All The Small Things - David Mason

All The Small Things  

After dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome, nerve compression and the resulting muscle atrophy in my right shoulder and bicep for a year and half I was psyched out of my tiny mind to start training properly again last November. I had a goal - to get fitter for a project at Raven Tor. The Tor is our local crag, I can ride my bike there in 5 minutes and I’d spotted some link up potential in the cave. After sussing all the moves and almost doing it in two halves last summer I realised I needed to be fitter, and that was the aim for winter. I needed a bigger contribution from aerobic system if I was to stand any chance of linking the problem. My sequence is 19 hand moves and 20 foot moves, I’m on the wall for somewhere between 80-90 seconds and most moves are as hard as the last, there’s no let up! If I were to put a grade on it then it feels roughly 8A/+ into all the hard part of Keen Roof, which in my opinion is 8A+ climbing. Fast forward 10 weeks of training, with rest weeks obviously, and I was off skiing for a friend’s 40th birthday. We hadn’t all been away together since we were 19! I have skied since I was 5 and have never really injured myself, I was determined this time would be no different. I wondered if this determination to come away from the week unscathed would inhibit my confidence on the slopes but it didn’t. I skied well and confidently the first two days, the forecast was then for rain for two days. I went out both days but called it early as it just wasn’t fun. We then had a huge dump of snow overnight and we were all frothing the following morning. After skiing the best powder of my life we all met up on a blue run to decide which lift to go to. I set off down the slope, caught an edge and felt an almighty tear in my right knee. I instantly knew it wasn’t good and the first thing to come to mind was I wouldn’t be trying the project this spring, I was gutted! Let’s fast forward again. The result of my fall was a full thickness rupture of the ACL and a slight strain of the MCL. Although I had been unlucky, I had also been very lucky as most people do more damage to their MCL and meniscus when they fully rupture an ACL, sliver linings and all. With a baby on the way in May and work and climbing depending on a fully functioning right knee I decided to have surgery privately. I mentally couldn’t take the unknown of the NHS waiting list, which was predicted to be at least 6 months but potentially longer. 

Boulder - Booka, Booka, Booka V12

I’m sitting writing this in my seventh week post surgery and can safely say I have experienced all the feelings that go with an injury that stops you doing the thing you love. I have had this once before when I dislocated my right shoulder in Hueco Tanks, and although you’d think that would be worse it wasn’t a patch on this. Tangent but funny story - I had to put my shoulder back into position myself, please don’t ever try running into a wall like Mel Gibson does in Lethal Weapon, it doesn’t work! With my shoulder I couldn’t climb but within a week or two most things felt fairly normal and the physiotherapy required was either very little compared to ACL rehab or I didn’t do enough! I bouldered 8A again after 4 months and, other than a small subluxation in the August of that year, I haven’t really had any issues since.

ACL surgery meant I couldn’t drive, sleeping was very uncomfortable, I couldn’t play normally with Isaac or do very much around the house. I was also doing a lot of physio, which takes huge motivation when the finish line seems a long way away. Seven weeks in and I’m still doing a lot of physio but it’s slightly more interesting, I can drive, play more normally with the boy and do a lot of things around the house. I have also been doing some more normal training for climbing - hanging from my fingers and doing seated weight work. I’m still a long way off climbing but every day is slightly closer and hopefully by the time our second child arrives I’ll be able to do most things. Since rupturing my ACL in January I’ve felt all the emotions but I know with hard work I can get back to where I was, and perhaps with even stronger legs! Most weeks have elicited small progressions - being able to go upstairs without matching every step, then downstairs, being able to walk with no crutches, getting my heel to lift off the floor when extending my leg in a seated position, bending down to sit on the toilet and so on. These small progressions have been key to my motivation and every time I feel down and ask myself why am I lifting my leg off the floor for the thousandth time I think of them and try to guess what the next thing might be.


Boulder - Bowman's Pretty Face V9

ACL rehab is very protocol lead. I’m seeing the physio again at week 10. Week 12 will hopefully be the addition of weight in the gym and the potential to start running. A friend started climbing on a low board again at week 14, although we’ll be in the midst of sleep deprivation and dirty nappies so I may leave it a little longer. At around 6 months pivot and speed work will be added, alongside continued strengthening. In September we’re planning on seeing how the van works with two children in Font so hopefully I’ll be able to do some lowballs and enjoy movement on rock again. The main aim from a climbing perspective will be spring 2025 and getting on the project at Raven Tor. It seems like I haven’t missed too much this year - the weather has been torrid in the UK and not much better in Europe by all accounts. If you’ve got this far then thanks for reading. My take away point is to find small positives in whatever you’re doing, however shit you may feel or however bad a situation seems. These positives, however small, keep you ticking over and allow you to not only hope but to actually see the end or a resolution. Good luck to all of you - whether you’re projecting 6A or 9A, rehabbing a finger or a knee, in the midst of sleepless nights with a newborn, in deep with house renovations or just having a bit of a shit time. Remember small steps, take anything that could be a positive from the situation and there’s always a light, however far away it seems.

Thanks to Adam, Chris, Ben and Joe for sorting me out on the slopes, Huffy, Guy and Katie for the physio work and my mum for a bit more support with the boy. An even bigger thanks goes to Mina and Isaac for dealing with, and looking after me over the past few months. I’ll repay over the next weeks, months and years!

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