After a day of warmups at Wild Iris and a few moderate routes to start the morning Robyn and I moved to the “Rode Hard Wall” which contained a nice group of mid elevens and twelves.

Midway through my onsight attempt I was unknowingly gearing up for a crux on the wrong climb. I had seen draws hanging from what I thought was the classic Wind and Rattlesnakes but was instead a one move wonder called Tomahawk Slam that used a shallow 2 finger pocket and tricky feet. Adjusting my weight left, then right, and back to my left I gritted my teeth and pulled down on my middle and ring finger. Just then I heard a POP! and slunk down from the crux grasping my hand. At first I thought it was my knuckle but soon my finger went temporarily numb and weak. Without knowing the seriousness of the pop, I lowered, pulled the rope, and sent the route after shifting the crux move to my pointer and middle finger. Unbeknownst to me at the time it will likely be my last climb for at least a month.

The pain I have is in the A4 region.

I have never had a finger injury before, at least none as pronounced as this, so I really have no idea what to expect or even how to diagnose my problem. A quick online search from the library brought up some images of the ligaments and pulleys in the hand. From what i gathered, pulleys are involved in stabilizing the ligaments in your fingers. A common climbing injury is to damage the A2 pulley between your first and second knuckles near the base of your hand. In my case the pain is more located on the A4 pulley between my second and third knuckles. Although I can’t offer a full diagnosis of the problem, I am in the odd position of being able to live this moment over and over through video which I can share if you guys are in to that sort of thing..


1) Loud crack or pop in left ring finger at knuckle nearest the finger nail.
2) Sore and stiff the next day. Pain in knuckle has gone away but a general feeling of weakness and soreness prevails between my second and third knuckle. No noticeable swelling or bruising occurred.
3) After a days rest I tried taping my finger between the second and third knuckles. This didn’t seem to do much and I was still feeling weak and having to avoid pulling with the finger in any way. After two climbs on top rope I decided to throw in the towel and let it rest for the foreseeable future.

Here is a good summary my mom found. Looks like we will continue on our Wyoming tour and head to Ten Sleep to get Robyn on some climbs. She is climbing stronger than ever and made some amazing onsight links on an 11c yesterday. With some rest and more attempts she would have had this one in the bag for sure. I will shift my focus a bit more toward pictures and books, or maybe just picture-books. We are joining forces with Steve and some of his friends in Ten Sleep so Robyn will have plenty of people to keep the climbing psych up!

4 thoughts on “Pop goes the pulley?

  1. Want me to pull your finger?
    Just checked Lander brewing menu. Totally devoid of IPAs. Time to move west my son.

  2. This is sad to hear, but I guess if you want to play, you gotta pay. Pretty much every serious climber I know has had a bad fingy injury during their career. People like Steve can offer you some good insight on recovery time. If you come on up to my neck of the woods we can find some fun non-rock activities: bear hunting, buffalo wrangling, river floating, and horse riding to name a few. There are also somewhere around a dozen breweries in the Bozeman area and we can find you some Rocky Mountain Oysters.

  3. Pick up a copy of Eric Horst Training for climbing. There is a good section in there about finger injuries and pulleys and how to work through them / treat them. Rest is key, and don’t climb though the pain. There is also some insight in his book on how serious the injury is.

    Oh and the Lander bar does have and IPA (Steve) The on-belay IPA and it was made for the international climbers fest held in lander each year! Pretty good stuff….

  4. The menu had one Cascadian Dark Ale. No true IPA’s… Almost unheard of in a western town. Maybe the IPA deprived Wyomingites drained the kegs during the Climbers Fest.

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