Rehabbing a broken thumb

Summer 2014 has been a great summer. I was surprised at how quickly my thumb healed and how soon I was able to get back to climbing.  As you may or may not recall, I broke that long bone at the base of your thumb, the 1st metacarpal…right through. My case was on for what seemed an eternity. Once it came off, my rehab started, and once the surgeon found out I was an OT, he basically left me to it, which surprised me a little. Anyway, I did what I learned during my hand therapy school work placement…I massaged it A LOT; worked on strength and mobility by using my weak hand to do as much as possible (a favourite was picking out my favourite Jelly Belly’s from a bowl); and I consulted with my awesome physio/climber friend Lea whom also threw in a few needles here and there.

Workin' on that mobility and dexterity

Workin' on that mobility and dexterity

My cast came off in early May and I started belaying my hubby outside right away, and carefully climbing inside three weeks later.  

A little Flashed tape job for support and to remind me to take it easy.

A little Flashed tape job for support and to remind me to take it easy.

A little achy pain was okay for me, but I was careful not to over-do it.  I forced myself to stop early some days and kept reassuring myself that it’s okay to take it easy.  By end of May I was climbing outside.

Healing progressed really fast, which surprised me. Our bodies are amazing at healing!

I went on vacation to Maple Canyon in June, the perfect place to go to get back into climbing shape. I was shocked at how quickly my strength, endurance and confidence improved. I wasn’t projecting 5.9’s and 5.10’s like I thought would be. Rather, I was onsighting 5.11’s and working 5.12-5.13s. I ended up making very short work of Orgasmo 5.12c.

Sending Orgazmo, 5.12c. Photo cred: Bonar McCallum

Sending Orgazmo, 5.12c. Photo cred: Bonar McCallum

Upon our return home I was re-energized and psyched to start working some hard projects.

Spicy Elephant full, a 5.13b was one of them and I had one hung it. I should have climbed it this summer, but it was a climb that scared the crap out of me: huge whippers; really hard clips and moves; plus it was so long I was tired (physically and mentally) by the time the crux came on the extension. So I only sorta worked it for the majority of the summer. I wasn’t fully committed…until the last 3 weeks of summer.

Me on Spicy Elephant, working through the crux sequence. Photo Cred: Roger Fage

Me on Spicy Elephant, working through the crux sequence. Photo Cred: Roger Fage

My one hang was several weeks ago, but snow and freezing temps made that my last attempt…at least until a Chinook arrives. My endurance is probably long gone, but I do feel as though I’m physically getting stronger.  I credit my friends at the Chinook Climbing Centre for supporting me as I struggle with the crazy exercises and keeping me motivated. I will for sure send it quickly next summer.

I’ve learned a lot while working it. The main lesson I’ve learned is that full on commitment is worth it. Once I committed to it, and gave it my all (even when I felt tired or scared), major improvements came fast. I was disappointed that I didn’t get it last summer…but it was entirely my fault. I wasted a lot of time playing around on other climbs and avoided really working my proj. I felt great one-hanging it but just wished that I had a couple more days to send….2 days was all I needed.  Oh well.

Another highlight of my summer was taking some good friends outside to climb on a rope for their first time!   

Another highlight of my summer was taking some good friends outside to climb on a rope for their first time!   

Allison Eisner, and Lani Rabinovitch TR’d their first 5.6 and 5.7!

Allison Eisner, and Lani Rabinovitch TR’d their first 5.6 and 5.7!

Next up, Vegas baby. We’re back there for our annual Christmas bouldering holiday! Our plan is to drive down December 19th and return for January 4th. So if any other team members are around, give us a shout!

Did I mention that we have a new addition to our climbing family…Meet Bella. She is the best! If you are considering getting a dog, do it! A little extra work but so worth the joy that he/she would bring. Or even speak to someone at your local shelter to see if they allow folks to take shelter dogs out for hikes on weekends! 

K & Bella

K & Bella

Bella looking out from the Lookout.

Bella looking out from the Lookout.

Hopes and Expectations

This summer I'll be bouldering in Rocklands, South Africa. I've been to Hueco Tanks and Fontainebleau in the past and Rocklands is measured at this same standard. In 2011, before I travelled to Fontainebleau I had some thoughts to share about my dreams of that magical forest and what I expected from my time there. Looking back, time having eroded things, I feel that my experience there was not what I had hoped it to be.

In 7 weeks I'll be departing for South Africa. How many and what expectations do I have? What do I want this trip to be like? The answer: I don't know.

Before my trip to Fontainebleau I was fully prepared and ready. I would look through the guidebook at night and imagine my body moving across the rocks. I would imagine the French villages and the beach sand stuck to my climbing shoes. I arrived and absorbed everything, comparing things to my expectations and constantly awakening.

Before my trip to Rocklands I am also fully prepared - prepared physically and logistically. I have a copy of the guidebook, I have my clothes ready, reservations made, and time booked. Physically I'm prepared as much as I'm going to be. I competed all season, trained with the team all season, and challenged myself as much as I could.

