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Ascent Route: Bell Cord
Descent Route: SW Couloir
Mileage: 5.14 (plus some heli distance)
Elevation Gain: 4,760'
Life Savers: Nate with Steve and SAR team
It started out like any other ski mountaineering morning, stupid early in the dead of night, in a parking lot, with a plethora of gear to strap to our backs. Our packs, like normal, are in the 40-50 pound range. Every item we carry is essential, and we have more than "10". Light and fast only goes so far and doesn't count on the big peaks. Can't leave the avalanche gear or the skins, never know what terrain we could find ourselves in! Axes, crampons, boot wings, puffy, extra gloves, helmets all go along, since we're not just skinning up some Independence Pass peak today. But as it's nearing the end of the season, and we're strong enough, we just grunt and throw on our packs at the ripe hour of 1am. It's go time!
Up the now familiar rocky trail in our lightest weight hiking boots. Having the ankle flex on the trails is quite nice, and can be worth the extra 3.5 pounds of ski boots strapped to my skis on my back. Or at least that is what I remind myself as we make our way uphill on the switchbacks. It feels warm out, so soon we have to delayer. Or maybe it's just the hard work of hauling all this gear at a swift pace. I bought a new ski pack this year, so that when I had to carry full gear, shoving the layers and stuff inside would be easier. That, and actually be small enough for my hips to stay on comfortably. Of course, comfort is relative. I do realize I am a masochist.
After an hour on the tourist post holed trail, we arrive at Crater Lake. Not bad time. Short break, before making our way through the avalanche debris and onto what I thought was going to be the crux of the day... crossing the Minnihanna Creek. It was gushing at pretty high flow rate. We look for a way to hop or skip across, but none exists. So Nate throws down his pack and starts throwing rocks in the stream, trying to build a step across. Not wanting to cross barefoot just yet, I utilize whatever geo-engineering I've gained over the years of college and as a kid playing in the stream by my house. I think I learned more useful tips as a kid for this day. Managed to get one flat rock out of the stream by building a diversion in the center. Hmmm, without our heavy packs and with poles, we could cross. Just not seeing it with the heavy packs. Not sturdy enough for the power leap.
So foiled by the fury of mother nature, we strip off our shoes and socks and hike up our pants for what is going to be an ice bath coming from a fire hose. Nate quickly crosses first. I start in the shallow part, and think, not so bad. Then I get to the other bank, and its flowing over my knees at such a rate that standing is difficult. But soon the ice bath is over and I'm standing on the other side dripping and having frozen flesh induced screams coming out. Funny how delayed that is. Nate breaks out the puffy to get warm, and we both eat a bunch of food to get the internal furnace going again.
We wasted a lot of time on the creek crossing, so we make it up by blazing up the rest of the trail, which soon ends in the garbage chutes excrements. Plenty of boot trail to follow, as we slowly ascend up the snow with our trail shoes still on. Eventually the slope angle increases to the point where, the sharp and pointy's need to be on the feet. No more boot wings, but what to do with our trail shoes? If we were simply going to go up and down the Bell Cord, then it would be simple. Leave the boots here. But if conditions are horrible, as I suspect, then we were planning on the SW Couloir with reascend back into the drainage. Short discussion, strap shoes to pack.
Up the very firm and icy garbage chute we go, zig zagging our way up, as it's too firm to kick steps. No need to kill our calves from the start. Lookers left chute has continuous snow, so we ascend up that chundered slope, as we listen to the sound of flowing water on the rock cliffs nearby. Civil Twilight approaches as we climb high up onto the Bells. Parts of the surrounding slopes look smooth, others look like baby vomit and diaper gu at a hospital after a flu outbreak. To a skier, it looks nightmarish, but we have a backup plan, so up and around we go.
Into the Cord itself, and the snow funnel of gloppy gu is more concentrated. Bigger everything. The booter that exists seems to have been made by a 7' tall behemoth, total quad buster for the height challenged among us. The runnels are taller than me, and involve some creative climbing maneuvers to get in and out of. At least the shadow photos make it look cool. If there weren't rocks inside, then it would be like a Jackson Hole Wiggle on speed. Nate on the other hand, thought he could clear it on the descent with his board. Not sure I could do this in a controlled environment at a ski resort, with good snow. At least not without crazy high pitched sounds emanating from me!
Once out of the narrows, the snow gets slightly better, but has started warming up a lot. As evidenced by a local ice and rock garden shedding it's nightly lacy layers as birds flit in and around the icy wet jungle, collecting their mornings insects.
Having been here before, I longing look to the right where I can see the exit, the top of the Bell Cord. So close, yet so far away it seems. Eventually we get there, happy that the icicle bejeweled cornice is still in place. Phew! That stage is over!
