He was one of these 'mystery boulderers'. He's got a great story somewhere of being beaten to the FA of a problem in Northumberland by Phil Davidson. It was something like Font 8A or 8A+. Big numbers for the early 1980s.

Mick
neilh - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward:
The thimble in the needles..went there in the late 80,s.The thimble is a car park, and we threw a top rope down his famous route, and 6 of us toproped it. It was a couple of moves of about 6a pulling on some stuck out peebles from what i remember.Probably a lot more impressive as a solo with the fence protruding below you.
ring ouzel on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Excellent article Mick, hope you have many more lined up.
Cheers
RO.
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to neilh:

Thanks. Sounds a bit easier (more like E5 than E7??) But rather him than me! Have never felt happy about trusting everything to stuck on pebbles.

Mick
Mick Ward - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to ring ouzel:

Thanks also. Haven't got any more lined up but, as long as people like reading them, I'll write them!

Writing is a very lonely existence. Years ago I wrote a management book which went into 25 or so countries. Apart from reviews, I never had any feedback, so had no idea whether it had helped people or not. (Hopefully it did.)

The great thing about this place is that it's interactive, there's a far greater sense of dialogue.

Mick
ring ouzel on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: What was it called Mick? I might have read it.
petemeads - on 27 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Thanks Mick, another great article. Pretty much as I remembered it in my era. Used to look forward to Pete Livesey's articles in the mags, trying to decide which routes had protection & thus within reach...
Mick Ward - on 28 Jan 2011
In reply to ring ouzel:

Sorry for the delay in replying. '50 Essential Management Techniques'. A typical publisher's title - hardly essential but hopefully useful. I'd have probably called it '50 Useful Management Concepts' - not as sexy.

I've always felt that, without relevant concepts, we're left swimming in our experience, rather than progressing. On a route, a relevant concept might be a knee-bar or deep breathing or an Eygptian. In management, it might be Zipf's Law or the principle of recursion or the Johari Window. They can all help.

Mick

Mick Ward - on 28 Jan 2011
In reply to petemeads:

Praise indeed from one who was there! Thank you. Have just been looking at your 1978 photo of Andy Parkin in the Valley, sporting his trademark grin. Happy days.

Mick
Offwidth - on 28 Jan 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: Didn't John Sherman have some stuff on Jim Holloway in one of his books? Might be this one:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=5PW1XYtfRQ0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=stone+crusade+by+john...
Offwidth - on 28 Jan 2011
ice.solo - on 28 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

nice article.

good effort linking photos to the text - some of us have no idea what these places look like. nice to see.

if i may, just 3 things:

wolfgang contributed a lot more to training than just the campus board. if anything he (and edlinger) introduced the whole concept of athleticism with training a huge part of it.

no mention of twight, the guy who took the next step in popularizing training to the masses.

be nice to see a bit more about the yosemite scene in the 80s (hubers etc) when dieting and gymnastic training went haywire as guys pushed mega routes combined with experimental gear.

but im pedantic.
fun read, thanks heaps.
peter beal - on 29 Jan 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:
The best source for info about Holloway is an interview in Climbing:

http://www.climbing.com/community/perspective/holloway/

I have been talking with John quite a bit recently in conjunction with a book I am publishing on bouldering. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these conversations is the degree to which John disavowed difficulty as his main goal. Control and style were always at the heart of his bouldering.
Mick Ward - on 29 Jan 2011
In reply to ice.solo:

Glad you enjoyed it and thank you for your feedback. Hopefully I didn't sell Wolfgang Gullich too short 'The training supremo was Gullich, who took climbing to F9a with his first ascent of the world-famous Action Direct.' But maybe I have and, if so, my apologies. In terms of grade increase I regard him as the most significant rock-climber in history. And, although I never met him, everyone who did has said what a great guy he was: which, to me, is also important.

Twight - Doctor Death himself! I think he needs an article all to his own (preferably by someone who can climb ice.)

I agree about stuff in the Valley (Hubers - 90s and beyond - me being pedantic too!) but it needs a different writer (Kev Thaw perhaps).

I just tried to give a sense of where training came from and how it's changed the way we perceive climbing. It's not comprehensive and I must have left dozens of deserving people out. There's absolutely no offence intended. For instance, I'd love to do an interview with Al Manson and Pete Kitson.

There are so many great stories in climbing. Because this medium is interactive, they have a greater chance of being heard and enjoyed by so many.

mick
Mick Ward - on 29 Jan 2011
In reply to peter beal:

Thank you for putting this on. It's a superb interview. As with Gill, there's a real sense of Holloway's spirit.

'Be serious about what you do, but don't let it consume you. If you one day become disabled, like me, you’ll miss the fun with your friends much, much, more than a piece of rock, trust me.'

Wise words.

Good luck with your book. Weren't you around way back in the '80s in the Poly gym? I bet you thought it never stops raining in England.

Mick
rubben - on 02 Feb 2011
In reply to UKC Articles: Great article Mick, cheers!
PeterJuggler - on 07 Feb 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: Concerning the photo of Gill in this article at Pennyrile Forest. I doubt he's holding that position (although I'm sure he could). One of the things that Gill pioneered was dynamic climbing.
Mick Ward - on 07 Feb 2011
In reply to Juggler13:

Dynamic or otherwise, it's an odd position. I can't imagine ever being able to hold it. And, if I remember correctly, there were other examples in 'Master of Rock' where Gill magically seemed able to defy gravity.

Mick
John2 - on 07 Feb 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: Pat Ament's film shows him ascending a severely overhanging boulder by repeating the move shown in the photo six or eight times - it almost looks as if he is performing the front crawl swimming stroke.
Mick Ward - on 07 Feb 2011
In reply to John2:

All that I can surmise is that it's gymnastics related power/technique. Through living in Yorkshire in the 1970s I had a chance to see most (not all!) of the best UK climbers. Brilliant as they were, they didn't seem to possess this extra gymnastic something. And, from what I can see, neither do people today.

In the early 80s I climbed with a guy called Wynn who had been a very good competitive gymnast. He could climb English 6c very quickly, when this really was cutting edge. As could Tim Freeman, a mate of Jerry's, who is the only person I've seen doing front levers. Tim could do them seemingly effortlessly.

Mick
JIB - on 12 Feb 2011
In reply to Mick Ward: Hi Mick, many thanks for publishing the article! Came to it after scanning UKC for training information, a while after a session at AWCC with David Hooper; David was eulogising about the way in which you trained when I caught up with him in the UK recently. Great stuff!
Wee Davie - on 12 Feb 2011
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great article. Keep them coming Mick.

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