“Climbing into the dark, catching the last bit of light is a great reminder why we climb”

The Hat Trick

Experiencing the world through endless second hand information is not enough but it’s what fuels the progression of ourselves. I have found the edge of my seat and the thrill of the next adventure through the eyes and words of others.

Injuries can happen so quickly; like one touch of the reset button, everything changes. A crowd cheers in celebration as I rise off my back from the turf and stare into the goal. My eyes see the ball in the back of the net but my body is not as excited about the ligament that just snapped down my leg like a rubber band. I would like to say it was the biggest futball (aka soccer) game of my life and I scored the winning goal for my team in some world class match, but it was only a pick up game and the team needed a player. The success of impressing my girlfriend and scoring a hat trick was shortly celebrated as I rose to my feet and could barely walk. A day and an MRI later, I’m told my ACL is blown and I have torn Meniscus Lateral and Medial and will need surgery right away.

“Some of my last moments with two good legs”

My body hit the reset button which created a reboot of my entire system physically and mentally. This is my first big Injury of my life and perhaps the most memorable timeout ever given. I was given two choices: either lay down and let it beat me up and cripple me or take a chance to sit in the back seat and take in a new view. So far the backseat has provided a new outlook, which has refueled new inspiration and appreciation for the mountains. Like a child if you take something away from me I want it even more and this time it’s my favorite playground. Mountains have always been the oxygen in my blood keeping me going; no matter how bad things got, they would always keep giving. The reset has been embraced creating a new drive and sense of empowerment.

“My last trip into the Beartooths in October with Doug Shepherd and Rusty Willis”

The day after my injury I had planned to be in Canada for the Banff Film Festival to support Rab and get out with my boys Stevo (aka Stephen Berwanger), Kevin Craig, Kenny Gasch and Tanner Callender. It was surely going to be a grand adventure full of incredible ice climbing and laughs with the boys but the injury made changes to my winter itinerary. Making the call to tell these guys I wasn’t coming was incredibly difficult, but as I made the calls an overwhelming feeling of stoke came over me. I was suddenly the armchair climber getting my thrills and psyche through others’ outings. Each day they went climbing, I awaited their story of success like an anxious child awaiting the next gift.

I realized the power all of us have to provide energy and inspiration to others. This exchange comes through many veins of communication such as blogs, fbook, forums, twitter and the simplest and effortless form of a simple phone call or text from your partners climbing stouts. This will be the first time in 13 years of ice climbing I have had to take the bench for the beginning months of the season and I believe there is a lesson to be learned from the Hat Trick that caused my delisting off the roster.

Within the injury lies a Hat Trick of goals for myself:
Physical Goal: My body is being given a period of recovery for the many miles of adventures it has endured. I know I’m the worst at giving my body recovery time and as John Frieh told me the day before my injury, Training= Work + Recovery/Rest, “Always”. Connie at the Alpine Training Center in Boulder, Co has been writing my training since September and has taken my training to the next level this fall. She has also preached to me about recovery but it has been so hard to embrace that philosophy even though I know it’s the right thing to do. Sorta like your parents telling you not to do it just makes you want to do the opposite. This timeout will be good on many levels of rest but will not be a full timeout on training. Connie has been given the difficult task to write training for a one-legged athlete for awhile. Training for the Ouray Competition was our goal but now it’s training for recovery and the true testing grounds. I will come back to the outdoor Octagon stronger then ever.

Training with Connie at the Alpine Training Center has been incredible for me”

Mental Goal: There is nothing more mentally challenging then a serious injury for an athlete. Kelly Cordes is one of the first guys that come to my mind when I think of climbers who have trained hard mentally and physically through injuries to kick them in the ass and rise above. I choose my own path of recovery mentally and it is surely going to be a first ascent of new terrain for myself but will be fueled by my incredible comrades providing plenty of motivating visual and mental climbing porn. I have already begun to experience a new energy and appreciation for the mountains. Along this path I have also realized the importance of the connections we gain through others’ adventures and how we are all fueled by each other to push the sport and ourselves further. Our motivation is simply a click away. Mountain ranges and climbs are more visually accessible then ever before and perhaps this is why athletes are accomplishing more now than ever in the mountains. We all serve a purpose to each other no matter if you have never climbed before or you are a seriously accomplished climber; we fuel each others’ drives and inspirations through our own actions.

Future Goal- Sitting now in the back of my seat I have seen things not visible from the edge of my seat which has changed how I view my world. We are all the makers of our authenticity and we will never know our full potential unless we push ourselves. The unknown keeps me awake at night but is also what I fear most. It’s this sense of passion and fear that creates a balance in my life. I want to share authentic experiences with my partners and others through visually-inspiring moments.

“I cant climb for a couple of months so I think I found my rehab plan”

I keep thinking I need to keep “winning” but I now realize I have already won.



  • Unknown says:

    Well said, Aaron. Few can relate to what you're going through unless you've been there before. I'm (hopefully) on the tail end of my seven month rehab project after blowing my shoulder out kayaking.

    I'm sure you've had plenty of advice from the crew that you run with about injuries, but here's some anyway: use this as any opportunity. Learn something new. Another door can be opened during this, it's just how you look at it.

    Thanks for keeping me psyched during my long rehab, both with climbing and kayaking. I'm hoping to come out the other side with a new perspective.

  • Colby Hubler says:

    Long time reader, first time poster and inspiring climber: I too have a knee injury – torn medial meniscus and am scheduled on Dec. 12th for surgery. Granted you will have ACL surgery as well, I would be interested in what your rehabilitation/recovery program will be.

    I live in PDX, have been fortunate enough to work with John Frieh on training/climbing in the gym. He has been a great resource and has kept me positive as I prepare for the knife. Although heavy back squats and DL's will be off the menu for a while, I am thinking mobility exercises, light body weight circuits and easy to moderate rock gym routes to get me back on track. I'd love to see what your recovery program will be – if you don't post it online, please, drop me a email colbyhublerATgmailDOTcom

    Whatever you do, based on your long foundation of training, I'm sure your recovery will be quick. Enjoy the rest period….you'll be back at it in no time.