Everyone Has a Dawn Wall

My fingers and feet are important to me especially since gaining low vision. I depend on them for sensory input: texture, temperature, and pressure. They touch, I listen. But how strong are they I started to wonder after reading news out of California.

When I read about an ascent by free-climbers of El Capitan, a 3000ft vertical granite rock face in Yosemite National Park, I was astounded. I tried to imagine the grip strength needed to be able to pull off such a feat. One of the climbers is even missing an index finger. Picture that.

When I was a massage therapist, I definitely felt more power in my legs, and my arms, hands, and fingers. Sliding and pushing and rolling skin builds up grip strength, one ergonomic glide at a time. The dexterity and endurance to scale a surface with only your fingertips and small toe holds for leverage must be phenomenal.

Everyday as I sweep my white cane, muscles and tendons ripple with fluid movement, translating the physical environment into passable terrain. I’m conquering horizontal surfaces with my fingertips and toes. While skill is involved, I wouldn’t go as far as to say extended fitness is required for orientation and mobility. Balance and focus yes, but not a gym membership.

The next time I feel a little tired and need to switch grips or hands as I use my white cane, I might recall the two climbers as they spent nearly three weeks working skyward–their movements led to skin wearing away, bruised and scabbed fingertips, pain. Mega pain. But that didn’t stop them.

Fingers and feet are incredible. What do yours scale everyday? Tell me about it.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. floridaborne says:

    Mine are used for typing, petting dogs and cats, gripping stuff and they’re used to feel surfaces for things like bread bag ties or crumbs I missed while cleaning a kitchen counter.

    You can tell a lot about your environment,just from your finger tips. 🙂

    1. So useful when you stop to think about it.

  2. The El Capitan climbers have left us all gasping with admiration. I don’t do it myself but I have a VI friend who uses her feet and hands’ senses to go trekking and skiing. It is wonderful how the body adapts itself to what it needs.

    1. That sounds exciting, good for your friend to find ways to adapt.

  3. Trisha says:

    I saw a short story about the El Capitan climbers a few nights ago. I don’t know how they can keep going that long. Once my fingertips started bleeding I’d be done!

  4. It’s funny how much I take for granted. When I was younger I didn’t give much thought as to how significant my fingers were. Now that I’m older and prone to body aches, pains and cramping joints with fingers that occasionally lock up on me, well, I miss the good ole days. Never thought typing would be a trial but some days it’s a challenge even so I am grateful for what I have now. Good article, I heard about these climbers and meant to follow up to get the entire story – I’ll do that now.

    1. Locked up fingers when you’re just trying to type, annoying. And painful! I imagine the rock climbers might be dealing with arthritis in those fingers as the decades pass.

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