The Active Amputee Weekend Edition - My first multi-pitch climb

Finally on my first multi-pitch climb!
Finally on my first multi-pitch climb!

Turning Obstacles Into Tasks To Be Solved

A weekend in late October, the weather forecasts announces sun all day and a clear blue sky, I have someone to take care of the kids and some people who want to go climbing outdoors - what a great opportunity to finally approach my first multi-pitch climb.


Why Am I So Ambivalent About Something I Love?

When it comes to outdoor climbing I always had mixed feelings. On the one hand I like it so much more than climbing indoors. I like being out in nature. It‘s where I can truly relax and recharge my batteries. I like the wind and the sun and even the rain. I like real rock where the route is not colour-coded and you have to think about where to hold on to, where to place your foot, what to do next. It just feels better to me.


At the same time, I often shied away from outdoor climbing, didn‘t say „Yes!“ to some of the opportunities I was offered. Especially multi-pitch routes. Why? Well, it was a combination of reasons.


There is the obvious one. It normally takes a bit of walking to get to most of the cracks, often through rough terrain. I climb with a different prosthesis than the one I use for walking. So that needs to be carried. And if we hike off the beaten track or up and down steep slopes I use walking poles for balance and to prevent me from falling. All this means there is additional gear that needs to be carried. And for a multi-pitch route it would need to be carried through the entire climb as I need it again when topping out and walking back to the car.


Then there is the issue of changing from my daily prosthesis into my climbing set-up. In many cases the very starting point of the climb is on a slope. Often with very little space, maybe a bit muddy and slippery. And changing into my climbing set-up, making sure I have a snug proper fit for the socket so that it doesn‘t fall off half way through the route often was a challenge in itself. On many occasions it was these moments of changing from one prosthesis into the other one that I hated. Those where the moments when I felt clumsy, dependent on others, disabled. I know, most of it was in my mind. But that knowledge didn‘t help. 


Another factor playing in is that I am not good at leading. Not even indoors. I hate the idea of coming off a hold resulting in a fall. It‘s not the falling I fear, it‘s the landing. As a lower limb amputee you land on one leg. Obviously. All the kinetic energy from a fall has to be absorbed by the remaining leg. And even if you are coming down only a meter or two, the impact can be quite significant. And my remaining knee is not too fond of it. Try jumping down from a table landing on one leg only and you know what I mean. And most tables are only about 90 centimetres in height. This means that so far I haven‘t let any real routes outdoors yet. A few very simple ones that were more of a steeper scramble than a real climb. But no real climbing routes. And while there is no need to actually lead a route outdoors, knowing that I was not willing to do so was one of the factors that kept me from climbing more outdoors. Especially longer routes.


Shelve Your Hesitations And Tackle The Tasks Proactively

But last weekend I finally shelved all my hesitations, finally thought of these potential obstacles as simple tasks that needed to be solved and went on my first multi-pitch climb. I knew I needed a to change my mind-set. Needed to be fine with depending on others for leading the route. At the same time I was clear in my mind in all other aspects I wanted to be independent. And that included carrying all my additional gear; i.e. my second leg, my walking poles, my tools to adjust the climbing foot etc. And you know what? Despite climbing with a few extra kilograms on my back, I loved it! Each and every second of it. So here is my advice. If you want to try something new, something that moves you out of your comfort zone, identify the obstacles - real and perceived ones - that keep you from doing it. Then turn them into tasks that need to be solved. be creative and find ways to make things possible. Get into the right mind-set. Find the right people. And just do it. And I bet you that in most cases you will come home thinking „Wish I‘d done that earlier!“


Post by Bjoern Eser, the creator of The Active Amputee.