There are very clear signs that nature is finding a new balance to all the energy us humans have been smashing into the system. The arctic is warming at roughly twice the rate as the rest of the world, and the ozone hole has been growing up there in spring. This warming weakens the jet stream and forces it south, this conspires with enhanced snowfall in eastern North America and high pressure over southern Greenland to induce strong south-westerly winds across western Greenland (this has dismaying consequences for climbing and flooding in the UK). The melt season there started a month early this year, beating even the current ‘record melt’ year of 2012. This doesn’t guarantee more melt, but the early melting increases the snow crystal size, lowering its albedo, which makes it more susceptible to melt later in the season. Once this snow is gone, the ice below melts rapidly.
All this meltwater has to go somewhere. Almost all of it reaches the base of the ice sheet, leading to localised ice-flow acceleration. Much of it is then routed to the ocean. Where the water spills out into the ocean at the margin of a glacier, it often draws warm water to the glacier front leading to enhanced melting, undercutting and calving. We have quite little understanding of how much melting there is there. I had a bash at modelling it earlier in the year, but even with the best data available the model is still off in daisy land whilst the glaciers retreat (usually). The freshwater is then emptied into Baffin Bay at the surface where is hinders ocean upwelling and heat release, potentially leading to overall warming of Baffin Bay.
Meanwhile, the Beaufort gyre has sprung into action early this year, leading to rapid breakup of sea ice in the arctic basin. This, combined with a relatively mild winter, a series of cyclones channelled across the North Atlantic into the Greenland and Norwegian Seas earlier in the year, plus enhanced flow of warm water to the west of Svalbard, has decimated the sea ice and prevented it reaching its usual position around Svalbard. It was even possible to circumnavigate Svalbard several times this year already, which is very rare. Sea ice extent is roughly one million km squared lower than the same day in 2012. I can see little reason why sea ice won’t reach a record low in September.
But this is good news for some. The luxury cruise ship, Crystal Serenity, is capitalising on the declining sea ice by ferrying 1700 blithering idiots through the Northwest Passage this summer. They only have to pay $70 000 to $125 000 each. That lucky bunch will get to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Parry, Ross and McClure – some of the greatest leaders the world has ever produced, in my opinion. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the history of the Northwest Passage, here’s a quick overview, but I strongly recommend reading Fergus Flemming’s Barrows Boys to learn more.
The Northwest Passage is a sea route along the north coast of North America through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. For a long time it was considered as a potential trade route, but even now it is rarely used. I’m not familiar with the earliest expeditions attempting to traverse it, but in 1817, John Barrow made it his personal mission to fill in the missing blanks on the map around the Northwest Passage. John Ross made the first attempt under the admiralty in 1818, but on reaching Lancaster Sound, he was caught out by a Fata Morgana illusion – a curious phenomenon common to the arctic in which the air is distorted because of a temperature inversion induced by sea ice, creating what often appear to look like mountains – and promptly turned around. He named the putative mountains the ‘Crocker Mountains’, after the first secretary to the admiralty. When the mountains turned out to be non-existent, the first secretary was, understandably, not amused. This pretty much set the tone for the majority of subsequent expeditions to attempting to solve the mystery of the Northwest Passage, except subsequent missions involved substantially more suffering.
William Edward Parry, who was first mate on the unfortunate expedition under John Ross, managed to penetrate westwards all the way to Melville Island during the following summer – one of those rare summers in which the arctic opens itself to the world. Indeed, this would be the most productive arctic expedition for the next 3 decades. Parry and his crew overwintered at the appropriately named ‘winter harbour’ before turning for home. Parry’s tactics for overwintering in the arctic – maintain routine, keep busy, provide entertainment and keep scurvy at bay – set the precedent for all subsequent expeditions. Numerous subsequent attempts were foiled by sea ice and storms. Franklin and Back successfully mapped large stretches of the North American coastline, and actually came extremely close to meeting up with an Eastward bound expedition. But alas, instead of becoming famous for the proving the existence of a continuous route, Franklin instead became famous for being the man who ate is boots.
