Knee Surgery, and the glory of the nerve block

I’ve known so many people my own age who have had shoulder surgery, knee surgery, etc. etc. etc. Up until now, I’ve been fortunate enough to have avoided this route, but when my doctor had tried everything to help heal my knee, ( I had 5 different shots in my knee,  and PT) finally I was ready to have surgery. 

Surgery scares the cannoli’s out of me– cutting you open, digging around, potentially cutting the wrong thing. Lots of horror stories from TV, and I had willingly accepted that it was my fate, after nothing else worked. 

Going to a surgery consult was very different from visits with my regular sports medicine doctor. He had taken a quick look at my MRI, and told me that it was a bone marrow lesion that could be fixed by a procedure called “subchondroplasty.” What that essentially means is they would drill a tiny hole in my femur where the lesion is, and fill it with a bone cement that supports the bone while the lesion heals.

He asked me talk about this with my other doctor, who entirely agreed with his assessment. I made the appointment, and fought through all of the insurance rigamarole in order to get it done. Once I made it through the final hurdle, I sat in the Boulder Surgery Center, scared, but ready to get this done. 

Greg  sat with me as they gave me the IV, and my first round of calming meds. He waited until they rolled me into the OR, and then waited in the waiting room until I woke up. All I remember is being rolled into the OR, and asked to move from the bed to the operating table. The anesthesiologist  rolled forward to stick my leg with a nerve block, which had been suggested by the surgeon…which I am so glad he suggested! It took two days for it to wear off, I’m sitting here on saturday evening, and it just wore off today– so hopefully I have avoided the most painful part! 

I know that when i initially woke up from the anesthesia I asked where Greg was, they told me was waiting for me to wake up more. I said “okey” then fell back asleep for 45 mins, then woke up to Greg there with me. The nurse offered me water or ginger ale. For those of you who know me, I love ginger ale! They told me to take it easy, I took two tiny sips, but I wanted to guzzle. I was starving, thirsty, and Greg brought me a chocolate-chocolate chip cookie. Rather than take it easy, I took a big bite. Best. Food. Ever. 

I know I don’t generally write about my personal life really, but Greg is just the greatest partner ever.  My mom and dad were among the first to check on me, THANKS MOM AND DAD! I also have some amazing and wonderful friends who were checking on me and encouraging me. Thank you Sarah, Laura, Charlotte, Makayla, Kristin, and Tiffany- you are all wonderful friends.  

 My next project is to heal, and get back out there in the world I love so much- climbing, backpacking, mountaineering, cycling- any of those in combination would be great. 

In the meantime, I’ll catch up on posts from my last few adventures, maybe a read a book or 4.

Elevenmile Canyon 

One more weekend of adventure after this, one more till surgery on my knee then a slow recovery. I had been wanting to climb in Elevenmile Canyon, it was supposed to have beautiful easy multi pitch, granite domes, and cooler weather.

Ashley, Scott, and I drove down early on Saturday to Elevenmile Canyon about an hour west of Colorado Springs. I had no idea such an awesome climbing place existed, or the free national forest campsite, was quiet, and shaded.

Our first climbing location for the day was “Gnome Dome”, which required finding a path across the river, then scrambling along the base of the dome to the beginning of a 5.5 called Kiddo Climb.

Knome Dome!

I figured this was a nice warm up, since I’d be doing all of the leading this weekend, and a great warm up for my awesome friends who are getting into outdoor climbing.

Ashley working her way up Kiddo Climb!
Climber sunbathing!

We climbed one more route a 5.7+ called Sleeping Beauty before we moved onto a new area. This route had some great slab moves, which I know sounds like it was horrendous, but it was a really fun climb!

Scott working his way up with his beautiful yet silly wife Ashley providing a catch.
I made a lizard friend!

Getting back across the river was interesting, instead of jumping down hill, you are jumping up hill onto a potentially slippery rock. Quite the adventure!

