Pick up any publication pertaining to the sport of rock climbing, and chances are, you will see a smattering of descriptive chronicles highlighting the travels and adventures of the prolific scribe Abbey Smith. A climber and writer for over 10 years, Abbey travels extensively, financing her jet set lifestyle though her writing, allowing her more opportunities to pursue her love of adventure. Abbey has reported on a myriad of topics. From the exclusive hobby of vintage motor racing, to sassy, healthy-savvy posts on BeThree.com, to being on the editorial staff of the independent green publication elephant journal, a quarterly magazine devoted to living the "mindful life" through conscious consumerism, sustainability, eco-fashion and non new-aged spirituality.
Abbey's energy for writing is ravenous. When she speaks of it, her article ideas roll out of mouth in constant barrage without commas, periods, or other punctuation, but when placed in front of a computer, the word stream subsides into descriptive prose reminiscent of Joanne Harris. Dead Point Magazine is privileged to have her as a contributing blogger.
In Boulder this season was deemed "surgery summer," as it was hit by a vicious injury wave that sent sport climbers, boulders and traditionalists to the operating room. At any given point, there were multiple climbers hobbling around the café lugging a boot and swinging on crutches. The sight brought back disturbing images of my destroyed ankle that confined me to crutches for two and a half weeks and on a rope for several months last summer. So I understood their pain.
However, this year I experienced a different injury-the dreaded tendon/pulley in my right ring finger from an afternoon training session in the gym. Of course, injuries always seem to strike when you feel the strongest, and since it happened on plastic, I hung my head in shame. I couldn't even move my swollen stiff finger that was fixed slightly bent. I iced immediately, but saw no improvement after 24 hours. After struggling with prior injuries, I decided to take a proactive approach to healing my finger. I couldn't bear the thought of not climbing when the rest of my body felt strong. Plus, I was planning to escape to the desert the next week.
I employed the same healing technique as my ankle--uncomfortably aggressive Chinese acupuncture. I'm no doctor, but two days after my first knuckle hyper extended and my tendon and pulley erupted, I walked into Dr. Pao-Cin Huang's (http://www.ruseto.us) office, a popular acupuncturist among Boulder athletes, and saw instant results after one session. Dr. Pao is widely known for his magical healing powers, which comes with disturbing pain. The philosophy is: "East or West, Cure is Best," and "the more self-cure you learn, the less doctor-care you need." Simple.
Unfortunately, but fortunately I have now seen the benefits of this 2,000+ year old tradition versus Western Medicine. With my particular injury, a Western doctor would prescribe ice, rest, and toxic medication that leads to pain killer addictions and constipation. In opposition, Dr. Pao performs his black magic using flaming cotton swabs, deep massage with pungent homemade ointment, and a variety of fat needles. He recommended three sessions followed by heat, massage, and medicinal tea prepared by his wife that looks like mulch, tastes like bile and restricts you from anything flavorful, caffeine and alcohol. However, when I asked if I could climb, he said, "Why wouldn't you?" I was sold. I subscribed to the routine and immediately saw dramatic results in mobility, strength and decreased inflammation.
Besides the pain and restrictive diet, adjusting to a new climbing style was exciting yet frustrating. When I started climbing again, just one week later in the Henry Mountains in Utah, Jason Kehl convinced me to climb without tape. Grabbing holds was terrifying at first, but I quickly discovered that I was more aware of my limits and found a comfort zone where I felt no pain. I typically crimped everything, but changed my grip to open hand and locked off with my left arm to settle my right hand on the hold in the most comfortable position. By knowing my limits and with controlled movement, I found I could climb anything-I just had to learn how to move differently. I also developed a habit of stretching my finger constantly, and followed up nightly with aggressive massage to break up the scar tissue and straighten my bent digit.
Now, almost four months later, I'm climbing at my max and nearly pain-free. With Dr. Pao's magic and self-cure treatment, I can still climb at my favorite summer areas: Mount Evans and Rocky Mountain National Park. When I'm not strapped to my laptop and when the extremely unpredictable Colorado weather cooperates, I spend my time trying Silverback, a Mount Evans classic requiring tension, precision, and heel-hooking power on seemingly impossible holds that resemble the slopey lip traverses in Squamish. Success on Silverback is discovering the subtleties that unlock the sequence allowing you to inch your way up. While the problem is at my limit, the friendly holds don't aggravate my finger and actually make it stronger. The point is: I don't have tape on my fingers and I've had a speedy recovery with this method. Most importantly, I can climb outside, which is the best remedy for my body and mind--no matter what route, grade, or whether or not I top out.
As the temperatures drop, I look forward to the remaining days enjoying the pristine conditions in Colorado and my upcoming adventures in the south...