Reaching new heights

Erin Marshall climbs a route on Morning Glory Wall.

Being sidelined from a sport you love due to injury sucks. Even if you know the injury is pretty minor and will probably last for only a few days. It still just sucks.

Over the weekend I made plans to go rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, just outside of Bend. Smith Rock is a rock climber’s dream: with over 1,500 climbing routes to choose from, you could easily spend months there and barely cover all of the climbing there is to offer.

So you can see why I was excited to get out there and climb as many routes as I could.

Thursday, a day before I was supposed to head out with a group of friends, I hurt my shoulder playing tug of war with my dog (he’s really strong, OK?) and somehow, the front of my shoulder was tweaked, with my range of motion close to nothing.

Cue instant panic, lots of icing, Tylenol, and lots of stretching to quickly heal my pesky shoulder. As I sat on the couch, icing for the second time that day, I knew from past injuries that this wasn’t anything serious, but that climbing on it would only make it worse.

Friday came and my shoulder still hurt. I was faced with a choice: decide to stay home and have a boring weekend, or go on the trip anyway, not climb, and just take cool photos for this awesome blog I’m currently writing.

I decided to go with the latter. Smith Rock is an amazing place even if you’re not climbing. And since climbing there means hiking up and down steep terrain to get to the route you want to climb on, I knew I would at least get some fun hiking in.

When we woke up Saturday morning and headed out of camp toward the crag, my shoulder was actually starting to feel better but not enough to climb on, which is why I left my climbing gear in the trunk of my friend’s car — the temptation to climb would be too great to resist.

Here’s the thing about climbers: we’re all obsessed with climbing and will do whatever we can to climb despite being hurt. I’ve seen climbers climb one-handed, climb with a cast on their leg, or climb with massive amounts of athletic tape covering their arms. We can be pretty extreme and will take great measures to avoid being sidelined.

Hence keeping my gear at camp (I have very little self-control). I’ve been injured enough in other sports to finally understand that a little patience goes a long way.

So I tried to be patient and not bitter about being hurt, and just have fun anyway. And I did. It was awesome taking photos of everyone climb and getting to pet all the dogs that climbers and hikers brought along with them.

By Saturday evening, though, I was starting to get ancy. I wanted to climb so badly. My shoulder was starting to feel better, my range of motion returning to normal. I was hopeful.

Turns out, my ability to exercise that self-control and not climb Saturday helped. Sunday I woke up with no pain in my shoulder. Excited, we went back into the park so I could jump on a few routes before driving back home.

The thing that I love about the climbing the most is that no matter how many times you climb, whether at the gym or outside, you still experience the same feelings of joy, adrenaline, excitement and a little fear as you place your feet on tiny little nubbins and grab onto holds by the tips of your fingers to hoist yourself up the wall. It’s incredible.

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