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Which is Worse? a Gumby Fly Fishing, a Boulderer Trad Climbing or Root Canals?

We can all agree that no one gets excited to go to the dentist – right? Ive had a few root canals in my day and just had another Tuesday. The phrase root canal makes most peoples hair raise on end and teeth chatter. Those same people may have just climbed a runout 5.11 offwidth the day before or caught a 28 inch brown on 6x the weekend before – but most likely not. I wanted to compare and contrast these three activities and definitively decide which activity sucks most based on several factors. For three consecutive days I experienced all three, so consider myself an expert and may be the only person in the world to have fly fished Sunday, plugged gear Monday, and got a root canal Tuesday.


Fly fishing has nothing but emotional pain. This occurs when you hook into your dream fish (which rarely happens) and you lose it (which always happens). This general fly fishing principle creates the fish stories we tell people however.

Pain level – 2

A boulderer who is trad climbing generally will overgrip any crimp they can find on any face surrounding a perfectly good crack. When no holds exist on the 5.9 they are on, they resort to their hand jam. Poor form always leads to blood. Tunnel vision may also lead to fidgeting with a piece while in a very difficult stance even though a no hands stem is available just 2 moves up. However the anticipated pain of watching those two poorly placed pieces fail is great.

Pain level – 6

Root canals these days are a breeze. The only pain is a slight pinch from the numbing agent and the painful embarrassment from drooling on your self afterward.

Pain level – 3


Fly fishing is a way to take an already difficult and skittish fish you would normally fish for and make it 10x more difficult. When you throw cold water, wind, tying small knots with small flies (having climber hands) and rhododendron jungles in the mix, you create quite the cacophony of difficulty. They only reason it doesn’t get a 10 is that 10 would be like hang gliding through a hurricane difficulty so….

Difficulty – 9

A boulderer trad climbing is similar to spin fisher fly fishing. One that is generally comfortable in that element is all of the sudden newbie central. There is no rhyme or reason to how they place gear on their harness or carry it to the crag. The rope probably zig zags up the climb like a toddler in a corn maze rather than straight up with various slings and you just cannot crimp cracks. The only reason it is not a 9 is they generally pick easy routes to flounder on.

Difficulty – 7

I was out within 90 minutes and had time to write this blog before I clocked out at 5pm. The chair was comfy and they answered all my questions accurately and thoroughly

Difficulty – 2

Length of day

Fly fishing for me starts at sun up. For whatever reason, I have no trouble waking up at 5am to fish. Before I know it, its 2pm and I have only eaten a banana, clif bar and two cups of coffee. Any time I am spending not on the stream is time I could be catching the big one. Add in time spent untangling, getting unstuck, napping on riverbanks or falling into the water and… Time it takes – 10 (all day)

Because they are most likely shitting their pants in a pumpy stance rather than climbing two moves up on nearly every route, climbing these routes takes some time. Finding the ones 4 number grades below what they climb on sport or comparative boulder grades while scoping ones that look as least traddy as possible takes some exploration. Figuring out where to put all these draws, cams, nuts, slings, and other gadgets on harness takes some time too.

Time – 7

Got in to office at 1:45 for a 2pm apt. Read up the newest Dwell zine and saw some cool modern looking houses. Went in to get numbed up for about 30 mintues while I watched Sportcenter and was out at 3:30 drooling on my self.



This one is tough, but we are going to assume you are purchasing all the gear you need for all activities – root canal will have grade with and without insurance

Waders, boots, fly rod, reel, line, flies, net, leader, sunglasses, buff (to look cool). These things all vary in cost for sure so I’m going to take average and grade that.

Cost – 7

Harness, draws, slings, cams, nuts, helmet, rope, pack – the list goes on. Now there is even belay glasses and other weird contraptions – like hangboards you hang from a tree to warmup? Wtf?

Cost – 8

With insurance its still so much less than the other two, without its probably about the same as climbing so

Cost with – 4

Without – 8

After careful deliberation and expert grading the final scores are

Fishing – 28

Climbing – 28

Root canal – 11 or 15 (without dental insurance)

With this analysis, its safe to say if you are looking for a lovely afternoon, look no further than your neighborhood dentist. Drink Mountain Dew, don’t floss, eat sour patch kids and go ahead and splurge on dental insurance or marry into someone who does have it. Climbing and fishing are difficult, painful, take forever, cost a lot and from the data - suck big time. Root canals win.

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