Dogpatch Boulders desk staffer Alex recently injured himself while bouldering in Oregon. He took the time to write up an article for the Touchstone Blog about the accident, along with tips for smart climbing.
When I heard, rather felt, the crack in my left ankle as it rolled sideways off the crash pad, I immediately found myself in a state of denial. My ankle was fine, just badly twisted. Heck, working full time at a climbing gym I see this with relative frequency, I can comfortably say that most of the accidents I encounter are just badly rolled ankles. The crack must’ve just been a pop, a tendon being pulled too hard, something mundane.
I felt my pride well up in my chest and I pushed to contain it as fellow gymgoers asked me if I was okay. I writhed around, holding my ankle, assuring everyone I was fine, that it was “just a bad roll.” When I’ve faced an injury like this at work, I’ve often thought that most of these injuries could have been avoided. Adjustments in pad placement, body awareness, confidence, control, and general safety when pushing your body into the unknown seem are ostensibly lacking. Yet, here I was, having disregarded all of that and in the exact same position. Instead of worrying about myself, all I could think was that I had made a silly mistake and I felt guilty for imposing any stress on the gym’s staff.
Fortunately, the staff didn’t show an ounce of resentment or stress; everyone there was more than accommodating. I hobbled my way over to their café where my girlfriend was working on an essay. I felt guilty for being selfish, for being so stupid. It was her 21st to hit the breweries that evening, but now I had completely usurped her day. I thought back to the problem I had fallen on… I remember telling myself, even the guys I was bouldering with that I was pretty burnt and ready to head out soon. I hadn’t climbed in a few days and I felt my ego push me to get in a couple more attempts, to really make sure I was spent. Well, gravity was quick to assure me that I, indeed, was done with my session.
The end of a climbing workout is typically when my technique goes out the window and I’m just trying to burn my muscles out. I had started making desperate throws without much forearm juice in reserve. Not only was my body incapable of performing the moves I was forcing it to attempt, I was also ignoring the gym’s padding situation.
Since climbing at Dogpatch Boulders, I’ve conditioned myself to become ballsier indoors. I’ve become more willing to make moves and attempt climbs I believe to be above my limit, at times in very precarious positions or at potentially dangerous heights. The floors are so good that I’ve never felt close to hurting myself. Even my worst falls have been softly cushioned by our beautiful Flashed flooring system. With this mentality, I didn’t even consider the padding situation at the oldschool gym I was climbing in was not nearly as forgiving as the one back home. Looking back, there were red flags everywhere. Old crash pads littered the floor. Underneath the roof I was climbing lay a dilapidated old mattress, and at the lip where I fell the pads were a few feet too far back to protect a fall. I didn’t once adjust a pad throughout my session.
Now, here I am. Fractured tibia. Surgery imminent. Three days post-accident, waiting for my ankle to stop hurting so I can maneuver my old, manual transmission van down from Eugene, Oregon to the Bay Area. Now, my life that is usually full of climbing, running, and hiking has been stymied. Percolating up from the depths questions arise, what does climbing means to me, what led me to this unfortunate circumstance.
Over the past few days I’ve found myself struggling to accept the truth. My ego is what brought me here. My ego is what led me to think that I was strong enough not to fall, that even if I did I would be fine, that I’m invincible. My ego is what led me to keep pushing my session, even though my body was telling me I was done. My ego is what made the climbing injuries I had witnessed back home so frustrating. My ego led me to believe I was somehow different from the people I’ve seen get injured, that I somehow couldn’t be hurt.
While most of this is just a stream-of-consciousness reflection, there’s an undercurrent message that I hope to share with anyone else in my position—those of you that love climbing in and outside the gym. As fun as climbing is, as amazing as it is to push yourself constantly to new limits, to test your mental and physical prowess, to reach beautiful flow states, there’s a cost to ignoring the practical side of what we do. Let my accident remind you that safety should not be ignored in the race to the top. Vigilantly analyze your surroundings, your climbing partners’, be mindful of your body and mind before, during, and after your climbing session. Even if it means you bag the route for another go another day, that’s okay. The problem will still be there when you get back. And even if it isn’t, there’ll be something else just as fun, exciting, and challenging waiting for you to find it.
The price we pay for being overeager and ignoring general safety precautions can be hefty. For me, my single-minded desire to climb one last problem resulted in a lot of forced downtime. I only hope that my accident can help some of you become more aware of safety as a primary concern when entering any climbing environment, be it inside or out.
