Wednesday, October 28, 2015

From the East to the West - Cannon cliff and the City of Rocks

Wicked Splittah! Bridget leading Reppy's Crack - Cannon Cliff

The past month has been a whirl wind of teaching, traveling, and trying to balance all things life.  Bridget and I have had the chance to climb in Idaho and New Hampshire in a one moth period.   


The stunning Cannon Cliff

Bridget leading on the perfect splitter of Reppys crack while dodging falling ice from the cliff above


Bridget topping out Reppy's crack

Bridget on the second pitch of the Whitney - Gilman ridge on Cannon Cliff

Bridget on p3 of the Whitney -Gilman

Bridget topping out the Whitney- Gilman

leaf peeping

The city of rocks with Bridget and Leslie climbing on the anteater spire (right one)

Leslie climbing deep in the city

Leslie and Bridget navigating

The city

Cheers, Loren

Monday, August 24, 2015

From Washington pass to the Black hills

Austin Hart on a limestone palisade near Red Lodge 



Despite the ACL deficiency in my left knee I had a very enjoyable summer (stupidity is bliss?) climbing rocks, peaks, and boulders from Washington to South Dakota.  Here is a summer spent climbing with an injury.

Liberty Bell group from Washington pass.  Bridget and I climbed the right most tower (the liberty bell) via the NW face (right arete).

Bridget climbing on Liberty Bell

Liberty bell

Bridget on the summit of Liberty Bell

Chris Ebeling and I climbed 3 of the Tatoosh peaks in Rainier National park (Plummer, Pinnacle, and The Castle) - very fun scrambling on loose 4th class

Chris on the Pinnacle

Chris on the Castle

Rainier from the Tatoosh Range

Bridget and I also discovered surfing 

Bridget being a dirt bag

Austin Hart leading on C point - Beartooths

C point - no summit but we climbed the small pinnacle to the left - and found old webbing on top!

Austin Hart leading on the Tower of Innocence

Tower of Innocence

Tower of Innocence

Austin on the summit of the Tower of Innocence

And finally wrapping the summer up with a trip to the Black Hills.  I visited with my Mom and ran into some older (and awesome) local climbers who let me lead the classic Tricouni nail spire - the classic simul-rappel off the summit was worth it alone!

Cheers, Loren

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Climber-Centric View of ACL Surgery (and other first world problems) Part 1

Skiing the Japanese Couloir on Mount Barrill in a storm, Ruth Gorge, AK


Well it finally happened.  I have been skiing since I was two years old- in high school I could ski better than I could walk.  I have skied serious lines in the mountains of Montana, Wyoming,  and the Ruth Gorge/Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska.  I finally hurt myself after a 30 year run of no ski injuries and I did it on the school ski trip, in the terrain park, while wearing a one piece Carhart suit.  Stay gaper my friends.

I blew my ACL out (completely) in my left knee.  The past 10 years I have been more of a climber than a skier, I ski for fun, I climb to sustain my sanity in a strange world- so I view this injury as a hindrance to climbing, not skiing (I could never ski again and be fine with it as long as I could climb).  While searching the great cyber world for information pertaining to climbing and ACL replacement I had to wade through a lot of junk indicative of the internet tubes.  The best resource I found was Steph Davis's blog about her ACRr.

Not every climber is the same caliber as Steph so I will relay my injury as yet another anecdotal story that may help others get information, comfort, or psych about this injury.

Here is my story:

March 31, 2015.  Last run of the day I decide to go through the terrain park in my onesie Carhart suit. As a high school kid I was a park rat and I still know my way around the park.  This time was different though.  I went off a small kicker, nothing cool - straight air - and landed hard in super slushy snow.  My left ski must have stuck in the heavy snow for a second longer and I felt a grinding in my left knee as it hyper-extended.  No popping sound, no ejection from the ski, no wreck, nothing special really.  Right away I knew I was hurt though.  I stood up and my knee hurt in a way it has never hurt before.  I leaned on my poles for a minute then skied down.  My knee buckled 2 or 3 times on the way down and that hurt really bad.  I went into the patrol shack at the base area and Anne looked at my knee then sent me to the E.R.  The doctor there pulled on my knee and twisted it feeling for instability or looseness.  He found nothing and sent me home with a brace and crutches, it swelled up a day later.  I was on crutches for 2 weeks and started trail running and top rope climbing as soon as I could. I took it really easy though.  

My knee the day after the injury


I knew something was up with my knee after a month of it still not quite being normal (hard to explain the feeling - cramping of small muscles deep in your knee you never knew you had, afraid to walk hard on it on uneven terrain due to fear of hyper-extension).  It also hurt between the tibial plateau and femur when I bent down, so I couldn't (and still can't) crouch down all the way or sit cross legged. The next doctor I went to pulled on my knee once and chuckled then stated "Your ACL is out".  I got an MRI and the results showed a complete tear and a medial meniscus tear.  sweet.  The meniscus tear is what hurts when I try and bend my knee to sharply.  The ACL doesn't hurt at all, just feels different, it is very stable (I could go skiing on it no problem), yet not 100% and I have been coping.  

MRI of my knee.  The ACL should be dark black (like the PCL near the back of my tibia).  This picture shows a grey, stringy thing between my tibia and femur - that is the remains of my ACL.


Okay, what now?  

The first question I had was "Is surgery necessary for me?"  I have no instability, I can still lead 5.12 trad, I feel totally comfortable on boulder fields, I have surfed, I trail run, I boulder and fall on my knee all the time.  For some people they can't put any weight on their knee following an ACL tear, I don't fall into this category thus this question is harder for me to answer.

