Thursday, 24 September 2009

Climbers are funny...

I was chatting with Paul B the other day, himself a veteran of both injury and obvious climbing enthusiasm. He'd nicely asked how I was doing, and I was able to truthfully say "Okay!" and mention I'd been climbing for the first time (this was when I went to Harpur Hill, a few days after my full discharge). Being the first thing I mentioned, my climbing enthusiasm in the circumstances was equally obvious, and prompted a response of:

"Climbers are funny" we're all so keen to get back into it as soon as possible after injury or other time off, regardless of other peoples' perceptions or medical convention. He has a point, this is a common situation of prioritising a return to climbing. But I have an alternative view:

"Climbers are great"

Okay, clearly they / we aren't - I've long given up my naive expectations that, due to participating in an unusual, challenging, individual and involving activity such as climbing, that climbers would somehow be smarter, more interesting, more liberal and more "outside the box" than the average population, and since realised that climbers are mostly a fair representation of that population with all the idiocy, narrow-mindedness, pettiness and general choadliness that mankind usually displays.

BUT, insofar as having a passion and a drive for that activity, there is a certain amount of greatness on display there - because we have something worth fighting for, something worth striving for, something that makes physical recuperation and physical recovery worthwhile. We can be crippled and down and out and told we'll be lucky to walk properly in 6 months time and are unlikely to climb again and 3 months later we'll be back on the rock, weak and wobbly but full of joy and passion and trying hard to improve ourselves and get are body to heal so we can climb again normally as soon as possible. We'll try hard and we'll keep moving and we'll get our fitness up and we'll do our physio because we have a reason to do so - not just general physical well-being, but a passion beyond that, a passion that puts our well-being to good use.

Every step I've taken, every length I've swum, every stretch I've done, every time I've sat in an awkward position with my legs up so they didn't swell, every time I've dilligently asked the doctors about what I can do to help my healing, every time I've rested when I didn't feel like it, every time I've been conscious to take care of myself, every little bit I've pushed to get my fitness back, it's been because there's something I want that fitness for - living a good life in general, and living a climbing lifestyle....which is pretty damn good ;). I make no claims of greatness, but I feel happy and proud to have this attitude and happy and proud that climbing is a big part of it.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Good morning Cadair!

I just love opening the tent door and seeing this...

...well, who wouldn't ;). This is from one of my favourite campsites, in Dolgellau. I've forgotten the name of it (doh) but it's mostly a caravan park with one wonky field for tents - and invariably quiet, with good showers and great views. It's also my favourite because it's central to Mid-Wales climbing, sandwiched between the Rhinnogs to the North, Arennig Fawr to the North East, Y Aran to the East, and of course Cadair Idris to the South. I know when I'm waking up here to a view like that I'm in for a great day of exploration, good climbing on great rock, hidden gems, and a wondrous solitude that's worlds away from the traffic and queues of the Pass... In between the waking and climbing, there's also a surprisingly great cafe in Dolgellau, again I forget the name, but it's the old ironmongers anyway.

This last weekend was no exception - although the walk-in to Craig Y Merched was desperately hard on my legs on the last slope, climbing there in glorious autumn sunshine, with a breeze rustling through the conifers and dragonflies flitting around, on the delightful Rhinnog grit, was as much a treat as anything in the area. Craig Rhiwarth the previous day was also fairly good and interestingly different.

Funnily enough, as much as I like the view of Cadair, I've never been up there, not for climbing nor walking. The closest is an abortive walk halfway to Crywfy before retreating in constant drizzle. Even my main inspirations in the area aren't on the mountain itself, but rather the outliers of Craig Y Llam and Craig Y Aderyn. This time I decided at some point that must change and I must embrace the mountain, climb on it, and look at my tent from the summit for the first time. Once I'm fitter for walking, and once I've polished off my climbing ticks in the area, I will try to have a full weekend or longer just climbing on Cadair itself. I'm looking forward to it already...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Fine nine, final nine.

The last 9 days have been as follows:

Sat - Climbing trad (Clogwyn Y Grochan, Craig Ddu)
Sun - Climbing trad (Tremadog)
Mon - Bouldering (Cromlech boulders)
Tue - Gentle bouldering (Holmfirth Cliff), gentle swimming
Wed - Gentle swimming
Thu - Climbing sport (Hangingstone Quarry)
Fri - Prolonged swimming, brisk stroll
Sat - Climbing trad (Craig Rhiwarth)
Sun - Climbing trad (Craig Y Merched), long walk

Not bad for someone who could scarcely walk a month ago!! The legs have held up well - the uphill walking on a few days has been hard, and standing around too much makes them swell slightly. Climbing and the associated lounging and faff in between seems fine, apart from bridging type manoeuvres which are too tiring so far. The climbing has been great in general, especially the Welsh Weekends - so nice to get on good trad in great weather.

