Tag Archives: injury

The Getting Serious About Yoga Chapter

So I’ve been doing yoga for years, on and off. I’ve always been a bit streaky – practicing  regularly for a while and then neglecting yoga for weeks, months, or (during a particularly busy period during the farm era) years.

Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.   -Sting
**Nope – that’s not me in the photo…

It turns out that climbing and yoga and rehabbing from injuries (oh yeah, I guess I should do a broken body parts update one of these days) are all good companions (along with weight training, apparently – more on that in the injury update post). Anyway, for various reasons, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga over the past months and when the chance came up to do a Yoga Teacher Training Course, I jumped on it. I figured taking the course would inspire me to deepen my own practice and being able to teach is a wonderful way to share all the many benefits of yoga with others. It also occurred to me I could even teach some gentle classes while travelling, say, on a sailboat while I circumnavigate. Obviously, I would wait until I was ashore on a beach or at a resort somewhere before unrolling the yoga mat and inviting people over, but based on how much fun Peta and I had doing a bit of yoga while sailing in the Caribbean last year, it seems like the two activities would go very well together.


While we were in Hawaii this year, Andee and I attended a rather funky yoga class on the beach at Waikiki. Our instructor was an exceptionally happy dude!

As for the climbing connection, climbing requires strength, balance, and coordination (and a steady mind) to be able to do it reasonably well. Yoga is the perfect activity to complement my vertical addiction! Practically speaking, winter is upon us here in the Rocky Mountains, so it’s ice climbing, gym climbing, or nothing. I’m not nearly as enthused about ice as Fabio, so I’m actually pretty happy to split my time between the yoga mat and the climbing gym as the days get shorter and colder. As I continue down the teaching road, I’m developing some classes specifically aimed at climbers – lots of shoulder, back, and core strength – arm balances and inversions – all the stuff I love to play around with and which, even as they make me sweat, infuse me with the kind of strong, positive energy that helps with whatever else I might happen to be doing in my day.


A particularly soothing yoga and meditation session with the inimitable Ally Pony.

I’m writing this post partly so you don’t get too big a shock when, suddenly, yoga references start popping up in the blog. Sometimes I think I should try to maintain six blogs – a climbing blog, a yoga blog, a sailing blog, a writing blog, a bread-making blog, a travel blog… But I am only one person and life is short, so if you think yoga is just for … um, yogis… keep scrolling down until you find something more interesting…

**I realized, as I was putting this blog post together, that I don’t have many/any photos of me doing yoga… I guess I should maybe experiment with that…


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N is for Never too Late

I know I started the alphabet challenge waaaaaaay back in, what, April? May? And then I was spirited off to Hawaii and got swamped with work and blah blah blah – the next thing I know it’s the middle of summer and I still haven’t passed the letter ‘N’!

Return to Newcastle Island

I wrote about our first trip to Newcastle Island here. I had so much fun on that trip that I returned to Newcastle the following week to re-join Rosario and Denis aboard their Whitby 42, Counting Stars. 


This is not Counting Stars. But it is a good example of how not to leave Nanaimo… These guys were all fine – they waited for the tide to return and then floated off… A tad embarrassing, though. This spot traps sailors in full view of Nanaimo Harbour, the cruise ship dock, and Newcastle Island. 

We sailed from Newcastle Island down to Clam Bay (between Kuper and Thetis Islands), where we anchored for the evening.

spinnaker practice counting stars

A light breeze meant we were able to practice flying the spinnaker. 


There’s nothing quite like the special calm that descends on a peaceful anchorage in the evening. This is Clam Bay in the Gulf Islands of BC. 

The Sylvester family lives nearby and Craig (Greg?) paddled out to the boat with a selection of carvings, including a hummingbird by his sister, Tamila (I’m not sure if I’ve spelled the names right and some googling is not turning up any further information… If you happen to know the Sylvesters and the location of a website, please let me know…).


The next morning we continued down to Poets Cove on Pender Island to take part in the Bluewater Cruising Association Rendezvous. Just off Galliano Island we spotted three killer whales moseying along, too far away for photos with my phone, unfortunately.

The rendezvous itself was great fun, with quite a collection of boats showing up from all over the south coast (actually, from as far away as Mexico!) to gather for food, drink, and sea shanty singing.