Much later, in 1845, Franklin was given the task of traversing the passage at all costs – he must not fail where all else had – all scientific pretence was abandoned, this was a question of national honour. As almost all of Barrow’s expeditions had, Franklin did not succeed. But by this point, Franklin was a national hero and what followed was an outrageous series of rescue missions, both over land and by sea, which effectively scoured this vast stretch of the Arctic. One party, led by Robert McClure (who was actually under the command of Richard Collinson), approached from the west and set off solo in search of Franklin. Upon finding quite clear seas, thoughts of rescue quickly turned to glory. With clear and charted waters in sight, McClure was trapped in the sea ice. He was extremely close to sailing through the passage that year (1850), indeed, had he pushed on he likely would have done. But, led into a false sense of security by the open waters he was confident that the way would be clear the following summer. After 3 gruesome winters in the ice, during which time the men were reduced to quarter rations and about a quarter of their weight, they abandoned the Investigator, and were (incredibly) luckily rescued by the crew of the Resolute, which was later abandoned for no good reason in the ice. McClure sledged to a different ship, and did cross a Northwest Passage, albeit on several ships. The passage was eventually traversed in a one-er by Roald Amundsen in 1903-1906, who declared the passage useless for anything.
The fate of the Resolute is also interesting. Trapped in the sea ice, it drifted eastwards for 1200 miles before being ‘rescued’ by an American whaler, James Buddington, who sailed her to America. Kindly, they restored the ship and gave it back to Britain as a present, which was instrumental in easing British-American relations. So, what else to do, but dismantle the ship and sell the wood to America? The wood of the Resolute was used to make a desk, and currently sits in the oval office.
The thought the passage become a tourist route sickens me. Imagine it: “quick, let’s get a selfie in front of Franklin’s grave (wherever it is…) before we catch the chopper over to Jakobshavn – maybe we’ll see a calving event” (the way Jakobshavn has been behaving recently, their chances aren’t too bad). At least they all get a chance to see their handiwork. Needless to say, the Canadian coastguards are not amused; though ameliorating, the weather in the arctic is capricious, and sea ice is no weak thing. The Crystal Serenty will be accompanied by an ice breaker, which will be trailing along behind it… Wouldn’t want to ruin the view I guess? The prospect of a mass rescue from deathly cold waters in scarcely charted seas is a sobering one, especially as those seas may roughen as the ice wanes.
Whilst the horde of moral carcasses, preening with conceit, pass through possibly the most sought after challenge in British naval history, they will irreversibly degrade by development the Innuit communities there, and indirectly evict the flora and fauna which form the arctic ecosystem. The same has happened in Antarctica – reportedly dead penguins have simply moved. Why do you think they moved? Truly, we believe absurdities, so we commit atrocities.
Over the last 30 years sport climbing standards have changed dramatically in the UK. Arguably there has been steady improvement at the top level, which I agree with. But, the standard of UK climbing should be measured by the level at which the majority of the top guns are consistently climbing, with reference to the rest of the world. By that measure, British sport climbing standards reached a peak either in the early 90s with Hubble, or the late 90s with Mutation. Only in the last 5 years or so has there been a resurgence, and I don’t think it’s reached its peak yet.
The 80s and early 90s were the golden era of British sport climbing (sport climbing by Brits, for clarity…). From 8a in 1984 with Statement of Youth (or Requiem in 83), Revelations in the same year, to Zeke in 87, Mecca in 88, Cry Freedom in 88, to Liquid Ambar (1st June 1990), finally culminating with Ben Moon’s Hubble on the 14th June 1990, the first 9a in the world. Malc did Hubble as one of his first ever sport routes in 1992, and did Cry Freedom in a day. Throw in ascents of Le Rage, Spectre, Are you Ready?, Agincourt, Le Minimum and Maginot line, plus the outrageous onsight and flash (and 2nd go, for those of you that care) record from the likes of Sellers, Vickers and Nadin, and you’ve got a list of achievements which would leave all us youths and the blokes (and ladies) at UKC wondering why we thought we were good.
