Climbing safety can help prevent muscle strains

The rock, the dirt, the feel of the wind against his skin; a climber in the Rockies pushes upwards. Each muscle strains and pulls with every move. Non-climbers might assume one wrong move translates into serious injury, even death.

But in a climber’s world, injuries seem to be negligible in comparison to the picture non-climbers paint about the sport. However, from rock climbing to ice climbing, safety should always be taken into consideration.

“It’s got a social perception of being a really dangerous activity but I think, in reality, it’s quite safe,” Derek Wilding says. “You’re going to have minor things that come up, scrapes, bumps, bruises, that kind of thing, but serious injuries can be avoided quite easily with good planning and proper use of equipment,” he adds.

Derek Wilding scales the wall at the Mount Royal University Climbing Gym. His climbing has been limited because of his injury. Photo: Katie FisherAlthough major accidents are easy to avoid through careful preparation, injuries can still occur, but on a smaller scale.

Wilding, 30, has been climbing for about 18 years and has damaged the tendons in his fingers, including an “inversion-sort-of-sprain” in a calf ligament while doing outdoor rock climbing.

Wilding still continues to climb, but at an easier pace.

He says that more forethought could have gone into the placement of his body to avoid an injury.

“I think the big thing that a lot of climbers don’t do is warm up properly,” Wilding says. “Start slow, warm up the muscles, do some stretching and then cool down properly at the end.”

“I think a lot of folks just jump on the wall or jump on the climbs that they’re doing without proper warming up and proper stretching.”

Scott Stenz, 24, has been climbing for five years and isn’t new to injuries that can occur.

Places to Go

If you’re interested in starting climbing here is a list of places to go for indoor climbing

  • Calgary Climbing Centre
  • Crux Climbing and Bouldering
  • Mount Royal University
  • Odyssey Recreational Adventures Ltd.
  • Outdoor Program Centre
  • Southland Leisure Centre
  • Calgary Climbing Centre-Stronghold
  • Westside Recreation Centre Climbing Wall
  • YMCA Calgary Shawnessy Branch Indoor Climbing Wall

If you want to start climbing outdoors, try these locations

  • Zygote Buttress near Exshaw
  • Wasootch Creek in Kananaskis Country
  • Rundle Rock in Banff

“I’d say the most [common] kinds of injuries in climbing are going to be injuries to the hand, which are prevalent among most climbers just because you have to put pretty big strains and pretty big stress loads on really small systems in your fingers,” he says. “They’re quite vulnerable to injury.”

Injuries in the hand can be difficult to avoid, especially if “you’re going to push yourself. You’re going to have to expect to deal with some negative consequences like that,” Stenz says.

“Climbing smart, knowing when you’re too tired and you have to quit, is definitely a good way to prevent things like that. I’d say for the average person who climbs once a week, it’s not something you have to be that concerned about,” he says.

Both Stenz and Wilding say that everyone should give climbing a shot, regardless of muscle strains.

However, Wilding says that, “the hazards are different outside. There’s a lot more going on around you and there’s a lot more to be aware of. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s more dangerous. I just think there’s more to be aware of.”

kfisher@cjournal.ca