Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pre Expedition Injuries...

Six weeks ago I was bouldering in the climbing gym at the Banff Centre. I started with my usual routine; stretching, traversing on big holds then cranking on harder problems, slowly increasing the intensity. I was trying an awkward compression problem in the corner, which involved smearing both hands on desperate slopers, pulling outwards and bumping both hands up to equally poor features all the while edging my feet on micro foot holds. I slipped off several times, frustrated, I pulled on one more time and threw my right hand high, caught the sloper and stuck it for a few seconds before falling, but not without a tearing sensation in my right shoulder...fuck. I decided to call it a night for bouldering, shrugged off the injury and went upstairs to the gym and sat on the exercise bike. This trivial plastic boulder problem drastically changed the next six weeks...

The following evening I was sitting in the Banff Mineral Springs hospital waiting for the doctor to come and tell me if I had ruined my rotator cuff or not, knowing this injury often meant surgery and months of rest and rehab, this was not a option when I had just booked flights to Alaska for a month long alpine climbing trip. 

The news was better than I dreaded but not as good as I hoped for...I had torn soft tissue in my shoulder and inflamed my bicep tendon. I was told I had to rest for a minimum of six weeks and that with physio, acupuncture, strict icing and luck I could be ready for Alaska. The first hurdle was accepting that I had just lost the last two months of my Ice climbing season - not a big deal in the large scheme of things but a pretty big deal for someone who traveled to the other side of the world to focus on Ice & mixed climbing. This was also very frustrating as I had spent the previous few months building my strength and confidence on steep ice and mixed routes, at this point I finally felt ready to tackle some bigger, more fulfilling objectives like French Reality, Nemesis and Silver Lining.

Once I had accepted that my season was over (not easily done) the worry of not healing in time for Alaska set in. I had just booked return, non refundable flights to Alaska and told my partner to go ahead and book his. I knew I had to pull out all the stops in order to allow my shoulder to heal. Nobu, a friend of mine, kindly introduced me to a Japanese acupuncturist. It was a funny afternoon, with me not speaking much Japanese and her the same amount in English, Nobu translated for us and I had my first acupuncture experience. 
It's hard to say exactly what is responsible for healing when there are many contributing factors, rest, ice and physio etc, but I definitely felt a considerable improvement in pain and an increased range of movement after my session of acupuncture.

Since then my rehab has consisted of physio, a course of strong anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, thera-band exercises, more acupuncture, stretching & many visits to the steam room. 

In five days I fly to shoulder is far from 100% but the constant pain has been dulled and my range of movement is great. I'm not in any shape to be cranking on hard mixed routes, but our routes will require more endurance in the legs & lungs than the upper body anyway. I wish my shoulder was the only part of my body breaking down but its not...with a bunion on my little toe, locked knee's due to very tight IT bands and a wisdom tooth slicing away at the inside of my mouth...I don't exactly feel ready for a month in the mountains... but only time will tell!

Today is my last day of work and I will spend the next five days booking ski planes, going to physio, buying the last of the equipment I need, studying maps & climbing objectives and packing an inconceivable amount of gear into three seemingly small bags...

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