Category Archives: Climbing

At my local training facility big with a few different angles to go at...

Old Dogs New Tricks – Day 27 – The Training #1- Slow and steady…

It’s been about two weeks since I started Tom’s program and I thought I’d give it all time to breathe before I put down my thoughts about my first ever training plan.

But let’s rewind…

I had made my challenge: to climb 8b+ before I turned 50 (giving me a year) and Tom Randall (maybe out of pity) had agreed to help. So I dutifully turned up at his Lattice board training facility and put myself through what turned out to be a pretty gruelling test. 

The easy bit of the test...

The easy bit of the test…

So when Tom handed me my plan about a week after I my test I was initially a bit taken aback…there were reams of paper and those kind of things I normally back away from…but also there didn’t seem that much to do. So I played at it for a day or so getting my head into gear – seeing how the facilities I had matched up to the program; trying to get used to the idea of being indoors a lot more that I had been and looking at my week and planning (something I’m not great at!).

Back to school...

Back to school…

Then came the phone call: I needed to clear a bunch of stuff up with Tom and after leafing the sheets and doing a few of the exercises i had some (as they turned out to be) stupid questions!!

First question: ‘After I finish my day’s set training can I train?’

Now this may sound like a stupid question but I after I had done the first exercise on the list for ‘Conti’ I wasn’t tired…so what’s a boy to do?

Train hard…that’s the thing isn’t it, get trashed…go home tired!! The answer…a resounding no…’We’re building a base, you need to get the basics in place before  you can get onto the strengthening and power sessions.’


Second question: ‘In which case can I go and try my projects’…
A sigh and a second ‘No’ and ‘We’re building a base…etc etc etc’ Then the concession…’Ok you can climb but only up to 7a/7a+’…and then gently – like he was talking to a small child rather than a 50 year old child – ‘Richie, we’re building something, we need to lay the foundations…if you’re body isn’t ready when you try to train hard it’ll fall apart…sound familiar?’

And it did sound familiar, the tearing of fingers, the tightening of muscles leading to spasms which stop you for a week…or two…the distant memory of various physios marvelling at how my twisted and knotted body still functioned…

‘Ok’ I conceded a lightbulb slowly turning on in my convoluted all-action bull-in-a-china-shop mind…’slow and steady wins the race’

Let’s see how that goes…!



Old Dogs New Tricks – Day 11 – Man with a plan (and a folder)

Sunday 7th Feb – Day 13  (Unlucky for some)

So after plugging in my results, checking out the answers to my questionnaire, (and stopping guffawing at my insane goal), Tom sent my training plan through on Thursday. But having only given it a once over on Friday morning I only got down to studying it to day.

It’s a hefty spereadsheet filled with coloured boxes and the next thirteen weeks of my life marked out. It’s a new world for me and the biggest shock is that I actually have be proactive and plan my weeks – it seems obvious in retrospect but I was hoping that everything would be laid out on a plate!!! I suppose however, great a trainer Tom is he can’t know when I have the time spare to actually train…

Back to school...

Back to school…

The other part that I have to consider (and didn’t think about) is planning for the activities – I need to make traverses and problems of the required standard for the various activities: AnCap, EnCap, Split Continuity (whatever those are) And the downside of living out in the countryside next to the crags is that there’s no climbing wall nearby to quickly jump on pre-set routes of the required grade.

So Sunday was spent fiddling around at my local wall playing with holds, trying to figure out what a 6b traverse on a verticalish wall is and generally trying to get back into the indoor swing of things. It’s been a long time since I have done anything indoors and it’s all a bit confusing…and hateful!! LOL

Anyway a little confused but plenty psyched I now have a training folder and an iron will to do myself proud – the first statement is a little more true than the second!!!

I’ll be calling Tom to fill me in on the ins and outs and it’s session time Starting Monday!!!

This is for me to remember everyday:

My body's going to be in trouble...

My body’s going to be in trouble…

Thanks to for the laugh..I’ll need it!!

Happy, surprised and and psyched: Old Dogs New Tricks Day 5 #2 – The Results

In the end my results from my bruising test (see Blog here) were delayed a bit longer as Tom and I went down to the Schoolroom to talk to Ben Moon and for Tom to have the chance show me a few key exercises on the TRX etc before I had to head back to Spain.

