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Thread: Climbing post-SCI

  1. #11

    Mt. Shasta post-SCI

    Last weekend I made it up Mt. Shasta (14162'). I'd done the West Face Gully route before (been up the mountain 10-12 times previously).

    approach to Horse Camp (7900')


    camp in Hidden Valley (9200')


    Misery Hill and the summit pinnacle, from the top of Casaval Ridge (13300')


    Summit plateau (~14000')


    view east from summit


    I'd been waiting for a decent weather window and conditions for several weeks. Initially I'd thought to do Shastina (12330') instead, but since I had the option of either I decided to go for it.

    I started around 3:30am from Hidden Valley, and was atop Casaval Ridge around 8, summit at 10-ish. High west winds above 13000-ish, where it was rime ice instead of snow - it was like walking on piles of broken glass. What was I thinking ? I guess I enjoy suffering

    I downclimbed to about 12200', then glissaded / postholed the rest of the way (I envy skiers at times like that). Returned to my camp at 2pm, back to car at 5:40, home at midnight. Exhaustion ...

    So happy I was trained how to do the rest step - it's even more important now Actually, most of the lessons learned pre-SCI are that way (hydrate, rest, stop and catch breath, etc)

    More pics on my flickr site.

  2. #12
    Fan-freaking-tastic my man! It should be mentioned that Shasta is a long and grueling, exhausting climb for uninjured people in good shape (it's the giant volcano you drive by on I-5/Northern CA.) By yourself no less?

    Must be hard to believe you were laying in bed paralyzed a year ago. Thanks for the pictures and trip report, it's a huge inspiration!

  3. #13
    Thanks !

    Yes, it was a solo trip. I'd done the route before, so it felt like something I could probably succeed at. At times my left leg and sometimes arm would tremble, but then I'd just stop and rest a bit. Staying hydrated and snacking every hour or so helped, of course.

    It's been eight months since my injury. My neurosurgeon advised me not to climb for four more months, and I am inclined to listen because he works on trauma cases from Yosemite. But I tend to think of these lower-angled snow climbs as more like hiking than climbing, so I don't feel like I am disobeying my doctor I'm definitely not going to do sustained rock climbing moves until he says it's ok.

    Went for a training hike yesterday afternoon .. the first one I'd done in 80-ish degree heat and direct sun. After about a mile of steep fire road I felt like utter crap and had to rest & turn around.

    I guess I've figured out how to deal with cool / colder weather.. warm weather could be a problem, now that I know I have compromised thermoregulation. If it's cold, I can always wear more clothes / use heater packets. If it's warm, then I'll probably just have to slow down, take more breaks, stay in the shade more, drink more, apply cold/wet hankies to my neck, etc... another set of challenges to overcome.

  4. #14
    hi rhyang!
    Thanks for telling me about this forum.
    Congrats on all the climbs but just be careful about not overdoing it because that might actually prevent you from recovering as quickly or as well.

    I assume that you climbed without your AFO? Did you use any other form of assistive device? My foot/ankle is definitely not strong enough to do something this strenous without the support of my AFO unfortunately. I can barely even lift my foot when it's placed inside a heavy hiking boot.

  5. #15
    hey ! Glad to see you here.

    I haven't used my AFO since late October (that's when it started giving me blisters). No assistive devices as such, though I do use a trekking pole while snowshoeing for balance and when carrying a heavy pack, but then I did pre-injury (weak ankles .. broke my left talus in '93 and my right calcaneus last March).

    Those of us who know how to use an ice axe realize that it also functions as kind of a cane Wearing stiff mountaineering boots probably also helped my foot positioning a bit (a friend's observation).

    When I was in rehab, a friend of mine told me 'get up and out every day, whether or not you feel like it'. He says he forgot he told me that, but I remember it very well

  6. #16
    Your progress so far makes me believe that you'll make a really good (perhaps even full) recovery. I plateaued at about the 1-year mark and when I stopped seeing new results, I got discouraged and my condition has been status quo since.

    Your suggestion of the good hiking boots is something I'm going to look into immediately. I shyed away from them because I always felt they were "too heavy" so I always opted for light-weight sneakers. But maybe the rigidity in the boots will be more beneficial than burdensome. Do you have recommendations on brands/styles?

  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by springsunshine
    Your progress so far makes me believe that you'll make a really good (perhaps even full) recovery. I plateaued at about the 1-year mark and when I stopped seeing new results, I got discouraged and my condition has been status quo since.

