11 February 2024

Taylor Kiley boulders 8B+ while fighting Lyme disease

Taylor Kiley did Hypothetical (8B+) at Swan Falls, last month. Initially, we got in contact with Conrad Piper-Ruth, who did this same boulder as his first 8B+ at age 39, but he graciously chose to shine more light on Taylor's incredible story rather than his own impressive ascent.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you've been involved in climbing?
I'm 30 years old. I grew up climbing in Idaho, and have been coaching for 10+ years! My climbing background is mostly outdoor bouldering in Idaho, I rarely gym climb. I also grew up with Lyme disease, which has been a constant battle in my climbing career.

How has this disease impacted your climbing?
Tough question to answer shortly, it has been the biggest impact of my entire life. Constant severe pinched nerves, osteoporosis, 20+ fractured bones, permanent broken fingers for multiple years. Cognitive issues, severe Hyperacusis, severe inflammation, arthritis, chronic fatigue, insomnia, heart issues, organ pain, severe migraines, the list goes on.

Ultimately Lyme's has been my greatest teacher, it's taught me how to heal/prevent traumatic injuries all over my body, eat correctly, & maintain an extremely positive & forward thinking attitude. Sometimes my window of climbing at my limit is only a few months out of the year because of all the injuries compounding. I have to find these really small windows where my body allows me to climb hard without nerves pinching, muscles tearing etc... It has been like this since I was a kid. It used to be very depressing & debilitating. I'm very lucky.

When I was a kid, my dream was to climb a v14. when I was 17 I was told I would never climb again, and end up in a wheelchair by 25.

When did you get infected?
I got it from a tick bite, when I was 6 years old. I wasn't diagnosed till I was 16 or 17. By that time I was so sick I wasn't't even able to do much. I couldn't even put my hand around a door knob and close my fist.

How much have you been able to train during the last years?
Especially in the past 5 years, It feels like at any moment something could break, tear, or get pinched. I feel like I'm listening to my body with a condenser microphone or an internal stethoscope. Oftentimes I can only do a few attempts on my project. If I do a full session, I could for sure get injured & maybe have to take 3 months off to heal. I became very good at flashing and day flashing as a result.

I'm constantly weary about getting injured, so the biggest thing that I knew had to improve if I wanted to climb "Hypothetical" or a v14 in general, was to figure out a way to increase my durability of my body!

I've never been able to train, like period. Anytime I tried to train I would immediately get injured. The only training I can do is preventative injury exercises, I do very thorough dynamic warm-ups, static hangs from the hangboard, & climb a ton outside really gently. Lots of heat therapy & acupuncture too. To be honest I spend a lot of my day just laying in bed in pain.

The way I've been able to train is by coaching, coaching motivates me to get out of my bed to do something with my life, Lyme disease can ultimately kill you if you lay in bed too long, it'll make its way to the brain and cause inflammation. Which, is why coaching has been so important. I probably wouldn't leave my bed most days without it. Teaching movement has taught me movement as well. Finding the path of least resistance through moves, instead of being stronger than the move. Having great precision and accuracy, learning how to execute under high pressure, while maintaining confidence and great positivity. I do a considerable amount of mental visualization, which is where most of my hours go into training. Honestly my training has mostly been purely teaching, visual, and finding ways to motivate belief in myself. That has been my biggest mechanism for training.

How many hours do you normally train in a month?
Short answer, I usually spend half the year climbing & half the year recovering from injuries! In a normal week when I'm not injured, maybe 2-3 hours, [but] oftentimes zero. I warm up really thoroughly every day like I'm about to climb and then don't! I'll go out and watch Conrad on the boulder, or my friend Mike & Tammy project things. I just immerse myself mentally in movement throughout the week. [I] Probably climb 4 hours over 2 weeks.

That being said when I'm not climbing, I'm still mentally climbing through other people, I continue going out watching my friend's project very closely. I'll help clean new lines build landings or just sit and watch. I'll just go out, walk around, sit in front of a boulder, and pretend to climb it for a while, while manically filling my brain with thoughts and impressions on why I CAN do the boulder. I see myself doing the boulder in my head so much I eventually I conjure it into reality.

What type of injuries have you had and how often do you have to battle them?
Last year specifically I had around 6 severe pinched nerves, I couldn't even leave my bed sometimes, at times I would crawl to the bathroom literally. I tore this extremely low AB muscle while projecting, that took about half a year to get in control of. A left lateral ligament strain/tear on my middle finger, bad inflammation all over & especially in the spine. Carpal tunnel in my left wrist (flares up and down). Increased heart issues and swelling. Severe strain of my groin ext...

Not really anyone except my close friends and family know about this, I've always been paranoid about people looking strangely, or down at me for being sick. But after doing this boulder, it might help people to know that the impossible can be possible! If you create an ecosystem in your life for success, confidence, health, & positive growth, you can create an opportunity to overcome your life goals.
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