Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Some stupid things I've done as "training"

We'll I recently posted an article on training for alpine climbing here in oz (apparently its to go in the next canberra climbers 'runout' newsletter - I didn't think it was very good, I hope people like it. Anyway before I first went to New Zealand I hadn't yet figured out all that stuff, It was more that wehn I got back I thought "wow If I had have done that I would have been better prepared in NZ"

However I have always done some sort of training I suppose.

When I started climbing my ultimate goal was to do a big wall, as far as I could work out from reading about adventures, the hardest things anyone was doing were those huge remote bigwalls. Names like Polar Sun Spire, Great Trango and the Torres del Paine fired my Imagination. I didn't know anything about aid climbing, but one thing all the trip reports I read agreed upon was that load hauling sucked. Right..... I figured I'd get really good at humping loads. First I used to fill my big backpack with 40kg of rice and go hiking, I must have looked quite a sight. When I got my hands on my first pig, I would fill it up with lots of heavy crap and go for a walk, just strolling around with a 140litre haul bag on my back! Well it did suck and it probably did terrible things to my spine, but I persisted in doing this at least twice a week for some months.

I was also convinced that the more crap one took on any trip, the tougher you were. Thes 'fast and lite' folks were idiots, as far as I was concerned, real men went for 2 day bushwalks with 90 litre packs (and made sure they were full) I guess I got a workout, but it all seems kindof silly looking back on it, although In retrospect I think it did me some good, as now I'm pretty good at carrying haul bags.


After a while I read about this mysterious thing called "alpine style" These guys seemed to do similarly ridicoulous things as the big wall guys except they didn't carry these huge loads (well at least I didn't need to be fit I thought, how wrong I was) anyway ther thing that kept cropping up was miserable bivouacs, almost to the point that it seemed the best way to judge a climber was how miserable a bivouac he had suffered through. I figured I could train for this too.

I didn't have a portaledge but it seemed the tough old guys slept in hammocks, so I got a nice hammock, strung it up on the Narrabundah College Climbing wall, tied in and slept. That was all fine, I had a sleeping bag and it was really pretty comfortable. Then about 2 years ago (after I had been over to New Zealand) a guide over there had told me how he'd sat out a snowstorm on El Cap sitting on his haul bag.

Sounds pretty sick I thought.

So back to the Narrabundah climbing wall (its an outdoor wall in canberra) in the middle of winter, this time equipped with a haul bag and a belay seat. Me and marcus managed an hour, then swapped over and tried another hour. It was impossible, in these situations you don't sleep you just wait for the dawn to come. 2 hours later we decided we weren't learning anything except that you want avoid these situations, so we escaped home to cups of tea.

Since then I have spent many an crappy night in a bivi sack, though I now just go skiing without enough gear, as If you practice for a bad nights sleep and there is a comfortable alternative, you tend to give in and head for your real bed!

I think in hindsight there is little to be gained from spending a night shivering waiting for the dawn, but a lot to learn from trying to remain comfortable with the minimum gear possible.

I don't really think anyone needs to do any of these things, if you are getting out on trip that push your limits often enough, you will get these experiences whether you want them or not. I just needed to do these things as a 16 year old wanting to do something to get better at adventure, without being able to go and have real adventures (sleeping a night in a hammock on a 10m high wall felt like quite an epic at 16!)

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