How (I Wish) I Sprained My Ankle

sprained_ankle_coffeetapeclimb.JPG***Disclaimer: If any of the details or events of this tale appear true, it is purely by coincidence.  None of the following occurred in part or in whole, though it would have been epic and would mean I’m 10 times above my current climbing ability level.***

It was pouring. Nothing new for autumn in New England, but it was also Saturday, which means Tommy and I were climbing anyway. Tommy had finally invested in a rack, so we decided to mess around a bit despite of the weather.

By the time we dragged ourselves out of an entangled web of sleeping bags and into Dunkin Donuts for some much needed caffeine, the weather was starting to look better, so we headed out to find dry-ish cracks to stuff our cams, fists, and feet into.

Tommy led the first pitch, a little damp, but a doable 5.8. It had a few spicy moves and the polished sections were further slickened by the spray, but it just added to the delightful uneasy feeling one gets when placing gear. I followed up, cleaning gear and convincing myself that the weather was only going to improve.

When I reached the anchors, I saw two cracks above me. We’d left the guidebook in the car, so I got to blindly choose my own adventure. I picked the right, less-wet-moss-covered crack and racked up. The first few moves were fun, lie backing in the slightly seeping crack and smearing my feet on the slimy face. I placed a number two and then a number one, but 10 feet later all I’d seen were more places to fit a number one. Tommy didn’t have doubles, and all the nuts I kept trying in the thin crack to my left were falling out. Another 10 feet up, I was getting more pumped and less hopeful.

The rain started up again and the wind drove it sideways, soaking the route and raincoat-less me. The crack was not longer seeping; it was streaming. There was water running down my elbows, the back of my neck, and beginning to drip off the bottoms of my shoes.

I was stuck. Downclimbing was impossibly scary and letting go was even scarier. I was twenty feet above Tommy’s number one and holding on with two fingers in a river. I desperately tried to stuff in a piece, but I couldn’t see where to place it with all the water running down the crack.

“Watch me here,” I yelled down to Tommy, but he couldn’t hear me over the rain slapping the rock. He too was soaked, not owning a raincoat, and later said he could barely see me with all the water pouring in his face.

I tried to make a big move up to jam my free left hand into the crack above, but it slid out immediately. I switched into sport mode: crimping on bumps on the face. I made one more move up when everything blew simultaneously.

I have never fallen so far. I landed with my right foot flexed and heard a pop, audible over the storm’s din. I then had to half boink my way back up to the anchors I’d fallen below, so we could make our getaway, leaving one of the cams in the process. We rapped down and assessed the damage: one very swollen right ankle and a lot of sopping wet gear.

The rest is less interesting, just hospital visits, eating ibuprofen, and attempting to cross-train in the pool. But the moral of this story is: Don’t try to trad climb wet, unknown routes in the rain (or if they’re wet and it’s not raining at that moment, or if the forecast calls for 100 percent chance of rain in the next 10 minutes).

Alternate versions of this ankle-spraining story include me running from a bear on an approach while carrying a full pack, falling down an animal burrow, and then having the bear drag me by my ankle; me falling off a pad-less highball buildering problem (insert mental image of crazy tall or interesting skyscraper here); or me having a mishap while practicing aerial yoga. You choose which sounds the best.

Originally published November 2, 2014, on 

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