Here are some easy safety tips that I think could’ve prevented my injury had I considered them:
Pad Placement – When present, check for proper pad placement. When you’re going for a hard move, you want to be confident that your landing is sufficiently padded.
Spotting - Sometimes it’s great to have a solo session, but if you’re going for a move that may result in an uncontrolled fall, look around and ask someone to give you a spot. Even if you feel pretty confident with the move, our bodies swing in unpredictable ways. Having someone ready to resquare you with the mat can be an ankle saver!
Body Awareness - Be aware that as you lose strength, you lose movement becomes uncoordinated and sloppy. They symptoms can be subtle but a fatigued climber’s movements will often appear more dynamic, impulsive, or lethargic. Being mindful of one’s body a climber can focus on problems that fit their current energy level. The more your try that really hard move in a progressively weakened state, the more vulnerable you are to injury.
Ego - Don’t let your confidence get you in trouble. It’s okay to ask for a spot. It’s okay to admit defeat and let a problem go for another day. It’s okay to be off or to feel weak. Climbing can be a lifelong pastime. For me, the key to staying motivated is to remember to enjoy every step as you walk down path of rock climbing. To heck with the grades, the difficulty, the strength or weakness, all of that stuff comes secondary to just enjoying the sensation of climbing. That’s what it’s all about.
Bay Area Bouldering 2013 from Phaedrus on Vimeo.
Here is a video of happier times! We're wishing you a speedy recovery!
Even with hundreds of crushers going in and out of Dogpatch Boulders, Nilo and Lars are easily noticed. “In a gym dominated by people in the 20-40 age range, everyone knows them as the kids who will climb with anyone, not just other kids," said Dogpatch manager Justin Alarcon. We took a moment to find out more about these young climbers who are already a huge part of the Dogpatch climbing community.
Read more: The Dogpatch Community: Nilo and Lars
Fall has fallen, and it's time to start the bouldering season out right! We'll be kicking off a brand new, never before seen 'Bowldering League,' at Dogpatch Boulders. 2 parts fun, 1 part competition, .5 parts fame and .5 parts glory, this competition will run for 10 weeks this fall. Read on to find out more about this exciting new format and find out how to sign up. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
1) Collect a team of four boulderers and one alternate (for weeks when someone can’t make it). All climbing levels are welcome. If you climb V3 and your buddy climbs V10 - great! You can totally be on the same team. The way we score everything will make it fair no matter how hard you climb (we’ll explain below).
2) Come to the front desk and ask for a Dogpatch Bowldering League Registration Form. Registrants will need to be Touchstone Gym Members or 10 Pass Holders; otherwise, they must purchase a day pass for each visit. There will be a $50 registration fee for each team. That means each of your buddies have to fork over a whole $10-$12 each to get your team started! All teams must be registered by September 27th.
3) Once registered, make sure to “Like” our Dogpatch Boulders Facebook Page. We will post weekly updates, share Bowldering League Problems, and announce special weekly SUPER SPECIAL BOWLDERING CHALLENGES that can earn your team extra points.
4) Every other week, as marked on our league calendar, will be a Bowldering League competition. Teams will be matched up against each other with the highest scoring team of the week earning one for the win column. During the Bi-Week, we will set new problems and our staff will calculate your team’s scores and email them to your team captains.
5) Beginning on Monday of a League competition week, scorecards will be available at the front desk.. Your team will only be allowed one day to fill out the scorecard, but it can be any day within the competition week that your team chooses. All team members must be present to receive a scorecard. There are no do-overs, if your team does not turn in its scorecard they will receive 0 points that week.
6) On competition days, teams will be responsible for keeping track of what problems they have climbed and handle their own scorecards. Be sure to note whether the ascents were flashes or redpoints following the instruction on the scorecard. We will be using the honor system, so please be honest when you mark down your sends. Cheaters will be run out onto the street and forced to do Crossfit. Don’t forget to turn in your scorecard at the end of the night so we can tally up your points!
8) After 5 competition weeks we will host a final Dogpatch Bowldering League World Championship Tournament of Champions! (DBLWCTC) On December 7th, teams with the best win/loss records will be pitted against each other in a bracket-style elimination competition. The two best teams at the end of the day will compete for the GRAND PRIZE and the Title “Dogpatch Bouldering League Champions of the Universe!”
Registration is open from September 1st to September 27th!
Scoring in the bouldering league will be based on a handicap system. Handicapping will allow teams of noobs to compete alongside teams composed of v12 mega-crushers. Our system rewards personal achievement while prioritizing fun and camaraderie.
