It’s time for my absolute favorite post of the year, shamelessly listing all the ways I epically screwed up this year. As a small business owner, I love learning from my mistakes and what better place to tell-all than the goofy stories in the wilderness.
These stories will have your belly aching with laughter, put you on the edge of your seat, and make your jaw drop. This is a glimpse at what goes on behind the scenes or just an accurate reflection on how clumsy, stupid, and silly I can be when left to my own devices. Of course, it wouldn’t be my bloopers post without plenty of incriminating photos. So sit back snuggle up and read about my epic wilderness bloopers.
Warning: Do not read this post if you’re squeamish about blood and nudity.
Backcountry Hut Trip: Quitting an Outdoor Sport
For the majority of my life, I’ve been a snowboarder. I started out at age seven on a pair of skis sliding down an icy hill in Indiana. When my midwestern roots took off and moved west, I discovered the wonderful world of surfing on snow. Flash forward over 20 years later and I am crying on the side of a freezing cold hillside, miles from civilization.
The temps are -11F with windchill and I’m EPICALLY miserable. I turn towards my friend and boyfriend and exclaim “I’m done!” Without even transitioning into downhill mode, I ski my way on my splitboard back to our yurt and call it a day. But I’m stubborn. So stubborn in fact, that this is the third time this season I’ve been in this exact same position. Alone and angry I take my frustration out on a pile of wood that needed splitting.
Why do I keep coming out here, freeze to death and cry? What the HELL is wrong with me? I repeat over and over in my head. Then it occurs to me, I just don’t like the sport anymore. The resorts bored me and the backcountry continually kicked my ass. Accepting that I didn’t need to like an extreme sport was new to me. It’s okay to grow out of something. And it’s even more okay to not like suffering in the cold, wintery months. It doesn’t make me less of anything.
Want to stand here? Check out my post about amazing hikes and views at the Grand Canyon.
Fresh Face Fillet
John (Squirrel) had been suffering from extreme abdominal pain and opted out of our snow anchors and advanced snow travel class. So I awoke at 4 am to meet at a parking lot to carpool up to St. Marys, a local snow training ground, to learn (and remember) everything I could about how to safely protect climbers in the snow. The class went by quickly and towards the end, I figured it would be worth my time to practice some self-arresting techniques with my ax.
If you fall on steep snow, the best way to stop yourself is to self-arrest with an ice ax. The process involves rolling over and digging the pick of your ax into the snow while pushing upward to gain purchase. It was later in the afternoon (and in the snow season), making it difficult to grab the soft, punchy snow with the ax.
I had done this technique several times before, but this time I lost control of the ax when a hidden rock shot the ax out of the snow and straight at my face, missing my eyes by mere inches. The result was filleted lip caused by the adze (or ice-cutting backend). I likely should have gotten stitches, but soaking my face in a ball of melting snow would have to do. If you look closely, I still have a scar today.
You know how in tennis athletes make intense, guttural noises? Well, when things get tough on the crag, that’s exactly how I push through. I climbed the Grand Teton this year with total strangers, all men. When we reached the pitched (roped) climbing sections, the crux, or toughest part of the climb was covered in ice. It didn’t take long for my fingers, hands, and wrists to freeze beyond feeling. Numb hands made for a tough go at the slippery section of rock.
I grabbed handholds, having no idea how good they were, grunted and sent it. Except my grunts came out more like a woman giving birth. Screams of pain and struggle shot through me as my arms stung with pain during each move. I shocked my climbing partners as I proceeded to give birth to an imaginary screaming bafries baby (extremely painful tingling brought on by keeping numb limbs above your heart). Nothing like showing a group of men you just met your best Serena Williams impression.
Search and Rescue Snaffu
When you get a call from a close friend saying that search and rescue is looking for his brother and girlfriend you immediately jump into action. I did what any other Coloradan would do when a friend goes missing on a 14er, put out a call on the dreaded 14ers.com Facebook group.
This troll hole is my least favorite (and least welcoming) outdoor group in Colorado, but I’ll give it to them, if someone went missing on one of Colorado’s famed 14,000-foot peaks, someone on that group is bound to have information. Search and rescue monitored the thread as people trickled in saying they spotted them on the summit and everything seemed fine. We held our breathes as search and rescue did their thing.