Quick regroup and scout, then scrambling and steep snow traversing commences. In the shadows of the ridge, the snow is back to rock hard again. Around the bend, and we see a snowy gully to climb to get up onto the ridge. From there it's more scrambling intermixed with minor snow climbing. Till we get to the final picturesque snow ridge up to the summit. I enjoy the view from the ridge, as I know our hard uphill work is now over for a while.
The summit is glorious, and we immediately start scouting our descent, after dropping our packs. Entrance from the summit to the couloir looks smooth, if a bit firm. First thousand feet also look pretty decent. What's below there, we can't exactly see from the top. SW wind at 10mph is keeping the snow icy firm. It will take some time for this to warm up, so it's nap time. Nate shows me how the pros do it, by putting on his down pants and lying down on his pack. It almost looks comfortable!
I spend the hour gazing on the sights and eating. The line of 13ers off Pyramid are in my beta scope for future skis, since that rock is so rotten, I want it frozen in place!
It's approaching noon, so it's time to go, even if the snow hasn't warmed up nearly enough. We have a long day ahead, and the snow on the other side is only getting worse. So we strap on our boards and packs, and start down the backside face to the start of the SW Couloir. Reasonably steep with 40-50 variable slope angle. Edges dig in nicely at least.
Got to the top of the couloir for the first look at what we were up against. The upper part looked smooth and steep, 50 degrees but good edging. Lower down... eh not so much. The left side had slid and there appeared to be a runnel as the couloir dog legged to the right. But we would get about 1K of good to decent skiing till we got to that point. Below that, was a mystery to be solved later.
Nate dropped first to test the snow. We agreed to meet up just by the dogleg to regroup. Sounded a bit scrapey, but we couldn't wait all day. I could see the sections that were less fun now, but conditions were considerably better than the Cord. After a bit it was my turn. Rather wished I had the perfect corn of West Geissler from the day before for the 50 degree sections, but can't win every day. Ripping that little couloir on the SE face made 50 feel so effortless! Today it was a different story, and I had to once again channel the WNY ice skier in me, to stay on edge.
The snow quickly got warmer the lower we got. The light 10mph wind was keeping the upper reaches cool, but less the lower sections. Got through the rougher sections for a nice section of corn just above Nate at the meeting point. Guess from now on, it's safety skiing the grundle and the chunkier crap of the lower couloir.
Nate goes first again, and scrapes a path that I'm eager to follow. Maybe he can zamboni the slope a bit! After a while, I hear the call for me to go. So I drop off the nice corn into the chunder-fest. Stop, turn on my GoPro. I guess the footage will be useful at some point? Not like I'm going to do any cool skiing at this point. Maybe a turn or two. A video for the archives - title: when skiing sucks.
The next few moments become a blur of excruciating pain and darkness. One moment I'm slowly side slipping a rough section, the next, I'm screaming in the worst pain in my life. No swearing or words are possible at this point. Just primal screaming from the soul. Somehow my left ski hit an ice chunk, and spun 180 degrees. My dynafit binding does not release. I'm flexible, but not that flexible. Bones are broken and not facing their normal happy positions. I drop the couple inches onto the snow to my right with my whippet. Immediately, and without thinking, I grab my ski and turn it around. In this process I end up doing a "field reduction of my break", but to my perfectionist primal self, I'm just fixing something that is wrong. As soon as my foot is facing the right direction, my mind clears, the pain stops, I stop screaming and my eyes clear. Clarity. Breathe.
Now the practical portion of my brain takes over. I call down to Nate to tell him I broke my leg. He's in disbelief. I reconfirm the situation, he starts climbing up. I turn off my GoPro. Then I take off my ski and put it in the snow nearby, resting my left foot on my right ski to achieve minimal pain sensation. Breathe.
Now to start the rescue process, while I wait for Nate to reclimb up to me. I take out my SPOT (generation 1) and press the 911 button. I never thought I would ever have to use the SPOT for this purpose, but I did it without any hesitation. We would need help from others at some point during the course of this day. My adoptive Alaskan Dad bought it for me back in 2008, when I moved back to Colorado. I say adoptive, as I got adopted (unofficially) into his family when I lived up in Alaska, and he has been a father figure to me ever since. Little did I know he would soon be getting phone calls from SPOT asking if this accident was likely real, or a mistake pressing of the button. Best gift ever.
Next step, get ready to self evacuate. Breathe. Wait for Nate. He quickly kicks steps up to me and does the standard WFR introduction and we get started with the leg evaluation. I had been doing my own as well. I got to take a WFA through work, and could tell that the break was not compound, no bleeding. I could also wiggle my toes - very good sign. No ligaments involved, just broken bones. Nate builds a quick platform to work on, since we are on a 40ish slope. I crawl over onto it, and he grabs both packs to go through, looking for various items to build a splint. He takes out my puffy and his thermal shirt to pad my leg. My shovel handle gets used as a brace, which then all gets wrapped in 2 ace bandages. Overall quite stable, and at this point I'm not feeling too much pain. Now I get to take a vicadin that I have stashed in my med kit, for this exact purpose. Breathe.
