A descriptive study of hot aches: a previously unreported winter climbing phenomenon

Andrew Melvin, Jacob George (Lead / Corresponding author)

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Background: Hot aches, also known as the screaming barfies in North America, are a recognised phenomenon amongst winter climbers, assumed to be triggered by the re-perfusion of cold peripheries which then rapidly progresses to a systemic vasodilatory syndrome. Symptoms experienced in the hands include pain, numbness and throbbing followed by systemic symptoms such as nausea, irritability, dizziness and in extreme cases, a transient loss of vision and hearing. Despite being well known amongst the winter climbing community there are no publications in the scientific literature characterising the hot aches.
Results: This is a descriptive epidemiological study of UK winter climbers, and their experience of hot aches. We found that hot aches are experienced by 96% of these climbers. They generally last 1-5min and 75% rate them as being 3-4 (out of 5) on a pain scale. The most common local symptoms are pain (87%), throbbing (70%) and tingling (52%). The most common systemic symptoms are nausea (44%), irritability (32%) and dizziness (20%). 20% of climbers experience hotaches in locations other than their hands.
Conclusions: The hot aches are a highly predictable and consistent experience for almost all winter climbers. This study has characterised, for the first time, a recognised but previously unreported phenomenon that occurs in extreme winter climbers. The short and long term consequences of which are currently unknown, and warrant further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number36
Number of pages5
JournalSports Medicine - Open
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2016


  • Vasospasm
  • Climbing
  • Mountainerring
  • Reactive hypperaemia
  • Ice Climbing
  • Screaming barfies


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