Down and Out

Ben Rueck Mar 12th 2023
Ben Rueck
  • Down and Out
  • Ben Rueck

We are a company who supports failure. Without the expectation of falls, a slippery foot, or the hold that blows – we would not be the company who ultimately supports your efforts to ascend. Our athlete team knows that our success lies within their curiosity to push the limits. And we catch them when they fall.

Injury, unfortunately, is commonplace for climbers. What is not common is stepping up and acknowledging the repair phase of climbing. We are building a team of authentic climbers. Our team is real. Gritty folks who tie in and lace up for projects. Ben’s story is a raw account of what it means to be a climber. To share the side of climbing that’s not glamorous or fun. The side of climbing we all know too well, and we try to tape.
We are proud to support our team in all phases of their climbing adventures.

Climb On, Ben.

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Ben rock climbing with a beautiful mountainscape in the background and blue sky with clouds

Down and Out

Ben Rueck

I’ve started this story a thousand times. Each writing session ending with frustration, depression, and an overall lack of control.

I wanted to write this with a win. A success story of odds and trials being met head-on in a David and Goliath cliché

I wanted this part of my life to be over.

The summer of 2021 I felt a searing tear emanate from shoulder and bicep as I clung to a rock face I’d climb over fifty times before. A silly undercling had finally finished off years of
abuse, one-armed dynamic movements, and 1000’s of hours of climbing and strength training.

“Get Surgery. Rehab
religiously. Get Better.
Crush projects.”

35 years old and 20 years of climbing, culminated into a torn labrum and bicep tendon — with the fix being surgical sutures to the shoulder and re-bolting the tendon back onto bone. Sitting in the doctor’s office of some of the best surgeons for athletes in the world, my optimism was at an all time high. I would get better and I would absolutely crush all my
standing projects within a year.

I of course had an understanding that things would be a little tough and that at the end of the day, life wasn’t going to go quite as planned, but I had blinders on when it came down to this particular sequence of events that needed to unfold.

Get Surgery. Rehab religiously. Get Better. Crush projects.

November of 2021, anesthesia coursed through my blood stream as I lay in the hospital, my mantra permeating my thoughts as the world faded.

Get Surgery. Rehab religiously. Get Better. Crush projects.

My rehab of the shoulder and bicep was fantastic. I set alarms for precise stretches not overdoing them, followed the prescribed times, amounts, and rest periods. In the moments that I didn’t want to stretch and work on mobility I would force myself off the couch and work for it.

I knew how to work for it.

Ben rock climbing with a beautiful mountainscape in the background and blue sky with clouds

Days became weeks, and weeks turned into months. My mobility and focus sharpening as I came closer and closer to the six month mark and the time that I could begin truly climbing and training.

April of 2022 came quickly and with that came the go ahead from my physical therapist and surgeon to get after it and start to climb. I was elated and pursued training with a gusto
that I’d had when I was in my early 20’s. The scar tissue was excruciating as stiff tendons
began to move in different ways than my rehab training had previously stretched them.

I’d had a few scares with pain in my shoulder, worried that I’d re-injured it again, but
those worries were allayed by my doctors. Everything seemed to be on the up-and-up, and I’d just completed my first V10 since the surgery. Success was a fingers length away, then in May of 2022 I looked down.

Literally, I was sitting on a stool in the gym and glanced at a keyboard— my spine shook, my muscles spasmed and a new reset button was hit. In less than a moment, three hidden cervical disc bulges seared my nerves and seized my entire back. The last 6 months of shoulder rehab would be nothing compared to the nerve pain.

Apparently, I’d thought I’d been playing a game of mine-sweeper for my shoulder, unaware that I was also navigating another field of injury explosives when I blindly hit a bomb.

“Apparently, I’d thought I’d been playing a game of mine-sweeper for my shoulder, unaware that I was also navigating another field of injury explosives when I blindly hit a bomb.”

That was nine months ago, and as I sit here in December of 2022—I’ve had several MRI’s, spine cortical-steroid injections, physical therapy, strength training, chiropractors, acupuncture, and surgical consultations.

The emotional toll, the ups and downs, and the overall stress has been extreme. Depression, anxiety, mood swings, all encapsulate this experience— I wanted to give up. There were days where I’d be lying on my back wondering if this was going to be the rest of my life? I’d never dealt with chronic debilitating pain. I’d never experienced the cracking sensations of the fine vertebrae in my bone, blurring my eye sight, and causing sense numbing headaches.

I’d never realized that patience and time were actual medicine. That there was no true easy answer, no escape plan, nothing other than time. But even in the throws of everything, I had support, from family, friends, sponsors, which gave me something that I didn’t expect.


Hope that it will get better and an overall sense that even though I sometimes don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, that it will come if I just keep going. Each day there is some sort of progress. The nerve pain swells a little less. Or that I feel just a little better. That my
support structure is stronger than my want to give up.

I am still training as best I can and making progress. In fact I’ve convinced myself that this may have saved me from over training the shoulder and having to face another surgery (silver-linings and all).

I wanted to have a clear cut ending to this story.

I wanted there to be a triumphant return to normalcy, or even victory over this

But there isn’t one… not yet anyway.

Ben rock climbing