Stem Cell Soup / by Tara Kerzhner

It only took 10 hours to undo 3 years of disarray from my hard drive. Complacency that festered into anarchy. Thousands of images seen running nude through dusty backups while duplicate exports lay quivering in silence, praying to the big terabyte in the sky that they won't be deleted. 

The experience has been sobering. Alas, it was a major step forward for my organizational weakness. The highlight was getting to wade through the sea of memories and relive each place, one (categorized by date) folder at a time. 

Which brings me to - Rocklands. 

 One of the files running around without any pants on - A South African Sunrise

One of the files running around without any pants on - A South African Sunrise

We spent the month of June running around like a couple of gazelles in the hot African sun. Greg and I were trying a tasty arete called Tomorrow I'll be Gone. In an effort to get a closer look at the crux high off the ground, I used my 200mm lens. 

 Disappointing was an understatement. 

Disappointing was an understatement. 

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It took the entire trip to come to the realization that Greg's beta was better than my beta, and I relied on a series of pre-dawn wake up calls and partner yahtzee to send.

For Greg, graced with the first cold day of our trip, he finally got to stand on top of Tomorrow I'll be Gone. A climb that he'd begrudgingly spent more days on than any other problem in Rocklands. Great success!

 Greg looking down on Tomorrow I'll be Gone

Greg looking down on Tomorrow I'll be Gone

The next boulder de jour was El Corazon, a heart shaped cube featuring a huge sideways lung to crimp. On warmer days, he'd tried the finishing moves on the safety of a rope.

When he stuck the crux move I was elated, but the rest is kind of history. Greg slipped with his hand on the lip of the boulder, millimeters away from sending. Instead he landed on the single layer of foam, which was enough to shatter his ankle.

 A previous attempt on El Corazon, v13

A previous attempt on El Corazon, v13

After Greg's surgery in Cape Town, we flew home to spent the next few months recovering in Portland. Four months post-op we both knew he was going to need a second surgery. There were still bone floaters, a hole in his Talus, and his Tibia had a serious snaggle tooth scenario that was causing impingement. 

We began the long and horrible process of meeting with various surgeons in the PNW. Every doctor we saw had a different song to sing. We even paid one Seattle doctor $800 to tell us that Greg would never hike again, and his cartilage was ruined. Thankfully, we kept looking with the support and encouragement our friends (Rudy, Logan, Cassie, SJ, Jonathan, Mike).

A couple weeks later Greg was climbing 5.14 again - at Smith Rock no less. Maybe he couldn’t hike, but he could still slab campus. Once a mad rock athlete, always a mad rock athlete.

While we waited to find the right surgeon, we traveled south to the VRG. Greg invested in some top shelf trekking poles and we were off to climb at another crag with a manageable approach. I wanted to try something hard at the VRG to take my mind off of the whirlwind of life stress. So I picked Don't Call Me Dude, a fierce little route with a fuerte boulder problem at the 3rd bolt. When we got there, it was just me and 40 other people trying it, so it was super chill. 

 Looking completely zen and relaxed in the crux. Paige De Kock Photo

Looking completely zen and relaxed in the crux. Paige De Kock Photo

After what Greg claimed was the longest belay of his life, I made it to the anchor having done all the moves. Ten days later, and much to my surprise, I one hung from under the crux at the third bolt to the top. I was confident I could do the route. 

Meanwhile we received a call from The Steadman Clinic - A world renowned sports medicine orthopedic hospital in Vail, CO. Upon meeting with us, the foot and ankle surgeon at Steadman seemed enthusiastic and positive about Greg’s outlook. He accepted our case and we left with surgery booked for February 6th. For the first time since the day Greg fell in Rocklands, there was some light at the end of the tunnel. 

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We returned to the VRG, tried to focus on our projects and watched our friends send literally the whole crag. First Nik Berry, then Sam Elias, and Pincus, then Michaela and Paige and Emily! Greg sent Horse Latitudes and Route of all Evil. Paige sent a rig from her life list, Nessessary Evil and Emily sent Don't Call me Dude. So much try hard from all the Slaydies and Sendlemen at the crag. Honorable mention to Nick and Joel on Fall of man! 

 Getting to work DCMD with Emily was wonderufl and reduced the sting of my post-vail regression when I got to see her slay it for both of us. 

Getting to work DCMD with Emily was wonderufl and reduced the sting of my post-vail regression when I got to see her slay it for both of us. 

On February 4th I drove to Vail knowing that this could be the end of the ankle saga. All the stress and uncertainty leading up to this appointment started to fade, and being with Greg throughout this process proved to be the only thing that really mattered to me. 

After the operation our surgeon enthusiastically explained that Greg's cartilage had looked better than expected (F-you Seattle doctor), and the surgery was a success. A stem cell, bone marrow soup was poured into the (smaller than expected) hole in his Talus, and left to marinate at 350 degrees for 6 weeks. Considering Greg’s age and health, he’s expected to be at the high end of the spectrum for recovery. Yay!

Again, the first and only good news we’ve received this entire time. I can't even explain in words the relief we feel. Thank you to all of our supportive friends and family. This process has been very difficult, and it really helped knowing all of you were there for us.

We’re currently in Boulder where we’ll stay until Greg is recovered. He's going to be non-weight bearing for 6 weeks, and full weight bearing by 10 weeks. I have some work trips planned for March, and maybe I’ll squeeze in a return trip to the VRG for my unfinished business on Don't Call me Dude.  

 Photo by Arjan De Kock

Photo by Arjan De Kock