Now comes the tricky trial and error portion of the day. How to move most efficiently down the mountain? Leave one ski on? Take it off? Go backwards down the boot steps, or forward. How exactly to brace/lift my injured leg. It took awhile, but eventually we came up with a system. Nate would kick steps down, come back up, and lift my injured leg with the sling and biner attached to my ski boot, while I lowered myself on my good leg and butt, all while breathing deeply. Almost like an assisted glissade with an axe and whippet in both hands to keep me firmly attached to the slope. Snow conditions were still good, and it was firm snow to dig the axe handle into. It was a very slow process, but we made steady progress.
Within 2-3 hours (To me it felt like 20-30 minutes) of me pressing my SPOT, I saw a helicopter flying towards us. It was grey, not the usual flight for life orange-red. So we weren't sure what to think. When it was close, we would stop moving and wave, hoping they would see us. We made the decision to keep moving no matter what, since we were on a slope that could slide, if temperatures warmed up enough. It was better to be out of the couloir, than in it. So down we went as the helicopter looked to land, but then left again. Was it a news crew, or a spotter, who knows.
After the first helicopter left, we had lot of tough terrain to cover. We decided that going down into the runnel would be bad, and to stay up on the skiers right side of the slope. This meant having to traverse on occasion, to be able to go down. Traversing was much harder on my leg, as I had to keep a certain lower leg - knee - upper leg position to stay relatively pain free. Oh how I hated the traverse sections, and looked forward to the more simple down.
After an hour or so (time is kinda flowing for me at this point), the bright flight for life helicopter shows up, spots us, and lands down below to drop off it's first SAR guy. We've made enough progress downhill, that we can see the couloir end and the landing zone. It looks like the guy will take awhile to get up to us, so we keep moving downhill slowly. Nate is carrying my skis on his pack, and is throwing my pack downhill as we go. Anything and everything to get off the mountain.
Eventually we get down to where Nate has his snowboard, about 350' lower than the accident, at about 12,800'. At this point the first SAR guy is in yelling distance and we begin to communicate about my condition. Since I'm alert and stable, I can yell down information too. Once again thankful for the WFA training, to be able to understand some of the lingo.
Since we have a traverse section coming up, and the SAR guy is getting close, we decide to wait where we are. The calvary has arrived, just breathe.
Now when Steve, the SAR EMT finally arrived, I don't exactly think he was expecting to see me... smiling. Yes, for the past 4-5 hours, I've been smiling, laughing, telling jokes, and even singing. Why? I have no clue. But I was genuinely happy. Maybe it was that I knew things could have been much worse, or it was endorphins the wonder drugs making me feel good. I don't know. I have a high tolerance to pain, and combined with the Vicadin and everything else, I was in a perfectly happy state. Slightly elevated heart rate, but breathing and everything else was normal.
When SAR guy #2 arrived, the start of the first anchor system to lower me was set up, as well as the toboggan thing to lower me in arrived. Nate dug out a bench to work on, as soon as we decided to wait for SAR, so that's where all the action was going down. So I just sat there and chatted with Steve, as everyone was working around me. Turns out, he's neighbors to Ted and Christy Mahon, and that if Jordan hadn't been in Alaska skiing the big 3, he would likely have been in on this call. Small world of 14er skimo!
Once everything was set, I took my last vicadin, and crawled onto the toboggan. I was wearing an alpine bod harness and I was attached to the anchor system they rigged up. Pretty safe, but at this moment I really just want to start the downhill progress. More SAR guys had arrived and were in various positions on the slope below.
Strapped into the toboggan and heading downhill, Steve takes point and helps keep my leg in a position where I'm not screaming. Since happy, smiling me is much more pleasant company than screaming me. I do my best to communicate my needs, and Steve just smiles and makes it happen. Another good partnership.
In order to get all the way down, we had to go through a series of anchor changes and the like. With the rougher terrain, it was much harder to keep the flexible toboggan in a non pain zone for me, so they strapped an inflatable thing around me. They called it a beanbag at one point. Lots of straps all over the place, I was almost in a cacoon. Eventually they got down to the lower flatter slope, where it was going to be easier to 6 man carry than drag me on the rough avy slid slope.
The helicopter was there and waiting my arrival. Odd seeing the spinning blades from that vantage point. Got slid into the front of the helicopter, where a copilot might sit. Of course the only navigating I was doing was helping the flight nurses get my jacket and layers opened up to get an IV and various sensors on my body. Didn't get to see any scenery from my position, and it was such a quick trip to Aspen, that it probably went by quickly anyway.