We made our way down canyon near a campground to potentially climb this large trad route that had caught my attention… I made it maybe two or 3 steps up, it wasn’t happening that day.

Second move up….wimped out.

I decided it’d be better to just stick to sport climbing that weekend, neither Ashley or Scott are trad climbers, and I think that’s why I bailed. If i am doing something that I am not quite comfortable with, I’d like to have someone with skills to back me up.

We settled on Elevenmile Dome, which was right on the road, and in the shade.

These were more vertical and less slabby, which made Ashley happy! We spend the rest of our afternoon playing around on the shaded face of Elevenmile Dome. I lead up a 5.5 route called Counter Strike, then gave them the chance to try leading if they wanted– Scott did an awesome job, and  Ashley made it up pretty far before she wanted to come down. I was very proud of them.

Ashley and Scott working their way up Face Value  5.9-
Attentive Belayer!
Me leading up Face Value

Face Value is a quality route, by far my favorite so far in the area! Ledgy, with  intimidating moves to the first bolt. Convincing myself to make those first moves, knowing that there was a 20+ foot drop behind me didn’t help, however once I made it to the first bolt, the rest of the climb was a blast!

We ended up climbing till about 6:30, then made our way back to camp for dinner, beer and a great fire.

It was a beautiful, quiet night, and we all slept pretty soundly. The next morning we packed up and climbed the same route a few times, then headed out for lunch at Cerberus Brewing in Co Springs. I was a smart person and totally forgot my chalk bag, so climbing the same route as the day before in the sun…. was ROASTY, and SWEATY!

It was an awesome day and a half of climbing in a new area, with great friends.

My friend Tiffany met us for lunch at Cerberus!

Busted Knees and High Points in Boring Places

Lazy mornings are the best. Waking up with the sun, making breakfast, drinking coffee as the world comes alive. Always my favorite part of the day. 

Today was the day, Sarah was going to lead her first trad route,  Spaceman Lookout, a 5.5 near the Chopping Block in Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. After enojoying, a long breakfast in the sun– we made our way over to the Chopping Block. 

We walked up to the climber sign in, they like to keep track of us to make sure nobody is hurt,  etc. It’s kind of nice!

I thought i had found the climb, but we weren’t positive– so we kept hiking up around the back of the chopping block, and then down this steep little gully in the middle.

The back of the chopping block!

Sarah leading the way!

We moved slowly through the gully, there were pine needles, and quite a steep hill. We were almost at the bottom, when Sarah said, “Damnit Erin, I think you were right, it’s right there. I just can’t wait to get on it now.” No sooner did she say that, her knee buckled inward where she has a not-so-working ACL, and she went down sliding about 10′ .  I made my way carefully down to her, I asked if she was okey, she said– ” not climbing.” We were only about 50′ from the car, so I  grabbed her keys and put my pack in the car, then came back up to get her pack.  I left my trekking poles with her,  and she managed to hobble to car, in quite a bit of pain. I gave her 800MG of Advil– which is the perscritption  amount, and headed back towards Keystone to get an ace bandage and some ice. 

We had already planned on heading home that day, but this was not the way we wanted to do it. After we acquired the ace bandage and ice, I asked Sarah where to– without even a hesitation she said, ” Well Nebraska’s high point, at least the whole day wasn’t a waste!” So off towards Nebraska we went!

Finding Panorama Point is a lot of non-descript boring AF Nebraska roads, we thought we made it there, and found out that we were in someone’s yard. He came out, with his tobacco stained beard, and luckily was very nice. He told us to go down another half a mile, and we’d be at the right road. We thanked him, and drove down the road.  Panorama point is on a bison farm, and they are very welcoming too high pointers. They just asked for a donation for upkeep. 

We drove a mile or so down a rough dirt road, until we saw the high point. Sarah managed to limp her way over, and sign the register. The view wasn’t anything special, just a lot of boring plains.  