However, I am not prepared mentally and I don't know why.

I'll keep comparing this Rocklands trip to my Fontainebleau trip. It wasn't until about 2010 when I wanted to go to Fontainebleau. For six years before that I had no desire. The climbing style was as foreign as the location and I wasn't attracted. Maybe in the end I just needed to grow more, or at least grow into it (Fontainebleau). It eventually happened and I was so happy for that. The memories of that trip are wonderful.

Have I grown into desiring the Rocklands? I think so, but not at the same level. Is it simply because it's no longer my first trip over the atlantic to a major desination, or have I just not watched enough Rocklands videos online? Is it simply because there's no magic in Rocklands? There's no footage of Ben Moon sending Karma, or Ty Landman crushing Khéops. You can't ignore the fact that there's just fewer magical moments to expect from Rocklands.

Or is there? Let's be honest, I didn't climb well in Fontainebleau. I don't know how much of it was due to the weather but in five weeks I climbed only one V11 and two V10. The week before in Albarracin I did three V11 and one V10 in one week.

However, with a doubt, the magical things I can expect from Rocklands are great climbing moments. I will climb better in Rocklands. I will climb harder, I'm sure. I'm good at the style of climbing in Rocklands and I will enjoy it.

I just have to get mentally prepared for it. That's the missing piece. I need to know the climbs more, read about the place more, dream about it more. I need to have expectations. Magical or not, achieveable or not, inflated or not. Perhaps once I have those expectations I can then begin to let them go, replacing them with hopes and then I can succeed.

Escape the Wet

The weather in the greater Reno/ Tahoe area has been less than ideal lately.  Not enough good snow to justify breaking out the skis, but too much accumulated precipitation to return to the our mountainous projects.

We watch the weather report like hawks.  If its not precipitating and above freezing, or at least close, its game on.  When the weather gods decide to take pity on us, we seek refuge in the sandy, granite littered, hills of Doyle, CA.  The majority of the climbing in Doyle is had on decomposing granite egg boulders.  When the rock is solid, it yields bulletproof patina reminiscent of the Buttermilks.  When its not, the phrase "heaping pile" comes to mind.  Most of the climbs are on vertical or slabby faces in the V-B to V-6 range.  This is great for logging tons of millage, but can leave the "crush" muscles woefully unactivated.

But, with a bit of exploration and a willingness to climb on some funky features that you might otherwise walk right past, some good hard climbing has been developed over the past few years.  Here are two such climbs that we have developed:

This climb was established by my cohort Ty Fairbairn a few years back and I finally snagged the second ascent; [vimeo video_id="54567350" width="400" height="300" title="Yes" byline="Yes" portrait="Yes" autoplay="No" loop="No" color="00adef"]

The high this day was 23º F!  I managed to fight through numb fingers on my third attempt and snagged this FA;

You may have noticed that I didn't propose grades for either climb.  Grading has become a seriously nebulous topic for me as of late.  But fret not!  I won't be launching into a self-righteous diatribe about the subjective nature of grades and the need for consensus.  For us it's a matter of not having others who have climbed in established areas recently to confirm proposed grades.  So, we end up either not grading problems at all (which is usually the case) or end up referenceing a climbs difficulty by how long the project took us to complete. For example, the Cave Problem took me three days of work to climb, whereas Cryin Shame took almost five.  If these climbs were down in Bishop, they would probably both be considered around the lower double digit realm.  But they are not, and none of us have been down to Bishop recently enough to gauge our strengths.  So, we are left comparing climbs that really can't be compared in order to arrive at a guesstimation of difficulty.  It tends to be a much cleaner business entirely when we simply leave off the grades and let people tell us how hard they think the climbs were (which people tend to readily exclaim with or with out our asking).  Besides, how do you put a grade on something that you onsighted in your approach shoes?  V-Fun, that's how!

Leaving the grading to those who really care about such things enables us to focus on the whole reason we came out to Doyle in the first place; to hang out in the sun, move on some stone, and escape the wet.

TDB @ Climber's Rock

Just over a week ago, I had the opportunity to chief the first Tour de Bloc comp of the New Year at Climber's Rock. I assembled the setting crew, and 3 days before the event, we began setting the 8 finals problems and 61 qualifiers. I had laid everything out on a white board so that we could avoid clusters and lines during the comp, and so that the setters knew what needed to go where. Setting went very smoothly thanks to the amazing setting team, and we found ourselves finished with all the setting around 5pm on Friday. After a quick bite to eat, we got down to the task of forerunning. With 61 problems to run, we brought in a few dedicated forerunners to make sure we stayed on track with our ordering of the problems and that we didn't end up labelling a V3 as the hardest problem due to fatigue. Once forerunning was done, we labelled all the problems, cleaned up and were out of the gym just after 11pm.

The next day, Youth and Rec climbers kicked the comp off in the morning with their qualifying round, followed by the Experienced and Open competitors in the afternoon. Although the turnout was smaller than expected, the field for both Open men and women was strong. Several climbers from both Buffalo and Michigan also came out for the event, adding to the mix and making sure everyone stayed on their game.