Heli view - Photo Credit: Nate
My Hero - Photo Credit: Nate
Once at Aspen Valley Hospital, I could finally breathe more easily. It was over, I was safe, I had the best care possible coming up. It was the first time I could actually let go, and not try to be strong. I could cry, and let a little of the anxiety/pain/terror/etc accumulated over the past 6-7 hours out. Got out of my gear, having to beg them not to cut my fancy pants or boots. They had to drug me for the boots and subsequent X-rays, but oh, the drugs! I didn't care. The drugs took me to magical lands where form and time didn't exist, and everything was free flowing. As I was exiting the magic land, I heard talking, and I wanted to go back! But I had some decisions to make. I nodded my consent to the orthopedic surgeon for the best surgery in my situation. Titanium "nail" with some screws. Too bad I was so out of it, I should have asked for the adamantium upgrade! Soon I was in the black again. More time passes. I wake up, hear the surgery went well. I'll have 6-8 weeks of rest, PT till recovery at 6 months. Then came the most important news of the day - I'll be skiing next season. After that news, my attention span wanes, and I don't remember much.
They put me into a room for observation, strange but cool foot squishy thingy's keep my blood flowing. Many things to be concerned about overnight, but that's for the nurses who frequent my room to worry about. I sleep well enough, even have a conversation with a friendly nurse about skiing during the night.
In the morning, I wait for my first PT session, where I will get my air cast fitted and get trained on crutches. I've made good progress overnight, so they release me afterwards. But not before a candy striper comes into my room to hand me the local papers, with my rescue on the front cover. This would be at least the 3rd time I've made either the front cover or the center section of a local paper. Turns out, this woman is Heidi Kloser's grandmother! The Olympian who broke her leg during the mogul preliminaries, and walked the opening ceremonies on crutches with a broken femur and torn ligaments.
So what now? My life has changed a bit. Not necessarily for the worst, but it has definitely changed. I have plenty of things to keep me occupied, as I've always had more hobbies than time! Plenty of things to see and do in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico that don't involve elevation gain and airy summits! It will be a very good summer, and I will be excited to get to it, once I'm more mobile.
Of course there are always things I will be sad about giving up or missing
1. Hikes and climbs with new partners, that now I will not be able to oblige.
2. I may have to break my 45 month streak of skiing every month of the year. That is unless by the end of July I can slide a short distance... hmmmm!
3. Depending on my recovery, I may not be able to do the Gurlz hike this year. But... who knows!
Things I am excited about
1. Learning how to use the 2 Leica film cameras my AK adoptive dad gave me
2. Taking trips to National Parks to do silly touristy things and photograph it all
3. Actually settling into the wonderful house I bought a couple years ago, but have never found the time to make a home (Hang paintings, decorate with my grandparents pottery, etc)
4. Hanging out with new and old friends, that I have come to rely on. You always know who your real friends are, in a time of crisis.
So what's the skiers take-away here? I was safety skiing. Going very very slowly. Then something freaky happened. Nothing spectacular like hucking a cliff, or doing something bad-ass while trying to show off for a camera. Simple side slipping. I shattered my left arm skiing when I was 12. I was doing Mach 3 down an icy slope, when a dude cut me off. I hit his ski pole with my arm, flew through the air, then landed on it. That's a story. This is not. Total F'n fluke accident. So what changes for me now? I will be even pickier about the conditions I choose to ski in. No more chunder/grundle/baby puke slopes for me. Heck no. This may mean that it will take longer to complete my ski project - so be it! I've worked hard to ski all the 14ers in their best possible condition. Some, are never that good - ever. Others, can be gotten in stellar condition with some cherry picking and careful watching of weather and timing.
Overall, I've had an amazing ski season. Practically unlimited powder days all winter long. A bit of a crazy spring skimo season, where I've backed off of a lot of big lines I wanted to do, just being conservative. 11 new 14ers skied, for a total of 40. 15 other peaks skied. Great partners, new and old. Looking forward to healing and getting back on the boards again.
1. I will get further medical training. WFR or EMT, whatever works for me. I used to think that a week of my time wasn't worth it. Now, if I can help save the life of my partner - I will gladly pay for that with a week or more of my life!
2. I've always been big on giving back to the 14ers mountaineering community. Hence all the TR's, conditions and trailhead updates. Now, I want to get involved with SAR and give back for a fraction of what they gave me. A few years ago, I didn't have the strength or endurance to do something like this. Now, I think I do. Might take me some time to get to that point with respect to my recovery, but I do wish to get there!