After Jerry did Evo, Ben (temporarily) and Co shifted their focus towards bouldering, so hard British sport climbing became dominated by Steve (not)weak McClure, though there were occasional other notable ascents. The aforementioned not-weak man produced Mutation (1998), Northern Lights (2000), Rainshadow (2003), Overshadow (2007), North Star (2008), and repeated Hubble (2009). Not to mention a host of horrendously hard link ups and traverses, plus repeats of just about every upper 8 outside of Wales, and hard onsights home and abroad. Other than this, the Quill, Sellers and Malc repeated Evo, Dunning and Malc (and possibly Johnny G) repeated Hubble, Neil Carson FA’d the Big Bang in 96, Dunning FA’d Tonto in 2006, and Macleod did A Muerte in 2007.
So the noughties clearly hosted some hard ascents and amazing progress, but whilst Steve was out crushing that shit, the chasing back died off almost entirely. Everyone got stuck into bouldering and headpointing. In fact, the standard of the chasing pack dropped back to standards which were set in the mid-80s, whilst rest of the world (okay, not everywhere) continued to improve in line with the top level i.e. 9a became relatively commonplace (check out this site if you want to see just how common: http://tinyurl.com/9a-list).
Since 2007 or so there has been a resurgence, but it’s only since 2010/11 that the hard 90s routes have had repeats. When I started climbing it was rare to see people on 8b’s or harder, and you’d probably heard of those people too. Now, I never go to the crag without seeing someone on an 8b (usually an 8c). There’s almost always queues on the likes of Mecca, Bat Route, and even Rainshadow, nowadays. Repeats of 8c and 8c+ both at home and abroad isn’t uncommon now, and 8b+ elicits no more than a cursory bat of an eyelash from your mum, and even then it would be patronizing.
But we didn’t stop there. There are currently at least 6 climbers operating at least at 9a in the UK (plus Bolger), but that could be as many as 12 depending on what you class as 9a and whether or not you think the others have still got the minerals. Ascents of 8c+ aren’t that rare anymore – I can think of 15 or 16 people who have climbed 8c+ and are still capable of it, and another couple who have climbed 8c/+. Coupled with Steve’s progression to at least 9a+ then I’d say we’ve made pretty good progress from the golden years. The numbers: one 9a+ climber, one 9a/+ climber, at least 5 9a climbers (but maybe 10), one 8c+/9a climber, at least another 15 at 8c+ and who knows how many at 8c, 2 of whom are female (alright, one of them is getting back into it after injury).
I’ll be amazed if this year turns out to be the peak of the progression, and I really hope it’s not. At least 4 of the above 8c+ climbers (that I know) are capable of climbing 9a (or harder) in the next couple years, but probably sooner. There are probably more that I don’t know well enough to guess at their potential, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of the guys on the 9a list climbed 9a+ too. Plus the almost inevitable progression of a load of the current 8c climbers (both male and female), and, hopefully, Steve will get his Easy Easy proj at Malham – possibly a level of difficulty matched only by 6 other people in the world, on a rope at least.
So ‘we’ might not have moved on from the golden era in the sense that the then standard is still cutting edge (excluding Steve) now, but we’re pretty much back to where Ben and Co left us off 20 odd years ago. So to paraphrase Tyler Durden, I see so much potential, let’s not see it squandered. It’s time to move things on and give Steve some help! Go and get on something that you’re worried you’ll fail on. Why the fuck not? Get rich in experience, and go find out what you’re made of. Be ambitious everyone.
I’ve put off writing many blogs over the last year for fear of sounding bitter and depressed, but a friend of mine recently reminded me that people are just as, if not more, interested in hearing about the hard times as those were you went out and crushed that shit. So, at the risk of becoming a victim of obloquy, here’s a look back over the last year, now that I’ve finally regained some love for clambering up rocks.
Disclaimer: the only crushing in this blog is (mostly) crushing defeats, and in an effort to prevent myself from digressing into emotional, cliché-laden waffle I’m gonna introduce the Whiney self-Indulgent Meaningless Prattle (WIMP) ‘swear jar’.
