Three months ago I injured my back during training. As a result I was unable to walk for one week and only went for minor walks during the first month. This injury led to a change of plans: from performing at the bouldering World Cup to going to therapy multiple times per week. I was miserable because I did not know when and if I would ever be able to jump down on a bouldering mat without pain. But there are also positive things that come about from an injury: I learned to take a step back and not to worry about my future too much. Most importantly I learned to climb again one step at a time.
At the beginning, climbing did not feel good. I felt as if I was unable to control my body the way I used to. On the wall I did not feel like myself. But I was convinced to change that. And I was happy for the opportunity to be able to climb again, even if it was on a rope. Because I truly love climbing in all its diversity. After 2 months of constant therapy I felt confident of going on a trip to climb for two weeks and enjoy being outside.
Kilian and I thought about going to Italy or France, famous for lots of climbing and sunny weather. But the forecast was grim, so we decided to head north to Czech Republic. We wanted to join two friends, Ben and Lorianne. The couple had started their vacation a week earlier and on a daily basis they sent us pictures of perfect sandstone. If I think of sport climbing on sandstone, areas like the “Red River Gorge” or the “Grampians” come to my mind. But sandstone in the midst of Europe? It was about time to find out.
We started our first day on the east side of “Labske”, we crossed the river by boat and the captain greeted us in the typical Czech way: “Ahoi”. When I was lowered from my first route I was shivering and not convinced to stay long. The reason was the far-distanced bolts and further protection by slings. It was more adventurous sportclimbing than sportclimbing where you simply enjoy every movement and switch your head off. I was scared of falling because of my back and therefore did not feel comfortable high above the bolt. I had been looking for an area where I could simply enjoy moving again without worrying of further injury. The thought of changing locations immediately came to my mind. But then we headed to the other side of “Labske” and I was drawn to its beautiful walls and stunning lines. I wanted to try getting over my fear.
After a few days we started to get into a routine. Everyday I would wake up to do some exercises for my back. Then Kilian, Ben, Lorianne and I would have breakfast. We started towards the cliff and looked for the most well-protected and prettiest routes. Both my head and back got better day-by-day, even if I had my injury in the back of my head while climbing and mostly climbed vertical routes. My breakthrough of this trip was a route called “bestseller” 7c. I had seen it on our first day and wanted to climb it ever since. It started with an easy chimney continued by a bouldery crux section. The end of the route looked like honeycombs. The whole climb was steeper than anything I had climbed since my injury, but I was drawn to the beauty of this line. When I started climbing I was able to block everything out. I did not mind the height of the first bolt and most importantly I did not think about my back. I was concentrating on the moves and nothing else. I moved with confidence and felt like myself on the wall. When I clipped the anchor I was simply happy. It is this feeling that climbing offers that draws me towards it. Although I know I still have a long way to go to get back to where I am ready to take on this challenge.