The first song is what I was singing during the rescue. Nate looked at me odd, but that's ok. Now if I had put this TR together in my my drug induced silliness, the second song may have shocked non Monty Python Fans. My college roommate, while drunk, stood up on the couch and sang this other song (starting with the letter P), and then promptly fell and broke her wrist. But then Bill might ban me. So thanks for putting up with the wait, so that I could write this in a better frame of mind. Enjoy!
PS: Yes the GoPro caught the accident, but NO I am NEVER posting it. Period.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
I've been eagerly awaiting your detailed description of the event since you first told me about it. This is your best writing yet!
I just climbed with Nate yesterday. I'm not at all surprised with how cool and effectively he handled the situation. Nice work, buddy!
Some things in life are bad
They can really make you sad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
As if a hellishly painful injury itself isn't bad enough, having to miss the rest of the season is a major bummer. Great news that you'll be back on your feet for next year though. I'm sure this will only barely slow you down and you'll be right back at it in no time. Thanks for sharing your story and get better soon!
Get that healing process started and we'll see you next year ripping powder and 14ers. Maybe some looow 13ers as well !!! You know how I don't like as much elevation gain! Take care of your leg in the meantime and hopefully you'll be back at soon. ZB
Glad to hear you made it out of this ok and are recovering. And a sobering reminder of why I keep my personal locator beacon inside a pocket on the front strap of my pack, in the event I only have the use of one arm and have to call for help.
Like I told you last week, you can be totally prepared, possess the skills needed for your adventure, and *hit still happens. You were fortunate to have a great ski partner who had the knowledge to know exactly what to do when *hit hit the fan. Been looking forward to the full story - thanks for sharing it. Rest up and heal up my friend. We have many 13ers to climb !
What a story, great writing, and such a positive outlook on life! Can't believe this happened the next day after we all were on the Geisslers. So happy to hear everything is OK and definite hats off to you on your strength and attitude and of course Nate and the SAR folks. Cheers to a speedy recovery!
Even for a flatlander lunch browser who stumbled upon it. Kudos to everyone, especially you, for dealing with the situation so well. Couple thoughts on the TR -
1. AWESOME GPS track. Took me a moment to orient, laughed out loud when I realized what I was looking at.
2. Wonder if that's the first 14ers.com TR with X-rays? Is there an icon for that?
You handled this extraordinarily well, and you set a great example of what to do in dire circumstances. Stay positive, stay calm, carry a device like the SPOT and have a very capable partner. I'm very relieved that this went as well as it could in the grand scheme of things. Happy you're on track to recovery.
What a great team of climbers and skiers/boarders with you that day - turning an event that could have been a whole lot worse into exactly the way the WFA training ”wants” it to be done. Glad to hear you are well enough to write about it - those are some nice fracture lines, perhaps a fun tattoo is in order using those lines after you are all healed up?
Speedy and healthy recovery to you, Otina! And even with this, you will still kick my ass hiking.
Glad to hear you're okay. It is great that you kept a good mindset during the whole thing after the accident - it probably helped you get down as far as you did safely, not to mention what sounds like a fantastic partner.
Ouch!!! I winced when you described the break. Good thing you had your SPOT. I think I‘m going to add Percocet to my first aid kit. I met Steve once on a climb, great guy. As far as the Gurlz hike, play that sympathy card and have them carry you up
Otina, I thought about you when I heard of this SAR since I had been seeing your reports. I'm glad it didn't turn out worse. The Aspen / Pitkin SAR people are great. It's good you're seeing the positive in the opportunity to do things you normally wouldn't make time for. Hope your recovery goes well.
Glad to hear you made it down safely... 06/11/2014 20:10
We ran into another Aspen Mtn Rescue guy (John) who was involved with your evac on Saturday down on Cathedral. He gave you guys a LOT of credit for a job well done on your parts to make theirs easier and safer. Nice work O and Nate!!!
Thank you for sharing your account of this experience. It is an excellent write up worthy of national (or even broader) attention. It's a reminder to all of us to follow the rules and be safe out there because even when you do, accidents can still find you. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.
...and a great lesson that you can never be too careful. Glad you're in one piece and special thanks to Nate and SAR for their efforts. It'll be a rough summer for everyone here to not partake vicariously in your mountain adventures but it'll be all the more special when you make your roaring comeback!
I was wondering if this was you when I read about the Maroon peak accident, but didn't know for sure until I read this. In fact, I think you casually commented on the Bell Cord conditions that day or the next without mentioning the accident. I'm so glad this was not anything worse than a broken leg. I hope you have an enjoyable recovery. Get well soon!
I'm glad that you and your partner had the skills to keep this incident from escalating into a full-blown disaster. I wish you the best of luck in your recovery and rehab; your optimistic outlook is bound to help.