Handicapping is actually fairly simple. When a competitor registers they will be asked what their regular climbing level is (what V-grade do you climb). We want to know what the hardest grade you regularly climb is, that’s it. You can usually get up at least one v6 per visit? Great, you’re a v6 handicap. Usually you climb v3, but once every couple of weeks you get a v4? You’re a v3 handicap. You can climb v8 once a week or so, but a year and a half ago you climbed v10? Guess what, you’re a v8 handicap. If you have any trouble deciding on your handicap, just ask a staff person and they can help you out.
Handicaps can change throughout the competition; so don’t get too hung up on them. If you have a breakthrough and start regularly climbing a grade harder than before, our scorekeepers will adjust your handicap. Likewise, if you go through a rough patch when you can’t seem to get up the same problems you used to, we’ll adjust that as well.
Each competition week the scorecard will have 20 Bowldering League sanctioned problems from v0-v10+. The goal as an individual is to try and flash or redpoint problems at or above your handicap to garner the most points. Flashing means a problem is climbed on the first attempt. A redpoint in this competition means a climb has been completed after the first attempt. For a more complete explanation of the term redpoint please visit Wikipedia.
A competitor will receive full points for a problem redpointed at the level of their handicap. Flashing a problem earns you half a point extra. Climbing a problem below your handicap costs you a point, while climbing above your handicap get’s you an extra point (remember handicaps will be adjusted and sandbaggers will be punished severely.)
For the purposes of this competition a ‘flash’ will be considered the first attempt of a problem on the competition day. Many of the competition boulder problems will be chosen from the many problems already on our walls so it is very likely that competitors, prior to competition week, will have tried the boulder problems. So for competition purposes a competitor may very well flash a climb they had done on a previous visit, this is well within the rules.
The top three scores from each competitor on a team will be added together to get the team score. If your team score is higher than your opposition’s score your team earns the win that week. At the end of league play the teams with the best win-loss records will have the highest seeding in the Dogpatch Bowldering League World Championship Tournament of Champions! (DBLWCTC)
On May 24th, 45 students from San Francisco International High School, a public school for recent immigrants, headed over to Dogpatch Boulders to check out the new gym. The students, who are adjusting to a new life in the United States, had never been climbing before! We caught up with them to see what they thought of climbing.
Read more: SFIHS Students at Dogpatch
On May 4th, the 8th year of the Touchstone Bouldering Series hit the new San Francisco bouldering gym. Over 500 boulderers flooded Dogpatch Boulders to participate at the gym’s first comp.
Read more: Finals at Dogpatch Boulders
TBS8 at Dogpatch Boulders is just days away! The ambassadors of psych here at Touchstone Headquarters have put together a handy check list to ensure that you are prepared for all the fun and frivolities. Follow these easy steps and you'll be ready to roll from the moment you walk in!
#1. Know what TBS8 is.
Over 8 years ago, when some of the Zero Gravity crushers were still in diapers, Touchstone Climbing started a bouldering competition. The comp series toured each of our gyms, bringing new problems, food, and fun to each location. This gave us a chance to throw our members a huge party while encouraging them to journey to surrounding gyms and meet their counterparts. The tradition has continued, and with 8 gyms in the Touchstone Dynasty, TBS8 has been in full swing for the last 7 months.
Our comp series are open to climbers of all levels, and competitors can register in the beginner, intermediate, or advanced categories. The event will run from 12pm-5pm on Saturday, May 4th and you are can climb and turn in score cards anytime through the event. TBS8 is FREE to members and only $10 for guests. Winners in the advanced categories will go on to compete in finals at 6pm.
#2. Print out a Waiver!
You already signed a waiver, but competitions are special and we'd like another one. Touchstone Climbing Waiver. <--- Print this up and proceed to step 3.
#3. Find your Touchstone Competition ID number.
We are pretty legit when it comes to competitions. Each competitor has a unique 3 letter code for registration and scoring. Knowing your code ahead of time will help conserve your energy for all the climbing you are about to do. You need the 3 letter code to get a score card. TBS8 Registration It will look a little something like what you see below. If this is your FIRST competition in over a year, register for the comp to find your code. If you have been to a comp in the past year, look up your code.
After you have your three letter code, write it atop your waiver. It should look a little something like this:
#4. Get psyched. This is gonna be huge. See you Saturday!
For more information check out our Facebook Event Page for TBS8 at Dogpatch Boulders.