Here’s our team practicing our sea shanty…

I had a flight booked back to the mountains, so had to leave part way through the weekend, which was a shame because I was having a LOT of fun singing, feasting, and meeting lots of sailors. Alas, much work awaited me…

New Books

Deadlines are deadlines and Dani and I were busy putting the finishing touches on two new books in the Orca Origins Series. Happy Birthday: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream should be out in the fall of this year. Christmas: From Solstice to Santa will be out in the Spring of 2018. Deadpoint, the climbing novel which will be part of the Orca Sports series should be out early in January of 2017. Perhaps the best part of writing these new books has been the research. From digging through family photos to interviewing various people to climbing mountains, reading some very cool books, and stumbling across some nifty corners of the internet, at every turn we learned lots and had fun while doing so.

old christmas photo

Forgive the terrible quality of this photo of a photo – this is my mother and her brothers and sister (and a cousin?) in Germany. Note those are real candles on the Christmas tree! No fire hazard there, I’m sure. 

Hard on the heels of those books are three more, currently in the research and writing stage. One is a biography for kids about Elizabeth May (more on that soon), a handbook for young activists (which will also feature profiles about some pretty amazing kids who are making real changes in the world), and a picture book about climbing. Oh, and then there’s another in the Orca Footprints series which, at its heart, is about love, community, and cooperation. It’s been interesting starting to research this one – my reading has taken me to distant places like the Congo where researchers are studying bonobos in order to learn more about what it means to be human. More, too, on this in a future post.

Also in the works (I may be done with text edits?) is a picture book that’s been picked up by Holiday House in New York. Subject matter? Bricklaying and baseball. And feminism. At the moment the search for an illustrator is on – I’m very curious to see who is selected and how he or she will tackle the artwork. Stay tuned…

I think that’s it for the children’s book projects. Whenever I can, I’m also working away on an adult memoir/popular science/medicine manuscript tentatively titled, The Dissolution of HW, which is about the nature of personality and my mother’s struggle with Pick’s Disease.

In the ‘waiting to see how it all turned out’ department, there’s Scylla and Charybdis, which may be out before the end of the year with Pearson. A retelling of part of The Odyssey, it was both challenging and fascinating to find a way to stay true to Homer’s story but still be accessible to a contemporary audience. Very much looking forward to seeing this when it comes out.

Never too Late

And, finally, in the ‘it’s never too late’ department, it’s never too late to set some crazy goals. I will mention ‘Navigate around the world’ again here just so you know I haven’t forgotten about this project.

leading 5.11a sunshine slabs

Approaching the crux on a pumpy 5.11a at Sunshine Slabs. Missed the clip right at the crux near the top and came flying off, but I will be back! (And by flying off, I mean, I fell as far as the previous clipped bolt… and, because this is a pretty steep, overhanging kind of climb, I didn’t really hit anything – just dangled for a bit until I gathered my thoughts and tried again. Never did make it all the way up on this particular afternoon, though I climbed it on toprope a few days later, which means I can get up there. So, leading this one is definitely within reach… And if I can lead a 5.11a, could 5.12 be far behind?)

And, I’m going to state publicly that before I die I am going to Nail a 5.12 climbing route. 5.12 is a grade of climb that’s decently challenging and which, though I sort of had this as a streeeeeeeeetch goal, I really doubted I could accomplish it until very recently. Two things changed my mind. First, I’ve been going to a physiotherapist and a personal trainer who are working together to develop a program for me to deal with my ongoing shoulder (torn labrum) and elbow (after effects of the dislocation/ligament shredding) issues. The results have been amazing and I’ve been seconding routes of various types in the 11s without suffering any terrible after effects. I’ve also made huge strides recently in the leading department and just last week successfully led my first 10d. Suddenly, it looks like I might get to 5.12 before old age and infirmity get to me. So there you go, I’ve gone and made a public declaration of my intentions! That’s the first step, right?

