Throughout Autumn and Winter, we will be showcasing a collection of commissioned portraits by Lukazsz Warzecha & others, as part of our Mountain Portraits series, an attempt to highlight some of the key characters who give meaning to our work. This week, Dave MacLeod reminds us that propelling yourself into Scottish winter climbing relies on relentless training and serial focus on a number of disciplines.
My sports science professor at university always reminded me that trying to be the best at all the disciplines was physiologically impossible. He is right of course, but that doesn’t stop you from training to be your best.
For the two decades I’ve been a climber I’ve taken great delight in using the killer combination of scientific knowledge, serial focus on different disciplines and hard work to push my level higher than I imagined it might go in almost every type of climbing. I’m a prolific self-experimenter and love trying new ideas in training.
The highest I dared to dream as a young climber was to climb a F8c sport route and an E9 trad route. I thought if I achieved that level in my career it would be a great success given my early struggles against a lack of raw talent. After I managed both in 2001, in my early twenties, I had total freedom to just experiment with whatever ideas I could glean from the world of science and apply them to my training.
Every Autumn, after I return from summer trad or big wall trips, the hard work begins. Short term performance is sacrificed for working my body hard to build strength and endurance for my sport climbing projects and the cruxes of hard mixed new routes in Scotland.
I love bouldering, because problem solving with technique is what I enjoy most in climbing, and training it improves all the climbing disciplines – a rare thing! But I find the pain and monotony of endurance circuits tough and I have to trick my mind into enjoying them.
Listening to science podcasts and audiobooks helps me get through the low intensity circuits. Metallica helps me with the anaerobic ones. I love the freezing highland winter evenings for training. I leave the garage doors open to keep my fingers numb so they hurt less, except if the horizontal snow and rain outside starts to blow in. My fingers burn like hell as the blood returns with a hot cup of tea afterwards and I know I am one step closer to all those unclimbed projects out there.