In the dark of early morning my alarm sounded. I sat up slowly on the edge of my bed and slowly my brain started to catch up. As I sat there I desperately hoped that yesterday had been a bad dream. Attempting to believe that the worst had not happened. I slowly moved my shoulder and reality sank in. What I feared the most had happened, my shoulder dislocated AGAIN… I was promised that it would not come out unless I injured it again. Yet somehow while climbing yesterday it slipped out or maybe just sublexed. It wasn’t even during a hard move where I did something stupid. I was simply moving my arm from my waist up to above my shoulder. Nothing particularly strenuous and I felt that familiar muscle tearing, weird sensation of dislocation. Sitting on the bedside my optimism crushed, I was really down.
This entire summer had been incredible, the climbing was so inspiring and exciting. My body was in the best shape of the last 10 years, strong and fit I felt free of worry about my shoulder. I could launch and land hanging on my left arm and have no worries about it. Climbing, something I love, was back and feeling decent. Not up to the standard I used to have in the nineties but getting pretty solid again. I was getting out 3 nights a week and really loving it. I climbed my first 5.12 in years and it was relatively easy, 4th try on lead.
What was even more exciting was the alpine climbing, it was something I had never really done and was incredible. The combined years of all my ski mountaineering had honed my alpine skills. To climb these routes safely was so complex and challenging, so many things to consider to be successful. The second you approach a mountain the senses have to be on one hundred percent, always watching and calculating. It was so engaging.
I had dreamed of climbing Downie for ever, but never really thought I would or could. But since things were feeling so great, I joined up with Darek and attempted to climb the north ridge. We had little beta and I was going to learn a lot from him. He is a full mountain guide and very particular about safety and will always suggest a better way to do something. So I knew I would learn a lot from him. But we ended up getting rained off and going and sport climbing. Which is when I sent that 5.12. Then a few weeks later Dave and I joined up and headed to Downie peak.
This time we were armed with a little more beta and were planning on going directly up the ridge. All we knew is that it would be around 5.9. This was from the hardcores that had climbed it on a whim in a long 13 hour car to car mission. So the beta was better but really still quite vague. I thought the crux was the first pitch so I got Dave to lead it. It ended up being a super long 500 foot simul climb that brought us to the first steeper pitch. Which ended up being mine, a cool corner lead that was somewhere around 5.8-9. Near the top I disloged a large rock that flew down and crashed into Dave’s belay spot. Luckily I had shouted and he had ran away and all was fine. But the hazards where huge. The pitches continued on for awhile, long simul climbs for Dave and steeper leads for me.
At one point I was in a cave where I had to step out and around with thousands of feet of exposure, it was so intense and amazing. It felt great! My next pitch I ended up searching for an easier way instead of the direct way and found my self out in chossy rock, poor protection and loose stuff every where. Gripped for a solid hour I worked my way up and back to the ridge. When Dave joined me I realized we could not go down and had to keep going. It was quite a moment to realize that there was no down, no real escape, climbing upwards was the easiest way out. Eventually the pitches got easier and we cruised up the ridge. I finally got back at Dave and lead a 1000ft of simul climbing and stopped under the next steep pitch. He led away
By now things were awesome and we were getting near the summit. Finally the summit ridge was snakeing its way up. After hours of vertical climbing the final stairway was excilerating. Narrow, thousands of feet of exposure on all sides. It was a dream for me, the summit so close and the situation so REAL.
Nine hours of continuous climbing and we were on the top. OHHHH Yahhh so great, no ski lines of this baby, so an amazing alpine day was needed to summit it. Then 5 hours of descending brought us back to the car, 16. hours and 15 minutes car to car. Wow…
Now I sit on my bed and wonder whether I have lost this alpine experience. With a dislocating shoulder I don’t think I could safely do something like that again. Is it really a lost love ? I cannot express how much I wish it to not be taken from me again. I can only hope that my shoulder just sublexed and somehow I have to keep it stronger than I was…. I really do not want to loose this new found passion for alpine and or old love for rock climbing. I am not sure what I did to pull it out again but restrengthening and tensor exercises will be a must and try again next summer.
Part of me wonders whether there is someone I wronged in my past that has a voodoo doll of me. And when they know I am feeling great they just pull out the left shoulder to keep me grounded…