B is for Bouldering, Broken, Barbara, Brace and Best

Bouldering: the art of hauling oneself onto large rocks – imagine hunks of stone the size of a school bus or a garage – using only fingers and toes (and heels, if you know how to do a heel hook)


Bouldering indoors: the art of simulating hauling oneself onto large rocks inside a climbing gym using moulded plastic holds bolted to the walls – using only fingers and toes (and heels, if you know how to do a heel hook)


Bouldering indoors badly: the dark art of hauling oneself up a wall using fake holds, leaping for the last hold up under the roof/overhang/tunnel entrance of the climbing gym (10′ off the ground), missing, and falling sideways, then crashing onto the ground

Aftermath of bad bouldering: If one lands on the heel of one’s hand (nothing to do with heel hooking), the full force of one’s body slamming onto your arm results in a double-dislocated elbow as both bones in the forearm shoot past their usual home in the elbow joint. This is not a pleasant feeling. As a matter of fact, this is an experience far worse than childbirth. A pain that borders on… I can’t even come up with a comparison as I had always been led to believe that childbirth (no stroll in the pleasure park) was about as bad as it gets. Trust me on this one. Blowing your elbow apart beats birthing a big baby by a billion miles (how’s that for using up my letter b’s?)

Fact: If the ER doctor gives you too much Propofol and not quite enough Ketamine (or the other way around – what do I know? I was supposed to be unconscious…) prior to jarring said wayward bones back into position, then one is lucid enough to believe one is dead and to remember much of what happens next quite clearly. And, really – I don’t think I was so far off in my conclusion that I had passed over to the other side. I even told the doctor that he should be careful not to kill me because wasn’t it Propofol that finished off Michael Jackson? Some rather spectacular hallucinations further supported my ‘I guess I’m shuffling off this mortal coil’ theory. When the room fills with white light and you have the sensation you are climbing out of your body and up the face of El Capitan in Yosemite – free of ropes, free of any obligation to return, climbing like a ballet dancer, crawling upwards toward oblivion, quite aware that this (climbing into the light with a grace even more graceful than Alex Honnold** demonstrates on his best days) could mean only one thing – I was dying – or already dead. I had the brief sensation of my back pressing flat against the emergency room ceiling and then heard the sound of someone screaming somewhere at the end of a very long corridor. I later learned that the screamer was me as the doctor snapped everything back into place. The noise was loud enough that anyone who was ambulatory fled the waiting room of the emergency department.


Which brings me to Barbara, climbing partner, good friend, and there with me at the gym when I took my spectacular fall. Fortunately, Barabara’s name starts with a B so I can talk about her here. Also fortunately, in her day job she is an ER nurse, so she remained cool, calm, and collected while she scraped me off the mat at the gym and cajoled me into the back of our mutual friend’s car (thanks, Larissa – you were a trooper). Even Barbara, though, couldn’t handle the cries of desperate agony emanating from yours truly and raced away to take refuge out of earshot.

All this happened not quite a year ago – late on a Friday night. I strapped my useless arm to my body and started climbing again on Monday using the other arm (I blogged about that here …) and then started on a course of physiotherapy and quite a bit of whining and complaining. Eventually, I was fitted for a skookum custom brace, which I still have to wear every time I climb (or make bread or move a box or carry groceries). Things do not look good in terms of avoiding surgery, but the brace has proven to be fantastic in terms of keeping me functional for the foreseeable future. Slowly but surely my muscles have been rebuilding in the damaged arm so I’m mostly able to climb whatever I want to climb (yes, yes – as long as I’m not leading). The nerve damage that temporarily had my left thumb forgetting how to exert pressure on anything is more or less healed (that took about eight months) so now I can’t blame my fumbling clipping of the climbing rope into the draws on anything other than total lack of coordination.


Tying the climbing rope to my harness with one hand (my non-dominant hand no less!!) on that first night back at the gym was incredibly awkward. This isn’t a great photo, but you can see the bulgy padding (an oven glove) protecting the injured elbow, which was stuffed into a sling and then covered with a tight T-shirt so there was no risk of getting hung up on the sling or bumping the arm in case of a fall.

As it turns out, having a serious injury in an arm was about the best thing that could have happened to me when it comes to improving my technique. Because I’m pretty strong and don’t weigh much, I’m blessed with a strength-to-weight ratio that is really helpful when it comes to climbing. The temptation is to haul yourself up through tough spots, which can work ok but isn’t efficient or particularly effective. Technique begins with the feet – it’s way easier to lift your body weight using the big muscles of your legs than it is to do a series of chin-ups all the way to the top of the cliff. Placing your feet well, finding your balance, trusting that the rubbery souls of your climbing shoes are not going to slip off that ludicrously tiny pimple of a hold makes it sooooooo much easier to keep going than using brute force. Even if a wall is steep, if it doesn’t have any bulging holds on it to grab onto and pull, if there are lips and cracks and bumps big enough to wedge your toes onto it’s amazing what you can climb even when the wall looks blank.