Answer:

I have turned down trips to the Wind River Mountains, The Enchantments, and other amazing places this summer because I can't carry heavy loads on uneven terrain.  This combo makes my knee feel like it could hyper-extend suddenly and then I would really be screwed, especially if I were back in the mountains.  With out fixing my knee I can live a pretty good life (as I have these past 5 months) and I basically do what I always did before the accident, the only exception is I have to never go in the mountains for the rest of my life.  No more trips to Alaska, Nepal, South America, or even the mountains in Montana.  That is the single most important deciding factor for me to get my knee fixed.  If you are questioning if you should get surgery sincerely ask yourself if you are ready to give up whatever you have to give up, there are limitations - address them logically.

The doctor stated that the risk of osteoarthritis increases without getting surgery as there is low level instability that over the years will reduce your meniscus to nothing.  I don't know if I buy this yet as other studies contradict this statement and the cohort sizes are seriously (alarmingly) small for any ACLr studies I have read - I almost trust anecdotal evidence more at the moment (remember I teach science).  Regardless, listen to your body and be honest in the quality of life you will have if you get surgery vs. no surgery.


The second question I had was what type of graft to get.  There are 3 main types, cadaver, hamstring, and patellar grafts.  


Answer:  

I don't know yet.  I am getting surgery this December so I have some time to think about it.  I do know that I don't want a patellar graft.  I have talked to to many people I admire who now have extreme tendinitis from their ACL repaired with their patellar ligaments, they can't ride bikes, jog, etc..  Basically their quality of life is diminished from that graft.  My doctor agrees.  So it's cadaver (which has a higher % of failure, tissue rejection, and is creepy, but heals faster, and doesn't compromise other parts of your body) or hamstring (where they steal part of your hamstring to replace your ACL, longer recovery, reduced strength in leg for life, constant cramping, stronger graft).  Both have limitations but I must choose one.  Keep you posted on which one I choose and why**.





**The next part of this story may be a year from now.  This isn't twitter, I'm not going to have a minute-to-minute play of how everything feels.  I am going to try and provide good, reflective, and sound advise on how my experience with ACLr went via the methods I choose with a climber-centric mindset.

Cheers, Loren

The summer of taking 'er easy


Mount Rainier from the Tatoosh range

This has been an interesting summer for me, one that is teaching me a lot of little life lessons.  In March I tweaked my knee pretty bad while hitting the park jumps at Red Lodge Mountain with my school group and it turned out to be bad.  As the most interesting man in the world would say: I don't always completely blow my ACL but when I do I make sure to be dressed in  a one piece Carhart suit while on the school ski trip.  Stay Gaper my friends.

I am planning on keeping this blog updated with the perspective of a climber in mind and all that the ACL surgery entails - as I couldn't find much written online about ACL surgery with a climbercentric view (The only exception being the great article written by Steph Davis on her blog).

Aside from not having an ACL in my left knee for the last 5 months it has been an awesome summer of climbing - I just have to stay closer to the car and not carry heavy packs (my own rules).

So here is a photo essay depicting a summer of taking 'er easy:

Austin Hart and I attempted Cathedral Point.  We got sandbaged on the approach and ended up running out of daylight (we did 1 pitch on the buttress).  We did climb the spire to the left as a consolation prize and found some tat on top.  Good old B-Tooths.

Austin Hart on top of a limestone palisade in the Red Lodge area

Audrey from NYC enjoying a trip up the Ramp (5.7).  Working for Beartooth Mountain guides this summer was pure fun as I couldn't carry heavy packs - so I got to do a lot of type 1 fun trips.

Looking up at Senor Clinton as he onsights an .11b pitch for the first ascent of pitch 1 of "Sundance" 

Looking down at Senor Clinton from pitch 2 of "Sundance"  burly.

I visited Bridget in Washington.  We climbed the classic "Libery Bell" via the NW face.

Bridget on Liberty Bell

Bridget on the summit of Liberty Bell


Chris Ebeling and I scrambled a bit of the Tatoosh traverse in Rainier National Park.  We did Plummer, Pinnacle, and the Castle.

Chris on the castle

Bridget and I also discovered surfing.  Surfing blew my mind and I already have surf specific trips planned for next year.  If you have never surfed you should.  My doctor was not psyched though.

Bridget about to get pitted

I also had the opportunity to work with a group of archaeologists as a rope technician in Montana.   I free soloed up a short limestone face and placed an anchor to rig a ladder.  The cave paintings were documented and the cave is in the works as getting donated back into the Crow tribe.  Larry makes a squeeze into the main cave system.

One of the paintings in the cave

I also got a chance to climb in the needles of the Black Hills.  I was very impressed with the quality of rock and the friendly locals who let me climb with them (I was on a short vacation with my Mom).


So even while injured you can still get out and enjoy the outdoors.  I am a classic coper - I am staying away from the mountains and turning down amazing trips to the Enchantments, Wind Rivers, etc.. so I am dying a little bit on the inside from that, but I feel super lucky to still be able to climb.  A summer of little lessons.


Cheers, Loren

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chugwater spires


Rick on "Little Fin".  "Middle fin" is the big one to the right.

Found some excellent choss spires.  I recruited the corn fed dark horse, Rick Dvorak, to climb a few of them with me.  A taste of Utah right here in the WyMont. The nice part about these towers is that they went free, although loose and scary.  Classic tower experiences. We put anchors on the top to belay from but be ready to tandem rappel.


Myself hiking into the spires (I guess I haven't had an ACL in my left knee for 2 months now - doesn't seem to affect me...?)

Myself heading up "Middle fin" on the F.A.

Myself on the 5.8+ hand crack of "Middle fin"

Rick on top of "Middle Fin" - these things are skinny!

Rick on the sporty F.A. lead of "little fin" 5.8+?

Rick on the top of 'Little Fin"

Wilson dog

Cheers, Loren