• Alexa Wagner

The Screaming Barfies

They call it “The Screaming Barfies.” Its name describes the phenomenon of intense forearm pain; you scream with what feels like insurmountable pain, then immediately get the sensation to vomit. It is mostly used in reference to ice climbing and isn’t some sort of official term. The name might elicit a smile or suggest a funny occurrence, but I can assure you it’s no cake walk or laughing matter.

It was a bright day. Bright because I am staring at a wall of ice. “Today would have been a great day to wear sunnies Alexa..” I thought as my eyes streamed.


“Dammit it!”


“Good grief.”

My axe bounced off the ice and I almost dropped it.

“This ice is sucks!”


While my axe wasn’t sunk in very deep, it was enough to hold me while I moved my feet up.


My legs wobbled and every muscle in my body was either incredibly sore or frozen.

It was in the negatives which meant the ice was brittle and didn’t take very good placement for ice climbing. It also meant if I didn’t continue moving, I would freeze. The air was tight and every breath was pins and needles to the lungs.

Behind me lay a frozen lake, dotted with ice fishermen and beyond the lake was the ski hill. To my left was the ocean and if I squinted hard enough I could spot lobster boats making their journey to the islands.

For some, winter is a time for hibernating, but here it was the time to strap on your skis and whir through town for a beer or a cup of something warm, it is time to gather around bonfires, ice skate ponds, participate in the annual toboggan races, or snowmobile the northern mountains, either way, no amount of snow or ice storms keep people inside for long.

So, there I was, dangling off a cliff, axes in hand, fighting an upward battle.


Ice sprayed in my face and immediately melted on my skin. It was the worst shower ever.

Deciding I liked the ridiculousness of it all I cried, “Here’s Johnny!”


My crampons found good placement and I stepped upward. I continued this repetition, right axe, left axe, right crampon, left crampon.

How would Jack Nicolson feel about ice climbing? I wish there was an ice climbing scene in the Shining, they surely didn’t capitalize on enough axe scenes, these things are wild. My thoughts drifted into nonsense as I ascended the wall of sheer ice.

Shaking and feeling like a human popsicle I made a final push to the summit flopping over the edge.

Panting I laid in the snow trying to catch my breath and feeling numb everywhere.

I could feel my blood rushing to my extremities and with it intense pain.

“John! John! Oh my god what is happening! I, I, what the hell?!”

I screamed writhing on the ground about to pass out.

As quickly as it began, the pain subsided and my vision cleared.

Looking about I saw John laughing.

“Screaming Barfies… Your official inauguration.”

Ski boots work, right?

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