Episode 11: What has two arms, one leg, and climbs like a mofo? Craig Demartino.

Episode 11 is EPIC! Craig Demartino takes us blow by blow through his climbing accident which culminates (spoiler alert!) in losing his leg. He fights to survive, then he fights to regain his life, then fights to climb better than he ever did. The real deal doesn’t even come close to describing this guy. Guts, determination, and unconditional love all bring him through. Be inspired. In fact, if this doesn’t inspire you, you may be a soulless android. Stab yourself in the hand, does it hurt? Okay, you’re human after all.

More Craig: http://www.demartinophoto.blogspot.com/

Followup on Craig’s successful ascent of El Cap


36 Replies to “Episode 11: What has two arms, one leg, and climbs like a mofo? Craig Demartino.”

  1. Similar to the most recent comment, I was listening to this episode on the commute to work (London), and when Craig described his wife’s gentle reassurance from up the hill on his first climb (before amputation), that was the bit that got me.
    I haven’t even finished the episode yet but Jesus, this is incredible podcast stuff. I’m fairly new to climbing (started 20 months ago in my mid-30s) so am also learning a ton of stuff.
    The highest of tens to you Sir Chris.

  2. I’ve been climbing since 1995 and married since 2002 and pod cast listening since a week ago. This content is amazing. This morning on my way to work (35 minute commute) I was listening to the description of the when Craig’s wife came to the rescue scene. I lost it. Here I am in traffic and tear are streaming down my face.
    This kind of content really effects people, it reaches into the deep fleshy tables of the heart. Thank you so much for doing this.
    Also I love love love the bits from Eiger Sanction, and Jeremiah Johnson. Keep it up

    1. Glad that episode from 5 years ago still packs a punch. I can’t say they all will, but if you’re working through the back catalog, there’s gonna be a few more emotional moments for you along the way between all the silly and egotistical spray. Welcome aboard.

  3. HOLY SHIT this podcast was inspiring as hell! What an amazing dude. Any idea where I could find The List to watch (just to watch or to purchase!)??

  4. I was cringing they whole time I was listening. I needed to go to sleep but I couldn’t NOT finishing listening to the story. He is a really brave dude. It was a long road and I’m glad he found his way through all of it. Some great insight. I wonder if him and that guy are still friends…

    Thanks for putting this story out there Chris!

  5. Hey Chris, love the show! I’ve been telling everybody I climb with they need to check it out, especially those I know spend a lot of time driving across the state each week.

    Okay, sorry for the length of this comment, but…
    This episode, really hit home for me, because 10 years ago I had a near-fatal climbing accident, also likely due to a cavalier attitude and a far too comfortable approach to the day. Hubris will get you every time…
    The short version of the story is I tumbled and bounced about 100ft. down a peak in the North Cascades. I broke 3 of my 4 limbs, mangled a hand, and had a skull fracture with a serious head injury. My incident is different from Craig’s in that I remember none of it! I was airlifted from the peak, was in a coma for about 9 days, and I really remember nothing at all until about 3 weeks later, still in a bed on the critical care floor of the hospital.
    But I do remember the 11 months of rehab, re-learning to walk, multiple surgeries, and the long process of returning to “activities of daily living”. I also remember the conflict inside as I wondered if I could physically ever climb again, more importantly if I ever wanted to, or should even try. Craig’s remarks on these aspects of his recovery were almost identical to my own, as if he were reading from my (past) thoughts. I plan to play this podcast again just to have my wife listen with me, so that she can perhaps understand a little more of the conflicts and emotions I went through at that time in my life (we met about 3 years later) and why climbing has remained such a passion of my life, despite nearly ending it prematurely.
    But what struck me the most about this great story was how often I found myself laughing out loud! I believe humor to be a vital coping mechanism in times of great stress and despair. I now work as a paramedic for an ambulance service, and I truly appreciate the necessity of a little off-colored humor to help relate and cope with traumatic or sometimes morbid events of our lives (as I am exposed to them almost daily). I am humbled by, and truly admire Craig’s life perspectives and positive attitude toward continuing on with his life, and his passions.
    I haven’t been able to keep that one line out of my head, “I need to cut off my leg so I can climb”. Keep cranking Craig! Hope to meet you someday. Chris… likewise, and keep up the great work! I plan to make a contribution to your podcast efforts soon (and buy some coffee as well).

  6. Phenomenal episode, Chris. My special lady friend and I listened to this yesterday on our way home from a weekend road trip. We were enthralled and I nearly shed a tear or two at times listening to Craig recount his accident and the experiences he’s had as a result of accident. What a rock solid man he is. Open, honest and obviously incredibly strong. Kudos to you two for such a captivating episode. I can’t wait to see The List (somewhere.)

    1. Thanks! Do I detect some Lebowski in your comment?

      “She’s not my special lady, she’s my fucking lady friend. I’m just helping her conceive, man!”