So very glad you're ok. Thanks for the report- it's going to affect my decision making for sure. I just took a WFR with Desert Mountain Medicine, and it was really fantastic. Holler if you're headed for northern New Mexico over the summer!
Observations and Comments:
1.) All of that work finally get to ride in an SAR helicopter, and you don't even get to take in the view from the air? So what about the leg, I would have been PISSED! Oh, and I thought you were afraid of flying!
2.) Save the actual leg break from the GoPRO video for your Dance-Off submission... You'll have a ”leg up” on repeating as a winner (submit it with Nate and the SAR team in the group category..)
3.) You didn't take my advice and make up some sh*t to make it sound overly dramatic. Just another sleepy ho-hum, oh I broke my leg read... (Perhaps write that version and post it on the FB page and watch the SS comments fly!!!)
4.) Did you save any of the extra hospital drugs for me? Oh, and how does one get access to vicadin?
5.) While you are not burning 45,000 calories/day anymore, would you gain some weight for crying out loud? You are a stick figure! Put some meat on those bones!
6.) Let's cut to the chase...do you get to put up a ”SKI” icon up for making an official summit? Hmmm....
7.) Seriously...glad you will be okay and things went well. Visit us down here in NM during your lay-off! My family sends along well wishes. They want an autographed copy of the Denver Post rescue story...
I'm so happy you made it out OK and I won't waste time echoing comments about you being tough and positive-minded. You are. Clearly.
Your account is riveting and probably strikes a chord with most who read it, especially the ski/board mountaineers. When we climb mountains to ”ride” the snow, we add another level to the danger and as others have said, sh!t happens. Rocks fall on people. People fall on rocks. Snow falls on people. People fall on snow. It's a dangerous game we play but we do it because it's exciting, fulfilling and usually a nice way to spend time outdoors.
While I was on Snowmass yesterday, I could see Maroon Peak and thought of you when I was preparing for my descent. I thought of how dangerous, fun and exhilarating it is to climb a big mountain and transition to technical skiing in a no-fall zone. It's also kinda stupid! It really is. When I think about it, most people probably think ski mountaineers are bat-shit crazy AND stupid to climb a technical peak (14er or any other) just to slide down some snow. To some degree, I guess they are right.
I'm pretty sure your not going to get less ”stupid” and decide that skiing isn't for you, so heal up and dream about next season. Good luck and I look forward to skiing with you again.
I am simply amazed on so many levels. First, it was an extremely well written report as your reports always are. Second, surprising that you were even able to write it after such a traumatic event. Third, loved the positive attitude! Fourth, so glad to see how well prepared that all of you were for such an event. Your report and all of it's information is so valuable to all of the climbing and skiing community. With your attitude I'm sure you'll be back in no time. Get well soon!
So sorry to hear how that all went down. At least you were doing the right things and can't be made at yourself. You had quite the spring! Keep thinking positive and you'll be back on the skis before you know it.
Wishing you a fast and full recovery 06/12/2014 03:45
Glad you are ok and wishing you a fast and full recovery. I heard the 'copter heading up Maroon Creek that morning when I was running and it made my gut sink. Approach the PT as you would a mountain and you will be back at it in no time!
To have homemade beers... Soon! Sending energy your way and hats off to everyone that helped you down. My heart rate is elevated after reading this, and I can picture your big bright smile on the side the mountain - always the strong one. Someone's watching over you. No doubt about it. .
My fall back in April and slightly broken tibia seems like nothing after reading your report. I think you're handling this with a better attitude than I did. Great work by everyone involved to get you down safely. Vicodin or percocet in the pack is a really good idea and something you hope to never use. Rest up and recover quickly, want to see you back out there as quickly as possible!
You can only mitigate, not eliminate, all dangers. 06/12/2014 17:39
This is a nice level-headed honest account of your climb, injury, and evac. I suspect your thoughts here will be helpful in many respects for others. You are to be commended, as others have stated, for your positivity and preparation, as well as for your reflective assessment. Kudos also to your partner, whose efforts cannot be understated, and as always to SAR. Best wishes for a healthy, fast, and full recovery.
It was nice meeting you on Pilot Knob last summer. Glad you got down from Maroon Peak okay; grace under pressure... (Bill will know where that reference came from. ) You sure kept a good attitude the whole time. I hope you can get back in the mountains later this year.
I can't begin to describe how much all your comments mean to me. I don't tend to be a very emotional person, but sh!t, you guys are making me cry. It will certainly get me through the dark times of the recovery process, knowing that so many people are thinking of me, and pulling for me.
Without Nate there, I'm not sure how I would have handled the situation. I think we both kept each other calm. I think he would have carried me down if he could have.
