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  • Mt. Bierstadt Group Summit - Front Range, Colorado
  • A rest before the summit push on Dallas Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Broken Ankle + 6 Miles = Tired
  • The classic San Juan approach - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Overlooking Noname Basin from Twin Thumbs Pass - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Upper Noname Basin - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Nearing Noname Cabin - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Twin Thumbs Twins - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Nearing the summit of Pt. 13,736 - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Blustery day on Iowa Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Morning snow at 15k, Cerro Ramada - Cordillera Ramada
  • Artesonraju from the summit of Nevado Pisco - Cordillera Blanca, Peru
  • February crowds on Gray's Peak - Front Range, Colorado
  • Kicking steps on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Final traverse to the summit of Wheeler Mountain - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • The long walk to Pachanta - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Afternoon at 17k on Cerro Ramada - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    The final ridge on Iowa Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Summer summit on Longs Peak - Front Range, Colorado
  • A rest day at the Pachanta Hot Springs - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Mind over matter on Mt. Parnassas - Front Range, Colorado
  • Rest stop on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Post nap surprise on Cerro Ramada - Cordiller Ramada, Argentina
  • Summit on Cerro Lliani - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Ridge walking on Grizzly Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Enroute the summit via the West Ridge on Pacific Peak - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • Mule train bound for Chilca - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Taking in the view from Fletcher Peak - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
  • Hiking on Silverheels - Mosquito Range, Colorado
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    High Altitude Cerebral Edema? - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
  • Bound for Chilca - Vilcanota Range, Peru
  • Going alpine light, Holy Cross Ridge - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Cumbre! Campa I - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
  • Roadside lunch with the best of company - Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru
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    Long ridge walk to the summit of California Peak - Sangre de Christo Range, Colorado
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    Crossing el Rio Colorado . . . in the afternoon - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    Dealing with Fall snows high on Casco Peak - Sawatch Range, Colorado
  • Moonrise over Mercedario - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
  • Still climbing at 20,900 on Cerro Ramada - Cordiller Ramada, Argentina
  • Talus on Halo Ridge, Mt. of the Holy Cross - Sawatch Range, Colorado
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    Deteriorating conditions on Mt. Arkansas - Ten Mile Range, Colorado
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    After the climb - Cordillera Ramada, Argentina
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    Taking in the view from the summit of Crystal Peak - Tenmile Range, Colorado
  • Topping out on Mt. Arkansas' North Couloir - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Glissade on Mt. Arkansas - Mosquito Range, Colorado
  • Hard snow morning on Teakettle Mountain - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Spring snow announces the start of the climb on Dallas Peak - San Juan Range, Colorado
  • Crossing the Eolus Catwalk - San Juan Range, Colorado

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 . . .

Week 1

An early morning trip to the radiologist on August 13th followed by the doctor in the afternoon resulted in bad news . . . one broken fibula. I was given a compression brace to reduce the swelling and a prescription for a boot to immobilize the break. The break was stable and not displaced, hence no trip south to Fort Collins for a screw or some other hardware. However, my immediate future would require hobbling around in the boot.


Weeks 2 & 3

The next set of films on August 27th offered no evidence of movement and by now the swelling was pretty much gone. I still had some purple toes and a bruise along the base of the foot but not too much pain so long as the ground was level and I avoided too much twisting in bed. I was offered the chance to dispense with the boot in the house after the close of Week Three.


Week 4 & 5

Another set of films on September 10th and more evidence of healing. Everything was still in place and pretty much no pain but for movement that really tested the range of motion. The boot to came off unless the ankle got really tired . . . it never went back on.


Weeks 5 & 6

A trip back to the east coast and no need for the boot. There was initially some discomfort on uneven ground and going down steps without a bad foot lead was initially tough. It took 3 or 4 days to get steps right eventhough but a range of motion deficit made it a uneven effort.


Weeks 7 & 8

The walking speed was back to normal but no running yet. Doctor's orders said "take it easy and nothing stupid.". An October 1st appointment concluded with the advice to avoid stressing the healing fracture but, with caution, a return to hiking and climbing was OK.


Week 9

After 8 weeks off . . . a group climb to the top of Mt. Bierstadt on a windy but beautiful fall day. The ankle performed well with a bit of weakness but no pain. I opted for the high top hikers and slid the compression brace on under the wool sock. There is still strengthening to be done, but the 6 miles and 3000 feet to and from the summit was OK.


Week 10

Eight days later, another climb, this time Class 1 Gray Wolf Mountain to finish off my Front Range Bicentennials.


Week 11

Then the following week, a hike up Mt. Tweto and a week later Bull Hill but still on old roads and Class 1.


Week 12

The Class 1 terrain came to an end at Week 12 with a climb of Mt Champion & Pt. 13,736, including a 2000 foot scree and talus descent. The descent was a test of my confidence as the range of motion on the broken side was not the same as what the good side was offering especially when moving down through steep loose ground.


Week 15


We took a shot at the combination of Mts. Taylor and Aetna but scored just Taylor on a cold and windy day. The ankle was still tired and achey for most of the climb but still feeling better. Looked like a bit more wobble board and toe lifting effort was in the cards.


Week 17

Two weeks later, we climbed Rinker Peak and the tiredness did not really start in until the trip out and there was no morning after stiffness. Wobbling and lifting is making a big difference, at least in my mind.


Week 21

The recovery appears to be complete. We snowshoed about 10 miles and climbed about 4500 vertical to gain the summit of Pt. 13,626. No pain, no ache and no fatigue in the ankle.


Week 32

Still no complaints . . .the gym schedule is back to before . . . Spring snow is not far off . . . fingers crossed as to snowclimbing in a month or two.