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Archive for the ‘Kayaking’ Category

Five Keys to Improving Your Ice Climbing Skills

March 18th, 2009

The conditions continue to be great for climbing up in northern New England, so I’ve delayed my long weekend training for the upcoming triathlons to take advantage of some ice. We ended up back at the Flume, hoping to catch a climb at the Pool called Swain’s Pillar, a 4+ climb, but unfortunately it is exposed in the sun and got baked out (not to mention the riverbed was exposed). It would have been a great climb had it been in since you need to be lowered to it and climb up a nice ice pillar. As a result, we hiked around to the main crag at the Flume and climbed some grade 3 ice (which is normally grade 4, but given the warm temps and soft ice, it was more like a 3). We found an ice cave along the way (see videos below).

While climbing (and often times battling) up the climbs this weekend at the Flume, I got thinking about what it takes to improve your ice climbing skills. I think it boils down to five main things:

1. Natural ability– okay, this is something that is out of your control, but there’s no doubt if if you are a natural athlete and a natural climber, you will be a better climber. There are things you can do to fine tune your natural ability, which is where the next four come into play.

2. Practice, practice, practice– I firmly believe how you progress is a function of how often you go. The more you go, the better you become. This seems like a no-brainer, but climbing is one of those things that takes coordination and planning to do, so you need to be focused in terms of when you’re going to go. If you go once a week, don’t expect to see much improvement. Twice a week is much better, allowing the muscles a chance to adapt and you to work on your skills.

3. Rock climbing– You will only get better at ice climbing if you rock climb. With rock climbing, you cannot make your own holds, and you are forced to think about your moves and get your body into the right sequence. These skills are directly transferable to ice climbing, particularly on harder, more sustained and/or mixed routes.

4. Strength training– Climbing itself will allow you to become stronger, but you need to supplment it with a regular regiment of strength training. You don’t have to load on the weight, but rather work on more power movements that simulate climbing. It’s not about bulking up, but rather building explosive power.

5. Mental skills– Climbing more than any other sport perhaps, is a mental game. The reasons should be obvious– you’re dealing with a number of conditions that aren’t natural for humans all at once– being up high, ice in your face, getting balance and moving upward, often times extreme cold and wind, among other things. This requires you to tune your mind to deal with the adversity and remain focused.

Certainly there are other things that you can do to improve your ice climbing skills, but at an individual level, these are the main five.

It’s Fun to Explore from Your Armchair Sometimes

February 25th, 2009

Last night I attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s World Tour 2009, in it’s local stop at the Regent’s Theater in the Boston area. Attending the film festival is an annual event for me. It’s absolutely fantastic and reminds me of why I love adventure and the outdoors. Sometimes it’s fun to explore the outdoors as an armchair warrior. You get to kick back and see what crazy, fun and inspirational stuff people out there are doing. There were a number of films shown worth mentioning, but my favorites were “Psyche: Patagonian Winter“, by Andy Kirkpatrick and Ian Parnell, two British climbers who attempted to climb Torre Egger during the winter in Argentina’s Patagonia. Below is a short trailer.

Their story reminded me of my expeditions to South America, and the harshness of climbing at altitude. I never attempted anything quite as difficult as Torre Egger, but had similar experiences that they had with severe weather, being grounded at camp, dealing with health issues, among other things. One of the things that struck me most was their positive attitude throughout their experience. Mountaineering, like triathlon and other endurance sports is very much a mental game and having a positive attitude makes or breaks your experience.

Another of my favorites was “The Last Frontier: Conservation and Exploration in Papua New Gineau”. Below is a short trailer.

This film in support of Rivers in Demand, told the story of a group of American kayakers and conservationists, led by Trip Jennings, who kayaked one of the world’s last unexplored river’s in New Britain, Papau New Gineau. Besides the amazing white water and scenery, what made this film so special was the emphasis on local cultures and the importance of saving those cultures and the world’s critical ecosystems. I should also point out, another cool thing was that the kayakers in the film were using tents supplied by Nemo Equipment, owned and operated by my friend Cam Bremsinger. It was great to see the tents in the footage.

If you have an opportunity, get out and see these films, and explore some of the great film, literature, and other art coming out of the Banff Centre up in Canada. You’ll carry the inspiration into your own workouts and every day life.