No doubt all my biggest fans (hi Mum) will have heard the sob story by now: man falls off rock and man is not happy. Boo hoo. Jokes aside, I’m still surprised at how dramatically a few broken bones has affected my life, both physically and, even worse, mentally – it’s been a lot more than the sum of its parts (WIMP x2). In hindsight, physically, it hasn’t been that bad at all: I was out of action for a couple months from August (other than physio), then did some swimming, started hanging off bits of wood around December, and could climb fairly normally by March/April. I’d go as far to say that, had I put my mind to it, I could be back up to form by now. As it is, though, I think I’m quite a way off in many respects.
The hardest obstacle, if you want to call it that, has been, and still is, the mental side to it all. After the initial shock, I was just happy that I would recover (WIMP), then this quite quickly morphed into apathy, regret and occasionally anger (only at myself, I hope). A visit from a friend of mine, Josh Forde, and a chat with another, Gavin Ellis, brought me mostly out of my state of self-pity.
Since then, it’s been a veritable emotional roller coaster (WIMP) as I’ve been torn between (or trying to disentangle) what I expect from myself, both reasonably and unreasonably, with what I feel like I should or want to be doing. Moreover, the constant annoyance and disappointment at myself for not meeting those expectations and for not having the same drive and ambition I had before has been somewhat, well, annoying and disappointing. The latter has been the hardest to reconcile with: progress has always been key, and not striving to progress as much as possible has always seemed alien to me. The loss of that drive led me to question both why I climb and what I like about climbing – did I just like it because I was doing well and improving? I’m ashamed to admit that the prospect of giving up seemed quite attractive at times, so I thought maybe the answer to that question was ‘yes’.
Michaela Tracy shed another light on this feeling – of course I enjoyed climbing well, just in the same way that one enjoys playing an instrument well – there’s something intrinsically satisfying about doing something well (WIMP). Sheffield’s own Fresh Prince, Will Smith, and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk reminded me that everyone has lapses in motivation at times and it’s best not to try and force it when you do, because it’ll come back gradually and eventually.
Like a disgraced soon-to-be husband skulking back after a stag due in a scene like the Hangover, some motivation returned in fits and starts. This typically initiated a week or two of renewed-psyche induced ‘training’ (read: trying a bit harder than before on the Wave/in the School, plus the occasional core session, within a ‘long-term plan’ that changed weekly), only for it to vanish, leaving me wondering why the hell I bother and whether Eye of Odin will be the hardest route I ever climb – a strangely saddening thought. In hindsight, these downs never last more than a week, are becoming fewer a further between, so it’s best just to roll with em and enjoy the ups.
What I hope was a turning point occurred when Chris Shepherd invited me on a month trip clippin’ bolts in Tarn and Ceuse with Jake ‘the face’ Oughton and Alice ‘hat stand’ Irmak-Thompson. Sketchin’ up 7c’s, eating bread and cheese, kayaking down le Tarn and getting my ass kicked (back slapped) at sting pong in the barn has never been so damned fun. Sure, there’s been a couple times when I just can’t be arsed, or when I’m dismayed by a spanking on a vert 7a, but life would be boring if it was always easy. After another few days of crushing defeats, small victories and moments where you remember that it’s not just about the climbing I might even try and get better again, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. For now, I’m just gonna enjoy being on a trip.
(Pictures to come once I have decent internet!)
I recently read a post by Tom Randall praising Kranko the Klown for his motivation and psyche, which probably helped him climb a “trickyish route of unspecified difficulty which may or may not be hard for other people…”. Said trickyish route does indeed look quite tricky, and let’s be honest, most of us are always going to be too shit to climb even the easiest of tricky routes. But why are some of us
shit probably not reaching our potential? This is clearly the 21st most pressing question in British climbing, and as a man who has experienced varying degrees of shitness falling-distinctly-short-of-his-potential over the last year, I’m going to answer it.
