“Sometimes it seems like such a hard life
But there’s good times around the bend
The rollercoaster’s gotta roll to the bottom
If you want to climb to the top again”
(from Good Times Around The Bend by The String Cheese Incident)
Peak: Unnamed, unranked Pt. 12,085
Mileage: less than 1 mile
Elevation gain: 55 feet
This trip report is more for some personal growth and perspective than any beta or epicness, but I thought I would post it here anyway. Having waffled back and forth whether to actually write it for a week now, a rough day yesterday prompted me to wake up this morning and just do it.
As some of you may know back on June 18th I shattered by calcaneus(heel) bone into over 40 pieces which required an extensive surgery on July 5th. This injury resulted in a hospital stay of almost a week and many more weeks of being absolutely immobile in a hospital bed at home. This happened when I decked from 20 feet up on a 5.11b crack in Eldorado Canyon. Thought I could land it. Oh wait, that’s not even close to what happened though much cooler sounding. In reality I was doing some bouldering on the Auraria campus climbing wall and jumped, not fell, from a mere 5 feet. To top it off the floor is extremely padded and I had jumped from higher before. With a bum left knee I always favor my right leg a little and in this case landed in the perfect spot to put me in my current predicament.
My heel now
Headed up the pass
I had been feeling pretty down in the months before the accident, and was so happy that it seemed things were taking a turn for the better. It was a combination of talking to someone, re-working a med plan, and in my opinion the biggest factor was making it a priority to get into the mountains as much as possible. The hills are the place where I meditate and clear my head, something I had not made a big enough priority this past winter. With some lofty goals for the summer climbing season and many plans for great outings with great friends I was looking forward to this summer more than any other since moving to Colorado in 2005. Needless to say, that all came crashing down with me to a heap on the floor of the climbing wall.
Wildflowers and Mt Massive
If you were to hit the fast-forward button from the accident until last weekend you would see a whole lot of wallowing in my misfortune, falling deeper and deeper into a funk, weeks upon weeks of Price is Right and every other junk TV show out there, failing all of my summer classes, and just general suck. Friends and family were reaching out to me but it seemed I would rather just continue being a one-man pity party. I am so thankful for my wonderful wife, Lauren, for always being there for me no matter what and having the biggest heart in the entire world; I am not sure what I would do without her. A summer trip back home to Michigan had to be cancelled but I was fortunate to have my sister, dad, and mom come out for three separate weeks to help us out. Try as they all might, it was still a personal problem I was dealing with, and I was not always the best patient.
Wildflowers and Turquoise Lake
A friend told me to charge a dollar to each person who said ‘It could be worse’ or ‘The mountain’s will always be there’ and then when this was all sorted out I could just retire. Yeah, it definitely could be worse, a lot worse, and I feel fortunate that I will eventually heal. Yeah, the mountains will always be there, but I won’t! My funk was in charge and not letting me see how many good things were in my life and that just kept perpetuating itself over and over and over and over and over………..
Last weekend was our 6th anniversary, I was finally able to handle a long car ride, and I had just bought a knee-scooter from Craigslist so we decided to try to have a picnic up high somewhere. Helmut suggested Hagerman Pass on the Continental Divide and it ended up fitting the bill perfectly, thanks buddy! As my anniversary gift, Lauren agreed to tackle the first 4wd road in her life. The drive to Leadville and then Turquoise Lake went well and we started up the pass. Our only plan was to make it up to the top and have a picnic and enjoy the views. She did a great job keeping the car on the road and her hobbled passenger fairly comfortable despite all the jostling around.
When we reached the top of the pass and parked I couldn’t help but notice an old roadbed leading up to some radio towers and other such stuff. It was marked closed to what seemed like every type of wheeled vehicle, but nowhere did I see any mention of knee-scooter. After convincing Lauren I was not kidding and that I wanted to at least try to make it a little ways up the path I started out. The goal wasn’t to get to the top of anything, just to clear the view a bit so we could look at the Mt. Massive massif clearly.
The scooter has what I would call large rollerblade wheels on it and unfortunately even a fairly small rock or groove in the pavement will bring me to a complete stop. That said, something came over me and I just kept on going, slow but unsteady over the incredibly rocky trail. Lauren asked many times if I had had enough and reminded me that I would need to return the way I came but I kept at it. After about 40 minutes and not even half of a mile I called it quits when the view of Mt. Massive was satisfactory and it was apparent I was not going to be able to make it all the way to the summit of unnamed Pt. 12,085. We sat there for quite some time as the weather was perfect and a long rest for me was in order anyway.
Making my way, albeit slowly
Other side of Hagerman Pass
Mt. Massive massif
During that slow trip to my highpoint of the day, 12,050 feet, I did some thinking in between grunts and righting the scooter. My life is full of wonderful people, things, and opportunities and I was letting this injury and depression take over and forgetting that. I vowed to have that day be the turning point. Also at the forefront of my mind were all of those who have lost their lives in the mountains recently and in the past. Each and every one of them would gladly trade their fate for mine. They will never get to head out into the Earthly hills again while this is only a hiccup in what I pray is a long life full of doing so.
Flowers and Massive
Life IS good!
On the descent, trying not to go over the handlebars
What followed was a tough descent that rivaled the Lake Como Rd except my Jaws sections were simply golf ball sized rocks and mud. We surprised some people who were taking pictures near the pass sign who looked at me like I was crazy and had them take our picture as well. After descending from the pass about a half mile we found a perfect picnic spot and I rolled over to it while Lauren worked to get everything set up. It was perfect except for the mosquitos and we enjoyed a nice lunch in a beautiful place, which was the main goal for the day in the first place.
On the way home we stopped at Sapphire Point on Swan Mountain Road overlooking the Dillon reservoir, the place we were married 6 years ago that day. Bark beetles have taken some of the beauty away from the area temporarily but luckily we have the rest of our lives to see the beauty come back. I can still remember that day like it was yesterday and look forward to where else this adventure called life and marriage takes us.
Has it already been 6 years? Can't wait for the next 60!
Once back in my cell/apartment in lovely Englewood, blech, things were not as bright and optimistic as on top of the pass. While I have not done the best at having that moment during my ‘hike’ truly be the turning point, it has definitely given me perspective. There are OK days and still some very, very low ones. The reason I wrote this report is to remind myself of that feeling and those thoughts I had that day.
Hopefully in just under a month I will be able to start putting a little bit of weight on my heel and then hopefully what will follow is a ton of walking and easy hiking on the way to a complete recovery. School starts up again in a few weeks and despite knowing how much of a trial getting to and from the light rail station will be, I am looking forward to having things I need to do and more people to interact with. I know I am not the first person to have a major injury sideline their plans nor will I be the last but this has been my story.
Hoping for a full recovery so Lauren isn't forced to carry me!
Thank you so much for reading if you have and if not that is fine too. This is something I needed to get out and hopefully this is another turning point in my life.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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