Panorama Point 5,439′ on the Colorado Wyoming border

The register was taller than the monument, made me laugh.

We had acquired two more high points on this trip, a lot of new memories, and a love of the Black Hills. By far one of the most surprisingly beautiful places I’ve been in a while. It was an awesome trip, despite the injury, and the boring drive home. 

Two weeks later we found out that Sarah would be getting surgery for her ACL, meniscus tear, and cartilage damage. So we’re both kinda waylaid for the summer, I should be recovered by mid august, her’s will be much longer. BUT that doesn’t mean we won’t have  another high point adventure, or more adventures together!  Look out later in August for Kansas and Missouri!

Roadside Breakfast and Hail

On any of our adventures, Sarah and I eat roadside meals. Often it’s due to being too far from a town, but sometimes, it’s just for shiggles(Shits n’ giggles). 

 We woke up in our first campsite, and decided rather than eat at our campsite, we’d get moving to our climbing location for the day. The original plan for this trip was to climb high points, and rock climb. We made our way out to the “needles highway” to climb a route called “the hitching post”. This cool route lands right in the parking lot, and based on the info we could find on Mountain Project, it was a 5.5. 

But before any climbing could happen– breakfast was in order. 

As usual, we set up somewhere in a parking lot right next to the car, and made breakfast. What we hadn’t expected was the onslaught of Mini Coopers surrounding us on all sides. They were having some sort of get together, and driving around the black hills. It was kind of neat. 

The Needles Eye, an iconic route in the Black Hills.

After breakfast we began to explore the route idea, and after deciding that we weren’t sure there was any bolts on the summit, to go climb down near Sylvan Lake instead, in Custer State Park.  

This was one of the more beautiful lakes that I’ve seen, with its large pieces of granite sticking out of the water– however we both failed to get pictures of it.

  After wandering around near the lake for a while, trying to find a route that we had no pictures of– we decided to head back to the car. The clouds coming in had turned a very dark shade, so we rushed back to the car. 

Just as I chucked my backpack in the back of the car, it started to hail and rain. At this point, we realized that nothing else was going to happen outdoors that day. So we decided to go to Hill City to get the guidebook, cuz at least there would be pictures, and more detailed route descriptions.  Then go drink beer, at Miners Brewing- which surprisingly was amazing! Like Colorado quality beer! 

I was trying to dress up for the occasion. Sarah did not approve.

This is where we decided Sarah’s first trad lead route, in the Chopping Block area of Mount Rushmore National Memorial Park, Space Ranger Lookout, a 5.5 trad route. 

After a few beers, some laughs, and a good amount of silly. We made our way over to Crazy Horse Memorial

Such a neat place, though not finished, they have refused to take money from the government and have built this memorial solely with donations. It will look amazing once it is complete, and currently they are working on his arm. There was also a great museum, with lots of beautiful Native American art work, etc. 

With all of that beer, museum- sculpture excitement, we decided to search for a campsite before dark, and make dinner. 

Despite the mishaps, the rain, and the lack of directions… it was a really great day. 

Highpoints in Flat Places

I never realized how close North and South Dakota are to Colorado. North Dakota is only 8 hrs, and around the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial is 5 hrs 30 mins. I had always thought that the Dakotas were rolling hills and plains, relatively flat and covered in grass. It is true for most of the area, save the badlands at Teddy Roosevelt National Park– and the beautiful forests, hills, and granite spires/domes of the Black Hills. 

Sarah and I like to go on crazy road trips and adventures. It’s what we do. This installment would include, an after work drive all the way up to the North Dakota border after work on a Friday, two days in Black Hill of South Dakota, capped off with a short trip to Nebraska’s High Point– Panorama Point.  

North Dakota’s high point, White Butte at 3,506′ looms over an abandoned farm in the southwestern portion of the state. This was our first objective, the weather in the black hill was rainy and gross, so we headed north. 

