The last scramble?


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A long way from where I started
Topic Author's Original Post - Jul 16, 2017 - 09:34pm PT
Two months ago, I lost most of the vision in my left eye.

Sure, I'm old. But I've been in perfect health all my life, and this came out of the blue. Well, no big deal. We all have two eyes, so losing one of them is no problem, right? I can still work dont need two eyes to type, so I'm okay in that department.

But what about play? Well, no problem riding my bike. And a trip to Squamish seemed to make it clear that I could still climb. Okay, I couldn't lead things I could lead thirty years ago, but that was true before my eye blanked out, so nothing had changed there.

And then came ten days ago. Mari had heard about a new crag under development in the hills to the east of Mt. Rainier just some bolted sport routes, but in a killer location. So, off we went. And, when we reached the cliff, and I started following Mari as she scrambled along the base, seventy years of reality came to a screeching halt. To walk across a horizontal sidewalk almost two meters wide was almost beyond my ability. Why? Because there was a big drop-off on one side.

How could this be? Two meters is almost wide enough to drive a car on. So why was I suddenly terrified?

Because I had no confidence in my ability to judge what angle my foot would come down on, nor any confidence in my ability to recover if I misjudged a step.

So, staying as far to the left as possible, and keeping my hands on the rock on that side, I bumbled my way along the ledge to where Mari had started down-climbing to a connecting ledge that would lead us to the rest of the crag.


Not possible. After forty-five years of climbing and scrambling in the mountains, I suddenly could not scramble down a few feet of easy fifth from one ledge to another.

Somehow, my subconscious knew what my conscious mind could not grasp: That I could no longer sense the subtleties of angle. To walk on undulating or rough ground in my yard, or in the city near my office was no problem. If I misjudged a bump in the dirt in my garden, or on the sidewalk between my downtown office and the nearby coffee shop, the worst that could happen was that I would look silly. If I misjudged a bump on the ledge above a sixty-foot drop-off, the worst that could happen was

So, we got on something at the point where we first met the crag, and Mari broke about ten hand- and footholds getting to the third bolt, and wisely said F*#k This! and we went home. But on the way home, she said: Do you think sticks would help?

Sticks. As in: hiking poles.

And the answer came yesterday, when Mari and I and Steve Grossman hiked up through thousands of feet of PNW gnarliness to a route wed put up years ago. Upward, no matter how gnarly, was no problem, but coming back down?

Ha! Turns out a hiking pole can provide the same sensory input as binocular vision

So, perhaps there are still scrambles in my future.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jul 16, 2017 - 09:52pm PT
So, it's not fixable? My condolences.

The Good Places
Jul 16, 2017 - 09:56pm PT
heavy stuff. I hope that you regain the depth perception one way or another.
Off White

Tenino, WA
Jul 16, 2017 - 10:02pm PT
That's really tough, but sounds like there is a work around, at least for awhile. Medical world have any idea what happened to your eye?

Social climber
Jul 16, 2017 - 10:08pm PT :-)

Love those needles in the eyeball. Who knew it wasn't that big of a deal?

Hang tough David. You can also use those sticks to bbq squirrels.

Boulder climber
Jul 16, 2017 - 10:13pm PT,amp.html

He surfs as well which is like jumping on boulders that are moving at 15 miles an hour.

Keep strong!

Andrzej Citkowicz far away from Poland
Jul 16, 2017 - 10:16pm PT
My buddy is blind on one eye from birth. He can ski, climb, hike up and down, no problem.

Maybe you can adapt too.


Social climber
Jul 16, 2017 - 10:21pm PT
hey there say, ghost... wow, ... :O

say, did they ever tell you why, you lost it?
a friend of mine, in england, had a strange weird story, as to her
odd vision loss...

long story short... (perhaps from an old injury, head-bump, or, tiny stroke, they are not sure) -- well, she CAN see, but her BRAIN reads it wrong, and 'late' so nothing 'matches' as to being seen CORRECT...

thus, in some ways, similar, to you, she can NOT judge walking, etc...

though, hers is worse, as, she can't read, etc... and a few more 'odds'...

best wishes, sure hope that this does not happen to your OTHER EYE, :o

GOOD to know that the stick helps, :O

a friend of mine, due to drunk driver, lost her vision in one eye...
(she is a twin and now, of course, folks can tell them apart) :(

at least, she knows why...

the friend in england, they worried for a bit, that her OTHER eye might
lose sight, but for now, they think they know it is a 'brain' reception
thing... (started due to bad blood pressure in the eyeball?)--something like that...

best wishes, thank for sharing your adventures, and stay safe, yet, adventurous, :)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Jul 16, 2017 - 10:57pm PT
Ghost, I figure I understand. My right eye is damaged and there's a permanent lens implanted. I see fine with it.

My left is "normal" and aging (69) so I need vision correction using eyeglasses. Last year I took a short ramble up to the top of Manure wasn't much, about 700'.

Coming down I found that by using a simple oak branch not even the length of a ski pole my depth perception problems mostly went away.

Because I could effectively gauge distance much better I was able to move faster and this helped me enjoy my brief outing so much more.

I find it much easier traversing a series of boulders & rocks crossing a stream, or a log crossing, using an extension of some kind.