To be brief, Randall is right, its all about motivation. Some of us just care more than others, are more psyched, think more about all things climbing-related, give more of themselves and just get really freakin’ obsessed. I’m pretty sure this is ‘the secret’. Now, if you don’t have ‘the drive’, its probably hard to imagine just how much it helps. I reckon I had a decent amount of it last year before I won the dumbfuckery award in Norway, and now, to all intents and purposes, it’s gone.
This does suck, but at least I get to assess how useful ‘the drive’ is: quite, really. First, remember the last time you had a brilliant session, when you were psyched, you turned up with a plan; everything was going well, you put everything into each go, just to complete that next set (i.e. you really cared); and you were extremely analytical of the intensity, your technique, your tiredness, and so on. But you don’t wildly thrash yourself, it’s focused, calculated and pragmatic. Imagine it was like this every session, even when everything doesn’t go well and you don’t feel like you imagine Megos does.
Sounds like a lot of effort to me at the moment. But if you have ‘the drive’ it just isn’t. It’s not conscious, it’s not forced, giving up is never an option because it doesn’t occur to you to do so, and it’s consistent. You do it all because you really fucking want to, not because you feel like you should, or because you expect yourself to.
So I guess now the 22nd most pressing question in British climbing is ‘how do I get me some ‘drive’!? Ask me in a year and I hope I have an answer!
I’ve had a bit of a dilemma up until recently: how high to aim? How on earth do you set goals and get motivated when you have no idea whether you’ll even be able to climb properly again? How do you commit so much of yourself to something that you can’t fully believe in? Sure, there’s hope, though it sometimes feels like a distant, unlikely thing. At times, fairly often recently actually, its been nigh on impossible to summon up much motivation to do much other than the bare minimum because it just feels like there’s no point and no hope at getting anywhere near back where I was. Obviously, that’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The injuries to my wrist and heel especially were pretty bad. The surgeon in Norway said that the heel might not be operable, and best case scenario was that it was operable but it would be damage control; worst case scenario was that he operates on it, but its so painful a few years down the line that it would need to amputated. I never spoke to the surgeon who did my wrist, but they were never very worried about that.
It’s still early days post op, so I can’t really tell how its all going to work out, but I think (hope) that I can rule out worst case scenario at least. My physio and consultant are both extremely happy with how my range of movement and strength of my wrist and heel are improving actually. The bones have healed in a pretty good position, the sub-talar joint is in surprisingly good condition, and hopefully the metal work will not be a problem in future. So, I think I have actually been extremely lucky given the severity of the injury.
So, in short, I don’t know how things will pan out with climbing. But that’s not a reason to give up; its precisely the opposite. I can’t really set tangible goals, so the goal is to be satisfied. However things work out, I am going to look back knowing that I did everything possible to give myself the best chance. If I’m going to have any chance of getting back to climbing, and I think that’s what my surgeon and physio have given me, then I’m going to have to fucking earn it. And if I can get back to climbing, then I’m going to be ready, I’m going to work with what I’ve got.
It’s been 10 weeks now since the accident in Flatanger, and now I feel like I’m getting more control over the process of recovery. Before a few weeks ago, there wasn’t much I could do apart from crutch round the block, lie down, and move my foot about a bit. However, with a lot of help from a great physio and my parents I’ve got a plan with a timescale and goals, which has given me a whole lot of motivation to get back to fighting form, and to take control of the process. It is a process though, and to take short cuts would be detrimental in the long run. I’ve been asked a few times when I’ll be getting back into climbing, and the answer is a frustrating one; I could go climbing now, and there’s loads of climbing related stuff I could be doing, however, if I did that then I would plateau pretty fast.
Rehab’s kind of like training – its progressive and measurable. but at the minute it requires more than a little rest – 1 day on 3 days off is my current regime other than daily exercises for my foot and wrist, but I do them lying down so it hardly counts. As soon as I got the cast off my wrist I was in the pool smashing in some laps. Normally just a few at a time though, and not for long. Plus, now I have a moon boot I can weight bare on my foot so I can sort of walk; at first with two crutches, then with one, and now without any occasionally. I can even get down the stairs in my house whilst retaining some dignity.
