Friday, 18 August 2017

Finger injury - some thoughts on rehab

Over the Easter weekend, a couple of days after finally completing Broken Trigger, 8A, I returned to Parisella's cave and starting trying Halfway House, 7C+.

After a few goes, I felt like I might have half a chance of completing the problem, so took a longer rest before pulling back on: Hanging the second hold, a front-2 pocket, I felt a wrenching sensation in my middle finger as my A2 & A3 tendon pulleys bit the dust...

After a few days complete rest, I thought the injury might not be too bad, and ventured out to do some easy trad; turns out E3 5c wasn't easy enough, especially as it was cold enough that I couldn't feel my hands for much of the route and by the end of the day, my finger felt worse than ever.

Feeling somewhat glum about this, I turned to the internet, and found a very helpful Podcast on the trainingbeta website with details of a tried and tested rehab sequence from Ester Smith (video below). 

In short, the protocol suggests a progressive overload of the injured finger, rather than complete rest.

Hence, over the next 4 months I completed roughly weekly fingerboard sessions, using an open handed grip on a 20mm edge (Beastmaker 2000 pockets back-filled with an AA battery)
- first using assistance (bodyweight minus 20kg)
- then bodyweight for a few weeks
- before working back up through progressive resistance levels
- finally reaching bodyweight + 50kg resistance a few weeks ago, which is fairly close to my winter best of bodyweight + 55kg.

Alongside this progressive finger-boarding, I also returned to soloing with a vengeance; visiting new venues and often soloing 50+ easy grit routes in a series of very pleasurable evenings - many venues and routes I wouldn't have otherwise done.

One such evening was interrupted by a film crew turning up to capture the sunset for a Warburton's Bread commercial with a Pride & Prejudice theme - though I've yet to see the finished advert on TV/online.

A fair maiden with bread basket approaches the cliff edge - Warburton's advert being filmed at Windgather Rocks

After doing some slightly harder grit micro-routes/boulder problems at Newstones, I decided to start bouldering again properly, though deliberately avoiding any crimps with the lefthand. Conies Dale seemed like the perfect venue with a plethora of 6C-7B boulder problems; I even managed to add a couple of my own new problems:

Conies Dale bouldering - some oldies & some newbies from Ally Smith on Vimeo.

6 weeks ago, I felt like my finger was strong enough to go back to Kilnsey and get stuck in to the roof project I bolted last year. The project links an easier/more direct version of  True South (a Zippy 7b+) with a 30ft long horizontal break-line of new climbing and on then continues along the same break to finish as for Mandela. This last bit is in common with Freakshow - Neil Gresham's 8c from 2015.

The new section of climbing feels like a 5-bolt long f8a in isolation, with a couple of strenuous clips and another couple that I've elected to skip altogether! A pair of annoyingly damp pockets at the end of this section have thus far thwarted my redpoint attempts, but when I get through this, there's a mere 8a+/b's worth of climbing left before clipping the chains of Mandela, another 40 horizontal foot away...

All I need now is for the stars to align; my arms to be well rested, a few dry days and an easterly wind to de-smeg the pockets and I'll be back up in the big roof, A muerte!

Gresham's route map of Freakshow, 8c - pilfered from facebook; my project joins Freakshow at the point marked "bat hang rest"

Friday, 7 July 2017

Getting stronger; getting injured - 2017, the first 6 months

I've given up with consistently updating this blog, but will occasionally bore the dwindling blogosphere with posts if new routes are involved:

Part 1: Getting stronger

This winter, I hoped to replicate the experience from when I first started visiting North Wales' finest poo filled bouldering venue in the winter of 2009: Pushing my bouldering grade in the cave, and reaping the benefits on sport routes the following year, at home and abroad.

Sadly, my elbows had other ideas, and tendonitis prevented me climbing as often as I might have liked. However, the reduced frequency of climbing/training and longer rest periods might have been just what I needed to nudge over the 8A threshold...

1) "In Life (lite)" 8A or f8b+?

I managed to work out the cunning beta that avoids the very hardest moves on the original In Life (8A+) by walking my feet along the back wall of the cave. This 8A or "lite" version of the problem is still a pumpy little number at f8b+, and was a great indicator of form before going to Spain in February.

In Life (lite) from Ally Smith on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, the trip to Chulilla was a virtual wash-out with the majority of tufa routes dripping wet after heavy rain in late January. The 40m long El Remanso de las Mulas (f8a+) was highly memorable for: A) falling off at 39.5m on my first redpoint, and B) on the successful next go, sitting in a pant wettingly exposed kneebar, taking in the view down the gorge, with the drip-drip-drip of a soggy tufa exiting my shorts at bum level...

2) "Broken-Trigger" 8A

Damp holds, numb hands, knee-pads slipping, etc: I can offer a multitude of reasons why I didn't get up it sooner, but the real answer was that all the stamina training for Chulilla had made me weak! This problem helped me get stronger; it felt more like a "proper" 8A to me, i.e. it wasn't a 30+ move traverse like all my previous "8A's".

Broken Trigger, 8A from Ally Smith on Vimeo.

3) "High Wall Left" 7C (or f8a/+?) - Possible First Ascent?

Whilst repeatedly falling off Broken-Trigger this winter, I started faffing around with reversing Left Wall High as a warm-down project.

At the end of March, I had a very frustrating lantern session falling off Broken-Trigger 3 times at the very end, and then compounded it by falling off this right at the end too!

Friday night fails - Broken Trigger (8A) & Left Wall High Reverse (7C) from Ally Smith on Vimeo.

Next session I managed to fall off Broken-Trigger again, but at least that time I made it across (and slightly down) this neo-classic traverse ;-) which might even be a first ascent?

However, the video of the "FA" just shows lots of people milling around with me hidden in the background, so you'll have to make do with the foot-pop video above if you're feeling in need of beta?

4) "Dickens' Cider" f8a+, First Ascent

This one is definitely a first ascent! Dickens' Cider is a fun little route, linking the boulder problem of Clever Cleaver (7A/+) into the finish of Almost Familiar (f7c) via some funky heel and toe hooks along the very lip of Parisella's Cave. It felt meaty to me - time will tell if it's worth my proposed f8a+?

New f8a+ route at Parisella's Cave from Ally Smith on Vimeo.

Part 2: Getting injured

Over the long Easter weekend I hurt my index finger in the pocket of Halfway House (7C+) - a fairly significant tear of the A2 & A3 pulleys which put me completely out of action for a couple of weeks, followed by a long & slow rehab program. The last thing I did in Parisella's was to use the new bolt on Dickens' Cider to climb the highball Upper Cut (7B+) with a rope on; Hence, this is probably my last cave video for a while 😢

Upper Cut, 7B+ from Ally Smith on Vimeo.

After a slow start, and a couple of hitches along the way, I'm happy to say the rehab is going well (drafting another blog shortly), and I've started working one of my projects at Kilnsey - a new extended start to Neil Gresham's Freakshow; more on this soon...