It was interesting to hear Ben’s take on it all. He’d been in the same position as me about 24 months ago – getting himself up off the sofa (not literally like me) to jump right back into the world of hurt that is top-end climbing. Ben being Ben he ended up with a 9a ascent. Slightly more than I was aiming for and his grade jump was probably less than mine but in a lot of ways I felt that what he’d done was similar.

His take was very simple – he loved it and he missed it and because of that it was no hardship to start training. Ben had always trained and trained hard – and methodically. This time was slightly different as he’d approached Tom to try and get him an edge: his goal was in sight but eluding him, could Tom’s input give him the vital few % that he needed?

Chatting to Ben at the Schoolroom..

Chatting to Ben at the Schoolroom..

Naturally Ben loved training and so he wasn’t phased by the work; Tom had added some volume and he was struggling with time but his advice to me was simple – enjoy it and put the time in and you’ll see the rewards. As he knew me well he also added the caveat of avoiding injury and taking it steady – he’d seen my ‘bull in a chinashop’ personality up-close a few times and was keen to point out that slow and steady wins the race!!

So, plucking up courage I asked him the $64,000 question; would I get up my 8b+?

Another smile, another hesitation, and another slightly embarrassed silence followed (much like that of Steve McClure); then Ben, sounding like he was trying to convince himself, came out with an elongated ‘Yes’…a yes which to all intents and purposes sounded like a no…However, Ben did firm his yes up and was a bit more positive but repeated the caveats of injury and overenthusiasm before tailing off.

I hadn’t climbing with Ben in 15 years so it was great watching him in action again, seeing how much effort he put in and as ever he was strong and smooth on the board as he sent a set of intervals. Jealous!

Heading back to Tom’s I sat about as he fiddled the figures eventually pulling up my ‘dashboard’ – a summary of my results in the form of a series of ‘speedometer’ like dials. Tom smiled as I looked at them, realising by my face that I was pleased with how they looked but had no idea what they meant.


I asked him to help – and to summarise for a layman. Cracking a smile he told me that the best summary was just to say that the results were better than he thought the would be and that, in his opinion I had the basic materials in place to climb around 8b/8b+ with a bunch of training. There was no obvious weakpoint, no trapdoor, which my body had set – even my stamina which I thought of as terrible wasn’t that bad.

Happy, surprised and  and psyched I felt some relief too. I had thought that I wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t get back there but it was good to have it confirmed. Flushed I pushed Tom for his view on my chances; and he said that I could do it.

Pushing harder I asked what chance he’d give me, ‘put a number on it’ I said – unblinking he thought for a minute and softly replied 25%…

Old Dogs New Tricks – The 8b+ Challenge – I am a 49 year old climber who is trying to better myself by trying to climbing 8b+ from my carrent grade of 7b+ in the year before my 50th birthday. 

See more here

Bruised, battered, but happy – Old Dogs New Tricks Day 5 – The Test

Waking up too stiff to move I have just realised how much work is ahead of me.

My challenge – to climb 8b+ in the 360 days before I am 50 from my current grade of about 7b+ – rests on my ability to try hard enough and Tom Randall’s ability to set me a program. Yesterday, during Tom’s unique, specialised test procedure (giving him the information he needs to set me a program) I cottoned on to the fact that I may have to try a bit harder than I was hoping.

The first test, deadhanging with weight or assistance, was OK and he figured that I hadn’t moved too far from a very rough test he did on me a few years ago while I was actually bouldering a bit.

Style strength and contrast Mcclure vs Patterson

Style strength technique…compare and contrast Mcclure vs Patterson

However, the second, a series of circuits on his ‘Lattice Board’, designed to test aerobic and anaerobic activity and other things was brutal. Increasingly pumped with forearms and fingers screaming I struggled to complete laps then struggled to complete moves. Each move isn’t difficult (as Steve McClure put it it’s ‘E6 2A’) but once you’ve done a ‘maximum’ the next series which Tom puts you through, with what seems like progressively smaller rests, start to hurt.

On the Lattice Board

On the Lattice Board with Tom shouting it out…I was proud of my 72 moves…first go!

