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getting in touch with my inner colorado girl

First time for everything


My mom is not a huge fan of my recent rock climbing addiction, but I always try and assure her that it’s really one of the safest things I do. I swear that sliding down a snow covered mountain on two sticks is ten times more dangerous than climbing and bouldering at a climbing gym. Yet I somehow did manage to give myself my very first ever rock climbing injury last night. It’s the first climbing milestone that I have not been very excited about.


The glory days when I could use all my fingers.

Of course my injury occurred early in the evening before I even had a chance to at least have fun and get in some good climbs. I had gone to Thrillseekers after work to meet some of my friends for bouldering and top roping, and I was upstairs warming up in the bouldering cave with Anne and Abby. To be fair I was doing a pretty bad job of warming up that evening. I normally do a few warm-up laps on a practice wall on the first level, and since I found myself in the bouldering cave I just did a really easy V0 problem and then went straight for the V1 that has been my recent project.

IMG_5579Thrillseekers. Don’t be fooled by how ghetto it looks. I love this gym!

The V1 project included a few “crimpy” moves. Crimping is climber jargon for a type of hold that is too narrow for your entire hand and instead requires reliance on finger strength.

andy using a crimp grip 1Crimp grip.

I don’t know exactly what happened (obviously I was not paying enough attention!) but I was holding on to the crimp hold when my foot slipped off one of the foot holds. My hand stayed on the crimp hold as I kind of awkwardly fell off the wall, placing pressure on my fingers that were holding the grip. I came off the wall and immediately had this weird shooting pain from my fingers up to my elbow. It hurt to bend my fingers, and I sat out for ten minutes.

One of the people in my climbing group helped me tape my fingers on my left hand to give them more support, and I got back on the wall and tried to do another problem. No dice. I couldn’t put pressure on my left hand on any holds that weren’t easy jug holds, which basically eliminated everything in the bouldering cave. I headed downstairs to my normal warm-up area to try doing my usual warm-up route. I felt okay until I reached for the one overhanging move on the route. There was immediate shooting pain from my left hand to my elbow, so I dropped down to the floor.

IMG_5577At that point I was about five minutes away from wanting to cry so I decided that maybe it was time to call it a night. Climbing is already enough of an intensely mental sport and not being able to climb any of my normal routes because I couldn’t put pressure on my left hand was just making me mad! Once I gathered my things I went to turn in my lock to the front desk, and I talked to all three of the workers about what had just happened. As a runner, I’m pretty accustomed to the stereotypical running injuries. If I had tendonitis or shin splits I would absolutely know what to do. Hurting my finger and having pain all the way up to my elbow? That was a new one for me.

The Thrillseekers workers and I all determined that I had not ruptured a tendon, since I had not heard a pop when I fell off the wall and was not in excruciating pain, but that I probably had strained it. I remember thinking, “Okay strained tendon, I’ll take tonight off and be back climbing on Thursday!” Nope. The workers all told me it would be fine, I should ice it, and that I’d be back to normal in four weeks! You should have seen my face. Four weeks? I normally like to hit the climbing gym 2-3 times a week. How was I going to survive? I immediately called my brother Derek in the hopes that he maybe had experience with a similar injury.

574759_312316885554330_205668134_nBelaying my brother.

Lucky for him my brother had never had an injury similar to my strained tendon. He did have some good insight though. I was explaining to him that I would at least take one week off completely before trying to go back to the climbing gym, which seemed totally reasonable to me. It’s probably a good thing I phoned a friend. Derek, the voice of sanity, told me I’m not allowed to climb next week and that I need to take a good 2-3 weeks off and then work my way back gradually until my hand feels 100% again. I suppose I agree. As I sit here typing this I can’t deny the fact that my finger/hand hurts. It hurts to fully extend my hand. You can’t climb if you don’t have complete trust in the strength of your hands.

Luckily I have other things I can do to keep me busy during the next few weeks. I can still run. I can still go to CrossFit (perhaps with some modifications). I can still ski. But I will for sure miss climbing. You don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone – and I can’t wait to be fully back at the climbing gym in a month!


Author: paulamahla

Typical Colorado girl that can't make up her mind. Trail running, hiking, climbing, camping, CrossFit, ultimate frisbee, and skiing? E, all of the above.

11 thoughts on “First time for everything

  1. Climbing is an addiction and it is so much fun!!! Challenging, rewarding … I could go on forever. We all do a million things a day more risky than climbing in a controlled environment, so you have my full support 😉 Be inspired, plan a quicker more challenging route and take care today!

  2. No fun! I did that too my leg once when I slipped off a hold rather violently. Took forever to heal up. Good news is that your finger wasn’t jammed in a crack when you slipped! That can be super duper finger breaking off bad.

  3. Chris works with a few hardcore climbers – he says they have a lot of hand injuries. More often than not they have fingers taped together. I’m guessing that makes working on computers a tad more complicated, but they have been trying to talk him into climbing!

    Hopefully it isn’t too bad and hopefully you’re back to climbing soon!

  4. I know this isn’t the takeaway here, but I have the same Five Ten climbing shoes!

    Hope you heal quickly!

  5. No fun for sure. But let yourself heal. I have a week off from school end of march and I told my friend I’m going climbing with her EVERY DAY! lol I cant wait. But I’m still really sorry about your injury.

  6. You taped in order to climb more? Taping to prevent injury is acceptable only if you are on a trip somewhere special. Otherwise it’s…well, not good.

    PS Don’t blame me when you re-injure more severely after 2-3 weeks. You should really be out a month and then ease back in.

  7. Pingback: March Madness | return to the motherland

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