I only started climbing hills at the age of 61, when I sold my business and retired. Having spent years working 7 days a week in my warehouse, I was not exactly at the peak of fitness.
I climbed my first hill, just because I wanted to take a photograph of a particular view - and I haven't stopped since!
As I climbed even more and more hills, I suppose it was no great surprise that I suffered more and more aches and pains.
What did surprise me was that as I got fitter, going uphill was becoming easier - but coming downhill was a different story.
My right knee hurt a lot when I was coming down from a climb. This year in fact, it was so bad, that I really thought my climbing days were over.
My first climb this year was just a small hill in The Ochils called Dumyatt.
Not much of a challenge really, just a wee hike to get started after the winter. Well, coming down from there was a real struggle. Every step was agony, and I was so relieved when I made it back to the car. My knee was sore for a couple of days, then it improved - so I thought I must have twisted it or something.
However, my next climb a week or so later was Ben Lomond, a much more serious affair and not somewhere for an old man with a dodgy knee!
Once again, going up was fine, but as soon as I started down, every step was agony. Eventually I met a woman who was also hobbling down due to badly fitting boots and some painful blisters. She didn't have walking poles so I lent her one of mine, and we hobbled down Ben Lomond together.
Just as we were almost down, she slipped and sat on my walking pole and snapped it - hey ho!
The final straw was a while later doing the Lime Craigs circular route. The downhill part follows the old route that they made for getting the limestone down to Aberfoyle. It is steep, with no respite, and I really thought I wasn't going to make it. Something had to change, or I would have to give up hillwalking.
No More Knee Pain
So I hunted around the internet for cures, exercises, anything that might help! Finally I settled on this knee brace from Neo-G. To be honest, I've ordered so many of these sort of things in the past and they never work, so this was the act of a desperate man. I was sure that I would try it, and then leave it lying in the drawer with all the magnetic arm bands, elastic thumbraces etc that I've tried on various ailments in the past.
It arrived, I tried it on and it wasn't comfortable - but I threw it in my rucksack and headed off to climb The Cobbler. The Cobbler is a fair old climb, but I made it up no bother (not wearing the knee brace), and before setting off back down the path, put my knee brace on......
......well that didn't work! As I hobbled in pain down the zig zags, I was cursing yet another useless gadget destined for the junk drawer.
Finally, desperate not to give up climbing, I gave it one last chance. This time I put the knee brace on before climbing Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas and wore it on the way up.....
....guess what? Two Munros in one day and no pain! So now I wear it every climb, and I haven't suffered a twinge since!
The ultimate challenge was a recent ascent of Ben Nevis - would it be up to the job?
Absolutely fine! My dodgy knee gave me no trouble at all!
The rest of my body however ached from head to foot - it's a tough climb!
Of course if you have pain, it would be an idea to see your doctor first. I've given up going to him with aches and pains now because all he says is " that's just something that happens after you turn 60!"
And of course walking poles also help to take the strain of your joints on the way down.
So what are the bad points about wearing the Neo G knee brace?
- It isn't particularly comfortable. Although it is better since I realised that you have to wear it with the lettering above the knee - I was wearing it upside down!
Having said that, once it is on and I'm climbing, I pretty much forget that it is there - although it is always nice to take it off at the end of a climb.
- It can cause a rash - although this only happened the first couple of times when I was probably wearing it too tight. Now I don't have it on very tight and it still works, and no rash
And the good points...
- No knee pain! Which trumps any bad points.