The Broken Ankle
August 7, 2012 . . .
I'm not the first climber to roll an ankle and break the fibula so I figure the experience and recovery might be of interest to others.
How and Where - August 7, 2012
We were descending off trail down a tributary of Noname Creek in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. We'd taken the Durango and Silverton Railroad to the Needleton flag stop and hiked up Chicago Basin the day before. G picked up his last 14'er and then we climbed over Twin Thumbs Pass to drop into upper Noname Basin to camp before taking on three Centennials Turret, Pigeon and Jagged.
A portion of the descent was down a 45 degree grass slope and without warning, I rolled the ankle. Snap! snap! snap! came three distinct sounds in fast succession as I went down hard. I knew the ankle was either sprained or broken. I called Bob and with a bit of help, got back up onto my feet and hobbled down through about 100 yards of talus to the small lake, our selected camp spot. I took a seat on the edge of the lake to start "icing" the foot for about 1/2 hour before hobbling another 100 yards to where G had kindly set up my tent.
Options . . .
We had a Personal Locator Beacon, i.e. the option to push the button and simply wait for SAR and a fast chopper ride out . . . a viable and immediate solution to my problem. We opted not to use to PLB as the ankle was swollen but not deformed, there was no numbness, and I harbored, without real hope, a thought that it might be a bit better in the morning. I also knew that if the self rescue option failed, that the meadow at the head of Noname Basin offered a prime helo landing site.
We picked the walk option . . . drop about 800 feet down to the main course of Noname Creek, through a mix of open ground and thick trees, then descend the Noname Basin trail to the Animas River, and finally hike the river trail back to Needleton to catch the train.
August 8 - 9, 2012
We reallocated the weight to get everyone down to the meadow in one group without a gear shuttle. I carried a load but my load included sleeping bag pads and whatever else did not weight much. After a 15 minute icing and with the ace bandage in place, I hefted the lighter pack and, using two hiking poles, started down to the meadow. I planned to take my time while G and Bob broke the rest of the camp and then followed. I would not venture into the trees but would try to get to the far end of the open area from which we would drop to the meadow as a team.
After about two hours, we arrived at Noname Meadow where we took a break and I iced the foot. I'd been moving for a couple of hours and the ankle was pretty loose after its initial stiffness. We opted to go for the Animas River, which we made at about 2:30. The next day was shorter, a hike down the riverside trail with a couple of up and over detour to cross creeks and avoid cliffs. I made it to the Needleton flag stop at around 11:30.
And the rest of the story . . .