Monday, 22 June 2015

Warning- This blog contains near death stories, typical Joe injury stories, and a happy ending ;)

Warning- This blog contains near death stories, typical Joe injury stories, and a happy ending ;)

My body fell apart yet again on January 10th, 2015. That's right. I know the date. Never a good sign.
On that day I came very close to completely tearing my A4 tendon in my middle finger, which, I've been told, is a bad thing. I had just finished an eight week training program a few days prior to my injury. I felt that I was in the best shape of my life. I should of taken a week off after this training program, but I promised my best friend Tyler I would go to the Tour de Bloc with him (I  don't really like competition climbing, but I promised Tyler I would support him that day).
Due to copious nocturnal beverages Tyler was incapacitated the day of the competition. I prepaid. I was going.
Second boulder problem into the competition and everyone around me heard a "POP" noise.
Now, such a noise is challenging to understand at first. You can't really tell what or where was the origin of this sound.
Did I break the hold?
Did I slip off a foot and kick the wall?
Is someone breaking out the champagne for a feat of excellence that a fellow climber just achieved?
To those lucky climbers that have not experienced such a sound in their climbing lives, I commend you and wish you all the best. For those unlucky climbers, the following is probably similar to what you have sadly experienced.
From the time it took my auditory sense to hear the sound and make the true connection to its source my middle finger was twice the size of my other fingers. Literally. My right hand could not close.


Back to level one.

After an injury of this magnitude, and a climbing trip on the horizon I had to rethink life and decide, "what now?" 

Option 1- Cancel my upcoming one month climbing trip with my father and just work for the next 5-6 months?
Option 2- Work on my weakness' for the next 5 months - Core/Stretching and still go on the one month climbing trip with my father, but do easy/gross/puke/scary/someonesaveme TRAD routes?

Weird enough I ended up picking Option 2! I got the job done with training on my core/stretching for 3 months, but I never did get the same "stoke" feeling as training for climbing or touching real rock.
The start of our adventure

Now, a climbing trip with Karel Skopec (My good luck charm father of mine) is never complete without a few near death experiences. Day one we drove 14 hours away from the -40C weather of Ontario to T-wall in Tennessee and arrived with a welcoming gun shot from the famous Tennessee inhabitants. 
Admittedly we were a little lost, and I suppose looked a little suspicious as we kept circling around the same neighborhoods looking for our destination. Apparently the locals thought my father and I were robbers, so like any concerned citizen would do, they kindly shot at us first and asked questions later. Luckily, they called the cops too which ended up in our favor as the police eventually explained to them that we were just lost Canadians looking for some rocks to climb.

Day Two- First off I should preface this story by stating my father only gave me 6 different camalots and one full set of nuts to trad climb with for the whole climbing trip.
Holding two out of the six Camelots 
Also, if any climbing guide book says “Use a runner" (A runner is a super long sling to reduce rope drag (Rope drag occurs when the friction generated from the rope running through the quickdraws and over the rock builds to the point where the climber noticeably feels the drag and potentially cannot climb any higher)), you USE A RUNNER.

Well day two of our trip is where I found out the hard way what a runner entails and why using a DMM Revolver (used to reduce rope drag on sport routes and help extend the life of your rope)  just doesn't cut it. 
I started climbing up a 5.7 that was around 90 feet long. Once I got to the roof I placed a cam with my lucky Revolver and continued to traverse 10 feet left. Usually, this climb is suppose to be 5.7, but the sloppy ledge where people mantle onto was covered with MUD and I just couldn't hold onto the ledge. I only had one option, which was traverse another 5 feet left and crimp my way up and back onto the big MUDDY ledge.
I felt myself slipping off the big muddy ledge more and more and at this point I couldn't place anymore gear. I tried climbing higher, but the rope drag was so bad that I literally couldn't climb any higher. My feet were barely on at this point, and the amount of mud under my fingers far outweighed the amount of rock.
Joe: “If I fall, I'll be falling 30 feet and pendulum into the wall and might not walk away from this event.”
Karel: “It's good Joe, it's good!”
There was a tree a few feet away from me and I immediately knew what I had to do. I yelled down to my dad "I'm jumping for the tree Dad!!!”
Luckily enough I caught the tree!! I wrapped both of my legs around the tree (thank you precious stretching regime!) and had to use both of my sap and mud ridden hands to pull up enough slack to climb up to the anchors.

