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Heidi Wirtz

Date of Surgery: 2/6/2017
Update (12/2017): Heidi has returned to climbing and guiding.

About Heidi

I was born in Sacramento, CA to an outdoorsy family who introduced me to skiing and the out of doors at a very young age. We would spend most of our weekends either up in the snow or on another camping, hiking adventure. My father first put skis on me when I was only 2 and I quickly fell in love with this exhilarating sport and was known as “hot dog” in my family as I would bomb it down the ski hill without turning, which terrified my mother. I started college up in Northern California at Humbolt State where I lasted just over a year, before I dropped out to move to the small mountain town of Crested Butte, CO, where I entered into the life of full time “ski bum” and was soon introduced to ice climbing, peak bagging and rock climbing. Thus, began my love affair with climbing and being up high in the mountains as much as possible. Eventually rock climbing took over my life and I moved onto the road for over 10 years to master the art of climbing. Through my dedication to climbing I was fortunate enough to get picked up as a sponsored climber which allowed me to follow my passions and explore remote areas around the world.

Career Background

I feel as if my career chose me to some degree as I was so obsessed with climbing that taking these skills and teaching others seemed the only viable and rewarding way to keep doing what I loved. I began my guiding career when I was in my early 20’s in Crested Butte, CO taking small groups of local kids out climbing. Eventually I moved to Estes Park, CO and worked for several years for Colorado Mountain School, where I had the opportunity to do a lot of on-sight multi pitch guiding up in Rocky Mountain National Park and Eldorado Canyon. During this time, I completed through CMS, the equivalent courses to both the AMGA Rock and Alpine courses. In my early 30’s I was picked up as a sponsored climber for the North Face, Black Diamond Equipment and La Sportiva. This offered me more opportunities in the guiding world as I then started teaching specialized workshops around the country at various festivals and events. I also guide for TNF directly taking employees out on “athlete led” trips. I have now started an adventure yoga retreat business (Earth Play Retreats), where we combine guided climbing with yoga and travel.

Treatment Procedure and Recovery Plan

I had Biceps Tenodesis, removal of bone spurs, Arthroscopic Subacromial Decompression performed at The Steadman Clinic. My surgery went really well. I started physical therapy the day after surgery and continued PT for the next 6 months. I was very regimented with my PT and did it every day. I also got out of my sling as soon as possible, which was about 3-5 days out, though I would still wear it for long outings. I also started walking and hiking as soon as I could to help increase blood flow and get movement into my arm. I stopped taking any pain medication at day 5 and had little pain after stopping the meds. I started climbing easy in the gym at week 4. I was back to working within 6 weeks, though climbing was still limited. I experienced discomfort wearing backpacks for 8 weeks and actually my left side still feels a bit tired after long days with a backpack. I am now over 10 months out and my shoulder is feeling near 100%, though it still gets fatigued quicker in my left than my right shoulder. I am still working on range of motion as well.


"I am so grateful that I was offered assistance from the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation. When I found out that I needed shoulder surgery I wanted to go to the best surgeon as my career depends on my shoulders working. My insurance would not have covered any of my surgery and only minimal physical therapy. It was amazing to get the best services possible with the best surgeon and 6 months of physical therapy all covered by the foundation. Almost mind blowing that this was all given to me and that I am now back to climbing and guiding at near full strength without any pain. I cannot thank the Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation and The Steadman Clinic enough for giving me back my career and my passion. "

- Heidi Wirtz