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Unsent: How to Be Injured

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This humor piece was originally published in 2016 and is being re-released because, well, it’s excellent

It happens to everyone. You give your proj one last-ditch, try-hard effort. You climb a fifth day in a row, because when are you going to be in Yosemite again? You tell yourself that the mono pocket you’re wrenching your finger in isn’t really that bad. Then it happens: a sickening pop from your ring finger, a dull pain in your elbow, or any number of other climbing injuries, followed by the terrifying realization that you’ll need to take two months off to heal. Brutal. The plan below will not help you recover any faster, but if I’m being honest, it’s what I always do. Sometimes the hardest part of climbing is not climbing.

Day 0

I’m exhausted, and the light is fading, but maybe because I’ve tried this move 105 times for three days in a row, I’ll finally get it. This might be my sending story—oh yeah, it definitely will be! I feel so strong. Now it’s time to try hard—OUCH. That wasn’t good. Am I injured? I better try the move again to be sure… Crap! That made it so much worse. Guess I’m done for the day.

Day 1-2

Two rest days where I pull, bend, poke, twist, and generally stress the injury every five minutes to make sure it still hurts, and I should be good as new.

Day 3

Forty-eight hours was plenty of time to heal. I should be back at 100 percent; time to make an epic comeback and climb my hardest route to date! Shit. Ouch. Nope. Nevermind.

Epic boo-boo. Photo: timlewisnm/Flickr; CC BY-SA 2.0

Day 4

OK, I admit it. I’m injured. I need expert medical help. It’s time to bite the bullet and post on online climbing forums to ask anonymous strangers to diagnose me.

Day 5

The internet knew exactly what to do! I’m starting an intense regimen of icing, heat, compression, ibuprofen, tape, stretching, eccentric exercises, yoga, a ketogenic diet, and pushups.

Day 6

Reorganized my trad rack then fell into a deep depression.

Day 7

Tried to climb, injured myself further.

Day 8

I can still go to the crag with my friends, just to hang out and maybe shoot a few photos. I’m definitely not going to climb. Or nothing hard at least. Just one easy route should be OK. That one’s only 5.8! Ow. Ow. I so should not have done that.

Day 9

Maybe I can’t climb on the injury, but what if I just climbed without using the affected area? I’ll just tape that finger down so it’s out of the way, or climb one-armed. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? It’s genius! This isn’t so bad. That crux coming up looks kind of hard. There’s no way to avoid the injury, but it’s just one move; it shouldn’t be a big deal. Yup, I’m much more injured now.

Day 10

I’m getting desperate. There have to be other ways I can train. I know! I’ll start running. This is a great opportunity to drop a few pounds. I can come back lighter and then climb harder than before. I’m going to run 12 miles today! Oh, great. Now I have a knee injury, too.

Day 11

I admit it. I need to see a real doctor. The soonest available appointment is…one month away. Ugh.

Day 12-42

Repeat days 2 through 10.

Day 43

The doctor said I need to take two months off so I ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Then I got depressed from eating too much ice cream and tried to run off the calories. Now I can’t walk at all.

Day 44-76

I’m reconnecting with old, non-climber friends, trying new hobbies, learning a language, drinking heavily, and desperately searching for meaning in the universe.

Day 77

A few easy moves in the gym shouldn’t be so bad. Ow! There goes one month of progress.

Day 78-108

I got a promotion at work. I’m closer with my family. I started pursuing that lifelong dream of writing a book—I’m 10 chapters in!

Day 109

Forget about all that boring stuff, I’m going climbing. I’ll start slowly, but not nearly as slowly as the doctor recommended. What does she know anyway? I was doing just fine before she gave me all that “advice.”

How to Tape a Finger Injury


1. Beginning at the base of the affected finger, wrap entire hand tightly in tape, making sure to enclose the TV remote completely.


2. Watch seasons 1 through 6 of “Game of Thrones,” then reassess the injury. Repeat with “Breaking Bad,” “Lost,” and “The Wire” as necessary.

Unsent colum,/un-sent/ 1. To have failed so badly on a route you had previously climbed that you negate your redpoint. 2. A humor column.

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