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Rock climbing with an ACL injury- advice?

Hey. So I am a very beginner climber, I’ve only climbed once outdoors, but several times indoors. It’s a big interest of mine though. And I’m trying to plan an outdoor trip for the end of this year. However, a few months ago I was in a motorbike accident and completely tore the ACL in my right knee. My surgeon didn’t recommend surgery to fix it, and it’s pretty stable already. But I’m wondering if rockclimbing is basically out of the picture. Because of current circumstances I am not able to get to a gym to test things out. Does anybody know of someone who rock climbs with the same injury as mine or similar injury? Any tips or advice?

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5 Replies

@mountain_myah You don't need a climbing gym to try out various climbing moves.  Can you step high and push off?  Other typical contorted moves?  Test your legs at ground level first.  Check with your doctor - he just might recommend a good physical therapist.

Just my personal opinion - gym climbing is not rock climbing.  It resembles rock climbing in many respects, but real rock is a much more involved, intricate game.

Would you believe I am hopelessly trad? Probably pre-trad at that....

Haha! Trad all the way!

Hi @mountain_myah, I'm sorry to hear about your injury. I have knee problems as well (chronic dislocation of my left kneecap), but I have never torn my ACL, so I can't speak specifically to that injury and climbing.

However, I agree with @hikermor that trying out some basic rock climbing movements/positions on the ground (standing on your bad leg on your toes, and going from a semi-bent leg position to a straight position, for example) and looking at physical therapy are two great options. I do daily physical therapy exercises to keep my knee strong, especially because climbing can put your body in super awkward and straining positions. I think that you will still be able to climb, but you will just have a few more challenges to overcome along the way.

That being said, I also agree with @hikermor about indoor climbing vs. outdoor climbing. Climbing outdoors (the original "rock climbing," as I'll call it), is much more involved, dangerous, challenging, and advanced. However, there is nothing like it (It's AMAZING!!!!). Gym climbing is very different, but it can be used as a way to train and climb more frequently if you are unable to get outside to the crag frequently. But, know that if you want to transition from gym climbing to outdoor climbing, there is a lot more you must learn besides physical climbing techniques. Apart from the most basic concept of defying gravity, gym climbing and outdoor rock climbing are very different. However, like I said before, I wouldn't necessarily say that your climbing dreams are at an end. There will be challenges, but with dedication and hard work I have faith that you will still be able to get yourself on the wall (even if it's just a gym setting).

Stay strong!

Thanks so much both of you! You gave me some more ideas of what I can do to train and test myself at home. My surgeon did recommend physical therapy but at the time of the injury I wasn’t able to get to a good hospital regularly (don’t live in the states at the moment, nearest good hospital is an hour and a half away) so it wasn’t an option. But I’m finding things that help, and my knee nearly has full range of motion back.
@hikermor @bryndsharp  And, yeah 😬 even in my very limited experience I can tell indoor climbing is so different from outdoor. The trip I’m trying to plan will be with a guide.. so I won’t be without good help!

Good to hear you will be climbing with an experienced person.  That is super critical.  I would also suggest you read the latest edition of Mountaineering:  Freedom of the Hills - it is a hugely authoritative source - full of good stuff.

Good to hear your knee is coming along....