Sam - Thanks for that. Always good to know that we made the best decisions we could have
Mike - I don't know how you solo these things. Hope you get to move to Boulder, more climbing & skiing partners is never a bad thing
Kris - Thanks, missing 2-3 weeks of the season does suck, but life doesn't always give us those choices
Ryan - Gimpy climbers club - seems to be my case every decade or so! Good luck to you as well!
Zach - You know I love me some loooow 13er action! Can't wait to get back to powder, effortless powder.... Mmmmm
Dan - A troupe of wild screaming monkeys couldn't hold me back from next season!
Brian - Here's another one - Tell your partner where the SPOT is and how it works. Nate borrowed mine for the remainder of his season
Jay - I've already seen the power of being positive, will keep it going, however hard it may get
Darrin - Thanks. Glad you made it in, up and out of Alaska safely. Wild place, how I miss it sometimes.
Vicki - People keep telling me that easy class 1 13ers may happen this fall. I'm waiting for the next Dr's apt to confirm, before I get too excited.
Nat - 6 months isn't bad - I hope I wasn't hallucinating that! Before this resting period is over, I may need that help!
jbchalk - Crazy what can happen in 1 day! Such different conditions. I would have loved Sunday's corn - Oh the difference that would have made. Good luck to you and Kristine on your next exciting adventure!
DeTour - I thought leaving the GPS on would lead to a cool effect. Besides I had my hands full during the recovery, I barely took a few photos!
Keith - While I hope no one has to follow my example - maybe this will help someone else
Bill - That would be one interesting tattoo! Hmmmm And yes, if kicking your @ss hiking motivates me for PT, I will use it!
dhgold - Thanks, if I had to live through it, maybe by documenting it well, someone else can gain some benefit. The song comes from the movie - Meaning of Life (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGRPFUYUUdQ&feature=kp)
Alicia & Jordan - You two take care of yourselves out there. Partners are some of the best safety equipment
dmcool - MRA were amazing, can't say enough good things about the team.
Dan_Suitor - I'm glad I didn't have time to think about the break until after I reduced it. I rarely go on a trip without the SPOT
Zambo - It was about the best outcome possible. Sometimes good luck follows bad.
12ersrule - Sh!t happened too quickly on this day. Hopefully the last
MountainHiker - Thanks. I figured many might think of me and this accident. I just hoped the thread would stay positive
habaceeba - Not sure I could handle national attention, but thanks for the thought that it's good enough! Not sure other parts of the country would understand the ”why”
rajz06 - This just means that you and other 13er hikers will have to pick up the slack!
Oman - Thanks. My grandfather was a writer, and I hoped that it would live up to his inspection and critique.
Steve Knapp - I casually commented on the Bell Cord conditions thread to let people know not only the conditions, but that I was ”OK”. Clever ruse worked!
GregMiller - I'll be happy with a next season, TR's will flow again
Greenhouseguy - Makes me think about my partners skills now, and not only my own.
skiwall - We're always learning on this skimo path, eh?
Yikes - Yeah, you should hear what my family has done, I had a lot to live up to.
OMG Jim - First time in a 'copter, and yeah I am kinda pissed! 2. I think I could hokey pokey 3. Too honest to lie 4. Yes, for me. And AK Dr's will prescribe anything 5. I'm a ripped stick 6. Hell yeah I'm counting it! I skied 1K of vert off the summit 7. Wow autographs! I bet your Dad really thinks I”m crazy now!
I wondered why a report would have so many comments. I figured something big must have happened, or you skied topless and all the guys were asking you to post visual proof . I'm very glad to hear you are ok. Wishing you a speedy recovery!
Wow, I have been away and I rarely read any trip reports anymore, but I was glued to this one from start to end. Otina, I am very glad you are ok and recovering. I have always admired your strenght, endurance, abilities (specially on skis!). You are a strong woman, I know you´ll get back up there again soon, no doubt. And you have to be ready for the Gurlz hike this year!
more, because it didn't let me add it all 06/13/2014 22:41
Bethany - Everybody hurts... sometimes
DArcyS - Very crazy forces. It's amazing to me to think that that much damaged happened at that slow of a speed. I would look up the physics on that, but it's been too long since college for that kind of pain!
Bill - No, I'm not likely to get less ”stupid” anytime soon. But I will try to be more picky. At least I get to recover during the off-season. Be looking forward to finally skiing MotHC one of these years!!!
Michael J - I had a 'near miss' back in '03 that took me 9 years to write about because it was so psychologically traumatic. This was just physical, my brain (other than time warp) was pretty clear.
gdthomas - Thanks! All that hard work to sculpt them. PT and some time will bring them back.
Cool Hand Luke - Every time I see or hear a helicopter in the BC, it makes my gut sink too. At least now you know it turned out ok
Mindy - I bet my gpa was looking out for me, hence seeing the Poppy flower upon my return home. Mmmmm homemade beers sound good!
