Saturday, August 29

Injured Reserve Prt 3

So the healing continues... It has been five weeks now since my crash and the last week in particular has been very encouraging. Last weekend I went climbing outside for the first time in four weeks which felt amazing. We went to Staunton State Park - the Dungeon - a very en vogue area these past years especially because it's completely doable in the summer months. After a slow warm up I flashed 'Intolerance Test' 13a, 'Branching Out' 12d, 'If and Only If' 13a and 'No Excuse' 13b. All were awesome, very fun routes! This crag was perfect because I felt like for the most part I could climb very statically and cautiously. Most routes are quite juggy and full of resting positions, with smaller holds defining short cruxes. Perfect for me because my fingers actually feel quite strong it is just hard, dynamic movement that was scary / weak.

Throughout the week since then I started allowing myself to use the Moonboard again - starting with only V4 or V5 on the first day, and gradually working up to V8/9 more recently. Because I am trying hard to keep my shoulder engaged I don't quite have the full reach on my left side yet and the whole shoulder area gets pretty damn tired after an hour session. I have been mixing this with also slowly re-introducing one arm hangs on the left side. About 10 days ago it felt too aggressive to hang one arm with my injured shoulder but slowly with the use of stretchy bands as aid I got back to body weight on rings, and then body weight on a 30mm hold and eventually 2 days ago a 20mm hold! This is quite good as my 'hard' hangs are usually on a 17mm, so, pretty close to where I was before.

In between the gym sessions I have been staying the course with my PT, foam rolling like crazy and starting to re-introduce some overhead range of motion stuff. I am also using a heat pad, still taping, sleeping 9 hr a night and avoiding all alcohol. Like I said in a previous post, I am taking the injury as seriously as I would a hard project, and I am so grateful to say that it is working! At this point I feel as though my shoulder is around 85 ish % strength. And the other thing that rules is that the shoulder feels quite normal in every day stuff now too. Usually it is quite tired on rest days but where it was always feeling a little weird some weeks ago, now it is feeling close to normal all day.

I assume that the final 15% to full recovery will take some time yet, but my primary aim was to have a good shot at a big fall season and that is seeming totally possible, so I am stoked. Wish me luck!!

Friday, August 14

Injured Reserve Prt 2

I am happy to say that week two, and the first half of week three, are both ripe with progress for my shoulder situation. In week two I was primarily plagued by consistent tightness / pain in my back which could have been due to a rib injury or could have simply been pissed off muscles in my shoulder girdle adjusting to their new normal. Either way, week two, in many ways, was the worst so far for pain and discomfort. The good news is that my range of motion, stability and confidence made steady improvements, culminating in me climbing some simple, steeper boulder problems at the end of the week. It felt very clunky and not at all close to 'normal' but it was a nice sensation to pull my body off the ground and up the wall! 

That first day of climbing up to ~V4 broke the ice for me to try some autobelays and some longer routes a few days later at the Boulder Rock Club. On Tuesday (15 days after the accident) I climbed up to 5.12- on auto belay and it felt outstanding! I could definitely sense a lot of hesitation and cautious movement but I was almost totally pain free. The one movement that seemed weak and too scary was rocking over a right foot by pushing my left hand out to the left, like opening an elevator door with the left hand. Pulling straight down, even from a pretty extended position with my left hand however, felt mostly fine. 

The next day I did some leading up to mid 5.12 on seven or eight routes before my shoulder was getting tired and I quit for the day. This felt like mini progress in itself, but I was still having some issues with that movement I mentioned - so yesterday at my PT appointment with Ross Bodine we worked through some exercises and range of motion to hopefully help strengthen that. We also went through a myriad of other exercises that I had been too cautious to try such as overhead press, push ups and levers - all of which were shockingly fine, but just will need some time to strengthen up to normal. 

