Interview: Ash Wolsey-Heard
Ash is one of our longest serving Lattice Accredited assessors, and a bit of a beast to boot! He’s recently had a run of good form with ascents of Fat Lip V13 at Raven Tor and Ropes of Maui V13 in the Llanberis pass so we thought we’d ask him a few questions.
Could you tell us a bit about your climbing? How did it all start? Am I right in thinking you trained with Simon Rawlinson when you were a youth?
Yes that’s right shortly after I started climbing my local wall held a try-out for a youth team that they intended to train up for competitions (BRYCS I think). I managed to get a place on the team which is where I met Si. Having a good coach early on gave me a decent head start and for the following three years or so I climbed predominantly inside and competed in youth comps.
We’ve seen quite a few of the climbers that Si has coached going on to become very capable climbers (yourself, Rhos Frugniet, Gwen Morgan etc.). Do you think he’s got a particular approach that works well?
I can’t speak for the others that he has coached but I found that he made the process of training enjoyable. A lot of the time this wasn’t necessarily that we were undergoing an exciting exercise rather we simply bounced off Si’s psyche for the sport. I guess if you can associate training hard with good times then it’s pretty easy to keep on the graft.
Where you involved with the comp scene when you were younger? Are you still interested in comps or have you drifted away from that side of things?
I think I competed seriously until I was about 18. Competing with adults was a pretty big step up for me and I found the transition hard. I continued competing while at uni but I was pretty much out of the game by the time I graduated. I rarely compete at the moment, simply put I’ve found more reward from climbing outside relative to the time I have put in.
That’s very understandable, comps definitely aren’t for everyone! What is it that you prefer about climbing outdoors? I remember this Malcom Smith quote that, for him “It’s all about the moves” and the aesthetics don’t matter so much. Climbing on peak district limestone I guess you also have an appreciation for a good move? 😉
Haha, nature will always beat artificial. I’d say my skill set is better suited to outside. I don’t route read the newer style of comp routes very well and i’m a pretty static climber. This hinders me quite a lot in competition whereas outside these aren’t such limiting factors. It also allows me to get a better indicator of what i’m physically capable of, as I hinted at in my answer to the last question I get frustrated by being unable to perform within a certain time limit/number of goes despite having put the work in to be physically capable of a problem.
You seem to have hit some good form recently, with ascents of Ropes of Maui, V13, and Fat Lip, also V13. Are these problems you’ve been working towards for a while?
I can’t say I have really, for a good while my goal has been to keep my fingers in working order. For just under a year this has lead me to prioritise volume over intense climbing i.e. doing link ups and more sub maximal climbing, building a base rather than worrying about my peak. However both of these problems are pretty long so this type of training will definitely have been beneficial when it comes to the energy systems required.
I’ve bumped in to you at the School Room in Sheffield a couple of times and I think it’s fair to say you’ve got a strong set of fingers! Has this always been a strength or is it something you’ve had to work on for a while?
In a half crimp i’m decent, open handed i’m pretty underwhelming. Historically I have targeted finger strength however due to over dependence on a single grip this often lead to a good spike in performance followed by injury. As such I’ve laid off specific finger strength training and made a conscious effort to utilise a wider range of grip types in my climbing. I generally climb pretty slow and my footwork could certainly be better, I think this “style” of climbing naturally lends itself to building grip strength.
Have you got any big trips planned this year? Any particular goals? You can keep quiet if you don’t want the pressure of publicising your goals! Projecting can be stressful enough as it is!
I’m off to Rocklands this summer. I went last year but was restricted in the problems that I could try as I managed to strain a pulley just before going out. I don’t really have any big goals, i’d be pretty happy just to cruise around some classics without any hindrance.
Thanks for your time, looking forward to hearing how you get on in Rocklands this summer!