Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The $64,000 Question

Red circle shows my partial thickness rotator cuff tear. It's highlighted in white on account of the contrasting agent (gadolinium) migrating towards it.

And the answer is... I have a small partial thickness tear of my rotator cuff due to traumatic injury.

I'm now faced with the decision of whether to undergo surgery or not. I could try ‘activity-directed’ physiotherapy, but this did not work before. The surgeon said if it was him that he would go for the surgery.

Surgery would of course involve having to keep my arm in a sling for up to a month and no climbing for 3-6 months, however I should be back to normal in 1 year and full recovery seems likely due to my age and the size of the tear.

I'm in two minds about the surgery. With physio I had a significant reduction of pain, however I was never 'normal' and shortly after stopping, the pain came back. As pointed out by my physiotherapist, I can't do physio exercises for the rest of my life. However, I really don't want to have that long off of climbing. Equally the prospect of being in pain for the rest of my life doesn't sound appealing either. Also my tear might worsen.

Even if I stopped climbing all together, it’s highly likely that I’ll have day to day pain for a long time; possibly for the rest of my life.

I think I’m leaning more towards surgery but I need to find out more about it.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Road Trip

A moody Stanage

I had a few days off before my viva this week and decided that I needed to get out of London.

I got to the Peak District late Thursday afternoon and went wandering along the top of Stanage. I wasn’t allowed to go climbing since my shoulder joint was still swollen with dye from the MRI.

Then next day I went to check out Mark’s Roof Left Hand at Gardoms. I promptly decided that it was one that required a spotter and multiple mats. Being on my own I had neither. I monkeyed around on it for a bit before deciding that falling out of the tenuous heel-hooks, landing on my back, rolling down the hill and being run over by a speeding lorry didn’t seem like a nice way to spend a day. Definitely need to go back though, ace problem.

Being in an injured / wimpy mood, I decided a traverse was in order. I’m not a huge fan of traverses as they often involve stamina and technique both of which I have none. They’re also, um a bit... girly. However, I quite like the Walnut traverse at Baslow. It has the oddest moves I’ve ever seen. I’m most likely not doing it in the correct sequence, but I end up heel-hooking practically above my head and lunging to the right. How fun. On about my third or fourth try, I got to the penultimate move, went to throw, got a rubbish sloper and fell off. When I stood up, I noticed a huge pocket / jug. Argh. I tried it a few more times, but I was knackered, not to mention the fact that every single move seemed to involve my bad shoulder. Argh.

All and all it was just nice to be out enjoying the fresh air. I don’t often go bouldering on my own. It’s quite a different feeling.

That evening I picked up Peter at Manchester airport and we stayed at the glamorous Holiday Inn Preston and the following morning we were off to Thorn crag.

I have wanted to visit Thorn crag for ages, but never got around to it. Equally, I found it difficult to justify driving all that way for grit. It turned out to be the perfect venue.

Crag Boulders, Thorn Crag

We’re both so out of shape that the walk-in took us about 50 minutes. We had to park what seemed like miles away from the village since all of the places were taken, so that might have added some time to our walk.

Peter on Burnt Heather

As soon as we got to the Crag Boulders it started to rain. Argh. We camped out for a bit and much to our surprise the rain stopped and a breeze quickly dried off some of the boulders. Burnt Heather was on the top of my list and I wanted to save it until I did a few warm-ups, but it was one of the first problems to dry out, so I had a go. I got it on my second attempt. I really need to sort out my foot work. Burnt Heather is now one of my all time favourite problems. It was quite burly for me at least.

Me on Burnt Heather

We then did some fun arête problems before wandering over to the Sea View Boulders where I flashed Jalapeño Arête, another great easy problem.

Me just having flashed Jalapeño Arête

We had a nice peaceful day. Nothing major was ticked, but that was never the objective. Just some chilled out bouldering in a great venue.

The evening was a stark contrast. We wanted to head to the Lakes on Sunday, but every hotel in the North West of England was booked. We eventually found a place to stay in Carlisle however it was noisy and uncomfortable to say the least. We arose feeling fairly sleep deprived at around 11 and headed to Carrock Fell since it was relatively close.

We only spent a few hours there since we had the long drive back to London looming overhead and by now I was severely lacking in skin.

I got to about 2/3 height on Boardman's Arête before deciding that it just wasn’t worth it, not in my wobbly / injured frame of mind at least. Carrock Fell seems to warrant a proper explore sometime.

We left the Lakes around 5ish and six and a half hours later we arrived in London.

On the incredibly long drive home, I came to the conclusion that although climbing most likely caused my shoulder injury; it is worth it, sort of. I found a bit of peace sitting in the sun next to the Walnut boulder, resting my aching limbs. Thorn Crag was equally good for the soul.

As always, I’m struggling with the next move. Tomorrow, I’m supposedly getting a diagnosis on the shoulder injury. I guess I have to wait until then.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


I went for my shoulder MRI today. The doctor said unsympathetically ‘it’s going to hurt when I pierce the synovial membrane’. I contemplated running away. He wasn’t lying.

Lying there with the largest needle that I ever saw stuck in my arm, contemplating surgery, I couldn’t help but think ‘climbing got me here’. Wish that I could say it was worth it.

I get the results next Tuesday.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A way forward

In true ‘who killed Laura Palmer’ fashion, I still don’t know what is wrong with my shoulder. Due to scheduling mishaps and attempts at slaying the monster of a thesis, the issue slipped. I have another appointment for next week.

In the meantime, which is much longer than anticipated, I’m struggling with finding a way forward.

On account of my course, my entire life was put on hold this year. This wasn’t entirely a bad thing, but after staring into the bottom of way too many cocktails in Notting Hill, it’s starting to take its toll. This isn’t my life.

In a way, climbing saves me from myself. I need to climb. I need the distraction. I need the focus. I’m lost without it.

It’s ever so slightly difficult to get motivated when I’m out of shape, can’t train with my bad shoulder (not to mention constantly in pain) and the November monsoons are coming fast.

I escaped London for a quite day at the Roaches last Sunday. It felt odd to be climbing after so long away, but it reminded me of all that I miss.

The thesis is finished. Here’s to hoping for a resolution to the shoulder injury sometime soon.