After one week of trad climbing, I knew I was slowly running out of lives and drove down to the Obed for some juggy sport climbing.

First off, Obed sport climbing is unreal! The Obed is mostly known for bolted routes which consist of a style akin to a gorilla jumping from jug to jug. One would think I would be safe with all this sport climbing, but I kinda forgot to mention there were many refrigerator sized death-cicles falling from 100 feet above me.
I got to the anchors and was washed over with joy. Finally. No one else around, just me and my dad having fun climbing. My feet hit the ground and I started walking towards Karel. Then the massive death-cicle hit the ground two feet behind. Directly in the spot I was standing when I was first lowered. The icicle exploded and ice chunks exploded off the ground and hit my cringing body.
I can't believe how lucky I was. Had I not walked towards my dad before untying my knot who knows what would have happened.  I nervously laughed it off which worked to hide the fear tears.
I hoped this was my last near death experience, but oh no, the day was not over. Our exit led us up a hill. A very steep hill. A very steep hill covered in ice.
My Honda Fit began to go backwards 3/4 up the hill leaving me with no control of the car. On my left side there was just a normal ditch and on my right there was an unpleasant tumble. Again, the Skopec luck kicked in and my car decided to slide over and get stuck in the ditch.  Karel used his Czech Republic army skills (I'm not exactly sure what he did since he said I had to look away because I apparently am not “ready” to learn his ancient arts. All I can say is that I heard what sounded like the roar of a bear mixed with the majestic call of an eagle amidst a ruckus of metal being hammered (presumably by his bare hands)) to get the poor Honda fit out of the ditch.
My dad "Were sitting on this heater
like chickens".
I'm happy to say we spent our last two weeks in Red River gorge where we continued to have good old son and father climbing fun without the presence of death or danger at our back.

Fast forward 6 months after my injury, and I'm currently 90% recovered! Lately I've been still training 6 times a week, Repeating old routes I've done before, and still loving life! I'm slowly creeping back to where I was with sending 5.13+ in a few tries, but I'm still staying away from very crimpy routes.  My goal this season is to send a few more 5.14's and bolt routes at Lion's Head, Ontario not just for myself, but to bolt from 5.5 to 5.14.

A quick slightly kinda serious note. I know. Bear with me :)
Mono Training
I just wanted to say that experience can only get so you far when it comes to safety. Gear is not 100%, but it is a heck of a lot better than nothing at all. You can't bring everything up the face, but guidebooks and recommendations are out there. Use them both to your advantage. Like me, there are a good many of my experienced friends that could have made some dangerous situations a little or lot safer if they had the right gear or did a little more research. Whether you're new to climbing or you've been at it for awhile, take a little extra time to check out that guidebook, read that blog or listen to a local. Have fun out there!

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to my sponsors who have helped me to achieve my past goals and step toward my future dreams.

Maxim Rope- You honestly cannot go wrong with any of Maxim ropes. I prefer the Pinnacle 9.4

Boreal Shoes- Boreal provides every shoe for every style of climbing

ChossPile Hand Repair-  If you find your skin needs a repair from crimping too hard, then try out Chosspile Hand Repair

Grand River Rocks Climbing Gym- This gym has support me with everything I need to get strong in climbing and they even allow me to set boulder problems to mimic my projects outside. 

Petzl- Not really my sponsors, But Matt from Petzl hooked me up with a brand new petzl harness, which has supported me with comfortable falls.

If you made it this far through the blog then I'm surprised and happy you didn't get bored ;)

Thank you for reading another one of my adventures!