If nothing else, this injury has given me the opportunity (or will) to work on things that I would otherwise ignore. I’ve always felt like my shoulders were an injury waiting to happen, so I might as well sort them out before I start climbing too much, then I can focus on climbing related weaknesses instead of trying to get my strengths back to being strong straight away. I’m hoping that by doing this I’ll continue to improve more in the long run,
It’s hard to say at this stage whether I’ll be able to get back to form, or how long that will take, because I just don’t know how strong my wrist will get, and how much my foot might hinder me. Therefore, its pretty hard to set goals that I know are SMART. I’ll be over the moon if I can get back to where I was in a years time, but at the moment I’m just taking what I’ve got each day and each week, and working with that. For now, I know that I need to get back to a normal level of fitness, let myself heal, and try and get as much range of movement and strength in my wrist and foot as possible, so that’s what I’m focussing on. Once they’re as good as I think they need to be (and once I have the energy) then I will move on to climbing related stuff.
Onwards and then upwards!
In other news, my friend Sam Tolhurst has been working hard recently to develop a new climbing brand called Monkey Fist. At the moment the main product is a skin care balm which is vegan friendly and all natural, and that should be available in the next couple weeks from the website and from various shops/walls. Monkey Fist have also committed to donating at least 10% of their profits to CAC. Give the website a look and keep an eye out for it: http://www.mnkyfst.com/page2.html
In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton set out on the Endurance to attempt to traverse the Antarctic continent. Years later he returned, having failed to achieve that goal. However, he writes that he and his crew returned rich in memories, having “suffered, starved and triumphed, grovelled down yet grasped at glory. Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole.” I’m not so full of conceit that I consider my experience equal to his, but I think that the quote pretty well describes the run up to the trip, and especially the time since then.
About a year ago now I started to make travel and training plans for a trip to Flatanger, Norway. I’d heard great things about the place and the climbing, so I went for it. I found out everything I possibly could, I even contacted a certain strong Czech climber for some knowledge. Over the course of 10 months I dreamt about all the routes I’d heard about; devoured every video, picture and blog I could find; became obsessed to the exclusion of all other climbs. I just didn’t care about other climbs or other places. I think I went outside a handful of times over the winter, and it always felt like a waste of time; a trip to Margalef at Easter was an absolute disaster, cut short because I didn’t want to be there.
The trip came round surprisingly fast, but I’d prepared as well as I knew how, and I had my list. 10 routes from 8c-9a (plus everything else), all of which looked amazing, some looked like they would suit me more than others, and I was more motivated for some for various reasons. I knew I was probably fit enough to climb one of the 8c+’s, which was the main goal, but I didn’t know if I was strong enough or good enough.
Gavin, a good friend of mine, said it was like how Ceuse was 20 years ago, and that was enough to convince me. This doesn’t come close. The scenery is better: it’ll make you stand there, deep in thought, feeling at one with nature whist you probably just look like a gormless idiot. But it’s OK. Everyone else is doing the same thing. The rock is better, by far the best I’ve ever climbed on. It makes holds which are just a pleasure to use, world class boulder problems, and the routes follow proper lines. Norway is a bit more expensive, and there’s not hundreds of routes at every grade, and the weather can be a bit fickle, but you’ll come down off every single route, successful or not, with a smile on your face.
As soon I arrived I knew I wanted to do everything. On the first day I tried Eye of Odin and it didn’t go all that well. Gavin has admitted to me since then that, based on that first day, he thought that I might not do it. I expected that though, what I didn’t expect was for it to come together as fast as it did. 5 sessions later, after falling off the last move of the last boulder problem, I clipped the chain with a big grin on my face. This was made all the more rewarding because I was belayed by Gavin, who has been like a mentor, as well as a good friend, since I started climbing.Filming: Matt Hardy and James France; Edit: Matt Hardy
After quickly doing Muy Verdes with a bit of encouragement from Mikey, which is probably more like bottom end 8c if you don’t onsight it, a couple routes seemed like the next obvious choices. Either Nordic Flower, which Alan was trying and basically repeating every day, or Little Badder, Seb Bouin’s monster 9a. I thought Nordic Flower looked like it was worth a flash attempt up to the first belay so I decided to leave that for a day of good conditions and try Little Badder. They share the same 25m ~8b to start but it’s possible to jumar past this section and start directly on the 9a bit.