Sometimes there just isn’t much to grab hold of. Note the awesome red brace holding my arm together. It would also work well as a face-smashing device should I ever get mugged. Bam! 

Blank. Bam! Good words to end on, given this is B for Boy oh Boy No More Bouldering for Me Day.

**Yes, I know Alex was the poster boy on A is for Ace Climbers Day – what can I say, I have a bit of a crush…


Scrawny Arms? Me? Really?


Exactly two weeks after the accident I was at physio having my arm manipulated by the most wonderful Mark. He was twisting and turning, pulling and pushing, lifting and separating… Which sounds grim, but actually doesn’t hurt – much. I have regained a lot of twistiness in the forearm, which is good – no numbness or tingling in the fingertips – also good. He warned me that I might experience stabbing pains or other weird and unpleasant things if the bone chip (or possibly chips) floating around in the elbow joint drift somewhere they don’t belong and get stuck…

Then Mark started flexing and extending the arm, seeing how much range of motion has returned. This, apparently, is an area where we can do some work… I have been stretching the arm, but Mark pushed it much harder than I had dared and I commented that obviously I could do better between now and next week’s appointment. “I can push way harder than I have been.” We had just been talking about my one-armed climbing exploits and he looked me in the eye and said, “With an attitude like yours you’re either going to have an exceptional recovery or do yourself permanent damage.”

I couldn’t argue with that. Yep, it is our strongest character traits which are both our greatest assets or biggest liabilities, depending on circumstances. 

Mark took some measurements and we continued the stretching, finishing with a session of electrical pulses delivered to either side of the joint while the arm was held down under a towel-wrapped heated weight – all to encourage more stretching. While I was pinned to the bed by my trapped arm Mark informed me the the Extra-Small size of special brace we were trying to order was still going to be too big for my tiny arm! Say what? When people look at my arms they don’t generally lead with a comment like, “Oh you poor little thing – look at those tiny arms… ” What could this mean? Women don’t injure their elbows? Or they injure their elbows but don’t bother with the high-powered braces? What about teenagers? Children? And what about muscly short people like me? Weird. Just plain weird.

Rather than settle for the less good softer brace (remember, I have a date with the Rocky Mountains later this month…) we have ordered the high-tech brace and will see if there’s a way to fiddle with it, add padding underneath, etc. so I get the most possible protection while I get on with my life. Though, why I would bother with these scrawny arms I don’t know… I mean, how can anyone with toothpick limbs consider tackling mountains? Hmph.


Onward and upward!!

A Climbing We Shall Go

So it turns out that the double dislocation of my elbow was the lesser of two injuries.

Swelling and bruising on about Day 5

Swelling and bruising on about Day 5

Because it was a double dislocation (both bones shot out of place) apparently the risk of re-dislocating is slim. This is good news. The damaged joint capsule should heal nicely in about 12 weeks, which I had thought was terrible news until I visited my physiotherapist who informed me that I had done some major tearing damage to (possibly complete destruction of) the ligament that essentially attaches the top part of my arm to the bottom part.

“You should know by Christmas if it looks like that’s going to heal on its own,” he said blithely. I nearly fell off the examining table!


“It takes at least eight months to heal an injury like that.”

“Eight months?”

If it heals. If the ligament is so far gone it can’t knit itself back together, then reconstructive surgery is an option – a procedure called Tommy John Surgery. The procedure seems to be fairly common in pitchers who regularly rip apart their elbows and, oh joy, within a year of the surgery the prognosis is pretty good. I could barely keep reading when I learned that this surgery requires removal of tendon from somewhere else in the body in order to create a new connective bit in the elbow – where on earth would they find a spare bit of tendon to use?????

“What about climbing?”