      1. Ha, definitely a Big Lebowski bastardization. We’ve been engaged for more than seven years so “girlfriend” doesn’t quite cut it. “Fiance” sounds too pompous. So I turn to The Dude. I was psyched to see Kelly Cordes use SLF recently too! http://www.thecleanestline.com/2012/05/park-rumors.html

        Anyway, your podcast is great and keeps providing us with hours of road trip entertainment and conversation starters. Thanks so much.

  7. Really great podcast, i listened to this all the way through, then i had to listen to it again. This story is just great. He sounds like a great dude. Thanks Chris!

  8. holy crap. what a remarkable story. Can’t believe how Craig has made the absolute best of a terrible situation. And this makes me think of the millions of times I’ve just assumed my partner knew what was up. Definitely good to get in the habit of holding onto the other end of the rope until communication is clear. thanks CK this was awesome.

  9. I was listening to this while I was driving behind an ambulance transferring my wife, a Wild Country athlete, from the hospital to the rehab institute where we are now living for the next month. She cratered from 50 feet four weeks ago in Turkey, breaking both ankles, her elbow, 2 vertebra, and her pelvis in two places. http://www.facebook.com/getwellrannveig. Pardon me for saying it, but it was fucking rad listening to Craig tell his story, and it really put my mind at ease because I know my wife is going to be kicking ass and taking names when she’s back in business. It’s just going to be a process, probably will take a year or two, but she’ll be out there cranking harder than she did before the accident. Thanks for getting Craig’s story out there.

    1. N,
      Wow. You guys have been through a lot! Your wife more than you, but no picnic on your end either. I’m sure being in Turkey was, how should I say, an interesting ripple. Sorry about the pain and anguish, but you are right, life can only get better. Glad you were inspired, odd timing though! Good luck with everything. Wish your wife well, too. We’ll see you guys out there.

  10. Awesome interview, I really enjoyed it! It kind of goes along well with the off belay podcast where you talked about eliminating unnecessary chatter when at the anchors. That podcast along with this one really has made me analyze what is being said and why.

    1. D,
      I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. In their case they probably had eliminated way too much. Too comfortable. But perhaps if Craig had never said anything about arriving at the belay, but rather simply gone about setting it up, his partner would never have felt released from duty and kept him on. But in that situation- when the leader expects to be lowered- there are a bunch of things that the leader can do to protect himself. For example, I noticed that many people, myself included, will grab the other side of the rope as they say take and lean back. This does two things, first you can feel if there is tension, also, it’s quite easy to hold yourself that way until confusion is cleared up. Another thing, and I think this may have been Craig’s moment of truth, is to be patient and wait for the feeling of your harness being pulled tight before you cast off. We didn’t get into it in the podcast, but I’m sure he’s run it through his head 1000 times.

      Anyway, don’t let your guard down is probably the main thing. It’s like riding your bike, just because you are supposed to have the right of way, doesn’t mean you just blindly blast in front of cars. They will just scratch their paint, you’ll be in the hospital or worse. Ride and climb like everyone is trying to kill you!

      Thanks for listening and the comment.

      1. I guess what I’ve learned is too make sure you are using the same vocabulary. Some people say off belay and that just means that they are at the anchors where as I think that is a term that means you are relieved of your belaying duties. The best case scenario is probably to discuss it before you leave the ground. Anyway I appreciate you distracting me from planning…two more weeks before schools out….must …..make it.

        1. God, I wish I could wave a magic cam and make people stop saying “off belay” when they just mean “wait minute while I thread the anchors”! I still say that keeping your mouth shut while you pull a little slack and go about your business is the best plan.

  11. I heard the first part riding the bike through berlin, on my way to buy a new rope as a gift for a good friend. I had to stop when you talked about the fall because it was so intense. Inspiring story. Thanks and keep on!

    1. Awesome. The thought of you listening on the streets of Berlin is so cool to me. Let us send good vibrations through that rope you bought so it always catches your friend. Thanks for listening.

  12. What an amazing story, I really did listen twice, there was so much you guys hit on – family, accident, recovery, where he’s headed now… That was great. I saw the guy at the gym over the winter he looked really strong, but I had no idea about how much he’d really been through. Thanks Chris – keep it up.

  13. Man… A great reminder as to why we as climbers can’t get to lax with our communications. Hope the movie comes out soon defiantly need to check it out. Quick aside I kinda feel super lame that he leads harder than me, considering I’m 20 with no injuries. But damn is this guy inspiring!

    1. Don’t worry , L. The conventional wisdom says you have until your Jesus year (33) to make gains. After that, it’s learning to work with what you got, and fighting off decline. Then, living on past glory pretty much gets you through to the end.

  14. Incredible story. I went from sweaty and nauseated at the description of the fall, to misty-eyed at the description of the first post-accident climb, to psyched and inspired by Craig’s decision to seize control, amputate, and come back. I’ve still got about 20 min left of the episode but it’s already fecking brilliant.

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