This last weekend is a bit of a transition point. I'm moving on and doing something useful with myself. More details when relevant. Suffice to say that the climbing will continue, just in a different location - and it felt really nice to go to one of my favourite areas (Merionnydd) that I might not revisit for a while. Hopefully the healing and regaining fitness will also continue!!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Welsh Weekend Warmth.

If I were to speculate on a list of Things The Doctors Wouldn't Recommend, it would be something like this:

Roped/harnessed climbing.
Trad climbing.
Multipitch climbing.
Bold climbing.
Steep walk-ins.
Sleeping in a tent.
Long drives.

Thus, I ticked all of those this weekend. On the other hand, I wore a lid leading, I was careful to put the least pressure through my harness I could, I was very diligent with protection, I made sure to sit down lots and take comfy belay stances, I approached any boldness with a lot of consideration, I kept the walk-ins to 5-10 mins max, I got the tent comfy and propped my legs up at night, and Butters did the driving so I could keep twitching around.

More pertinently, I ticked three E1s and an E2, including a total of one 5a pitch and seven 5b pitches, as well as seconding some classic HS-VS stuff. All of it went very well - not bad given a month ago I couldn't walk!! It's definitely the sort of reassuring mileage I needed to get back into trad. My legs were a bit swollen and stiff from DIY on Friday (too much standing around), and haven't eased off much but haven't worsened either despite all the activity, but I'm going to rest well now.

It was really quite a spiffing weekend: Glorious weather, sunburn both days, busy in the Pass on Saturday, quiet at Tremadog on Sunday, good company, great climbing, and the joyous simplicity of a proper climbing weekend: Sleep, wake up, eat, climb, token beer, eat, chill out, admire sky, sleep. Rinse and repeat. Also the routes were all really good, it's been a while since the inscrutable urges of my soul have let me delve below E2+, and I really enjoyed savouring some easier routes this time - quality climbing with less fear. Hangover, Yellow Wall, One Step In The Crowds, Grim Wall Direct, go do them all.

Next I need to let my legs rest a bit, then slowly work on improving my fitness, and consolidating some trickier climbing - whilst taking care, of course...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Two events.

Firstly, I went climbing again:

As part of my NHS-approved-appropriate-recuperation-schedule*, and continuing my tour of only the finest quality venues to ease myself back into climbing, I went to Blackwell Halt, and led a F6a+, two F6bs, and tried a hard F6b+ (which was mis-graded as F6b!) but had to rest rather than risk a bigger fall. Overall good fun, I got pumped, I had to do a few pushy moves, but I felt natural on the rock. As before, climbing was fine but slightly tiring, whilst the walk back out up the incline to the A6 was murderation. One rest on the F6b+, three rests on the walk out!

* - this may be a complete lie.

Secondly, I had my consultation with the vascular specialist:

The upshot of it all is:

My progress is going well and proceeding smoothly so far.

Plentiful exercise is good as long as it's comfortable.

I need to be aware of any swelling or similar in my legs (none so far).

The treatment for the clots continues exactly the same.

I will need further blood tests once I'm off the warfarin to check if my blood is predisposed to clotting.

The main IVC vein is severely constricted, either with only a tiny passage with minimal blood flow, or entirely sealed. This is obviously quite weird for me that my vein might effectively stop and restart and do pretty much bugger all :S. The adjacent veins are clearly well developed given how active I've been in my life.

Surgery to open the IVC is not recommended as full reconstruction of that area of the vein would be needed, this is tricky and there is risk of clots and vein damage.

The treatment is likely to be being on warfarin for life, the specialist reassured me this is quite manageable and my life should proceed as normal.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Two events.

Firstly, I went climbing:

On Monday I went out to Harpur Hill and led two F6as (I think one is F6a+ really) and a big HVS 5a. Which was nice!! Bleak weather, grotty location, minor routes, but good to be back. My legs were fine, moving over rock was fine, climbing was easier than walking - but walking around was hard, especially up the slope between the tiers, I often had to stop and rest. After abbing down the last route I sat exhausted, but with a smile on my face. I'm sure the doctors wouldn't have approved, but I took care, and my sense of well-being approved...

Secondly, I got the delayed results from the MRI Venogram:

Extensive DVT is noted in the distal IVC, both iliac veins and extending into the femoral veins.

The IVC does not appear to be in continuity from the abdomen into the heart and appearances would be consistent with either severe stenosis-stricture of the upper segment of the IVC or more likely IVC hypoplasia-aplasia at this site.

There are extensive collaterals into the lumbar veins and the renal veins appear to drain into these lumbar collaterals. There does not appear to be any mass lesion producing a compression at this site.

There is no other significant abnormality.

Basically I have got a prominent constriction in the main vein between my abdomen and heart, and possibly have had this since birth. This is very probably the main cause of the DVT blood clots. I'm now being referred to see a vascular specialist and see what, if anything, can be done. An explanation at last, but also quite unnerving. It's possible I've been walking around like this for most of my life....a ticking bomb waiting to go off...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Let's just pretend August never happened, eh.