• TNB: Climbing's Big Mistake
  • TNB: Trad Dads and Dad Bods
  • TNB: Do the Right Thing
  • TNB: Big Wall Soloing Sustenance – Cookies vs. Bugs
  • TNB: When Your Rope Falls Off—and 5 Ways to Prevent the Nightmare
  • TNB: Before I Die - What Would Climbers Think?
  • TNB: Raphael Slawinski - Firsthand Account of Everest Earthquake
  • TNB: Point Break - Sharma, Andrada on the Big Screen
  • TNB: Muscle Shoals - Rock and Soul
  • TNB: Naked Soloist is Saner Than Me
  • TNB: The Hard Climb to Heaven
  • TNB: Summer Camp
  • TNB: Suicide in Our Sights
  • TNB: Ethan Pringle's 10 Tips for Sending Your Project
  • TNB: Hawaii Rocks - Totally Aloha
  • TNB: PointGate - Why Comp Climbing Is Not The Future
  • TNB: My First Epic
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Avoid Braking Bad - The Art of the Soft Catch
  • TNB: #Dawnwall and The Creation of Alex Honnlove
  • TNB: Vision Quest - Benji Fink and Mexico’s Steepest Big Wall
  • TNB: The New Dawn (Wall) of Climbing
  • TNB: The Top 5 Weekend Whippers of 2014 (Plus the Comments)
  • TNB: 10 Tips for Jolene Kay, Professional Climber (and Hot Actress)
  • TNB: The Story Behind the Craziest of Rescues
  • TNB: The Risk of Climbing
  • TNB: How to Get Stronger by Doing Nothing for 5 Minutes a Day
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Improve Your Footwork
  • TNB: In Praise of the Weekend Warrior
  • TNB: Joe Kinder Visits the World's Hardest Cave
  • TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix
  • TNB: Run, Rabbit - Hermann Gollner, 71, Cranks Pump-O-Rama (5.13a)
  • TNB: Five Best Photos of 2014
  • TNB: Clip Like A Pro - 5 Tips from Sasha DiGiulian and Sean McColl
  • TNB: Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside
  • TNB: Still Jeff Lowe
  • TNB: Moving Over Stone With Doug Robinson
  • TNB: Wheels Up—The Top 5 Climbing Rigs
  • TNB: Is K2 The New Everest?
  • TNB: Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall
  • TNB: When Homemade Gear Works, Sorta
  • TNB: The Outsiders
  • TNB: R.I.P. Homero Gutierrez Villarreal - The Padrino of El Potrero
  • TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle
  • TNB: Ian Dory, Ninja, or The Craziest Thing I Ever Seen
  • TNB: The Best Crag Dogs of All Time
  • TNB: 5 Ways to Make People Love Your Routes
  • TNB: Hudon and Jones, and Don't Forget It!
  • TNB: Climbing's Tribal Rites
  • TNB: Sasha DiGiulian and Alex Johnson On How to Be a Modern Pro
  • TNB: Is Dean Potter A Bad Father?
  • TNB: Silly Places We’ve Slept - Tales of Unplanned Bivies
  • TNB: Forgotten Hero - Frank Sacherer 1940-1978
  • TNB: The World-Class Weekend Warrior – Martin Keller Climbs V15
  • TNB: Everest Sherpas No Longer Willing to “Grin and Bear It”
  • TNB: Hardheaded Helmet Lesson Learned
  • TNB: Six Most Awesome Jobs for Climbers
  • TNB: The Coolest Climbing Deal Breaker
  • TNB: Sharma and Glowacz Send World’s Steepest Rock Climb
  • TNB: An Encounter with a Legend - Patrick Edlinger, Plus A Whipper Vid
  • TNB: Six Things Every Climber Should Do Before They Die
  • TNB: Falling from the Top
  • TNB: Weekend Whipper
  • TNB: Band of Crushers
  • TNB: Charlie Porter, We Hardly Knew You
  • TNB: Climbing's Greatest Route Names
  • TNB: Hot Women Die and Have Sex on Everest
  • TNB: The Great Tragedy at Carderock
  • TNB: Thoughts On Death, and Last Words
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Big Story
  • TNB: Next Level? Honnold Pushes the Game on El Sendero Luminoso
  • TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport
  • TNB: The Most Popular Weekend Whippers of the Year
  • TNB: If Ondra Isn't The Best Climber In The World, Who Is?
  • TNB: Storm Years or Typhoon? The Biggest Issue in Climbing
  • TNB: Jim Bridwell Speaks
  • TNB: Honnold's Biggest Solo
  • TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak - Was the NPS Complicit?
  • TNB: Ice Climbing Goes to Sochi Olympics
  • TNB: When Gear Attacks
  • TNB: 8a.nu: The Best Climber in the World is the One with the Most Points
  • TNB: Shutdown: Illegal Climbers in Yosemite—Ninjas or Criminals?
  • TNB: Who is the Best Climber in the World?
  • TNB: The New Courage in a Rucksack
  • TNB: Unsolved Mystery - The Ten Sleep Shooting
  • TNB: The Pad Problem - Honnold, Kehl on Headpoints and Highballs
  • TNB: Travels with Delaney Miller - National Champ Turns to Rock
  • TNB: Jail Food and Booty
  • TNB: Love on the Road
  • TNB: Is Pakistan Safe for Climbers?
  • TNB: Flash Floods, Climbers and How to Get Out of the Way
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Level
  • TNB: Best in Show - Brand New Gear from the Outdoor Retailer Show
  • TNB: Adam Ondra Ties the Knot
  • TNB: Under Pressure - Trotter and Honnold On How Bets Can Help You Send
  • TNB: The Tragedy of Tito Traversa
  • TNB: DR's Crazy Brain Puzzle. Get It Correct or Else.
  • TNB: What Happened To Climbing Films?
  • TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel
  • TNB: Mystery Solved!
  • TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower - Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question
  • TNB: No Such Luck
  • TNB: Erasing Midnight Lightning
  • TNB: Mayhem - Crawling, Balling & Brawling on the Evere$t Soap Opera
  • TNB: Watching the Boston Marathon
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • TNB: Born-Again Gumby
  • TNB: Super Unknown - Austin Dark Horse Establishes 5.14d in Random Texas Cave
  • TNB: Fearless?
  • TNB: The Big Freaking Deal, Ain't Bouldering
  • TNB: Honnold's Achilles' Heel
  • TNB: He's Either Crazy or a Poet
  • TNB: The Fish Cheat and the Prince of Climbing
  • TNB: A Letter from Santa... I mean Sharma
  • TNB: Traveler's Advisory - El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • TNB: A Year Ago - Athol
  • TNB: Gun Control
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • TNB: Derek Hersey's Magic Carpet
  • TNB: The Apprentices
  • TNB: The Jungle
  • TNB: Klem Loskot is Back Climbing V15 and 5.15
  • TNB: Eliminated
  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
  • TNB: The Perils of Sport Climbing
  • TNB: Baddest Climb of the Year
  • TNB: Crossfit Misfit
  • TNB: Eating People and the Real Seventh Summit
  • TNB: Bring It On, Bitch!
  • TNB: What Would Warren Harding Do?
  • TNB: The Curse Of The Bandit
  • TNB: Reality Pro
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • TNB: How Not To Climb 5.12
  • TNB: Project FAIL
  • TNB: The Backwards Future of Climbing
  • TNB: The Death of Progress
  • TNB: The Da Vinci CO
  • TNB: The Philosopher King
  • TNB: Spam Alert
  • TNB: Bad Genes - The Different Types of Gumbies
  • TNB: Mouth Wide Shut
  • TNB: Outside Reality
  • TNB: The Day I Saved Jésus
  • TNB: My Pad, Your Problem
  • TNB: House Rules
  • TNB: Five Things I Don't Hate About Climbing
  • TNB: Metro-Pointing
  • TNB: Beast in the East
  • TNB: Artificial Intelligence
  • TNB: To Boldly Go Sprad Climbing
  • TNB: Self-Destruction
  • TNB: Soul Sport
  • TNB: Nine Pitches
  • Video Spotlight
    Alex Honnold Solos Lover's Leap in Dan Osman Tribute
    Alex Honnold Solos Lover's Leap in Dan Osman Tribute
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel


    Empty cliffs. In the warmer months, you’ll most likely find fussy snivels congregated around Sprinter vans with wifi, drinking river-chilled craft beer and kombucha, and staring at their fingertips.Summer has finally arrived here in the mountains of Colorado and I’m at a popular climbing area observing the outbreak of life. The trees are sporting leaves the color of limes. So far I’ve seen a bear (or maybe it was a very large dog, or perhaps a feral hog judging from the nutty scat draped along the trail like Stuckey’s pecan logs), two chipmunks and a box turtle with somebody’s initials written on the shell in pink fingernail polish. Not a great amount of wildlife, to be sure, but the birds are abundant. Gaudy red-capped western tanagers frolic in the riparian understory. I’ve picked out the distinctive call of the chickadee dee dee, the robin’s cheer up, cheereo, cheer up, and the po-ta-to-chip of the goldfinch. By far the most prevalent call, however, is the cry of the Colorado fussy snivel: it’s hot, it’s hot, it’s toooo hot.

    If you’ve ever visited this state during the warmer months you’ve encountered them. They display pale plumage and roost in the shady spots, panting and fanning themselves with their wings. Their vocalizations are mournful and have been described by one ornithologist as “sounding like a petulant child cutting an eyetooth.”

    To those of us who grew up south of the Mason Dixon, especially that Midwestern climactic hellhole we’ll euphemistically refer to as “Texahoma,” the sight of these beasts cowering and lamenting in the perfect shady temps of 80 degrees and 12 percent humidity evokes no feelings of pity. A Mexican guy, also a climber and bird watcher, said that the fussy snivels made him reflect on the bittersweet knowledge that the self must one day die. But as I watched these strange birds cringing from the sun like fish-bellied golems, I found myself thinking about snakes, and Quartz Mountain, Oklahoma, in August of 1980.

