Peak(s):  "Dicker`s Peck"  -  13,140 feet
Date Posted:  10/15/2014
Modified:  10/16/2014
Date Climbed:   10/13/2014
Author:  bergsteigen
Additional Members:   moneymike
 A phoenix rising from the ashes - or - Faceshots for the soul   

Navajo Glacier

Trailhead: Long Lake
Mileage: 9.8
Elevation Gain: 2,845'
Partner: Mike
Time since last +35 deg skiing: 4 months 11 days

This will be a slightly different trip report, since I didn't technically "summit" anything, or even intend to summit a peak. Whereas I summitted something far greater in the journey: I summitted my injury and my fears.

When I was up on the SW couloir of Maroon Peak with a badly broken leg, there was never a thought in my head, that I would never ski again. Not even a millisecond. I knew with my very soul that I would be back. The length of time would be the only variable. The doctors and nurses in Aspen were confident that I'd be back to 100% in about 6 months time. A nurse even thought I wouldn't have to break my streak of skiing every month of the year (I didn't). The positive energy was powerfully evident, even this early.

After the TR and all the comments, text messages, phone calls, emails, friends dragging me off the couch, there was no mistaking that I had huge support. Even Davenport and the Mahons messaged me their well wishes. I had no excuse now, all I needed was time to heal and recover, and I would be back.

First meeting with my regular Kaiser ortho Doc, and I was left feeling more depressed/frustrated than I was in the hours to weeks after the accident. In trying to get to know my new doctor, I asked the simple question "Will I be skiing this season?". His initial response was "That's a bit optimistic!" I was shocked. But that was when I realized that he may not be used to someone as determined and athletic as me. I then remembered the waiting room full of elderly, out of shape, couch potatoes. That was what he was used to, not me. It took nearly another 10 minutes to convince him that I was not worried about "a little pain". Obviously it wasn't likely that I'd be skiing just like I was the season previously, but that there would be some pain involved. I'm ok with a little pain. What I'm not ok with, is the possibility of re-injury. I left the appointment feeling a little dejected.

So what to do when someone thinks that I "can't do something". Prove them wrong! Prove them wrong as hard as possible. Motivation. Motivation to walk as much as possible when I got to be weight bearing. Hold skier squats until I fell onto the couch. Hike and climb as much as I can when the cast comes off. Listen to my body, but push to the point where my body says "enough". My leg has been a very effective calibrator of what is enough.

Fast forward to now, it's snowing. Snowy talus is scary. Not doing that. September skiing was painful with the screws in my ankle. So I had them removed ~2 weeks ago. Monday would be the first time putting the ski boot on the new improved ankle. I knew it would be painful, but no time to dwell on that. So getting the invite from Mike to ski Conundrum Couloir last weekend - I had to decline, it was too soon. But next week... yes, I'll ski Navajo Glacier!

Unfortunately, the first time I go skiing during the real season, I'm guaranteed to forget something. So far in the last few years, I've forgotten a jacket, my skis (thankfully I realized before leaving Boulder), poles, socks, and probably more things that I can't remember forgetting. This year was no exception - I forgot gloves. I tried to convince Mike that I'd be ok wearing my extra wool socks, but he would have none of that. No sock puppet skiing. So a short drive over to Ned, and I now had hardware store special gloves!

So after a short delay due to my forgetfulness, we started up the snowy trail, with the peaks still enveloped in the clouds. I hoped that they would part when we got higher. They never really did.

Hiking up the fresh snowy trail

Me wondering if the clouds will rise - Photo Credit: Mike

Hiking up the trail, Lake Isabelle in background - Photo Credit: Mike

Navajo Glacier starting to peak out

Niwot Ridge looking stormy

Once we started post holing booting up, I finally had to give up the relative comfort of my mountaineering boots, and put on my old ski boots. Oh look! I forgot to reinsert the insoles! Brilliant! Initial thoughts as I'm skinning up the drainage. Doesn't hurt right now, but the boots are rubbing on my scar tissue... Getting rid of that will not be a painless process, let's get that started asap! My new sports medicine focused PT has me massaging the area to break up the adhesions - this would be one powerful massage!

