Redefining Shoulder Season

Scrambling in Huntington Ravine

Scrambling in Huntington Ravine

Let me start by saying that until this year I had never truly injured myself. I’ve been nicked, bruised, and have even gotten a few stitches here and there, but luckily I had always avoided the types of injuries that sideline you for weeks or months. This winter, I broke both my lucky streak and my first bone ever (collarbone). The result of that broken bone were six incredibly uncomfortable weeks on the couch and a slow re-entry into outdoor sports. After a winter of skiing almost every day, rediscovering my groove was difficult. I started slowly with some easy pre-work hiking, then graduated to running on the road, and eventually I mustered up the courage for some cautious skiing and trail running. Last week, I made the final jump: climbing.

Heading towards the Lion's Head

Heading towards the Lion’s Head

By this time most years I’ve already made the transition from winter sports to summer sports, using the time between ski season and climbing season to get in the rock gym to build some fitness, and to build on a base of a winter’s worth of backcountry skiing and ice climbing. Normally within a few early season visits to the rock gym I’ve recaptured my climbing form, but this year I suspect it won’t be so easy. This spring, I’ve found myself also trying to build back my base fitness while simultaneously trying to regain my climbing form, strength, and confidence.

At the base of Henderson Ridge

At the base of Henderson Ridge

When given the green light from my orthopedist to start returning to my previous level of activity, he was quick to remind me that I was still in the process of healing, not yet totally healed. Hikes that I normally cruised across I suddenly found myself tip toeing on, fearful that a slip could put me right back were I started. Trail runs were handled even more cautiously, with every protruding root threatening a repeat visit to the emergency room. Staring down the equivalent of a blue run at the ski resort, my knees nervously knocked together as my legs quaked before dropping in on my first ski run since my injury.

On the sharp end

On the sharp end

Climbing takes a backseat to skiing every winter, but most winters I still occasionally find my way into the rock gym or get coerced into a day or two ice climbing. In the average spring, my rock climbing has regressed from where it was in the fall, but I typically return to form after a few weeks. Alas, this was not a typical winter—thanks to an incredible amount of snowfall I hadn’t been in the climbing gym since November, and courtesy of the amazing ski conditions I only found myself on ice once all season. Then, of course, one of my arms was essentially immobile for six weeks, setting me up for a rough transition back to climbing.

Almost done

Almost done

This week, I climbed for the first time in six (almost seven) months! Hard to believe. After a day bouldering easy problems at the rock gym, I headed to Mount Washington for a day of easy climbing (technically easy at least; I would hesitate to call the substantial hike up and down the mountain “easy”). While the first day in the gym destroyed my forearms (no lie—for two days afterward, I found it difficult to use a squeeze water bottle), and the second day tested my nerve (although the climbing is easy it is is also fairly exposed in and in a place you would not want to get hurt), I am psyched to be back on the rock, testing my shoulder, and hopefully progressing each time I get out.

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