Note: This trip report is part of the TetonAT Trip Report Contest. Doug is now in the running to win a FREE pair of Black Diamond skis based on viewer response and the TetonAT panel of judges! Good luck Doug!!
We were in familiar territory. The quarry road, the ridge line with numerous shots spilling off, the people we usually saw. Snow came down at a steady pace as we began to climb. There was already 5 inches on top of a relatively stable Colorado mid-winter pack. Our plan was to skin 3/4 of the way up the ridge and then drop in to a new area and route find back to the road before we began a 2nd lap.
The skiing was superb off the ridge. The snow felt bouncy and stable down through the steep trees. As we went further down, things became dicy. The area we skied into was a known “bad place”. We knew it too. Yet our option B was also a “bad place”. We picked the first door. It was a natural terrain trap. We took turns straighlining it from one “safety” spot to the next. As my buddy threw his skis sideways to check his speed, I came in hot planning to do the same just to the left of him into a soft looking pillow.
Skis and waterfall ice don’t mix too well. As I threw my skis to check my speed all I heard was the sickening sound of futile scraping and my voice muttering the words, “Oh My God”!
Dark black spires of rock, blue ice, wind, panic, then the explosion.The compression caused the sternum strap of my pack to relocate behind my neck. I shit my pants. I cut open my forhead. I lived. “Holy shit, holy shit, Doug are you all right???!!!”
The T.V. was on but there was no reception. Vision was in and out. Was my back broken? Fingers, arms, toes, legs, movement, slowly. My back feels weird. I look back up over my shoulder at where I had been. Holy shit-50 feet or more onto thin ice and black rock. Slowly, I moved and got my bearings. I can’t breath-unbuckle the fastex strap-how the hell did that get there. I was a long ways from the base of the waterfall. I must have compressed and rag-dolled for a while. Skis gone, poles gone, blood in face-hum? How bad is that? I felt with my fingers and it was hard to tell. Most of my forhead was numb, but I wasn’t gushing.
My friend at this point is yelling. He’s panicked after what he just saw. I’m trying to focus on something, anything. My pack is close. Its black and yellow. At first I can see it. My ears are humming and my vision is not doing so well. All I want to do is close my eyes and sleep. No!! No! Head injury man, head injury, intercranial pressure. Fuck! Ok, my pack. I can see it. Black and yellow, good ol pack. Oh no! I’m leaving, everything is a bug fight on the old black and white piece of shit zenith 12″ T.V. I can focus no more but my eyes are still open.
I’m regaining control. The sounds are clearer and the vision returns. My friend recovers my gear. Slowly I get ready. There’s no option but to ski out. It’s too late in the day and search and rescue wouldn’t be able to get in here anyway. My back and rump are wasted. I’m shaking uncontrollably as I try to click in-and I still have to ski. God, I’m lucky. Holy cow!
We make it back to the truck and drive the hour and a half to the E.R. room. I’m stitched up and x-rayed. No compression fracture, just a lot of soft tissue damage. Three weeks later, a doc at the local hospital drains 780ccs of rancid blood out of the massive hematoma that had formed from the impact.
It would take me the rest of the season to fully recover from the cascade effect of decisions we made that day. But as I look back on it, I acknowledge the event as a part of the sport. Since then, I’ve had many incredible days in the backcountry, and I look forward to many more.