Thankfully enough snow has fallen that there is a path up to the glacier that is 95% snow covered. Only a little bit of skinning over a few rocks along the way.

Skinning up the drainage

The labyrinth

Skinning in the labyrinth - Photo Credit: Mike

Approaching the glacier

Right below the glacier is a rocky zone, and we switched back to booting with crampons. The snow wasn't consolidated and thankfully the wind hasn't fully transformed the slope into dangerous wind slab - yet. There were small pockets of it, so it's likely that very soon it will be a no go. Mike started the booter up the slope, and I struggled to keep up. Cramponing up the loose rocks and snow was difficult on my ankle, but as soon as I hit the snow, I slowly caught up. Snow is ever so much easier!

Booting up the rocky zone - Photo Credit: Mike

Mike booting up the slope

Slowly catching up..

Check out that rime encrusted Dickers Peck!

At the top of the slope, and directly beneath Dicker's Peck, we transition for the ski down in the cold and blowing snow. I even consented to a selfie.

Two powder enthusiasts - Photo Credit: Mike

The photographer is ready! - Photo Credit: Mike

Now was the moment of truth.
#1 Would I remember how to ski something this steep
#2 Were my legs strong enough to control both my skis - ie would my left be weak
#3 Would it hurt too much to ski safely
#4 Would I have enough confidence to do it, skiing is all about confidence

Somehow in the moment, I wasn't thinking about all my fears, I just skied. Skied the luscious powder that felt like a dream!

Mike's first turns

My first powder turn - Photo Credit: Mike

Luscious powder... - Photo Credit: Mike

Our first set of turns

Mike charging the next pitch

Kicking up the powder - Photo Credit: Mike

Mike dropping the powder zone

After testing the initial slope, we both let it rip to the bottom of the glacier. Faceshots full of powder enveloped my face to the point I could barely see. I had to ski by feel, and it felt so good!

Face shots in 3, 2, 1... - Photo Credit: Mike

I think I need a snorkel - Photo Credit: Mike

Mike skiing the remainder of the glacier

Exiting the glacier

Mikey likes it!

Scoping the route

Powder is still deep enough for big smiles - Photo Credit: Mike

Mike exiting the icy rocky zone

Once below the open glacier area, we had to choose our route a bit more carefully, as there were sharks about. Still plenty of powder to be had!

Mike making the O face

Finding the route down to the next bench

A look back at the Navajo Glacier

A snowy valley

Riding the powder while we can - Photo Credit: Mike

Once done with skiing, I booted for a short distance more, before I had to get out of the ski boots. It was an excruciating process, peeling the boot off my left foot. But once it was done, I felt better. Now we just had the long trek out to the trailhead.

A look back at the variable terrain

Lake Isabelle and the IPW, always a special place

So am I 100%? Not exactly. I would say about 90% I still have some pain and weakness, but I ran for the first time on Saturday and skied for reals on Monday. I no longer have to check the 0 box on my PT evaluation form that I "can't do something". I now CAN!

Also, since I changed insurance companies, I can now see a sports medicine focused PT. He doesn't blink when I tell him what I'm doing, as he knows how to rebuild me stronger than before! I'm actually expected to work out and not be a couch potato - what a concept! My new PT didn't even bother to measure my quad strength in our first visit, as they were stronger than his arms. I've been doing skier squats since I was weight bearing in preparation for ski season. I truly was prepared for today, or as much as can be expected. I still have more strength training to do, but I'm at an adequate level to do almost everything I want to do.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Dave B
10/15/2014 17:23
I came here expecting a summit ski descent of Dickers Peck, what a let down...

Just kidding. Congrats on getting back out, quite the area to break the leg back in (figuratively speaking of course).

Way to go, Otina!
10/15/2014 17:43
So GREAT to see you back out! A positive attitude almost always helps a person exceed a doctor's expectations.

