28 November 2010
On my main blog I just added the video above about a new 8b I did in Glen Nevis. It was climbed in temperatures of Minus 2 or 3 with a light breeze. I thought it would be a good idea to write a post about working around the cold for doing redpoints like this. The tactics are fairly simple:
1 Start off very warm. Make sure you wear enough clothing so you arrive at the crag at the point of overheating. This way, by the time you’ve faffed and put your gear on, you’ll be at the right temperature to start climbing, instead of freezing already and ripe for an injury or at least a cold pump. If there's no walk-in, you'll have to go for a good 10 minute run in your duvet instead, even if you just got out of a warm car.
2 Warm up on the project. Go bolt to bolt, still dressed in your warm clothes. Make sure you finish by doing a medium difficulty link that gets a bit of a pump on and leaves you feeling a little overheated.
3 Lower down and don’t stand still. It doesn’t matter (for most people anyway) how big your duvet jacket is, if you stand still in the cold for any length of time, you’ll struggle to keep warm enough muscles and fingers to go for your redpoint. Ideally your light pump will have been recovered from after about 15 minutes. During that time don’t stop - get everything ready, blow on your hands, run and jump around. And then get your shoes back on and go for it. You don’t want your heart rate to drop towards resting at all in the whole session.
4 If you do need to stand still, usually to belay. You’ll need to fully warm your body up again. Walk off for a good ten minutes and then power back up the hill to arrive at the crag really hot. By the time you have your shoes on and tied in you’ll be set. Jumping around at the crag to re-warm doesn’t usually cut it. It follows that sport climbing sessions in the cold are much better done in blocks, i.e. Your partner belays you for a whole session with warm-up and redpoints before switching and they re-warm by walking somewhere else for their session. It’s pretty hard to do it swapping belays without a lot of aerobic work in between.
5 Hands - They’ll start off warm from a gloved and duvet clad walk-in. Keeping a warm core is by far the biggest thing you can do to stop them getting too cold and to rescue them if they do. Ideally you don’t want to have gloves on after your warm-up because it’ll soften your fingertips too much. Instead, keep the heart going and jam your hands in your roasting hot armpits to keep them warm before you go for the redpoint. If they aren’t roasting hot, go back to point 4. If it’s short route (like 15 metres) you’ll be fine, but any longer or with a shake out during the redpoint and numb fingers will be a problem even if you started off with hot hands. A ‘teabag’ style handwarmer in your chalk bag is often enough, and was used in the video above. Make sure you open it at the start of the session as they take a good while to reach maximum temperature. You might want to supplement it with the armpit treatment on your shake out if it’s a really good rest.
So, nothing complicated really. Where people go wrong is they just cant resist the temptation to stand still if they start to feel cold, or they go for a jog but not nearly for long enough. Enjoy your cold rock sessions!