• 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: Chris Sharma's 100-foot Pont d’Arc Deep Water Solo
    Weekend Whipper: Chris Sharma's 100-foot Pont d’Arc Deep Water Solo

    TNB: The Hurt Locker

    By Andrew Bisharat

    The Hurt Locker. Climbers are always “injured,” and we endure these perpetually compromised states with the grace of a World Cup soccer player writhing around on the ground like he was just stabbed in the groin with a fork. Fingers, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, skin, balls and brains—you can be sure that, among climbers, at least one of these things is either sore, torn or simply just not working.

    Kami, a massage therapist I sometimes see for physical and emotional repair, said, “All climbers think they’re injured. You’re not injured. You just climb too much.”

    Climb too much? You mean not enough! When it comes to something as urgent as our own performance, climbers will tell themselves anything but the truth. If we fall or get pumped on the warm-ups, blame that damn elbow tendonitis. Never mind the slop footwork or rigor-mortis fear-grip used for even the largest crimps on the mellowest slabs.

    Unfortunately, the elbow tendonitis is a symptom, not the root problem. That would be our amateur technique coupled with the fact that we take on Olympic-caliber training regimens despite being un-athletic, uncoordinated and un-sober. Let’s face it: we’re a group of beer-swilling hunchbacked spazzes that couldn’t hit El Cap with a football from nine paces. We seem to believe that general rules about physiology and health don’t apply, which explains why we are always trying to perform at our personal best, but never do (hence the low self-esteem and misanthropy). We’re surprised when we suck, and shocked when those dehydrated vitamin-depleted finger tendons finally snap under the unbearable brunt of our fat asses.

    Get some of us in the same room and it’s only a matter of time before someone points to his inner elbow and begins whining about the tenderness he feels when he jabs his thumb in there, as if he’s the first person in the world ever to get “tendonitis” from climbing. Then other people pipe up. You don’t even need to hear what they say. The guy gyrating his wrist like he’s waving hello to himself tried a sloper problem. The guy with the perma-claws never learned the open-crimp and probably has the footwork of Stephen Hawking. And that stupid-looking guy over there? He just can’t remember the beta.

    All conversation leads to injury. This painfully self-absorbed ritual is an important part of our culture, like Hara-Kiri is to the samurai—only we are not motivated by shame. Hell no. While most athletes endure their linebacker-snapped femurs with a fistful of Oxycodone-induced dignity, climbers bleat like goats about every little niggle, twinge and pang from head to toe. After being surrounded by all this bellyaching, I’ve gathered some observations and come to a few conclusions that will help you navigate the great pantheon of climbing injuries. At least you’ll know what to expect from others, and if you’re smart (unlike me), you might even avoid getting done yourself.

    When you’re injured, you’re the most important person in the world: Some years ago, I was hanging out in a bright desert wash with Tommy Caldwell and Dave Graham. That week, Dave had been griping about his finger, though he was vague about the precise affliction. Oddly, Dave continued to climb at a high level—onsighting 5.14a, among other feats that for any other person would be lifetime achievements or at least grounds for a shoe sponsorship with Climb X.
    Finally, Dave revealed the story about his “injury” to Tommy and me. On Terremer (V15), the Fred Nicole crimping testpiece in Hueco Tanks, a razor-blade edge sliced him. Dave showed us where by lifting a wedge of skin off his index finger.

    “Wait,” I said, a little disoriented. “So … you got a flapper?” Dave was exasperated. “You mean injury!” he said. “You don’t understand!” I never do. “It was so messed up, like, so, so crazy. I was running around, bleeding everywhere, yelling, ‘Shit! I just cut my finger off!’ I couldn’t believe it, dude. A  horrible, devastating injury. I had literally cut my finger off!”

    Despite saying “literally,” Dave had not actually cut off his finger—yet he was complaining about his aggrandized flapper to Tommy Caldwell, who had literally cut his finger off with a circular saw years ago. I looked for a reaction out of Tommy, but this tightlipped cowboy of El Cap just smiled.

    Range of Pain: Pain is a funny thing because it’s all in our heads. The philosophical implications of pain are profound, raising important questions about reality and consciousness that unfortunately will never be answered because there’s still no way to measure it objectively.
    My Arab genes have given me a high tolerance for many things—including the migraine that is daily editorial correspondence. My big weakness, however, is the heat, which is why I’d rather attempt suicide via paper cuts than climb in the sun.

    Injuries are individual. Some climbing partners have told me that grabbing certain holds can be a “debilitating experience,” yet I always wonder if they’re not just feeling the same thing I do when I go climbing, only they are being crybabies. In this sport, you are constantly doing things like: putting your hand into the running garbage disposal that is a granite fist crack, bearing down on limestone crimpers that could pass for knives in most sushi restaurants, and concubinding your toes with tight-fitting shoes and then broiling your feet in those hot rubber ovens on some searing wall. What did you think that would feel like? Napping on a bed of Care Bears? No! Climbing hurts like a motherfucker! (No wonder it’s not popular.)
    Despite the subjectivity of what some consider an injury—from a broken foot, to a torn bicep from dynoing in the gym, even to pregnancy—there are universal symptoms. All injured climbers make themselves even more miserable by suppressing all their trusted vices out of the unproven voodoo that abstinence and self-discipline will somehow lead to recovery. Coffee is usually first to go, followed by gluten, sugar and, if they’re really desperate, booze.

