In January 2019 I broke my wrist in a lead fall. A comminuted, displaced fracture of my ulna and radius right through the joint line. Messy. I could tell it wasn’t right due to the funky angle of the limb and the sensation of moving parts where there shouldn’t be.

Long story short – I wasn’t going to be climbing for a while! No surgery required in the end, I had six weeks in a cast followed by intensive rehab. The doctors said I might climb after three months…

While I still had my cast on I booked a sport climbing trip to Kalymnos for the three month mark…optimistic or foolish perhaps but I figured that if I couldn’t climb yet then I would run, swim and explore the island in other ways. The main thing I needed was something to look forward to, something to aim for and think about.

I wondered at the time if I was being too optimistic and then when my cast came off at 6 weeks post injury I was certain I had been. My wrist did not look or feel like it belonged to me and it didn’t want to play ball for quite a while. I nicknamed it my “cod wrist” because it felt like I had a joint-less, floppy fish instead of an arm.

Gradually things improved. Slowly at first, then quick functional gains followed by unsettling plateaus. For a long time I couldn’t envisage climbing again at all. After 2.5 months I got the okay from the physio to try and I was both surprised and emotional to be climbing again. It felt weird, the messages from my brain to my hand were very rusty; each move was a bit of a test. I struggled with the dexterity to clip draws and had to consciously tell my hand to keep hold of its position. With the trip approaching, I was both surprised and psyched to be able to get a handful of indoor sessions in to get into the swing of things again.

Kalymnos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, close to the better known island of Kos, just a few miles from the Turkish coast. It has gained popularity among sport climbers in the last ten years due to the abundance of rock, pleasant climate and holiday vibes. A number of friends recommended Kalymnos as a perfect destination post-injury as the routes in the f6-7 range were touted to be superb, the climbing was steep (which meant safer falls and bigger holds for the cod wrist) and the bolting was friendly. Not to mention the climate was warm (good for maintaining joint mobility) and the food was incredible. Sold.

Photo: Frann Barker

It wasn’t hard to recruit a team – Tash, Michelle and Tom are all long time friends and with a few other injuries in the team we were all in the same frame of mind.

Exploring and onsighting was the name of the game and I really enjoyed pulling on some classic routes and finding my rhythm on the rock again. Confidence was bleak at the beginning but it started to gradually seep back in – the visceral memory of bones breaking on fall impact flashed into my mind less and less.

Photo: Burnt Orange Images

The route that stands out for me on this trip was Priapos (7c) – a friend had recommended the route as “outrageous both in steepness and length, perhaps one of my top 5 sport climbs ever…”

The route resides in the Grand Grotto, an immense, awe-inspiring cave with tufas hanging like stalactites through the extensive roof. F7c, 35m long and very overhanging combine to make a recipe for gymnastic moves between pretty gold holds, mega rests and mental endurance. Cod wrist was in her element; I almost forgot about her she was so chilled. An unfortunate foot slip just below the chains on my onsight attempt meant I was in for a tiring day but a chance to enjoy a good fight. I had to re-climb the first two thirds to change over the draws before I had another chance on the sharp end, which left me pretty goosed!Photo: Burnt Orange Images

While I felt I climbed well on my onisght attempt, on the redpoint I was scrappy and tired. Each rest was a godsend and I had to really dig deep and fight at the top. It made me realise that whatever the grade, the enjoyment of the fight is the same. In the past my limit has been 8c, now it’s 7c…. but that is irrelevant, I had just the same amount of fun and needed the same level of grunt and tenacity to get through. Clipping the chains of this route was as satisfying as one of my past harder redpoints, in some ways it signified more.

Tash looking strong 🙂 Photo: Burnt Orange Images

After yet another bad injury from a lead fall, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get my head back in gear this time. I was also worried that my wrist wouldn’t be able to function the same anymore. It’s not perfect; it’s different and always will be I suspect. I certainly still have a long road ahead with more rehab and training to get back to a semblance of my previous form. But I can, at least on some terrain, try in the way that I used to and that, regardless of any number value, is the most valuable thing.

Nearly losing something (again) is a sure way to discover what it is you would miss the most. For me, it’s the fight: losing myself in a battle with my body and my head. Challenge, flow, immersion, adrenalin fix…whatever you want to call it. When everything else drops away and it’s a simple but all-consuming battle of will. Without climbing at my limit (wherever that may be), I miss that sense of total abandon.

Climbing aside, it was refreshing to have a trip that was a little more balanced. I’m usually completely consumed by climbing, blinkered to other forms of fun that might be on offer in a place. This trip had plenty of more mainstream fun: scooter rides, exploring the island, good food, post-climbing ice creams, cold sea swims, pool tournaments and even a few cocktails…

Thank you Kalymnos. You helped me find my feet again. I’m still a bit wobbly but at least I’m standing up.

Happy and tired from the fight on Priapos. Photo: Burnt Orange Images

Photo: Frann Barker

Photo: Frann Barker

Michelle leading the way. Photo: Burnt Orange Images

The classic Kalymnos shot. Photo Frann Barker