When all was said and done, all but one of the qualifying problems got sent. After a short break, the result list was posted, yielding the following results:


  1. Dylan Barks
  2. Keith Mackay
  3. Jeremy Noring
  4. Dustin Kerr
  5. Carmen Ing
  6. Florent Balsez
  7. Mathew Moreau
  8. Shaun Hunter


  1. Kerry Briggs
  2. Marieta Akalski
  3. Holly Reid
  4. Clarrie Lam
  5. Bonnie De Bruijn
  6. Kacy Wilson

The setting team assembled once again and began tearing down qualifying problems so we could put the finals up. Everyone knew exactly what they had to do and worked to get it all done, and amazingly, we finished with 20 minutes to spare. Due to the numbers, we had 8 men and 6 women in finals. Because we were running them simultaneously, we brought the first two men out before the women appeared. This allowed for the top seeded man and woman to run through the problems together. As the finalists started to come out, the crowd got louder, and as the crowd got louder, the climbers tried harder, feeding off the energy.

Despite being tired and the problems being hard, the finalists, both men and women, put on a phenomenal show, proving every bit that they deserved their spots in the final. Dylan Barks from Michigan was the clear winner for the guys, flashing the first three problems with ease and falling off the last hold of the fourth problem.

For the women, Marieta Akalski pulled out the win, flashing two of the four problems and getting the bonus hold on the other two.

When it was all said and done, both climbers and spectators had a great time. Being chief is never an easy thing, there's always lots to worry about. You get all the appreciation if things go well, but on the other end of it, you get all the blowback if things don't. Either way, it's always a great feeling watching people climb things you've put up and the smiles on their faces when they send.










A few years ago I got hooked on the campus board.  It's a great way for me to train power and I really enjoy it.  I go long stretches where I don't practice it at all, and then I'll get back into it and train on it once a week.  I do a cardio warm up and boulder lightly for 45 minutes.  After that I get to the board where I follow a modified version of Ben Moon's workout. Immediately I was fascinated with the magical 1-5-9: Start matched on rung 1, move up to rung 5, then to rung 9. Match, drop, and rejoice.

1-5-9 was made famous in the film "The Real Thing" - The first true bouldering feature film, "The Real Thing" was released in 1996 and chronicled British legends Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat on a trip to Fontainebleau.  At one point in the video they're training on a campus board and Ben completes a new personal best going from the bottom of the board to the top in only two moves doing "1-5-9".  I say "1-5-9" in quotes because if you watch the video (which everyone should) you can see that the last rung on the board is only at half the regular spacing because they have run out of room on the wall.  So, Ben Moon's accomplishment is actually "1-5-8.5" according to the specifications of his board.

This "1-5-9" soon became the aspiration of all would-be tough campus boarders.

The first board that I trained on had rungs spaced at 8 inches apart.  After a while I achieved 1-5-9, to much screaming and excitement.  It was at this time when I became interested in the specifics of the campus board design in hopes of measuring exactly how valuable my accomplishments were.

The original campus board was built in 1988 by Wolfgang Gullich.  Although I've never officially heard first hand, this board is believed to have had rungs spaced at 8 inch distances and is the reason why a number of boards worldwide have this spacing.

The original campus board

After training on that original board with Wolfgang, Jerry Moffat built his own campus board at the famous "School Room" in Sheffield, England.  This board was built with rungs spaced at 22cm (except the last one) and this spacing has slowly become the standard spacing for an official campus board.

The board in the "School Room"

After researching online and speaking to climbers in Sheffield, Altitude Climbing Gym built a beautiful campus board completely to specifications:

- Approximately 20 degrees overhanging - Rungs spaced at 22cm - Columns of large, medium, and small rungs.

I have been on the campus board once a week for a about a month and I've recently repeated my personal best achieved in March 2009. I completed 1-5-8.5 on 22cm spaced medium-sized rungs!  This is a big deal for me and it’s equal to Ben Moon’s accomplishment in The Real Thing. I’m really excited. Here is a video snapped with my mobile phone:

[vimeo video_id="57188058" width="580" height="326" title="Yes" byline="Yes" portrait="Yes" autoplay="No" loop="No" color="00adef"]

While symbolic of a great accomplishment for myself, it's also a pretty good achievement in the climbing community and certainly not a usual occurrence.  However, keep in mind that Malcolm Smith and Daniel Woods have done 1-5-8.5 STATIC.  Alternatively, there's only a handful of people who are rumoured to have done 1-5-9 at 22cm, a feat which has been discussed to be around the V14 level of effort. I can't wait to get back at it and keep reaching for that last half rung.

If this got you psyched here's some other fun stuff:

In this video Nalle Hukkataival does 1-5-9 on a board with 20cm spacing.

In this video fellow Flashed climber Yves Gravelle does a number of impressive feats on a board with 20cm spacing.  1-6-10 is truly impressive.

For even more reading on the topic Jamie Emerson wrote an interesting article in 2010 with some good comments.