The Screaming Barfies – Debunked

Your friend is keeled over, hands outstretched, and screaming at his/her open palms.

Grab the Holy Water, shit is about to get real!!

So what is this mystical phenomena?

When blood flow to the hands is interrupted, the resulting nonfunctional nerves create the sensation of numbness. The subsequent pain is associated with reperfusion (return of blood flow) to the hands and nerves. Upon reoxygenation of these nerves, pain signals are transmitted to the central nervous system. In other words, when the blood returns, it re-awakens the nerve endings, and hurts like mad.

How to avoid this?

The onset of ‘The Screaming Barfies’ luckily is not instaneous and can often be mitigated fairly quickly and effectively when following a few steps.

  • Try to avoid the kungfu grip on your axes, which is massively limiting the blood supply to your hands.
  • At the first onset of numbness, shake it out and take up to 15 seconds per hand.
  • Change gloves if you get the chance. Make sure to always bring an extra pair of semi-thick gloves (I keep mine zipped in my jacket) so you can change gloves if all else fails.
  • If all else fails, climb until the next belay and make sure your friends are not around so you can cry in solitude.