    If you’ve ever visited Colorado during the warmer months you’ve encountered the fussy snivels. They display pale plumage and roost in the shady spots, panting and fanning themselves with their wings. Their vocalizations are mournful and have been described by one ornithologist as “sounding like a petulant child cutting an eyetooth.“My first partner, Keith Wright, and I were 16 years old, climbing on the south face of the tawny 300-foot granite shield. It was about noon and the temperature had been above 100 for a couple of hours already, on its way to a high of 112 degrees. We’d climbed a few pitches and I remember feeling like a baby chick under a heat lamp. One hundred degrees was no big deal. We ran track in these temps, grinding out quarter-mile intervals on a black tarmac at 3 p.m. As boys we’d ridden our bikes hatless under that same sun, played games of tackle football, baseball, capture the flag, conducted bb-gun and match-throwing wars, all day, every summer. Sure, some kids occasionally passed out, but we’d just drag them by the heels and stuff them in the cage with Bandit, Web Brashure’s half-feral raccoon. Why wouldn’t we climb?

    By the time we roped up for Moosehead (5.10a), we’d been climbing for four hours in the direct sun, without water, and I was starting to feel like a day-old cod croquette in a double boiler at the Luby’s cafeteria in nearby Altus. The first symptoms of heat stroke that I discerned were nausea and dizziness. By the time I clipped the anchors and lowered to the slope I was feeling really wobbly. When my feet touched down, my breakfast—oatmeal, tortilla chips, picante sauce, a fried peach pie, coffee and a Big Red soda pop—slithered out of my mouth as easy as pulling a greasy string out of a cat’s ass.

    Keith had heat stroke, too. His ears and neck were beet red and his eyes looked devilish—swollen and pink—like some angry god had tipped open his pupils and filled the whites with Big Red. Keith quickly unclipped and down-soloed the low fifth-class slab to the boulder field where he vomited an equally diverse breakfast and hid in the shade.

    At this point I was way too woozy to downclimb the hundred-foot slab, but I desperately needed to get out of the sun and cool down. It felt like someone was sawing into my brain with a bicycle sprocket and I briefly considered pitching myself into the talus and ending the piercing headache. Then I remembered that straight across the slab, not 50 feet away, was the entrance to a cave system—an exfoliation tunnel that led to a granite-floored chamber just a little bigger than a body-width from top to bottom, extending for a hundred claustrophobic feet. A cool (albeit fetid) breeze was always emanating from that gap.

    I knew there were rattlesnakes in the cave because we used to toss pebbles in there and listen to them snapping their castanets, but only later did I hear about the snake expert from the Oklahoma zoo who’d examined the tunnels one winter while the serpents were dormant. He’d reported that there were so many snakes in there that over millennia they’d worn bathtub-like depressions into the granite.

    I knew there were rattlesnakes in the cave, but only later did I hear about the snake expert from the Oklahoma zoo who’d examined the tunnel one winter while the serpents were dormant. He’d reported that there were so many snakes in there that over millennia they’d worn bathtub-like depressions into the granite.Despite sharing that universal human aversion to poisonous reptiles, I quickly traversed to the cave entrance. The snakes commenced rattling when I wriggled my feet down the groove, but I really had no choice. I could hear fat bodies sliding across other bodies. The clatter reverberated off the walls and I found myself thinking about rushing rivers. I let myself slip deeper into the channel until I could feel the cool stone against my sunburnt nape. The snakes started kicking up dust, but I was past the point of fear. The sun was a skillet and I was popcorn. I had to cower or die.

    The snakes cleared off a few feet, probably because I was putting out so much infernal heat—my boot soles sizzling like the tips of lit cigars—and I was able to squirm all the way into the cool cave and recover. That day I finally saw the sense in the proscription most Texahomans eventually adopt and pass on to our children: Never, under any circumstances whatsoever, venture outside into the nuclear heat, dangerous flora and fauna and winds that blow away towns.

    I saw the logic but somehow never got behind the idea that a life can be built around seeking pleasure and avoiding discomfort. Maybe that’s why the cry of the Colorado fussy snivel elicits no feelings of sympathy, but rather irritates me like a bad case of chiggers. As a climber I’ve habitually sought the edges, run headlong into discomfort, and there found the gold. These whiny little birds that populate the crags in Colorado seem never to have learned that the little discomforts (80 degrees! Oh my …) are actually the things that wake you up to the realization that this life isn’t all about you, that the knee-jerk comfort orientation is what’s dreadfully wrong with this world. Or maybe I’ve just been around too many crying babies lately.


    Come to Colorado and you can judge for yourself. The fussy snivel can be found at every crag in the state. I’ll be there, too, (if it’s not too hot), reminding myself to heed the call of the robin—cheer up, cheereo, cheer up—trying to remember that I could be shrinking from the Texahoma sun in a snake den.

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