It was going quite well considering the conditions and the 9a-ness of the route. I thought that I was closeish to doing it in a couple sections, so with 5 weeks to go and conditions improving, maybe I would have a chance.
On around my fifth session on it, I jumared up the 10m or so of fixed static rope, clipped in direct, sent down the jumar and gri-gri, unclipped, then started to climb. Three moves later I looked down to do a foot swap on the lip of the small roof I’d just climbed round. ‘Oh, shit’, was all I said as I saw my rope going straight down to Alan. No chance to down climb. Jump off? No. Jump and try and catch the static line? Unlikely. Move.
‘Go on, you know you can do it’, were the words I heard from Alan, and were the words I needed to hear.
Foot swap. Shit, my left foot’s not on right. Can’t adjust. My left arm is getting pumped already. ‘No…’, as my right hand came just short of the next hold, a good hold. A move I’d never fallen on since deciding on the sequence.
‘I’m alright’, were my first words after I rolled onto my back. I’ve got away with this, somehow. Then I saw my wrist. Blueish and black, about three times as big as it should be and S-shaped. No… What about all the routes I haven’t done yet!? Odd, how annoyed I was that I wouldn’t be able to even try them. Briefly, that was my main concern.
I saw another climber, Silvio Reffo, walk over. ‘Good effort on Muy Verdes’ I said, having seen him do it, despite wet holds at the crux, just before I started jumaring. He was somewhat bemused. ‘Take my shoes off, please’. The left one feels a bit tighter than usual, and it feels like I’ve pulled a muscle in my groin, and maybe my achilles too.
Over the next hour I experienced first hand the very best of the climbing community. I was unconscious for the second. Alan, having broken my fall onto the steep slope, probably saving me from permanent injury and a long slide to the bottom, supported my body to keep me flat for two hours. A few days later he told me he couldn’t feel his legs for a while after. Matt and James, who were there to film Alan (and make us all laugh after failing miserably on something. James gave me a particularly good pep talk for the Eye – ‘make it your bitch’), called the emergency services and ran down to meet them. I remember Matt legging it back up the slope with the stretcher before practically collapsing himself. Silvio’s partner, who is medically trained, checked my blood circulation and gave me some painkillers. Another man, who didn’t say a word, just looked me in the eye, and I knew that he would do everything he could to help. And he bloody well did. I’m sorry that I can’t remember everything that everyone did to help me, and that I don’t even know who many of you are, but if you are one of those people and you happen to be reading this, then please get in contact because I would like to thank you.
I woke up in Trondheim hospital late that evening. I later found out that I had a fracture dislocation in my wrist, three fractures in my pelvis, which was fortunately stable but extremely painful, and a shattered heel. They said the latter was ‘in little bits’, and, having seen the x-ray now, I can confirm that they didn’t exaggerate. The wrist and the heel needed an operation, but they weren’t confident they could do much about the heel, and that they needed to wait two weeks for the swelling to go down before they could operate. I couldn’t fly home either – it turned out that my insurance wouldn’t cover repatriation costs, but I couldn’t have flown in any case, even in an air ambulance.
Three weeks later I was on my way home with my Mum, who had flown out to help me back. It seemed like the operation had gone quite well, but because of the language barrier I couldn’t really be certain. I knew that I wouldn’t be walking for a few months though.
Now, almost 2 months since the accident, I feel like I’m past the regret, the what-ifs, anger and depression, and I’m making good progress by doing A LOT of physio. My pelvis is healed, lots of stitches and a pin have been taken out, and I found out that the operation had gone extremely well. There’s still a lot of work to be done, first to get my foot back to a normal shape with a normal range of motion, then to start walking again and building back some some of the muscle which has wasted away. Climbing properly again seems a long way off, but I will climb again – there’s plenty routes still on the list.