If I had to put a percentage on my shoulder I would probably say 50% which might seem low given all of these strides but to me it seems incredibly high considering just 2.5 weeks ago it felt as though my arm was detached from my body altogether.. Moving forward I am going to focus entirely on strengthening, and building back up to my previous loads in all of those exercises I've mentioned - as well as mixing in some not too challenging climbing, as with most injuries the time in the weight room is always more fruitful.

So what have I been doing that seems to work?? Most importantly I have been seeing my PT, Ross Bodine at Alta in Boulder once a week, and seeing my massage therapist, Dan Micheal in Boulder once or more a week. Since day one I have been taping my shoulder using Luekotape (hugely important). I've made time, several times a day, to do PT exercises and been doing a daily hour long hike in the foothills. Every 2nd or 3rd day I have been doing BFR to try and maintain my fingers, roughly following the protocol laid out here by the maestro Tyler Nelson. Lastly I have given up completely on alcohol, been sleeping 8-9 hours a night (which has gotten easier as my back has relaxed) and not taken any pain meds or NSAIDS since the first day. I've used some THC / CBD for sleep aid which was great and tried to get tons of micronutrients in my food along with daily protein smoothies. Overall I've really tried to approach this injury like an important project, placing a ton of importance and significance on my PT, exercises, ROM and nutrition. 

I am aiming to be cranking hard in September but we will see how the end of this process goes! Wish me luck and send me your questions if you are going through AC separation also!! 

Tuesday, August 4

Injured Reserve prt 1

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I slammed on my mountain bike pretty damn hard last week and came out with a gnarly concussion, bruised / slipped rib and worst of all, a separated AC joint. Let me first say that MIPS is real, and always wear a damn helmet. 

I wanted to write a little about my experience here because of how common this injury is, albeit a little unusual for climbing, with the hopes that a few people out there suffering the same thing would find this helpful one day. Dave McLeod has an awesome video about his recovery and I found it incredibly helpful and super motivating. A little motivation goes a long way in times like this, so hopefully these entries will do the same for you! 

Immediately after the crash I had a lot of trouble breathing, felt obvious concussion symptoms and could tell my shoulder was totally smashed. I lifted my arm above my head but I felt cracking and popping and grinding in my shoulder like crazy. I immediately started holding my left shoulder with my right arm - it was completely unstable, almost felt unattached. My buddy took me to the ER for X-rays and I got a sling. Thank god because my right arm was SO tired from holding my left arm at this point that it was beginning to hurt worse. I was convinced that I broke something because of how awful my shoulder felt but the X-ray showed clearly I had damaged the AC joint, but no breaks.

The first night was quite horrible, well, honestly the first few nights were pretty bad. I had a really hard time sleeping as expected, and the pain in my back made just shifting around in bed exhausting. The day after the crash I got an appointment with an Ortho where I expected to get an MRI but he did some tests on my rotator cuff and some feeling around and suggested I would not need images. He diagnosed me with a Grade 2/3 AC joint Separation and sent me on my way. Much to my surprise the doctors at the hospital and the Ortho barely really even mentioned Physical Therapy. Even after I told both of them that full recovery and aggressive use of my shoulder was imperative for my career. If you have suffered an AC joint sep I can not emphasis enough that you should see a good PT right away and strongly consider massage therapy once a week as well. You will need to practice movement patterns and encourage muscle use etc if you want this thing to go over well! 

I made some really clear and exciting progress during my first week. After about a day, I was able to stop using the sling - but only when I had my shoulder taped, specifically with Leuko tape (it will not stretch and thus will actually support your shoulder). My massage therapist who I really really trust in Las Vegas, Pat Teves, was adamant about this.. Tape it tight, and only use Leuko tape. I credit the taping with a lot of my comfort and healing progress thus far. 

In the first few days it felt more or less out of the question to raise my arm above my head, and holding any loads with the arm was too difficult. I was able to use a grip master, and I could flex my whole arm without pain. Holding a plank or a push up position felt too aggressive still. After a few days I went to the climbing gym to see if I could do some weights with my right arm but it was just too hard not to engage the left side of my body (even a tiny bit) which created pain, so I bailed. I did a few hour long hikes, the first of which was downright painful, and borderline terribly unpleasant. However the movement was just so nice so I kept it up. 

