melissa i strong

rock climber, writer, photographer, working on life daily

Black lake and above with the ladies, Joanne, Miho & Angie.  November 22, 2015

I was having so much fun attempting to make lemonade out of lemons and then…


We went into winter without travel plans for several reasons. I was getting over carpal tunnel surgery and my plaguing elbow tendinitis made me not excited to plan climbing trips.  Also, Adam did not have a foreman to take over the tree service making it very difficult – in fact impossible to leave.  We were rolling with it and figuring we’d get to Hueco sooner than later.


Carpal tunnel surgery was a breeze and very effective!  The procedure was 20 minutes.  Anesthesia was a simple I.V. drug cocktail and a Bier Block, where they numb your arm and drain the blood.  I woke up and watched the surgery.  Doctor Yi narrated what he was doing as I watched it on a screen.  I saw some stitches being put in and then I was back in the recovery room.  After it was uncomfortable but did not need to take any of the pain meds prescribed.  I took a nine days off of work and about four weeks off of climbing.  Breaking up the scar tissue was the most important part of recovery.  My hand felt weird and not strong but with some time totally normal in fact better because all symptoms of carpal tunnel were gone.  The elbow tendinitis was unfortunately not better.  The rest calmed it during daily activities but as soon as I climbed it was back full force.


As usual I charged ahead--strengthening my hand and hiking to beautiful destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park with great friends.  The exposure and the challenges that winter propose were becoming easier to me--with the proper gear it is just another day in the Park.  Continue to make the best of what was looking like another month of winter in Estes I purchased back country skis--Alpine Touring gear.  At this point we were waiting on Adam’s friend Bob to show up so we could take off for Hueco.


I was really looking forward to getting back into skiing.  I learned to ski when I was four in New Hampshire with my family. Every winter weekend and school vacation my Mom and Dad packed the three kids and family dog into our wood sided Jeep and headed to Waterville Valley, NH.  I still skied a bit after that but not as routine.   When I was in collage the family met at ski resorts out west.  After moving to Colorado I took my old Atomics to a few ski areas but it’s expensive when your parents aren’t paying.  I did try a bit of snow boarding and telemark skiing in Hidden Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park, but then I found climbing.  Once my passion for climbing started the skis were no longer needed.  The winter plan was to get to warm climbing destinations with dry rocks.


Zach from the Estes Park Mountain Shop helped me choose and assemble my AT gear. I skied four days and at the end of each day couldn’t wait for the next!  I loved that we were not at a resort and skinned our way up the hill!  It was great until my fifth day.  On February 2, 2016, I tore my ACL, damaged the MCL and lateral meniscus and also had a tibia plateau fracture.  I did all of that without falling.  The powder was deep.  I was in the middle of a turn with my weight on the uphill ski and the downhill ski rose out of the snow.  I was attempting to push it back into the snow when I heard my knee on the uphill ski go pop, pop.  I immediately knew it was bad.  Adam fortunately got his split board setup and it was his second day out.  Thankfully he was there to help me and also not at home worrying where the hell I was.  I slid down to Trail Ridge Road where I tried to put some weight on it.  My knee buckled and shot out sideway from underneath me.  Three and a half hours later in 9 degrees I was out with the help of Adam and some Denver folks.


Making lemonade out of lemons backfired big time in this situation.  The huge bummer is I was having so much fun embracing winter here.  Initially I was filled with anger that lasted about 2 minutes.  Then somehow I dug deep and was able to keep positive as I got out of the backcountry, got an MRI and met with doctors.  With all of that damage I was able to eventually start walking again and walked into the surgery center two weeks later.  I did all of this two days before we were supposed to leave for Hueco.


Now I am still in recovery mode.  The first 48 hours were the most painful and the pain meds were most needed. After the first four post surgery days I felt like I was speeding along with the recovery, until I had a few setbacks.  Someone accidentally tripped over my leg and then I got a vicious virus.  Do to the combination of both things I lost 10 days of my life.  The trip/kick of my of my leg happened the same day I was given permission to work on getting off of crutches.  The momentum forward was halted abruptly by this accident and my positive attitude was challenged.  Then the virus really knocked me out and made me feel like I was back to the day after surgery.  Instead of getting off of crutches that week I couldn’t even stand up or weight it with out feeling like I was going to vomit.  It took all of my strength to scoot myself up the stairs one by one then I would get into bed and just fall apart.   Thankfully this flu was only four nights but backed up to the tripping it took it’s toll.  I must admit I was super positive until this point and these set backs temporarily took the wind out of my sails.  Thankfully I am seeing progress and walking a few hours a day with out crutches and back to positive progression.


Most climbers would start hang boarding or doing some sort of pull up routine or campusing but sadly not me.  Once again I am really hoping the elbow tendinitis will be healed when I am done with knee recovery.  To enhance the recuperation I have been getting PRP, Platelet Rich Plasma, injections in both my knee and elbow.  This entails a set of three injections that are painful but can help heal and strengthen ligament and tendon injuries.  After three injections weekly the doctors instructed to take it easy for three more weeks and then fingers crossed start seeing results.  My last injections are this week so I wont be climbing until mid April.  This is killing me along with all of the down time.  Really glad I am starting to walk and looking forward to going back to work, which will hopefully be the week of the 24th!


I am attempting to be patient through this long process.  I realize I cannot rush after major surgery.  I am also hoping this long rest will help me recover fully and come back stronger fixing weaknesses I had in the past.  I’m keeping my chin up.   I am still so sorry to Adam for messing up our vacation and to Cassidy for not being able to walk her and of course for myself.  But I’ll be back!   In the meantime I am staying busy with loads of physical therapy, abs every day, catching up on life, visiting with friends and studying Spanish.





Somehow Lindsey and I found Lawn lake on November 25th, 2015.  Jonna had to turn back for work.

Lake Helene & Two Rivers Lake with Lisa and Jonna. December 2, 2015

Skating on Lake Haiyaha--this was my first hikes after carpel tunnel.  Since I still had stitches in I choose to watch.  With Lisa, Angie, Joanne, Jodie and Miho.  December 13, 2015.

Fern lake with Jen, Lindsey and Herm

Blue Lake for Jonna's birthday, Dec 21, 2015.  It was the coldest, windiest day by far!  Glad we found our way :)

Odessa Lake with Lisa, Joanne and Angie.  Too much snow to skate. Jan. 10, 2016

Day one on skis with Bryce and Nate in Hidden Valley.  So scared but loved every second of it! January 20, 2016

Day 2 on skis January 21, 2016 with Angie, Miho, Andy, Matt & Bryce

January 31, 2016 4th day on skis.  Adam's first day.  Fun day!

February 2, 2016--the fateful day.  Groundhog day--imaging reliving this day over and over.

reunited with my childhood ski hat

All of these4  are post surgery

Before the setbacks

more swelling with setback

Trying to keep me entertained.