icons/avalancheicons/bootscompassfacebookicons/gloveshandsicons/hearticons/helmeticons/ice axeinstagramminusmountainicons/pathsMap Pinplusicons/questionicons/guideicons/ropeicons/gogglesicons/stafftenttwitteryoutube
X ray

Injured? Can’t climb or trek? There’s still a future for you according to MM guide Sean McNally

Some injuries are minor, and oth­ers not so much. Hard work and ded­i­ca­tion will get you back on track if you’re recov­er­ing. Read more about Sean’s road to recov­ery from an injury a few years back and get­ting back in the mountains.

Up until Feb­ru­ary 2020 I had nev­er bro­ken a bone in my life. I don’t think I ever prop­er­ly appre­ci­at­ed what it was like to be total­ly side­lined with an injury for any sig­nif­i­cant time. I prob­a­bly could have leaned more sym­pa­thy to friends in the past who were recov­er­ing from things like surg­eries, bro­ken bones, or torn lig­a­ments — the types of events that put a stop to your phys­i­cal activ­i­ty abrupt­ly and com­plete­ly. But I didn’t tru­ly under­stand what it was like until I broke both of my ankles in an ice-climb­ing acci­dent and start­ed the long process of recovery.

X ray

The first thing that flashed through my mind after the acci­dent was, How am I going to work?” As a guide, you rely on your body to make a liv­ing and a full-time Sum­mer guid­ing sea­son in the Pacif­ic North­west can cause a lot of wear and tear. I need­ed surgery on one of my ankles to repair my shat­tered Talus bone, and a manda­to­ry 3 non-weight bear­ing months to heal. That only gave me a short peri­od of time to strength­en the mus­cles and lig­a­ments in my ankle before the busy sea­son in Washington.

With a ton of hard work and phys­i­cal ther­a­py, I was on the Sul­phide Glac­i­er of Mt Shuk­san in July with some of my favorite guests: Ian Sut­ton and Jason Lynch. After sum­mit­ing Glac­i­er peak in 2019, they were back for more and had Mt Shuk­san at the top of their tick list. My ankle held up well for my first climb of the sea­son, tran­si­tion­ing eas­i­ly from hard trail to glac­i­er to rock climb­ing on the sum­mit. After being inca­pac­i­tat­ed for so long, it felt incred­i­ble to be back to doing what I love: shar­ing climb­ing and the moun­tains with good company.

The next few weeks saw me guid­ing on the glac­i­ers of Mt Bak­er, the Spires of Wash­ing­ton Pass, and the alpine val­leys of the North Cas­cades. Between trips I iced and stretched my ankles obses­sive­ly to keep them strong and rest­ed for the next climb. My freez­er was stocked full of ice packs that I rotat­ed through endlessly.

The real test for my ankles came at the end of August with two trips in quick suc­ces­sion. The first was a 2 day ascent of Mt Baker’s North Ridge — an incom­pa­ra­ble alpine ice climb on one of Washington’s finest peaks. The sec­ond was a 2 day climb of the Fish­er Chim­neys on Mt Shuk­san — a mega clas­sic of the Cas­cades offer­ing every type of climb­ing expe­ri­ence includ­ing rock, snow, ice, and glacier. 

Fisher Chimneys
South Arete

The two climbs felt like a per­fect cap­stone to my recov­ery process. Both were phys­i­cal­ly tax­ing routes in a pris­tine set­ting that require the strength and secu­ri­ty afford­ed to one who pos­sess­es strong ankles. It felt good to be back mov­ing in the moun­tains, and I cer­tain­ly won’t soon take the expe­ri­ences for granted.