I knew I should have slotted in a session at Arch North between Christmas and New Year. Because the first week of January slipped by to become the second and now here I am struggling up a V3 with my winter stomach providing a bulge more difficult to work round than any of the volumes on the wall!
It’s amazing how quickly you lose climbing condition – particularly as you get older. I check with my climbing partner Matthew (who at 51 is even older than me) and he confirms that all those grunting and sweating most profusely around us are also of parental age, whereas the under 25s are cruising up the white or green routes with their usual effortless grace.
To paraphrase Ruby Wax – life is cruel; it takes months to get fit and days to get fat.
Not that I’m particularly bothered about my appearance. Being blind it’s been a long time since I last saw my reflection in a mirror! – but I do take pride in my climbing and get frustrated when a route I know is within my capabilities defeats me because I’ve overindulged or under-trained during the past few weeks.
As my fingers slide from a yellow crimp to send me thudding for a third time into the mat, I consider that the chalk ball I received for Christmas is scant mitigation for all the butterball turkey I ate.
But then as Matthew reminds me, remember how much worse it was in the days before we had indoor climbing walls – something the under-25s will never have to suffer.
Back then, unless you were into ice-climbing or had the time and money to go to a crag in the sun, the dark days of winter stretched interminably from mid-October till early-April. And the only way of maintaining climbing fitness was at the gym – which was fine for strength but did little for technique…and it was boring!
How well I remember those brutal first trips of the year; dogging up some still damp VDiff as if it was Longhope because the muscle memory and the mental agility you need to climb decently had dissipated during my months off. Back then it would take at least a couple of frustrating weekends and the goodwill of the British weather to get back into any kind of form at all.
Thank goodness for indoor bouldering centres! Now all I have to do is hop on the tube and head to Arch North, or The Biscuit Factory, and within a week I’ll have worked off the Christmas excess, ensuring that none of what I learnt or perfected last year is lost for lack of practice.
So now my only problem is trying to decide which of the climbs on our wish-list Matthew and I will work towards conquering this year, when the weather is good enough to get back outdoors again? I’m thinking something Scottish and coastal….