On the day we chose to move out of our apartment in Bellinzona (Tuesday April 27th), we awoke to gloomy surroundings. Bellinzona was soaked and the rain hadn’t stopped falling. We woke up late and spent the morning cleaning the apartment and packing our black Peugeot full of our belongings. We left our beloved apartment around noon and headed to town to grab a few things on our way to Brione one last time before moving to Magic Wood. I was well convinced that it would be equally wet in Brione so I enjoyed a gelato to make the day better. As we winded through the canyon to Brione it looked to be a similar story with sprinkles of water consistently finding their way to the windshield. However, about five kilometers before reaching our destination the roads changed to a lighter color indicating the possibility of dry boulders ahead. As we walked into the lower river sector that’s exactly what we found! Even better, the clouds that were threatening above provided much needed relief from the sun, allowing the boulders to remain a few degrees cooler than normal.
I warmed up slowly on the rock and rested while Leslie worked out the moves on Marylyn Monroe. At the end of my warm up session I climbed on Bach Bloc which reignited my back injury from two days prior. The injury first occurred on Sunday at Magic Wood on a problem called Sofa Surfer. On my flash attempt I blew off the last holds and landed on my butt which bottomed out the crashpad into the rock underneath. This caused pain when I tried to stand upright. The injury started feeling better later that day and the pain had gone away by the middle of Monday.
Despite the reoccurrence of pain on Tuesday I decided to hike up to Vecchio Leone since it was our last day at Brione and I had put so much effort into this line in the previous weeks. After hobbling up the mountain, we arrived at the boulder and I laid on my crashpad for awhile hoping my back would loosen up. It continued to hurt so I decided to try the problem anyway. I had no expectations but I pulled on, instantly switched on 100% focus, stuck the first long move and continued my way up the boulder. I felt surprisingly good so I fought to stick the crux move to the crimp rail but my right hand popped off again! I was psyched to have such a good burn considering my condition. Unfortunately the intense climbing increased my back pain substantially and I could hardly stand up. Obviously I couldn’t give up after such a solid attempt so I rested for twenty minutes before giving it another go.
At this point it was difficult to walk or move the crashpads on my own. I hobbled up to the problem, pulled onto the starting holds, stuck the first move, did the difficult ‘front lever’ move to place my right toe on a tiny chip way out right, latched the next hold and pulled up to find myself at the crux again. I stuck the rounded crimp rail and my right hand remained clamped to the pinch for the first time! I matched the rail, fought the back pain to let my feet cut and climbed on to better holds and eventually the top! I couldn’t believe it!
The bad news is that my back was exponentially worse after this and I literally couldn’t stand up on top of the boulder! I barely managed to hobble off the boulder, hunched over like an old man. After a slow cripple-style walk down the mountain we headed off towards Magic Wood.
In the car I was hoping my back would start to loosen up on the drive there. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and it continued with shooting pains whenever I would try to move. Leslie helped with my things and setting up my tent since I couldn’t do much of anything on my own. I hoped after a night’s rest it would improve but sadly it was worse in the morning after the Advil had worn off. It was exceedingly painful to roll over, sit up, stand up, lie down or basically move in any direction. I decided to find a hospital to see if I had done any serious damage.
We found one 15 kilometers to the North in Thusis. Our first experience in the German speaking portion of Switzerland was walking into this hospital (I know zero German). The hospital was very clean and virtually empty; I saw one other patient while I was there which left most of their staff to help me out. Luckily a few people there spoke some English so I wasn’t totally in the dark. After taking x-rays the doctor told me there wasn’t any major damage to my spine or vertebrae. He said I had strained a ligament connecting my pelvis to my back which was probably the source of the pain. He told me to stop climbing for two weeks and see if it feels better then. Now I am 400 francs poorer but I’m up a few pain patches and pain pills which allows me to type this with only mild discomfort. Here’s hoping I can start walking again soon!