Somewhere in North Eastern Wyoming

As I mentioned earlier, we left after work on Friday, and made our way as far north as we could before falling asleep. This ended up being the North Cave Hills in Custer National forest, twenty mins or so from the border, it was 12:45AM when we arrived. I know I was exhausted, and passed out. 

After a slow breakfast, we packed up Ferris S’bueller- Sarah’s white Subaru Outback, and headed north towards a tiny town called Amidon, about a half an hour north of Bowman, ND.  These little towns were entertaining and quirky, Bowman had a lot of strange sculptures when you entered town. 

After Amidon we departed the main roads, and  followed dirt road instructions(turn left on a non descript dirt road, etc), until we found an abandoned farm. This farm was strewn with rotting junk, and clearly had no one living there in the last ten years.

We hoped we were in the right place….this was the sort of area where the locals will come after a trespasser with a shotgun. 

But we took off down the “trail” towards White butte a little over a mile away, with maybe 500′ of elevation gain. We had lucked out, it was a clear, cool day with a stead wind blowing, rustling the grass. I had expected to at least see buffalo or cows– but all we saw were birds. 

This is one of the stranger high points I’ve done so far, the butte part was this soft white sand, with unique rocks. 

The landscape kept shifting, from green pasture land, to white deserty butte, back to a green pasture, with trees– just a very different place.

Another high point for us, in a state we otherwise would have written off– it ended up a beautiful hike! We relished in our summit, while eating dolma’s- then worked out way down to the abandoned farm to look around.

The ACTUAL trailhead… we had missed it.

One thing became quite evident, while exploring, and that was how badly the grass needed to be cut. 

Sarah has it under control.
This abandoned farm was fascinating, lots of rusting equipment melting back into the ground, as if someone just forgot to return one day. 

We decided that since Teddy Roosevelt National Park was close by, we’d stop at one of the overlooks, not really expecting much…but it was breathtaking!!!

I never figured that North Dakota would be one of  those places that I would like to come back and explore, but Teddy Roosevelt National Park, is definitely one that I’d like to go back and explore, get off the beaten path. 

After our short detour we made our way down to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills– we figured we could catch the lighting ceremony, and go through the museum. 

Rushmore is another one of those places that I went on our cross country road trip when I was nine, so I wanted to make sure my mother got another photo of me there!

When I was a kid these faces were larger than life, but as an adult they seemed so small, but their significance was so great. The idea that  Gutzon Borglum had to create this truly significant work of art, celebrating some of our greatest leaders, and to include a “hall of records” carved out of the rock, was amazing. Just so cool. 

The ranger talk and the video showed for the lighting ceremony are totally worth staying for, but get out of there quick so you can avoid the traffic!

We found a nice, right off the main road campsite, and parked the car.  I turned on my headlamp, and there were three sets of eyes staring at me. They were close together, like predator eyes, after a while of watching them, we decided to drive away…only to realize they were deer. We backed down the road and camped in our spot. It was a beautiful night, and just awesome to have such a good night’s sleep. It was a great first day to a road trip!

Shelf Road- The Gallery- Farside

After getting a much better night’s sleep, we decided to climb in the Gallery at an area called “the Farside.” Sarah had been there before, and said it was in the shade for most of the day–and bonus, we could walk there from camp!

Ashley and Scott

The guide book said that it was only a 15 minute approach, but we soon realized that was from the upper trailhead. We found an area that had a few 5.8s, a 5.9, with some more around the corner… and another bonus– it was in the shade.

Sarah led first on a 5.8 call Zu den händen von Herrn Wiesenthal, a fun but weird crack climb.

Day 2 of outdoor, Ashley was Crushing it!
Scott sailing up the wall!

The 5.8 route right next to the Zu den händen, called Anselmo Power, was a pocketed, face up to an arete–such a blast to lead.

We took turns climbing the routes, though my real goal for the day was to lead a 5.9. I knew I was strong enough, but I just needed to calm my head and focus.