I was pleased with my first go and I posted what I felt was a reasonable number of moves. But then came the repeaters. Tom sent me off again with a target he’d set (a % of the first go) and again this went OK. But with two minutes rest the third ‘lap’ started to hurt….and the fourth lap really hurt, I started counting each move out loud to give me an edge.

And suddenly what I was also noticing was that there was a psychological element creeping in. How hard am I willing to try…how much do I want it….how long do you put up with the pump…one more move? two more moves? Five more moves?

The last go was really hard, like setting off on a repoint immediately after getting a solid good go. Counting again, 15,16,17…each move harder than the last…then legs not going where you want them to wrong feet causing more pump…32,33,34…then boom!! Sagging onto the mat breathing hard arms unable to move, bust but happy!!

Strangely enough it was nice to be pushed, to be taunted by Tom’s stick which moved like a metronome in front of me. ‘Up, left, right, down’ Tom’s voice leading me on. I started to realise that I hadn’t actually trained properly for a long time and in some senses that was fun – I always enjoyed training but in other ways it was worrying; can I do this again…fifteen years later??

And it occurred to me that this small test was in someways a mini-version of the next 12 months…I would have to have this intensity but without getting injured or losing my psyche.

Steve McClure had joined us halfway through the session and it was a bit bizarre being watched by one of the best sports climbers ever, someone who’d on-sighted my grade goal two weeks previously in Chulilla. Perhaps it helped – who wouldn’t want to try hard with him watching. Afterwards I collared Steve about my chances and his face was a picture. He evidently didn’t want to be negative but at the same time didn’t want to bullshit me…’maybe’ was his considered opinion when I asked him if I’d do it…

Steve McClure on his 172 move circuit...

Steve McClure on his 172 move circuit…

Even so, I was proud of my efforts in the test and it did leave me with a good feeling about my climbing –at least I could still try hard – I just had to see if the results matched up to my goals and whether Tom would give me the thumbs up or thumbs down!!

Form filling and interviewing me afterwards; current grade, style of climbing, lots of probing about my motivations and goals as well as explaining a bit more about how it all worked, Tom was giving nothing away. ‘I’ll need a few hours to sort out the results’ he said deadpanning and with that i was left hanging.


Adding some vital statistics…

PS: It was really interesting watching Steve on the stamina test after me for although he did 100% more than me when he did start to fail it was his legs and his foot placements that went first. Exactly like mine.  Not sure that this proves anything but it was very interesting…

James onsighting Mana 8a as his warm up!!

James Pearson + Caroline Ciavaldini visit Roca Verde…Part 1

Wow…what a week…It’s great having visitors and showing off the place where you live – and have written a guidebook about!

But boy is it tiring…

James Pearson and Caroline Ciavaldini are friends of mine and were looking for a new place to visit for a recreational week of climbing after a busy month of work in England. So I decided to give them a whistle stop tour of the Roca Verde region.

IMG_9357-LoStarting in the east we stayed in La Hermida (at La Cuadrona, one of the best hotels around with ‘climber-friendly’ owners and lovely rooms) and visited some of the tufa-strewn crags in this amazing valley.

Soon after we hit the first crag (not officially on the map yet – watch this space) Caro christened this area ‘tufa-land’ and we had a great day on newly bolted lines up to 40 metres!! One with overhanging ‘tram-line’ tufas for the final 25m…

Embarrassing river crossing shot...

Embarrassing river crossing shot…

More tufas followed at Poo de Cabrales a classic destination in the shadow fo the Picos and with views of the iconic Picu Urriellu (Naranjo de Bulnes) in the background.

Checking the guide in the shadow of Bulnes...

Checking the guide in the shadow of Bulnes…

James and Caro made short work of many of the classics here but were stoked on the quality of the routes and at least one of them put up a bit of resistance – the short, thin tufa of ‘Bizcocho’ 7b+, surprising both of them with it’s difficulty. Short but no giveaway it seems.

James on Bizcocho

James on Bizcocho

They also sent Lord Byron 7c+ and few more and once again were impressed with the quality and the situation…

Day three saw us over in the west – James and Caro were ensconced in our holiday home – and we headed out to the giant cave of El Covachon in Teverga to get some steepness! James and Caro loved it and sent a bunch of classics including Mana  8a, Samba pa ti 8a, and Milenium 8a+. We also met up with locals Armando and Raul and had a great time cheering on Armando as he so nearly sent his project Macaco, 8b which crosses the giant roof.

