Petestack Blog

24 September 2009

Yes, I have arthritic fingers!

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 7:26 pm

Some more trouble with my aching and increasingly strange-looking fingers (see July’s Upside-down post) and I’m thinking maybe it’s time to seek a professional opinion. So I took them to Chris Ellis today, with the result being confirmation of my suspicion that they’re getting arthritic. Probably, given the amount of climbing I’m doing and non-continuous nature of my climbing past, exacerbated (rather than caused) by climbing. And probably also therefore (to quote/paraphrase Chris) ‘involving an element of bad luck’.

So Chris pointed me at some useful material on the web, we discussed the implications and I came home happy enough to have a definite diagnosis ruling out the kinds of other finger injuries that could prove more instantly traumatic when climbing. Because, let’s be quite clear about this, it doesn’t mean no more climbing although it might well affect route choice (think I’m possibly already over-gripping on the kind of steeper, more fingery routes I’m looking to improve on) and how I manage it. And probably isn’t great news long term for either my hobbies or my day job.

That said, you know where I’m heading tonight?

(Clue, two words, something like cl*mb*ng w*ll!)


20 September 2009

The Torridon ‘Meet’

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 10:20 pm

With the thoroughly deserved but all-too-short little Indian summer that followed weeks of rain looking like it might just last into this weekend, switching theĀ Polldubh Club‘s second weekend meet from some lowland outcrops to the stunning north-west setting of Torridon seemed like a good bet. But the weather was already on the turn, and only Johnny MacLeod, Ed & Rona Grindley and I made it north in the end.

Since Saturday was compromised by regular showers and fresh, cold winds, Seana Mheallan proved to be the wrong choice of venue for Johnny and me. So, while it didn’t take long to identify The Deerstalker (VS) and Route with a View (HVS) as more amenable targets than Dave MacLeod’s recent Kolus, Kelvinator and Present Tense (E8 6c, E8 6c and E9 7a respectively!), we ended up retreating (without doing them) to the pleasant Inveralligin Sea Cliffs, where we soloed a number of easier routes with Johnny taking on some interesting-looking Severes including Post-Op on The Skull buttress and me sticking to the V Diffs and below.

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An interesting evening’s entertainment followed, with Ed and Rona arriving at the Torridon campsite minutes after we left it to look for them and both parties heading to Shieldaig on hunches to look for each other before finally meeting up at The Torridon Inn for a good dinner, drinks and chat.

And so to today, when we all headed for the glorious gneiss outcrops at Diabaig to climb the impeccable HVS Route Two some 34 years after Ed made the first ascent with Allan Austin. An absolutely brilliant, sustained 75m trip taking the obvious line up the centre of this superb crag, with a steeply exciting first pitch giving way to a slightly more slabby second that’s more my ‘style’ and I’m now thinking I could/should have led. So it rained first thing and it rained later, but we got the breaks, snatched the prize and surely all had a good day out!

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13 September 2009

Damnation or redemption?

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 9:32 pm

Today I was climbing with Johnny at Polldubh, where we also had the good fortune to bump into Ed and Rona.

First up was my personal bogey route of Damnation (VS), which I first seconded (without drama) back in 1990 but have been falling off on the lead ever since (NB I exaggerate, because today’s single fall only means that I’ve fallen off it three times out of three when leading)! And I basically had it, with both hands on the crucial block above the overhang and my feet in the right place, before effectively just letting go for a silly fall and cruising it second go. So is it still my bogey route? Who knows, but probably not because I really shouldn’t have come off at all today and redemption is hopefully at hand ‘next time’…

After that Johnny led Maintenance on Pine Wall Crag, which goes at a soft HVS 5a (it’s really just 4c and probably just VS) and had been a target of mine for some time. And then we did a possible new route at about Diff (or maybe just V Diff) that Johnny’s been cleaning and might or might not have something to do with the rarely-climbed Dead Pine or Why (on which note, the jury’s still out after checking the original 1970 Schwartz/Wright guide and 1978 Schwartz follow-up). At which point we met Ed and Rona on their way to attempt a new route Ed’s been cleaning up on Black’s Buttress, and were invited to join them.