To his credit, he didn’t laugh at me or say (like the orthopedic surgeon) that climbing was out of the question. We discussed options. There are some pretty good braces out there – terribly expensive but which limit the lateral movement of the elbow joint and prevent hyper-extension during the extended healing time needed for the soft tissues to repair themselves. I suspect there wouldn’t be a lot of pulling power in the left arm, but having a second arm is kind of essential when climbing, if only to pinch and grip and balance while moving the other, fully functional arm into a secure position. Or, is it? It occurred to me that other people had likely dealt with arm injuries, that there are para-climbers out there who climb with fewer than a full complement of limbs… I asked about immobilizing the injured arm and climbing with the other one and we decided that there was no harm in trying as long as I was securely top-roped and didn’t do anything foolish like bouldering.

IMG_4091Which is how I wound up stuffing an oven mitt into the pocket of an ice-holding wrap designed for icing an injured knee, wrapping that around my elbow for padding, stuffing all of that into the sling they gave me at the emergency room on the first night and then securely fastening the sling and padded arm snugly across my torso. I was a bit worried about falling off the wall and catching the sling on a hold, getting hung up and dislocating my shoulder or hanging myself or something equally ridiculous, so my wonderful climbing partners helped me squeeze into a very tight t-shirt so all loose bits were covered and I was unable to move the sling, my arm or get caught up in anything in case of a tumble.


Add the two of us together (Charlotte has a broken foot) and you might wind up with one decent climber!

Add the two of us together (Charlotte has a broken foot) and you might wind up with one decent climber!

In the end I was so trussed up it felt like I was wearing  a straight jacket and couldn’t even manage to tie in by myself.


Once securely fastened to the top rope, it was do or die time. I faced the wall and started up.

What a disaster that first wall was!! My whole body went into panic mode because I could not get my head wrapped around the idea that in order to go up I was going to have to balance on my feet and let go to reach up for the next hold with my good hand. Surges of adrenaline soon had my legs quivering and the effort of hanging on for dear life with my poor right arm soon turned it into jelly as well!


IMG_4127 IMG_4132

I was horrified at how hard it was, how my body was completely betraying me by panicking, how I couldn’t at all translate my usual ‘power up the wall’ climbing style into something that would work with one arm. By the time I got to the bottom I was faced with the realization that either something fundamental had to change in the way I was tackling the wall or I was going to have to find another hobby to occupy myself during the long road to recovery.


I confess that once I got to the bottom I felt so awful and my legs were so quivery I was ready to quit and take up tiddly winks.

I sat down, had a drink, took some deep breaths and considered my options. Quit? Take a very long (two year?) break? Or, try again. I’m no spring chicken. I might not be around in two years. I decided to try again, this time on the feature wall with the cool landscaping.


IMG_4161 IMG_4162


Things definitely improved after this. I stopped trying to leap and lunge and relied more on solid footholds, balance, and more strategic stretching. On the next wall (no photos), I was able to relax enough that I could just stand, balanced on two decent footholds and let go of the right arm, let it hang beside me to shake out and recover a moment before continuing right to the very top. By the end of the evening I was feeling like maybe there will be a way to safely climb while the arm heals and THAT was a fabulous feeling, indeed!

Of course, I couldn’t have done any of this without the support and encouragement of our fantastic group of climbing ninjas – Justine, Meagan, and Charlotte. Charlotte, who has been recovering from a broken foot for what seems like forever, also tackled a wall tonight and scampered up using her two good arms (stronger than ever as a result of all that crutching and wheel-chairing she’s been doing), her good leg, and her knee!


Go Charlotte!! We proved tonight that three functional limbs are more than adequate to get up to the top!

Poor Justine, being the only fully functional one of the evening was really made to work hard by Coach Meagan, who pushed her hard as we invalids ‘took time to recover’ between climbs.

Justine showing off her ballerina-esque style as she floated up to the top of a route as part of her series of 100 uninterrupted moves up and down and up and down the wall...

Justine showing off her ballerina-esque style as she floated up to the top of a route as part of her series of 100 uninterrupted moves up and down and up and down the wall…

Though it’s really, really tempting to rush back to climb more tomorrow, good sense tells me a rest day or two would be a good idea before trying again. The first hurdle (giving it a try) has been conquered. Continuing to rest and give the injured arm time to heal and the over-worked right arm a chance to recover will help with the overall ‘onward and upward’ strategy that will, with any luck, see me back out on some real rock before too long!


Hoodoos on one of the recent trips to the Kootenays – such gorgeous places out there to explore!