Several hours later, the couple was spotted happily walking back to the car without so much as a scratch. What happened? Why were search and rescue called? The trail register at the parking lot allows hikers to sign in and state their plans.
For whatever reason, the local Sheriff deputy saw the car at 5 pm and decided to call SAR since 5 pm was a little late to be at a trailhead parking lot. Really? The Sherrif clearly didn’t check the register, which stated that my friend’s brother headed out on a 16-mile hike, making 5 pm an extremely reasonable time to be parked at a trailhead. At least everything was done to ensure the safety of the couple, but did we really need to rally the troops for that one?
Stranded and Alone
My scariest moment this year was the story about how I re-injured my knees. Weather, work, and illness had squashed John and I plan for nearly every bout of type II fun this summer. One weekend, while John was sick, I opted to head out alone on a rugged trail near Vail, Colorado. The trip was 10 miles with a little over 3,000 feet of gain. This hike is nothing out of the ordinary for me.
The beautiful trail left me feeling a touch empty. I missed John and mused about climbing the dramatic peaks. We took a break at the alpine lake and headed back, just happy to be outside. As we descended my thoughts turned to lunch with a friend in the nearby town of Dillion.
Then it hit me, a subtle tinge of pain in my right knee. I had trouble with my knees earlier in the summer, so I figured it was a tiny flare up. Two miles later I was in excruciating pain. My knee felt as though it was fusing together and refusing to move. I decided to stop. I hadn’t seen a soul in over an hour and everyone I saw was hiking the opposite direction – help was not nearby. Around 1,500 feet of downhill and two miles lay between me and my vehicle. But I could hardly walk. I thought hard about using my emergency beacon to signal for help, but it wasn’t a life or death situation.
Are you prepared for an emergency situation? Here’s a look at how to plan if you venture out solo.
Stubbornly I got up and fashioned a crutch with my hiking pole. Sensing the tension and grit, my dog instinctively walked behind me to encourage me forward. Eventually, we made it to the car, but not without tremendous consequences. The last five months consisted of constant physical therapy and tremendous pain. I’m finally able to hike again, but I’ll never be able to climb a mountain without intense pain.
Sometimes you get outside just by the skin on your teeth, that’s what happened to me on my first solo camping adventure. I took my teardrop and pup to the San Rafael Swell on a last-minute, solo camping excursion. My plan was to explore the northern part of The Swell. The road in consisted of an hour-long trip down the dirt. The skyline looked like rain, but I didn’t know how much had fallen.
When I turned off of the highway two lifted, steel-bumpered Jeeps COVERED in mud greeted me. The two men had their portable tire inflaters out and the amount of grime on their vehicles had me worried. I asked how the roads were and the reports were horrific. I said thanks and told them I knew of another place to go.
While I made arrangements to change my plans and updated my emergency contact on the change in plans the men would not stop bothering me. Their wives stayed in the vehicles while each of them proceeded to tell me for ten minutes why my puny Acura SUV would not make it down the road towing a trailer. Obviously. I literally JUST told you I wasn’t going. Also, I’m on the phone, can you PLEASE stop mansplaining?
The desert just got better. Don’t be like me. Camp like a pro with these desert camping hacks.
The Drained Bladder – peeing in your camper
My solo camping adventure certainly delivered on the face-palm front, but live and learn right? It was the middle of the night and I awoke with a startle, nature was calling. The last thing I wanted to do was put my shoes on and drag myself along the muddy ground to tinkle in the middle of the night.
I’m a huge fan of my Freshette, a female urination device that I truly believe everyone must own (here’s why). I felt bold and figured if guys could pee half standing out of a car window, how hard could it be to pee out the door of my camper? It turns out, this technique is an advanced topic. I placed the funnel and attempted to wee out the tiny camper door. Instead, I didn’t have a proper seal and proceeded to pee down my leg and on the bed. Oops…
I’ll be the first to admit, that this year held quite a few hair-raising adventures. Despite the pretty photos and tall tales of epics, there’s a lot of facepalms in outdoor adventure. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two about outdoor survival or at least had a good laugh at this year’s outdoor bloopers and fails. Until next year!