This provided an excellent day of 3rd class scrambling close to the Front Range: SE ridge Audubon > Paiute Peak > Mt Toll.
Summitted via Blue Lake up a ridge just north of Curvaceous Col. No problems going up.
I have climbed for 24 years, and many of my ascents are solo. I was a technical rock climber for years, then a mountaineer in the Pac NW, and now I chip away at the peaks in Colorado, having moved here almost 4 years ago.
I was descending the beautiful though technically unmemorable ridge from whence I had just come. I passed 2 backpackers very close to the summit who were also descending but via a col just southeast of where I was.
Maybe 4 minutes after passing them, I was on a maybe 45 degree slope of rock (a half-submerged boulder in the ridge line) with a block at the top. The block was about the size of a short, 2 drawer file cabinet.
As I set my foot on it, it rolled. Losing my balance, I was tossed headfirst in front of the block in such a way that I hit the 45 degree slope before it did. Behind me, the block continued it's roll and it landed directly on BOTH of my lower legs. Imagine that you are on a flight of stairs, and your legs are pinned atop the highest step, and your body is stretched down on the lower steps. To be honest with you, I was sure my legs had been broken.
I was trapped in a sort of 1-armed pushup, unable to free my lower legs from the mid-calf down. They just disappeared into the tight space under the block. It hurt like hell, my hands were bleeding, and I was totally in shock that his had just happened to me.
I tried to free my legs, but the block was heavy (200+ lbs), and it was levered as if it wanted to continue it's roll, except my legs were holding it up. Also, I was facing down and away from my legs. My head was fling with blood from being head down, and my only free arm that was in a position to move the block was in the world's worst position, having zero leverage, only enough means to move maybe something in the 50 lb range.
Almost immediately, I sensed there would be NO WAY to free my right leg. It may as well have been in a stockade block. My right leg would not even move or budge at all, though I could move my toes. My left leg was tightly lodged in there, but I took the chance and yanked it and eventually it came out of my shoe and was free. But that danged right leg was held fast. I was like a bear in a foot trap.
The route I was on is not unpopular, but is not a Coca Cola route, either. I started screaming, "HELP!" to try and get those 2 backpackers to come to my aid. Maybe 5 minutes passed with me screaming "HELP, HELP" again and again. Again, I have climbed avidly for 24 years and never once had to ask another party for help, ever. The sound of my screaming freaked me out.
Not thinking they could hear me in the wind and distance, I grabbed my trekking pole, which landed maybe 24 inches from the extent of my reach. I had to use my backpack to toss & drag the pole back to my reach. I disassembled the pole, and was about to attempt to lever the block off me when I heard, "Where are you?!"
On the nearby ridge skyline, a face poked over. The backpacker, named Jeff. He took some time to get to me, but I just sat there waiting and hoping against hope he could move that block. Jeff arrived, he was maybe 23, about 135 lbs. He looked like he could not believe what he was seeing. He saw my bloody hands, my trapped legs, and immediately asked what he could do.
Using all of his might in a pseudo squat position, he was able to move the block, no lie, 1 inch. When that inch presented itself, I pulled my foot out of there so fast, it was like a guy pulling his foot super fast out from under a 200 lb block 150 vertical feet from a 13k foot summit and a 5 mile walk from his car as summer thunderstorms closed in. You get the point.
My leg was not broken, but my ankle hurt like heck, so did my calf. I had a giant divot in my leg just above my ankle where the rock had been resting the hardest.
The rest of the story is just mundane details. I descended on my own, made it to my car, etc. Jeff was a total life saver. I know for a fact that had he not been there, I would still be up there with my leg trapped. When I tell you that my leg was stuck, I mean it. I could not have mustered the force to move that block on my own. I would have been held fast until someone came up that same route.
I had the 10 essentials. I had food, water, shelter, etc. I even had a cell phone with service. I was most lucky to have had Jeff. No amount of saying, "Soloing is stupid" will keep people from soloing mountains all over the world. It took 24 years for a freak accident- that could have been super ugly- to happen to me.
What shook me most was the sheer impassivity of the situation. I was doing what I had done 10000 times. The odds of being trapped by a block in such a way that you simply cannot access the mechanics to free yourself must be staggering. One second I was enjoying my descent, and 3 seconds later I was bleeding and trapped. The randomness, the unexpected nature of it- that is what freaks me out.
The answer is usually "Those are the risks" and maybe this will serve to eliminate the complacency and arrogance that comes from my lifetime of safe climbing. Safe climbing, all who read this.
Incredible story. Thanks for sharing. I know it can be tough to talk about mountain mishaps. Great lesson in there. This sounds more like a Trip Report than a "Climber's Log". Maybe consider moving it?
I had a good climb but was pelted by a fast-moving hail storm. Your only shelter available is if you can find a boulder or rock overhang to get under. Just remember that lightning travels through rock.
up Audobon SE ridge and over to Paiute
Audubon to Paiute to Toll traverse
Audubon to Paiute Peak traverse took only 35 minutes.
I got Audubon first, then headed over to Paiute. The traverse took about an hour: I got to Paiute around 9:30. Then I headed back the way I came. There were some dark clouds building as I got back to Audubon, but in the end it didn't rain. I passed quite a few hikers on the way back, only 2 others went to Paiute. I got back to the parking lot around 12:30.
Blew off work this morning and did my annual IPW birthday outing. Best corn of the year (2012 was a very dry winter).
Solo jaunt up the west ridge before work. Enjoyed sunrise from the summit. My 2nd to last Colorado 13er.
Traversed from Mt. Audubon. Descended to west of the Continental Divide. Passed over the summit during a three week backpacking tour of the Continental Divide.
Summited from Blue Lake, nice day in Indian Peaks.
descended the SW ridge past Blue Lake
The views of Mt. Toll were terrific from this mountain, and I decided to add Toll to my future climb list.
Came up the fun east ridge from Audubon, which can be kept at class 2+ if you skirt a few minor bumps on the ridge. Solid class 3 climbing on the ridge. Continued on to Toll and Pawnee in a minor snowstorm.
Stayed on the top of rib, which is why I called out route SE Rib Direct, as opposed to traversing around on dirt slopes.
Enjoyed lovely, near calm conditions as traversed from Audubon. Descent of south face was rough - snow was much steeper than it appeared from above. Had to face the slope and kick steps in as descended with the benefit of my ice axe.