    Cutting out whatever joy remains in their lives is usually accompanied by an absurdly concocted list of vows and grandiose goals that will never be reached. When you hear comments like, “Next spring, my plan is to do five 5.12s, 10 5.11s and onsight 5.10d trad,” you know that what will actually happen is the person will over-train in the gym all winter and sometime around the end of March, just before spring break, tear an A2 pulley while finally sending the black V8.

    The Two Paths: When injured, you can take one of two paths, and it’s highly debatable which one is ultimately more beneficial. You can either: Admit you’re injured and stop climbing altogether … Or, climb through it.

    Almost no one takes the former path unless seriously hurt, and in this sense, the worst injuries are in some ways easier to deal with. My friend Jed—who has suffered a wide range of traumas from an extraordinary ankle explosion to a string of banal tendon tears from too many half-pad one-arm pull-ups in the training shed—said, “You always come back stronger from the bigger injuries.”

    Like shemales, less serious injuries can be deceptive. “But … I took TWO weeks off, and my wrist still hurts when I go 1-4-7 on the campus board!” I am sympathetic here, however, because I agree that two weeks is a lifetime in terms of making gains. If I don’t climb for a fortnight, it feels like I have to re-learn how to load my Grigri 2. (Yeah, I’ve got one and you don’t! HAHA!) (See review in upcoming issue.)

    Don’t try hard, don’t go bouldering, don’t force it: Just as mountaineers know that when the barometer drops, a storm is coming, I have—with my extraordinary hindsight—identified several signals that are reliable omens of my own impending physical doom. They are: dehydration + bad night’s sleep + bouldering (with try-hard face). Like Ayn Rand (the least funny person ever to have lived) and the G.O.P., this combo is a recipe for disaster.

    Last February, my belayer/spotter, Jen, and I were so desperate to escape the snow and touch real rock that we booked a ticket down to sunny, warm Hueco Tanks for just two days. First, I dehydrated myself by having a couple too many beers before the flight. We arrived in El Paso after midnight and stumbled into my friend John Wallace’s house at 1 a.m., where I slept badly on a hardwood floor covered in malamute hair. Then, within two hours of entering Hueco, I tore my hamstring.

    The whole thing was traumatically embarrassing because we first made our tour group late; I’d never met any of these people before and they were all really good (V14 good). I was feeling oddly strong (pull-ups DO work!), and hopped on a relatively hard problem that the rest of the climbers on my tour were lapping like Apollo Ohno does an ice rink. To my surprise, the problem didn’t feel too hard, and I got really excited by the prospect of doing it second or third try—if only a pesky heel hook wouldn’t slip.

    I tightened down my shoe real good, and had one of those dumb little inner pep talks with myself. I set my heel, resolved to try hard, and before I could make the move, we all heard that confetti pop of a ligament tearing. I dropped to the pads and rolled onto my belly so no one could see the tears. It felt like my hipbone had come out of its socket.

    “Jen!” I yelled with my face pressed flat into the dusty mat. “You need to come rub my ass right now!” 

    I lay on all the group’s crash pads, screaming like I was in Saw IV, while Jen massaged my badonkadonk. Mama! The rest of the tour group was dead silent, and I could hear them wondering if there were any other ways I could find to inconvenience them that day. Finally, I managed to stand up, and what followed was my harrowing crawl off East Mountain, which made Touching The Void look like a romantic comedy. I spent the rest of the weekend sitting on a bag of ice at the Quinta Inn.

    Like the Titanic, disaster always follows your greatest success: You know that scene in Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio stands on the bow of the boat and yells, “I’m king of the world!” and then two seconds later he’s drowning like a chump?  Any time you succeed in climbing, be careful because you are now extremely vulnerable and in ways you’d never expect. I was deep-water soloing in Venezuela a couple of years ago, and had just onsighted a 70-foot 5.12 with some tricky, difficult climbing near the top, though at the time I had no idea about how high up I truly was. When I safely reached the top, I was psyched, felt like a B.A., and probably even screamed, “I’m king of the world!” The water was dark and still, which made it appear closer than it was. So I jumped off. At some point during my stock-market plummet through the air, I began to wonder where the water was. I made the gumby error of looking down, which rotated my body slightly forward. Hitting the water felt like taking a baseball bat to the chest, and my head thrashed, providing me with a nice little souvenir of whiplash that haunts me to this day.

    The Third Path: Turns out, there’s also a third option to take if you are injured: instead of trying to climb through it, or just quitting cold turkey, you can take the middle path.

    The aforementioned Jed was planning a trip to Bishop with his girlfriend, Jill. However, the week before leaving, Jed pulled another finger tendon and Jill came down with swine flu. Bishop was out. Instead, the two decided to go to Red Rock and just climb a bunch of 5.7’s. They spent the whole week doing routes that were low-angle enough for mountain goats to shag on.

    “It’s something we would never have done otherwise,” Jill said. “And it was so much fun.”


    Andrew Bisharat feels as healthy as a horse. It only took $1,500 in physical therapy.

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