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What It Feels Like to Lose Your Season

By Drew D. Peterson - January 10th, 2008

All outdoor activities are inherently dangerous. This inherent danger is what draws many outdoor enthusiasts to the adventure. But when this inherent danger catches up with reality and injury or death occur, the beautiful song and balance of adventure come to a screeching halt.This writing explores the dark reality that one cannot always be in perfect shape and in perfect health.

My life is run by adventures and my path is dictated by whichever rock or mountain comes into my life next.That being said, in December-February in Central Oregon is the "off season" as I call it. Its "off" for me because the weather is the least friendly for climbing of any type during these months.

With no immediate ice climbing available, and the climbing gym becoming all too routine, I was seeking something else.

The skiing in Central Oregon is phenomenal, so I invested in the required equipment and headed to the hills. I figured that this activity would compliment my mountaineering skills, and that it couldn't hurt my spring climbing coming up in a few months. Because I have invested all of my time and energy into climbing, I am a novice, therefore I had my work cut out for me.

Two mountain trips later and I was competently skiing and enjoying myself to the level that I could relax and enjoy the activity, instead of concentrating so hard on nailing the technique.Then, near the end of my second full day I had a wake-up call as I was flying (falling) through knee deep powder. I fell, and my ski didn't release. In immediate pain, I grabbed my right knee and wide eyed, I came to the realization that I may have just ended my skiing for the season. Lucky for me, minimal damage was done, and I regained composure and returned to ski the next week.

Wary of the possibility of injury, I chose only low-angle descents and I was playing it safe. Injuring myself isn't something that I'm willing to do. Making turns was becoming routine, and rooster-tails of powder followed my path like Cirrus clouds high in a blue sky. On a steep turn, I hit a rather uneven pile of powder, and momentarily lost my balance. The uneven spot shifted my weight to the back of my boots, and in response I immediately lurched forward, putting as much pressure forward as possible, digging my toes deep into the insoles of my Garmont boots, as I would in a pair of climbing shoes when edging on a small foothold. In hopes of regaining control and finishing the turn, I over-corrected and my body lost all control.

Watching the sugary snow slowly approaching my face, I knew it was over. I let gravity take its course. I relaxed in the comfort of the powder as I tumbled, helmet first, into the white world of a ski wreck. Be it in the belly of a crashing wave, the violence of an avalanche, or the rinse cycle of a washing machine, I was in the complete mercy of the motion. Coming to a stop after my skis released, my eyes once again widened as the excruciating pain shot through my body like electricity.

My left knee this time was the victim, and surging pain reverberated in the powder hole that I had created for myself. My head immediately filled with colorful language and morbid thoughts of ACL's ripped, MCL's torn, and all sorts of dislocations. Wishing that my bindings would have released sooner, I quickly placed blame on my equipment, the conditions, the snow... then I stopped and realized that I had nothing to blame but myself. Self-extracting, I made my way out of the snow, off the mountain and into the darkness of my own sub-conscious. Thoughts trickled through my mind like melt-water on a glacier. I knew I had damaged my knee, but the thought of not knowing how badly I was injured was eating at me from the inside. Negativity flew through my thoughts, and in the back of my mind I imagined that my spring climbing was compromised, and potentially even my summer was gone.

In retrospect, my thoughts were so insignificant and selfish. I didn't know the extent of my injuries, the mountain didn't care, the snow didn't care... it was just me. It is a very lonely and isolating feeling when you are left to you own devices and thoughts. Finally, I scraped away the fatalistic thoughts and came to grips with the fact that I was done. I am injured, I don't know how badly, and I didn't know when I'll be able to walk again. Done. Season over.

I was more scared about my mental prognosis than my physical. I knew that I would heal, but I didn't know how long it would take, or how much opportunity would be missed for amazing trips. When you are in love with your passion, and your passion is climbing, it becomes evidently clear that it is harder to not climb something that it is to actually climb something.Finally, I made it to the doctor. After a few hours of poking, pulling and imaging, I was discharged with a pat on the back and a "you're lucky buddy, we'll see you next time". I could clear my head, focus on recovery, and come to the realization that my problems and injuries are rather minuscule compared to the larger scheme of things.

I want it all, and I move at a speed that is potentially faster than my body can handle. Maybe this was a small speed-bump saying "hold up Drew, just relax and enjoy...". Now that I don't have a choice and I am forced to relax, it will give me an opportunity to listen, and hopefully calm those colorful voices that are running around in my head... even if I'm physically unable to chase them.

Edit on 1/29/2008 -- My condolences to Chris Barth's ACL... Hope all goes well and the recovery is quick! Here's to strong knees for the future...


Excellent point...

Thanks for the comment.

"Wary of the possibility of injury, I chose only low-angle descents and I was playing it safe."

I had taken my fair share of days on groomers before the accident, and I wasn't hucking myself down something more difficult than my experience allowed. I was in bounds at the time of the accident. The angle was barely 25 degrees, and I had taken the exact same run earlier in the day.

More practice does lessen the inherent dangers, I fully agree. In my analysis of the accident, this was a simple mistake that caused my knee to twist before the ski released. Sometimes the path we choose, no matter the difficulty, will present us with challenges that we could never prepare for or predict.

I believe that everyone can learn something from these experiences, thus the point of the article. This particular path was more than friendly, and even though I wasn't pushing myself, I still ended up in a bad situation. To avoid a situation like this in the future, I should probably have just stayed in bed.

Interested in paying for part of that deductible with your $.02?

Posted on February 10, 2008 - 7:26pm
by Drew D. Peterson

Predictable, preventable.

"The skiing in Central Oregon is phenomenal, so I invested in the required equipment and headed to the hills... it couldn't hurt my spring climbing coming up in a few months... I am a novice, therefore I had my work cut out for me... near the end of my second full day I had a wake-up call..."

NOTE TO SELF - before delving into the backcountry in a sport known to blow out knees, go spend some quality time at an alpine resort getting lessons. It woulda cost less than your surgery, perhaps even less than your deductible.

Posted on February 7, 2008 - 12:32pm
by n68

Sweet Article

Dude, that's a great story. Hope you recover fully and soon, and don't keep those bindings too tight!
Posted on January 15, 2008 - 10:00pm
by Kevin Bauer

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