10/15/2014 17:55
Aggressive and impressive to say the least. Congrats on getting back in the saddle. Be careful out there . . . might I suggest the WROD as a safer alternative??

Kevin Baker
10/15/2014 18:28
Congrats on your return to skiing, Otina! I knew your recovery would be quick with your strong will to get back out. Keep at it!

Great Job!!!
10/15/2014 19:04
Great Courage and determination!!! That's certainly a mountaineers spirit and example for us. Great Job!!!

Yeah buddy!!!
10/15/2014 20:48
Glad to see you out and about again Otina! Your recovery and positive attitude has been inspiring. Congrats on the turns guys!

So Awesome!
10/15/2014 21:10
When I saw a little ski guy next to a trip report with your name on it, I was already excited.

Glad to see you're back out there with a big smile on your face. Also, glad you found a PT that understands you. I know that can make a big difference.

Great to see you back!
10/15/2014 21:46
As you know, I was just up that way a couple of months ago. I've got my eye on Apache. Great to see you on the slopes again, Otina! Great job to both of you! Loved some of those first few snow shots!

Nicely done
10/15/2014 22:00
Congrats on a relatively quick recovery, Otina. Well done TR!

10/15/2014 22:16
Very impressive - your determination is inspiring! Way to stay positive and motivated through all this. Looks like there's some good powder up there. I'll have to get my skis fixed up and get some turns in. Thanks for posting!

Great write up, Otina.
10/16/2014 03:43
If I hadn't seen the x-ray of your broken leg, I would never have believed you that you had broken your leg just a few months skied like a pro on Monday!

Thanks for joining me.

10/16/2014 12:06
I think the smile on your face says it all. Congrats on a swift return (and some early season face shots), you earned it.

Thanks everyone!
10/16/2014 17:49
Dave B - Not exactly up for a 40' huck yet! I would have climbed it if I could!

Jay - I certainly tried to be as positive as I could throughout the process.

lodgling - It's called the White Ribbon Of Death for a reason! That was going to my plan for October skiing, but I couldn't pass up powder.

Kevin - Mind over matter, right?

jdsutton21 - Mountaineering is mostly mental, so all i needed to do was get the physical to an acceptable level

Eric - I have to recover fast, how else are we going to finish next year?!

thePhoenix - I figured the little skier would cause a stir! Having a PT on the same page is critical, since I'm sure I will eventually recover to 100%, but I don't want that to take longer than needed.

MtnHub - Apache is a great snow climb! Eventually I'll have to ski it from the summit and for a longer stretch into the valley...

Tom - The return to skiing is the easy part, the return to harder rock climbing will take a bit longer.

DanielL - Motivation & determination stayed pretty high throughout, only a few bumps along the way. It certainly helped!

Mike - Like a pro eh? Let's not make me too over confident now

MatB - It's hard for me to not smile while skiing. There's nothing better in this world than skiing and face shots!

Happy Face
10/16/2014 18:25
Your happy face while on skis reminds me of my happy face while on a mountain bike.

10/16/2014 23:18
Otina, So happy to read this!!!!! SO SO SO HAPPYYYYYYYYYYY

10/17/2014 13:59
Ah.....Bergsteigen. You are my angel today! Mike's photo of you carving that first turn threw cold snow in my sullen face and woke me up out of a funk. I've been battling recurring pain from aggravating a back problem (spinal surgery) and I've been discouraged. But look at you so soon and so strong. It CAN be done, and I'm lacing up my boots as soon as I log off and hitting a trail. Ski on, climb on and thank you for breaking my trail for me!

10/17/2014 17:29
Vicki - So do you get a smile tan line too? It just means we're doing it right!

goingup - Happiness is on the uptick!

summitstep - Glad to be an inspiration. The body heals faster when we are positive and happy. Some pain can be worked through with just a little determination, and then it just goes away. Just listen to your body, it will tell you all you need to know!

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