Over the course of the first week I really felt as though I was making ~5% progress every day which was super encouraging. I went to a PT, Ross Bodine at Alta in Boulder, who I would highly recommend. He ran me through some difficult movement exercises that I have been doing everyday, including cable pull downs with a focus on pulling the shoulder blade down and back not dissimilar to my hangboard position. I also spoke with Tyler Nelson who asked me a handful of questions and determined that he thought I could hang (!) which sounded altogether insane to me over the phone but I tried (arms bend and locked at 90 degrees) and miraculously I could without pain! This was a massively encouraging moment - immediately following the crash I was certain I would not climb again in 2020, now, hanging until exhaustion on a small edge I was starting to have some serious hope!

Now, 8 days after my crash I can pretty easily lift my arm overhead. I can hold a plank or push up position (can not do a push up yet however), and I can do some simple exercises with my left arm like low weight curls (using the BFR this is actually pretty good) and finger curls with a training block. Mobility is coming back slowly, but overhead pulling or pushing is pretty scary. Normal life stuff, other than turning over in bed, is pretty mellow now. I still have some pain in my back which comes and goes but generally is on the decline. 

I've been seeing a very good friend and Rolfer here in Boulder as well, Dan Micheal, who I largely credit with originally healing my funky left shoulder years ago due to subluxation. I really feel like massage therapy is critical to all injuries, but especially one like this where so much of the body is scrambling to re-align. 

Okay I will check back after another week of healing and let you guys know how it's going! Wish me luck. 

Sunday, August 2


I often estimate that at the core of rock climbing in the United States there are perhaps about a thousand people give or take. A thousand people who fully live for climbing, who re-arrange their entire lives to climb, who have made climbing their priority regardless of wether or not they are 'professionals' (few actually are which is another conversation and a sad one if you ask me). They live in Vans, trucks and cars. They work remote or part time or code or barely work at all mysteriously but one thing is for sure - they found a way to be at the cliff more often than they are not at the cliff.

If you journey across the country to the key spots you will notice an obvious migration of these stoked individuals and one of the primary meeting grounds is no doubt Rifle Canyon. It's not even as though Rifle is necessarily 'good' in the summer months it's just that everywhere else is awful, so why not? Those core, committed climbers slowly trickle in around June and populate the canyon's camp sites, picnic spots and caves. This is a gathering of climbers unlike any other in the heat of the summer. It is Rifle Summer Camp.

Shaina climbs 'Hawaiian Two Foot' 13a
Dru boinks to infinity and beyond
I climbed 'Diarrhea Mouth' 14d in the Skull Cave

Well it had been quite a few years since I bathed in East Rifle Creek, but man it felt good to return. It's easy to have a good old fashion love / hate with Rifle but man, it's hard to beat in the dead of the Summer. In our first few days the heat was so overwhelming that we weren't sure we could actually stick it. Slowly we adjusted, learned the ways of the siesta and the unique pacing of a crag where there are no approaches, virtually no driving, and on a weekday hardly ever a line up.

Genevive on 'Conception' 13a

Me climbing 'PHAT Camp' 14d 
Nate climbs 'Genesis' 12a
Dru climbs the hard hard 'Music for the Dead' 13b 

We had a great time after all. Two glorious weeks of relaxed mid-days, creek dips, quiet nights and friends. We sent a few things which was awesome because I hadn't climbed on hard routes other than my own for a long time. So important to check back in with the outside world every now and then. We also had a pretty easy time feeling COVID safe which I was unsure about, but it was fine.

We will be chilling hard in the Front Range for a month now, but I hope to link back into the migration of core senders before too long. Unfortunately I slammed very hard on my mountain bike last week so I will not be climbing for a while - more on that in my next blog...