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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Newton Roolz

Ye cannae change the laws of physics.
Scotty, The Enterprise

A few years ago in the face of some apple based inspiration Newton came up with a handful of rules regarding the operation of the world around us and, with the exception of the weirdness that occurs when you look at very small things, these rules have remain pretty much unchanged. Which is nice, but what's this got to do with climbing?

Well I'll tell you. Often when someone (usually but not exclusively Mr Dawes) performs some mind-bending feat of climbing it is described as if the individual was “at one with the rock” or “as if the laws of physics don't apply”. It's all very inspiring sounding but in terms of learning and improving your own climbing pretty much valueless. Nobody can cheat the laws of physics, there are two elements to climbing:

Your biology which will limit what your body can do

The laws of physics which will limit what a body with your biology can climb

So when somebody out-climbs you it's not because they are “at one with the rock” but because they are doing something which you are not. It may be something as basic as they are stronger than you, or it could be a minor positional tweak (their flagging foot is 5cm further left than yours giving them a more balanced position). But whatever the difference is it certainly is not their oneness with the rock (or any other equally meaningless flim-flam). If you want to improve don't accept that a better climber than you is “just better”, work out what the difference is and then you have a weakness to address. And don't fall into the trap of thinking it's just because they are stronger, that may well be the case but it often isn't (more often than most people realise...).

Having said all the above lets not completely remove the romance from climbing. I've had days when the sun has been shining, it's been cold and crisp, the crag has been deserted and a flurry of soloing has gone effortlessly and as I sit on the crag top drinking my cup of tea with the dog lying at my feet I will think back to how a few minutes ago I was climbing at one with the rock. Because after all when the analysis and training is complete who doesn't deserve a little inspirational flim-flam back-patting?

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