Aramando almost getting it...but not quite...

Aramando almost getting it…but not quite…

Anyway, despite the disappointment for Aramndo it was a superb day’s climbing and James and Caro were suitably impressed with the quality and quantity of routes in the cave and once again the amazing situation overlooking the verdant valleys.

James onsighting Mana 8a as his warm up!!

James onsighting Mana 8a as his warm up!!

So after a great day we went in search of cider…

Sector Nuevo / New Sector – Gradurin, Covachon, Teverga

I was climbing a few days ago with Armando Suarez Diez at El Covachon (Gradura) and he was showing me the new routes that him and his mates had established alongside this classic sector.

This new sector, they have called Gradurin, is basically an extension of the cave but is a bit more relaxed, not so steep and there are quite a few routes to go at.

GraduinaAnd the good news is that there’s also a couple of easier routes to go at including a pair of 6b+ for those for whom the cave is too hard.

Anyway, as well as checking those out I got a great foto of Armando as he took the ride from the end of Macaco, an 8b which basically goes straight through the roof of the cave at it’s widest point.

Armando Macaco 8b

There are some short but good new routes at the Bordillo sector of Marabio...

New Page: New and Updated Topos

After a year of publication, and a summer of lots of action in the Roca Verde regions, there’s plenty of new routes to report and updates to existing crags.

All the areas in Roca Verde are vibrant, active areas with plenty of people adding new routes and new sectors and even new crags: more on that to come.

So, to keep my readers abreast of the new routes I have added a new section to the site where I’ll be publishing updated topos/croquis to some of the sections in the book, as well as topos to new areas.

You can see more here: New Topos

And to start you off here’s an example of an updated topo for the small sector of Bordillo at Marabio…we climbed there today and nearly all the routes are worthwhile and the two new short 6b’s pack a real punch!!

So thanks to the people who re-equipped and added the new routes!

There are some short but good new routes at the Bordillo sector of Marabio...

There are some short but good new routes at the Bordillo sector of Marabio…

And remember Roca Verde with it’s bolt fund helps to provide gear for the people who give their time to these onerous duties: see more at our Bolt Fund page…

And for anyone enjoying the Uk’s weather here’s what the day looked like at Marabio today…


Roca Verde in Uk’s Climber magazine…

Roca Verde’s made yet another appearance in a European climbing magazine, this time in the UK’s Climber Magazine.

Based around the climbing in La Hermida it takes a look at the main crags there and what you need to know if your planning a visit to this mini climbing paradise close to Santander.

Great spread in climber magazine...

Great spread in climber magazine…

All included in the Roca Verde guidebook the La Hermida valley is a great destination combing a host of grades and styles of climbing to complement most parties.

The article runs to 8 pages with lots of great photos and is available in the UK until the 10th of September.

You can download a ‘rough’ copy of it here to get a flavour:

La Hermida


Mini Post – Vimeo channel of Asturian bouldering and climbing

Just found this great Vimeo channel collated by Nano Montes where you can see tons of bouldering and climbing videos from all across Asturias…

Asturian Vimeo Channel

And here’s a couple of sample videos:

Climbing at Teverga, a classic, Derecho de pernera, 7c

Lolin en derecho de pernada from Alejo on Vimeo.

And here’s some bouldering, very atmospheric:

“Poseidon” (8a+).f.a. from nano montes on Vimeo.

New videos and new YouTube Channel

After having a bit more free time I have started to make some short videos about the climbing in Roca Verde territory.

Here’s the first one I’ve done – it’s me on one of the super cool routes at the Sector Las Ardillas, at the crag of Quiros in the heart of Asturias. 

I’ll be making plenty more videos from now on – and hopefully learning more on the way – and you can see more at my YouTube channel.

RocaVerde YouTube channel…

I’ve also started to collate as many videos about Asturias as possible in one place so you can see what else there is on offer.

There’s about 30 videos that I have found – of varying quality – that show some of the climbing in Asturias and beyond.