So, while Ed finished the cleaning, Johnny led Ed’s recent Seven Fours (a really good route!) to the left of Shergar at E1 5a and I led the excellent (once you’ve got off the ground and past the weep that could just explain its name) VS Crybaby before we all followed Ed up his new E3 5c with various degrees of style of which none (especially mine) came close to the poise necessary for Ed to lead this serious route in the first place. So do I feel I’ve really even seconded E3? Nope, I wouldn’t claim that but, in spite of frigging things a little, I seem to have made my first 5c moves (along with some sustained 5b) without undue drama, and am still happy to have been included in the fun! :-)

Before signing off for this post, I must say what a difference the recent tree felling has made to the Alp area (SW, Pine Wall and Styx Buttress) and how nice it is to be able to see all the routes on all the crags. So well done to all involved with that.

12 September 2009

I believed in antelopes

Filed under: Running — admin @ 11:00 pm

So (after weeks of rain) we’ve got a glorious September Saturday, my arrangement to climb with Isi doesn’t seem to have worked out, the mower’s been returned to the shed in disgrace (won’t start), the rose on my weedkiller can is broken and I’m needing to get outside and do something…

So how about a proper hill run, and let’s see if Chris Ellis’s hamstring treatment is still working as well as it appeared to be last night (when I managed a 3.9 mile ‘Mamore Loop’ with no problems and, in what strikes me as a propitious omen, bumped into Chris at my very gate on the way home).

So (trying to set a record for the number of consecutive paragraphs legitimately starting with ‘so’?) I took the path with the monumental zig and zag up Coire na Ba to Na Gruagaichean and Binnein Mor, returning by Sgor Eilde Beag and An Cumhann for a total of 10.7 miles and 4,900 feet of ascent in just over 3 hrs 14 mins. Which might seem disappointing for a round I reckon should go in under 3 hours if fully fit but, at close to ‘double Naismith’ pace, isn’t really that bad for some afternoon/evening hamstring-rehabilitation fun.

So (don’t go there!) perhaps both legs were just starting to cramp a little as I got home, but I could hardly feel the hamstring. And I was disciplined about doing the stretches and icing, although I might point out that:

  1. I’ve never been a great stretcher, tending to agree (or wanting to agree) with Bernd Heinrich’s charming quote (see foot of post) about antelopes stretching, but have to say it’s so obvious that Chris’s stretches are working that I’m not only going to keep doing them but would probably boil my head as well if Chris told me that would improve my fitness!
  2. Clingfilming nappy bags of icy slush to your thigh isn’t just that easy, but sitting them on your chair seems to work well enough…

Had I remembered while writing Thursday’s post, I’d probably have added that Chris also gave me some instruction in cross-massaging the affected fibres and told me pulling my computer chair round my classroom with my feet was good for strengthening hamstrings. So what happens when the next pupil trying that one (NB we have other computer chairs so they don’t have to take mine!) has the audacity to excuse him/herself with ‘but, Sir, I was just strengthening my hamstrings’? ;-)

Must add that I’ve been finding the Memory-Map elevation and altitude profiles (from Memory-Map and Garmin Forerunner 305 data respectively) for my tracks quite interesting, with the negligible differences between them suggesting that, at least on open ground and real hills, the much-supposed inaccuracy/exaggeration of the GPS altitude readings is simply not a significant issue.

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Have also arranged to go climbing at Polldubh with Johnny MacLeod tomorrow, so hopefully making the most of this cracking weekend that could yet (if some forecasts have it right) be the start of a mini Indian summer. But, before I sign off for tonight, here’s that favourite Heinrich passage that I’ll never be able to quote with quite my previous conviction again:

I also believe in antelopes. They would not have missed a trick when it comes to running speed and endurance. I had never seen or heard of an antelope who was flexible and did stretching, or who lifted weights for extra strength. I had never heard of one doing much more than eating and running.

From Why We Run (Bernd Heinrich, 2001)

10 September 2009


Filed under: Running — admin @ 7:48 pm

Having been plagued by this persistent hamstring niggle all year when running (not so far an issue for climbing or walking) and seen it get obviously worse over the past fortnight, I went to see Chris Ellis (highly-regarded sports-specialist partner in our local GP practice) about it today. And no-one listening would have been in much doubt that I let Chris know when he’d located the troublesome spot!

So it might be a pain (and now the most persistent annoyance of my five years as a serious runner), but luckily things aren’t looking that bad yet. He’s given me some sensible hamstring stretches to do, told me to watch it uphill and not to sprint (not that I ever do)… and suggested a treatment involving nappy bags, clingfilm and slushy ice! And, since he’s also told me I can still run and West Highland Way Race 2010 is still realistic, I suppose I’d better just do what I’m told and make sure to follow his instructions…

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