Since Ashley and Scott had to leave early, we had set up the routes so that they could get some climbing in before their long drive. Both of them improved so much over the course of the weekend. I was so proud! I took them for their first time indoor rock climbing about three years ago before they moved to Alaska, and it was awesome to take them on their first time outdoors!

Playing with prussiks!

After they left, we stayed to get some more climbing in before the long drive back home. I decided it was time for me to climb my 5.9. I settled on Schindler’s Pissed, a beautiful, corner/face/arete– really an all in one. Greg decided to jug up the rope for Anselmo Power to get some photos of my first 5.9 lead.

Once I started up the rock, my mind was clear and focused. I just worked my way up the rock, dealing with what was right in front of me, which was awesome. Once I came down from the route, Greg took a lap on the 5.8 before belaying Sarah;s lead up the 5.9.

I thought I’d jug up the 5.8, and take photos of them climbing,  then clean the anchor.

Then Greg cleaned the route before we moved on to a 5.9 called Ramses.


Meanwhile, the dog passed out completely. We even flaked a rope onto her and she didn’t move.

Last view while on the rope before cleaning.

I thought maybe since I led one 5.9 I could lead a second one… I made it up four bolts, but Sarah had to finish it for me. It was mostly an awesome crack climb, until this really weird layback/face climb. I know, now that I have figured out the moves that I would be able to lead it–but I had to top rope it to figure it out.t.

It was an amazing trip! I got myself addicted to climbing again– the challenge of climbing harder, stronger, more confidently. Can’t wait to get back out!

Shelf Road- The Bank

Shelf Road is a climbing area about 10 miles north of Canon City, Colorado. This place is currently being developed, so new routes pop up somewhat frequently. I’d never been, but it’s a great place to climb from fall to spring when it tends to stay warmer on the rock.

Ashley, Scott, Greg and myself drove down on Friday after work to secure a campsite, and Sarah planned on meeting us at camp around breakfast to climb at the Bank all day in an area I believe is called ‘Bank Rob Buttress’.

We managed to get a campsite(luckily, it was the last one) down in the Sand Gulch Campground right before it got dark and spent the evening relaxing with  tacos, beer, and a nice fire.


The next morning we ate a lazy breakfast, and once Sarah arrived we all piled into the cars and made our way down to the Bank.

Jessie, our adventure mutt, isn’t exactly great with strangers–she’s an anxious dog. She did all right on this trip, though she had to be muzzled/on-leash most of the time, which was her least favorite thing, but she got lots of pats!

We started our day off with a 5.7+ called Pretty Boy Floyd–a rather burly route for it’s grade–but it was a good warm up lead for the day!


Sarah led up a great 5.8-called Poncho and the Three Perverts–oddly it seemed easier than the 5.7+ around the corner!

I decided to lead this route after Sarah, and boy was I glad that I did! It was a beautiful solid route, with fun moves all the way to the top!

After eyeballing the 5.10a/b called Knot Too Many Roaches, Sarah decided to lead it. There was also a 5.9 option to avoid the tiny pockety section before the anchors, and we all ended up taking it.

Greg decided to play around with our new (to us) camera during this time, jugging up the rope to hang and take photos.

It was such a great route, though all of us hung on it while attempting the crux moves. Just gave us another reason to go back and climb routes clean!

We decided to go back to camp for a while and take a break. Ashley and Scott took a drive to town and got us ice cream and more beer.

By this time I was so dehydrated, I had drunk 3 liters of water and not peed yet, so I slumped and drank more water in shade until I was re-hydrated.

We were going to go back out and climb after we ate ice cream… but we hiked about 20 minutes from camp and realized that the approach was longer and it would be dark before too soon. So we went back to camp and hung out instead, made a wonderful dinner, drank beer. Sarah hadn’t intended on staying, but decided to hang out and climb with us the next day, which was awesome!

I also got a chance to play with some of the filters that came with the new camera!