DanR - Post-survival beers are normal and accepted practice in the community
CarpeDM - I was beginning to think the *stupid sh!t* fairy had forgotten about me. Been about a decade since my last dusting!
Jon Frohlich - I thought about your fall and injury. If mine had been more minor, I would have had a worse attitude as well. For some reason the magnitude made me go the extreme opposite direction and realize how much worse it could have been.
JosephG - Yes mitigate! I really do hope this helps someone prepare a little more for their next big climb. Whether it be getting WFA/WFR, having meds, or having a SPOT. Prep helps.
Valerie - Always with style - Though no neon like you
Shralp - Very wicked! They should be beaten with a whip-pet! Naughty Nute!
RobertKay - Skiing is the delusion of control. One slip and the veil is lifted. Lesson was learned at age 12, relearned in a new way at 37
Holy cow Otina! You, your perseverance, confidence, and knowledge, inspire me. I'm glad you made it down and are now safe. Wishing you a speedy recovery, and safe travels in all your future adventures.
Best wishes for a happy, smiling recovery! 06/17/2014 05:59
Wishing you a speedy and smiley recovery, Otina! Spiral fracture is something quite impressive. A friend had one in February skiing (surprisingly was in bounds that day). We talked at length about what would happen if he had been in the backcountry. Your account paints the picture of a successful rescue and outcome. Many people will benefit from your story. IMO, it takes as much courage to share both pleasure and pain as it does getting off the mountain! Bookmark this page so when you're feeling bored or restless, you can be reminded it's all temporary and the mountains (and mountain lovers) are cheering for your return!
Just read your story last night and felt like I was traveling right along side you. What a wonderful writing gift you are blessed with. I love reading your TR's...your love of the climb, skiing, or hiking is presented so beautifully. What an accident!!! I pray your recovery is blessed with sweet healing and that your return to what you love is right at the correct timing.
Ridge_runner - I can only imagine the comment boom if I were to do that!
Kitten - I really hope I can do the Gurlz hike, I just don't know at this point. Don't want to get my hopes up, or others.
goingup - Always takes a crisis to find out the true nature of an individual. Let's hope this is the last for me!
Fisching - New icons - now that's opening a can of worms!
mountain_man - Thanks! Been awhile since 11/11/11 11:11 at 11,011'. Hope you're doing well!
colokeith - After 3 life threatening car accidents, I had an inkling I would react as I did, but one never knows!
--bb-- I was thinking the opposite - How easily this accident could have happened at a ski resort! I ski much more aggressively in bounds. In the BC, I tend to be very conservative. Maybe a bit ”too” much.
Derek - I'm thinking that your 13er finisher, might be my post-break 13er opener. At least I'll get some rest for a minor foot sprain that I had last fall, from too many 13ers.
barbiesue53 - Thank you so much! This one took me 2 days to write. I wanted to make sure I covered everything - yet I just added something I forgot today.
Just got around to reading this as I haven't read too many reports (or much of the forum) as of late. The number of likes and comments was enough to draw me to read this one. Sounds like you guys were very prepared and handled the emergency as well as possible. Makes one think twice about getting med training as well as being prepared. Heal up quickly!
I, too, have been away from 14ers for awhile (out of the country).
Horrible freak accident SO glad it wasn't worse. Glad you had exceptional company that day and the expertise of MRA.
If I could give you one thing right now, it'd be a box full of patience that you could open up and reach for a super-size, endless supply of it for comfort when you start wondering if you'll ever get back out there.
Take the time your body needs to recover. Your body is very busy right now! Your job is to support the process. You'll be THE BOSS again soon enough.
Heal up - can't wait to read that first report when you're back at it!
I, too, am just now catching up (off getting some 'repairs' of my own).
I always so look forward to your trip reports. They're among the very best and you bring out so many neat facets of the trip. But this time you went too far! Seriously, it sounds like you and all the others were up to the challenges you were presented. Well done!
But look at it this way -- now you have even more time to plan future trips! I suspect you'll recover quickly and be writing another trip report in short order. Shed the crutches soon!
...and so sorry to hear of your accident, Otina. Well done report but not the way to write a good one, no? Accidents are no fun, but as you note, they can prompt some useful introspection. I hope your recovery is speedy and you're out crushing it again soon!
I was so very sorry to hear about the accident It is a major season-ending bummer. However, I am amazed how well you've handled something like that. Your strength is incredible. There is not much I can say but wish you the speediest recovery and getting back in the game. Sounds like the doctors' prognosis is favorable, and 6 months is not that much on a grand scheme of things. Filled with fun activities they should go by pretty quick. As I mentioned, let me know if you need anything at all - I'll be glad to be of any assistance. Onwards!
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