| Another Halo ridge horror story
Having already summitted 27 centennials so far this summer, my plans of finishing the 14ers next year seemed to be falling into place nicely. I was putting together trips to get a few more peaks this fall but due to the impending road closure Holy Cross was the one I really needed to get done this year. Tuesday night I checked on the fantastic weather forcast for the next day and packed my bag for an attempt on the Halo ridge route.
My alarm sounded at 3:40 and I quickly made a smoothie (my neighbors must hate me) and headed out the door for my drive to the trailhead. A short while later, at 5:00, I was heading up the Fall creek trail towards the Notch shelter and the Halo ridge above. As I began to approach treeline I was treated to a spectacular sunrise.
This route has always intrigued me and I was excited to do it solo to see how fast I could finish. I seemed to be making pretty good time as I topped off at point 13248 (about 3000 ft and 5.5 miles) in three hours including breaks, water filtering, collecting some porcini mushrooms and a visit to the shelter.
The sun was shining and I was really enjoying myself as I cruised across the next part of the ridge. Things were just kind of lining up really well and though there is no trail, large blocks mixed with occasional nice grassy sections were providing an excellent route. At this rate I figured that I'd be on Holy Cross in another couple hours.
Suddenly everything changed. Stepping down between two boulders my ankle rolled violently to the side. I heard a popping noise that I knew was probably a ligament but that I hoped was just the explosion of pain in my head. A wave of heat rolled through my body as I struggled to pull off some layers. I sat there stunned and disbelieving in the rocks, resting as I contemplated my situation. I was at about the worst place in the route this could have happened, about halfway through my loop. I briely considered moving forward as I knew I would have more help on the standard route but the extra 2000+ of vertical going that way quickly discouraged me. Though it was only 8:30 the clouds were suddenly beginning to build very quickly, I knew that they would probably roll by but I had no idea how well I'd be able to move and knew I needed to head down. At this point I had about a mile of no longer pleasant boulder hopping and then five miles of trail back to my car. After nixing the idea of taking off my boot to survey the damage I laced it up tighter instead and began to pick my way slowly back down the ridge. Luckily I hike with poles (past ankle issues) and was able to make my way along without putting too much weight on my foot.
After a little while I took a break back below pt. 13248 to make some phone calls. First I checked in with a couple of friends to see if I could get anyone to start heading up the trail with some crutches. Then I called mtn. rescue to inform them of my location and predicament. I told them that I was working my way down, feeling OK and well prepared but unsure if I'd be able to walk the whole way out. I planned to call them again after a little while and began to put my phone away when I realized that my phone was nearly drained of batteries. I don't know whether it was the cold or the constant wandering in and out of signal but I was suddenly about to be cut off from help and hadn't seen another hiker all day. I had already figured that I'd probably have to walk out myself but this pretty much sealed the deal. I made my way back to the Notch mtn. shelter and used the phone one more time to call mtn. rescue and inform them of my plans, I told them that I was headed down on the trail myself but that they could feel free to send someone up with crutches and a splint, otherwise I expected to take about 6-7 hours to get down and would call them by then if I was alright.
I worked my way painfully back down the trail as the hours dragged by. After a couple of miles I stopped to take 2/3 of a percocet I had in my emergency kit which helped a little bit. I also met a couple groups of hikers heading on day hikes to the shelter which was encouraging. The trail seemed to go on forever as I fantasized about helicopters, crutches and time travel. Finally, six long hours after my injury I hobbled up to the safety of my car. I had an icepack wrapped around a beer in my cooler and decided to enjoy these (as well as the last 1/3 percocet) before my drive out. As I removed my boot my ankle promptly swelled up to gargantuan proportions and became too painful to put any weight on, good thing I had left my boot on earlier and didn't have to crawl out.
I hope you all enjoy this report and maybe get something useful out of it. Though it was a pretty crappy day and probably will end my season prematurely it really did help to drive home a few points for me:
-Always carry percocet (or some other strong painkiller)
-Always carry poles when hiking solo, I don't think I could have made it out without them
-Always make sure people know exactly where you are going (especially solo)
-Be especially careful at the furthest out or least accessable points on your route
-If you bring a phone, make sure it is fully charged and keep it switched off to avoid roaming or cold killing the battery
-Holy Cross is bad news (just kidding, I'll be back ASAP to crush this route)
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):