does access to bolts help?

Back in 2008, I was involved in bolting two routes in Ireland. If you want more info, feel free to read the article here on forums about it. I'm not going into more details, there's enough there about it (although all additional ideas welcome on other people's perspectives/thoughts, both positive and critical of what's happened).
Sadly, and as usual, nothing more has come of the incident and whoever caused the chopping has kept their head down. A pity, I genuinely wanted to hear the reasons for the logic - I'm yet to hear anything reasonable for what happened. Oh well, at the end of the day, I don't particularly care as there's way more important things in life to be distracted or bothered by! I will compliment all those that DID reply though, and those that I spoke to in person about it, it was a fascinating discussion and definitely gave me some new ideas on climbing. I thought about putting this on the forum, but hadn't written a post in a while..... :)

One of the most interesting was in relation to the query (from more than one person) about whether you really need access to bolts, i.e. sports climbing, to improve. I rolled it around as a thought quite a bit and was thinking of some points. Firstly, what to other people think? do you feel like you'd improve, or have more incentive even, to climb or want to improve if you had access to more sports routes? Answers in the comments below (or on the forum).

Personally, I've gotten to quite a respectable level without having any regular access to bolts. Yes, it's definitely possible but I will say that it's much harder. I can think of countless trips I've wasted having spent much of time getting re-adjusted to the intensity of the climbing. There's only so much simulation you can do without trying your hand at the real thing. Look at it from another sport's point of view - I can guarantee you that Usain Bolt didn't train for the 100 meter sprints on grass and over a distance that wasn't 100 meters! I'm sure he actually did do lots of training on different surfaces and distances but a large proportion of his training/preparation would've been on the Real Deal.
Having said that, much of climbing training is about just getting really strong and fitter. These parts you can definitely work on - you just need to put the time in to get to this level. There's no magic pill or exercise you can do, so long as it's relevant to climbing and you do a lot of it. But that will be the subject of another post or two (if I ever finish them :) and probably for IrishClimbingCoaching :) But more locations like this will help some people to keep progressing!

Personally, the biggest difficulty for me after going away and pushing myself on routes, then returning is that you easily lose motivation as the level of difficulty on trad routes is lower (on the trad grades I'm willing to try for safety reasons, etc.). Interestingly, I noticed when looking up the blog post on my first grade 8 back in Asia that I also mentioned a lack of bolts in Ireland :) I know I struggled to even contemplate climbing after coming back from my first year-long trip - I barely climbed at all for months when I came back, and it wasn't because I was burnt out, if anything, I was more psyched than ever! I trained really hard for about 4 months before going on that first long trip and while it all paid off, it's hard to justify to myself even to keep doing on a regular long-term basis if you're continuously aware that there's no routes to try out the capabilities nearby.

The longer you do anything, the more stimulus that's needed and I'd be willing to bet that I know more than one or two people in the climbing scene (not just Ireland) that have quit as they haven't had an outlet for their motivation.
In short, yes, you can keep pushing and pushing and training away - and I'm fully aware that my own laziness at times has held me back, not just a lack of bolts -  without any real access to bolted routes. But it's a hell of a lot easier if you do! Having moved to Sheffield recently, I've now realized I'm going to have access (<45 mins away) to routes and problems that can seriously test me and I know I'm going to learn a lot from having the local knowledge! psyche!!!!!!

Image Credits: Naomi playing on the boulders near Doolin in her new super-bright t-shirt from the Celtic t-shirt shop.
The new wall in Dingle, Co. Kerry. PlayAtHeight, an inspiring new wall for the south-west of Ireland

Neal McQuaid4 Comments