Thursday, December 05, 2019

Rock Climbing Masterclass

In the weekend that spans the start of December and with snow on the ground in Chamonix I joined  a group of my colleagues from the British Mountain Guides in Finale Liguria for a Steve McClure Master Class.
Steve McClure is considered one of the top rock climbers in the world having climbed  sport routes of 9b.  Plus traditional graded British climbs of E11.  Equally important he has gained a reputation as a renowned climbing coach.

Yet I was more than slightly sceptical that as a confirmed Alpinist straight from the school of anything goes as long as it's up I might be out of my depth.

The mover and shaker and general all round motivator for the trip , Mike Turner [Twid] said I would be just fine, and would learn a lot and it would improve my climbing technique and make me better able to coach climbing movement at all levels of ability.

Four of us drove down to Finale on the Friday evening and as we got closer we started  getting very excited about the beer and pizza's we would soon be enjoying.  This was not without factoring in the collapse of the autostrada this time  just out side Savona.  We arrived three hours later than planned.

Friday night in the piazza.  about 30c below summer temperatures.

The next morning all 14 of us convened for an introductory talk from Steve  where he was keen to state that unfortunately there would be no "Silver Bullet" in terms of a short cut to higher climbing grades.  I was disappointed to learn this so early on.  Anyway we then all headed out to one of the many local crags Finale has to offer.
Steve Mcclure
The aim of the day was to watch us all climb and then to give feed back individually.  While this , for me, was quite intimidating it was also illuminating.  The key things for me was I climbed too quickly and appeared rushed- The aim should be to slow all the movements down, try and be  a lot smoother and enjoy the movement of climbing.

Cathy Murphy climbs into the sunshine.
We climbed to about 5.00pm forgetting that in November it gets dark at around 4.30pm.

On the Sunday the weather was not Mediterranean.  It was lashing it down.  So we had to do what you would do in the UK - head for the climbing wall.

In fact as it turned out this was the ideal place for Steve to deliver his seminar and drill down on a lot of the coaching techniques.

In the morning Steve devised several different boulder problems.  This was probably the most eye opening part of the whole programme.  The group of Mountain Guides had some very talented climbers, climbers who operate at the cutting edge of the sport.  Even the best could not do all the problems.  Steve could do all the problems in his training shoes...

The afternoon was dedicated to profiling and isolating our strengths and weaknesses in an objective quantifiable set of tests.

These started from simple  things like press ups, then tests for finger strength with on arm weighted hangs

Tests for shoulder strength

Tests for maximum endurance
Leg strength and flexibility
Plus a load of other tests such as weighted pull ups.  ie what is the maximum amount of weight you can carry while  completing  a pull-up?

This information was then used in a feed back form that identified if you want to improve your grade to say 7a then you need to work on XYZ.

So for me the tests revealed that although I was quite strong, in the sense I could carry bags of coal, I was comparatively "climbing weak" and I would have to work on climbing specific strength training starting with my finger strength. Plus a list of other stuff which was rather too long.

It was a fascinating couple of days . More information about Steve McClure coaching can be found on his website.

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