In mid June, I fell bouldering. It was a bad landing and moderately
compressed my second and third lumbar. On my foot, my navicular was
broken, my cuboid crushed, and my talus resembled gravel. After two
surgeries, three plates and tons of screws, my foot is on the mend. The
doctor said that I could backpack, but I can’t ever run or put any kind
of impact on my foot due to lots of cartilage damage; my foot has a
limited amount of steps before arthritis sets in. Can I ever climb
—Max | via e-mail
In the late 20th century, before I became a medical sage, I bouldered
with a guy who went by the handle Gatito, meaning kitten. In a double
entendre euphemistic kind of way, he was just that—a 6’3” wrought-iron
sculpture, he went about the world wide-eyed and playful.
A minor fall on scree a couple of years before had resulted in multiple
fractures in his ankle followed by several operations. His foot was
fused in every direction with virtually no motion at the ankle itself,
and resembled a prosthetic limb that a dog had chewed on.
We met in Refugio Frey, Patagonia, both partner-less. Gatito’s
diamond-bit fingertips pulled harder than a tractor on nitrous. He
out-bouldered, out-climbed and out-socialized me at every turn. He took
whippers, walked for hours up exfoliating Patagonian slopes, had no
bouldering pad and drank his body weight in maté every morning at 30
Not to say his ankle was without issues. From joint
stiffness and cartilage damage is born a multitude of pathologies,
namely tendonitis and early joint degeneration. But he adapted and made
Your injury is a mild swerve to the left, not the end of the
road. It doesn’t sound like your doc has advised against climbing, and
neither would I. I saw a guy today who was stopped on a 100-footer by a
loop of static line that snagged around his ankle. Two plates and 12
screws. His surgeon was smart: “Climbing is great for it. Go climbing.
It will develop strength and range of motion.” Knighthood!
Impact, however, is bad. Avoid slabs (like you needed an excuse!), buy a phat pad. Lowballs are the new black.
Arthritis has started already—you have a limited amount of steps before you notice it!