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jul 17, 2017 - 07:21am PT
Whoa David, that must have been a trying day psychologically. The body is able to adapt to new situations but it takes time. It seems that with the aid of poles your days of fighting thru PNW Devil's Club are far from over!

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Jul 17, 2017 - 07:36am PT
You'll adapt. Since birth my brain has ignored my left eye. I have no depth perception. 3D movies are a waste of time for me.

I can climb up or down, and hop talus all day long. I only have issues at night with talus. Sloping ledges have never been an issue. Other than be scared shitless, of course. :-)
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
Jul 17, 2017 - 07:38am PT
I am sorry to hear about your vision loss. I don't know if it might come back or not, but here is a story that might offer something positive. I had a very good friend lose sight in one eye do to a helicopter crash. He nearly died in that crash (they were administering Last Rights when his brain started responding again), so when he recovered with only the loss of sight in one eye we all were very happy that events turned out that well. He was a helicopter pilot himself and actually tried to return to flight status with monocular vision. It was a tremendous challenge, but he eventually returned to piloting, although it did not last long because it was just too stressful for him. In all other things in life though, he lived a normal life, able to do everything he had previously been able to do. It was just that piloting a rotary wing aircraft was just too stressful, even though he had proved he could do it.

I hope you are able, either with the walking poles or with further adaptation to your new vision, to return to doing the things you love doing.

Social climber
Jul 17, 2017 - 08:35am PT
Sorry to hear about this Ghost, but it does sound like you are saying it ain't so. The poles sound like the ticket, but I wish you the best on this new journey. Many of you here continue to inspire me, and you are one of those people.

Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Jul 17, 2017 - 09:05am PT
So sorry to hear about this. I think there is a reasonable hope for adaptation. Binocular vision is replaced by the data from small head movements; the brain has to be reprogrammed to process the new inputs, and tactile info from the poles might well speed the process.

Best of luck!

Mountain climber
Jul 17, 2017 - 09:11am PT
Ghost I believe that you need to find a specialised doctor to better assess your situation.
It seems to me that your issue is not about your lost eye, but may be about your inner ear or processing part of your brain.

Case #1. I use only one eye for distant vision, but am OK on simple slabs.
Case #2. My friend has perfect binocular vision, but can't maintain her balance, ride a bike or hike anything except perfectly flat trail because of old after-infection complications to her middle ear or brain.

In case everything else except your eye is OK, you should be able to adapt to your new vision pattern in a few months.

I wish you good luck with your recovery.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Jul 17, 2017 - 12:18pm PT
Damn, that's gotta be rough.

I've had problems with my vestibular (inner ear) balance most of my life. About ten years ago it got much worse for reasons which aren't relevant here. I became almost entirely reliant on my visual horizon to stay on my feet. Looking down a flight of stairs, or looking at my feet to step through terrain required me to use my hands, either on the handrail of the stairway, or poles, or just going on all fours.

A therapist showed me some tricks, and over the last few years I've regained my balance to a point where I don't notice any more. I'll share a couple here. Maybe they'll be of some use. I'm a firm believer that exercising a weak link like you and I have (albeit very different) is a solid approach in an effort to recovery.

A last point. Your progress could be slow. If so, looking at the big picture can make it seem like you're getting nowhere. Measure your progress in small enough increments that you can see it happen. It's much better for your head this way.

1. Practice standing on one foot. If or when this is comfortable for a full minute, begin to gradually look down at your feet and back up to your horizon. Look down and right, and down and left.

An easy way to test your vestibular balance is to stand on one foot and close your good eye. If you can still balance for 5 or ten seconds your probably okay. I lose it the instant I close my eyes. I have to stand in front of a counter top or rail to catch myself or I'll take a dive.

2. Cut 8 or 10 pieces of 2x4 into five foot lengths. Lay out courses, with the 2x4's on their wide side. It's like walking a balance beam without the fall. Learning to turn around gracefully on one was a fight for me. Leave relatively long spaces between some of them with the next one changing direction. All kinds of stuff. Set objects which simulate stepping stones in the gap between the 2x4's. etc.

Hope this helps. This sort of stuff has helped me. There are also all kinds of tools, foam and inflatable gizmos to stand on to challenge your balance. Therapists have all that stuff.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jul 17, 2017 - 12:49pm PT
Thank Gawd we did Red Wall when you were still young!!

David, I wish I could hit you in the head and make your eye all better, but I can't.

Drive on Ranger, drive on..

Gym climber
Jul 17, 2017 - 01:19pm PT
I do not have stereoscopic vision (can see out of both eyes, I'm just what is called "stereoblind"--brain doesn't combine the images from each eye to create stereoscopic vision).

This does not seem to cause any problems for me for climbing/hiking/scrambling. (Not to "brag" because this is not a big deal, but I've soloed the east faces of the Flatirons outside of Boulder hundreds of time--just noting this to say that I've done plenty of "advanced" scrambling.)

I'd be optimistic if I were you that you'll learn to adapt.
Captain...or Skully

Boise, ID
Jul 17, 2017 - 02:41pm PT
I got some sticks since my accident. They help make some things manageable that weren't before.
I hope you work it out.

Mountain climber
The Deep Woods
Jul 17, 2017 - 03:03pm PT
You lost vision in one eye and your scrambling days are threatened? Ho man. Good thing nobody told Erik Weimeraner (sp?) that
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