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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!



How to climb a 5.10c

I recently discovered that the trick to breakthrough rock climbing is being really hungover. I kind of learned this by accident. Oops. Anyway, this past Saturday was the Santa Claus Pub Crawl in Denver and of course I went all out and dressed up as a Christmas tree.

189972_582282001294_590612282_nThere were functioning lights. Oh yes.

The pub crawl started at 1:30 p.m. and I made it home around 11:00 p.m. You do the math. It was a long day. Needless to say, the next morning I was not feeling like a winner. I already had plans to go rock climbing with my cousin in Boulder though and I’m not one to stay down for very long. I decided that my hangover was just a mind over matter thing and I headed out to meet my cousin. Part of the reason I was not willing to let my hangover beat me was because my cousin and I were going to be climbing at Movement, an amazing climbing gym in Boulder. I like to refer to it as the Vail of climbing gyms.

8991c3a03cba11e2b1f822000a1f9751_7She’s a beauty.

I have been in a bit of a rut with climbing lately and stuck on some 5.9s in my Denver climbing gym. Given my rut and hangover I had zero expectations for having a good day at Movement. After warming up on a few routes, my cousin Jen encouraged me to try a 5.10b. I had never climbed anything with a higher grade than a 5.10a, so I was a little intimidated.

photoLike a boss.

To my surprise, the route did not feel that hard and I “flashed” it! Flashing is climber lingo for making it to the top of a new route on the first try. After climbing another 5.10b and still feeling good, I wanted to try a 5.10c just for fun.

photo-1First 5.10c!

I successfully made it to the top of the 5.10c in one try with just a few minor breaks. It was super exciting. Since I was on a roll, I decided to try one more 5.10c for my final climb, and I ascended that one as well. Two 5.10c’s in one day, who would have thought?! So basically I owe all my success to being hungover.

Picture 5


I think I also owe my success on the 5.10c to my regular climbing gym in Denver, Thrillseekers. If Movement is the Vail of climbing gyms, Thrillseekers is the Arapahoe Basin. It’s located in an old movie theater on South Broadway in Denver, and the routes are about 1/3 the length of the routes at Movement. You may remember me mentioning how I’ve been struggling on the 5.9s at my gym  and that was not a typo. I don’t think there is major route rating inflation at Movement, I just think the routes at Thrillseekers are incredibly challenging. In fact they are so legit that I’ve never even successfully climbed a 5.10 there.

106099725_medium_6c3aafLove my ghetto fabulous home climbing gym. (Check out another blogger’s take on Thrillseekers!)

Sure there’s this weird island in the middle of the gym with workout equipment from 1982 and the floor is filled with questionable recycled Teva soles but once you get past the superficial things Thrillseekers is a rad place to climb. I’m pretty much a regular there (okay I give, I climb 2x a week there – I’m a regular), and so I know the guy who sets most of the routes in the gym. Sometimes I like to whine to him about how a certain route would be much better if there was just one more hold in this one location and he has zero sympathy for me. Really though you can’t whine about something being hard. I know it’s just making me a better climber. And hey the proof is in the pudding! Those 5.10c’s at Movement did not climb themselves.

249527_696078476078_944715930_nClimbing at Thrillseekers.

So how do you climb a 5.10c? First you need to be hungover. And second you need a ghetto fabulous home climbing gym that pushes you to be better. Although someday soon I hope to climb a 5.10 at Thrillseekers. This is just getting ridiculous.