    Your suggestion of the good hiking boots is something I'm going to look into immediately. I shyed away from them because I always felt they were "too heavy" so I always opted for light-weight sneakers. But maybe the rigidity in the boots will be more beneficial than burdensome. Do you have recommendations on brands/styles?
    I'd probably just go look at whatever REI / EMS carries in your area - mid-height boots (as opposed to lowtops) work for me for regular hiking. Getting full-on backpacking boots might be overkill right now. I would try on whatever they have and see how they fit - the different makes / models tend to be different for different foot shapes. Good socks can make a huge difference too (I like the smartwool hiking socks with thin polypropylene liners, but tastes vary).

    One thing is that new boots can cause blisters / hotspots, and for us with brown-sequard syndrome the stronger foot can't sense this (no pain / temp sensation), so be careful. My boots were all broken in and fit well before my injury, but sometimes I still take the right boot & sock off and eyeball my foot just to make sure nothing bad is happening

    I don't know if this will really be of help to you. For me, I had very weak dorsiflexion initially (I believe they diagnosed me with 'foot drop') and I walked on the outside of my foot (I forget the technical term for this). As time went by it got stronger though. About 10 days after getting out of the hospital a friend visited. I told him about the AFO and why I wore it. He commented that maybe wearing stiff boots would help. So I tried it just walking around the living room. I still used the AFO for a while, but by the time it started to give my left foot a blister I had the alternative in mind, and by then fortunately things worked out. Just another piece of dumb luck I guess...

    I think we're all sort of figuring this stuff out on our own

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by rhyang
    I'd probably just go look at whatever REI / EMS carries in your area - mid-height boots (as opposed to lowtops) work for me for regular hiking. Getting full-on backpacking boots might be overkill right now. I would try on whatever they have and see how they fit - the different makes / models tend to be different for different foot shapes. Good socks can make a huge difference too (I like the smartwool hiking socks with thin polypropylene liners, but tastes vary).
    I went online to the REI website and became very interested in their more light-weight hiking boots (this for example). I think the mid-height design will help my ankle because the low-top sneakers I currently wear give no protection in that area, causing a tendency for me to roll my ankle.

    One thing is that new boots can cause blisters / hotspots, and for us with brown-sequard syndrome the stronger foot can't sense this (no pain / temp sensation), so be careful.
    VERY TRUE. I noticed this when I started walking a lot more. When I was living in upstate NY (near the Adirondacks), the long walks gave me awful blisters on my fully functioning but less sensitive to pain/temp side! This was partially due to me putting more stress on that foot to make up for the weakness in the other one. And partially because I had to go up a size in shoe in order to accomodate my AFO for my other foot (and I was too stingy to buy 2 pairs in different sizes). I also noticed that my "good foot" attempted to take over and worked extra hard to relieve my "bad foot" and I tended to get blisters under my toes. I also had several instances where the toes became injuried so that there was lots of bleeding inside/under my toenail (just like in the case where someone stubs their toe) but I never remembered stubbing mine. Eventually the toenails would separate from the skin and regenerate (sorry if this is gross). I countered this by wearing thick double layered socks so there was less space between my toes and the front end of the shoe and that helped a lot. I also paid more attention to not let my good foot take on more than it should.

    For me, I had very weak dorsiflexion initially (I believe they diagnosed me with 'foot drop') and I walked on the outside of my foot.
    Me too. But compounded onto that is my lack of eversion (flexing the foot outward) so that's why I tend to roll/twist my ankle. All my outer foot muscles are very very weak so I can't balance.

    <big sigh> ANYWAY, I'm going to check out REI and EMS and try on some boots tomorrow and see if it may help. I'm also going to start wearing ankle weights. I haven't really focused on increasing my strength (only endurance with lots of walking) in the past couple of years so I'm glad that I'm paying more attention to it now. I find that if I work hard, my body responds and I get stronger. If I slack off, it weakens. Time to get moving again.

  9. #19
    I like your "can-do" attitude I read somewhere (maybe it was on this website) that if a muscle contracts, then it can be strengthened.

    I'm still working on balance with my left foot, so clearly perfection isn't necessary there. A lot of folks use trekking poles while hiking for balance and to save their knees. I still keep one strapped to my pack on dayhikes, just in case.

    The boot you linked to sounds like a good start to me, though I don't have recent experience with that brand. Good luck !!

  10. #20
    Hi Rhyang:

    I’ve read a couple of posts were you mentioned doing balancing exercises. I am a recovering quad like yourself. I stated doing Yoga three days a week and my balance has significantly improved. I would highly recommend it.

    I am glad to hear how well you are doing J

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