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A man climbing with a yellow drop of liquid falling below him

Incontinence and the High Altitude Challenge: Climbing

Will’s continues the story from Incontinence and High Altitude Challenge: Backpacking where he shares his experience managing incontinence on a rock climb trip.

Three days after returning home after backpacking with my wife, my son, Devin, and I started our rock climbing trip. While I’d done some local climbing starting a few months after my surgery, three or four days of multi-pitch climbing in Yosemite would be an altogether different kind of test, not just in terms of incontinence, but for my whole body. I’m 70; he’s 39. Can I do it?

Preping for our multi-pitch climb

We camped in Tuolumne Meadows and decided to climb in that area for three days, with a fourth and last day possible in Yosemite Valley. Again, I had packed as if I would need to change protection at least a couple of times a day. Climbing is a demanding core exercise so I couldn’t take any chances.

Forgetting to worry about leakage

On the first day, we did two amazing climbs, one on Lembert Dome and one near Tenaya Lake, and once again I experienced very little leakage. Was it the altitude? Was it that staying hydrated in the high, dry conditions required my body to absorb all the liquid consumed?

Due to high winds, we were only able to do one climb on the second day, again near Tenaya Lake, but the results were the same as the first day. The physical intensity of climbing hundreds of feet was kicking my butt, but I was able to forget about leakage and concentrate on the demanding task at hand. What a gift!

Two men sitting on a cliff face after rock climbing

A spectacular experience with my son

Day three was the biggest test of all. Our goal was to climb Cathedral Peak, a five pitch, seven hundred foot climb that topped out at 11000’ on a peak little bigger than a coffee table. The weather was outstanding, our confidence was high, and after a three mile uphill approach hike, we started up the rock.

Five hours later, as we sat on our tiny perch overlooking thousands of square miles of the Sierra Nevada range, we were one happy father-son team. We rappelled off the peak, walked off on a steep trail to the main trail and, after a total of 10 hours, we were back at the car, completely exhausted but triumphant.

Scenic view from mountain top

Celebrating my recovery

And guess what? Two shields all day, the second when we were back on level ground. Altitude? Dehydration? The mountain gods smiling on me? Some research to be done, but, as with backpacking, my confidence about rock climbing was soaring.

When I chose surgery as my treatment for prostate cancer I knew I was rolling the dice. How much would my lifestyle be compromised by the side effects? It’s almost 18 months since my surgery and here’s what I know: my PSA is nearly undetectable and I can still climb mountains, with or without a rope. I’ll take it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Dennis Golden moderator
    2 months ago

    Great personal story Will.

    Nice that you and your son had some bonding time. I am now based in CT and my son and has a fishing camp in northern Wisconsin about 2 hours from his home base in Minneapolis. Every year we make it point to get together on fishing trips. No matter if you are on a mountain or a lake its nice to be able to relax and enjoy life while not being worry about PSA results.

    Personally I have found the continued use of Kegle exercises to be a great benefit even after surgery 6 years ago. They are easy to do and can be done anywhere. I have not tried it on the side of a mountain yet. Key is not to over do it. Muscle fatigue can lead to some untimely leaking … Dennis ( Moderator

  • Will Jones moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thanks, Dennis. I’m trying to find that balance between doing it and overdoing it when it comes to kegeling. It’s mystifying sometimes. I’ll keep experimenting.

  • Dennis Golden moderator
    1 month ago

    So agree it’s all about balance. At our monthly support group meeting we bring in medical professionals who speak about their particular expertise with prostate cancer.

    Recently the subject of how many Kegels should guys do came up. It is interesting to hear how each MD had a different take on it.

    The general theme that has been emerging is to not do more than 10 contractions at 4 points of time during a day. Some have suggested a quick count of 1-2 while others have suggested holding to the count of 5 or 10. Experimenting is probably the best course of action.

    Best to check with your MD. Apparently there are many exercises you can do. A lot of our guys have also had great success with biofeedback. You may want to check out ( )

    So far all has been good for me.

    Dennis( Moderator

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