I was training for a mountain-bike race, going too fast downhill, when I hit a gopher hole, went over the handlebars, and crashed into a boulder at 40 miles per hour. My left shoulder was crushed; the collarbone was shoved straight through my back.
Most Painful Stomach Ache
I’ve blown out my belly three times carrying heavy packs. After several hernia operations, I now have a stomach lined with large swatches of bulletproof nylon mesh.
I shattered my leg while telemarking the steep and deep in Utah—but who hasn’t?
Even Bigger Break
I was climbing near Taos, New Mexico, and fell more than 20 feet into some boulders because of a belaying accident. My left hand hit first and was nearly snapped off at the wrist. It took several surgeries to reattach it, followed by two years of rehab.
While tracking lowland gorillas in the Congo, I got 30 ticks on my butt. I had to remove them with a mirror and a pocketknife.
We were in Siberia, two weeks from a hospital, when a staph infection raged through my entire body. After ten days I had severe sepsis, my legs so bloated that skin folded over my ankles. When I finally reached a hospital, a Russian doctor told me I had about 12 hours to live. I was wheeled in front of giant electromagnetic cones and saved by repeated high doses of radiation.
I fractured my skull hit-ting the pavement while cycling across South Africa, no helmet.
I got my worst shave ever in Cambodia, from an old blind man with foot-long whiskers who used a rusty straight razor, dipping it into a tin of bloody water.
In northern Yunnan, China, a masseuse believed that slapping my back as hard as she possibly could for an hour was what I wanted.
Most Devastating Loss
I was ice climbing out-side Cody, Wyoming, with my friend Keith Spencer. I was huddled inside an ice cave high on the route’s face, belaying Keith up the pillar, when the entire mountainside avalanched. He was killed instantly—it was like he was hit by a locomotive. There’s no reason I lived and he died. I later learned that the avalanche may have been caused by a small earthquake centered in western Yellowstone.