When I describe the incident that popped-out my shoulder as a fall, people picture me dropping off a cliff or a wild tumble over a steep slope. Slip is more accurate. I was holding onto a tree to get around it and lower myself over a wide step. My feet let go on the mud and I flopped belly-first onto the rise. I was wearing my loner and it didn’t even go off.
The primary problem was that the weather had changed. It started raining. Using trees to help climb or descend is a hiking move I often do, and the slope had great traction going up. Ironically, I didn’t even try the summit. The final slope was too steep to go-for-it solo. And it was starting to rain. I turned around where it got risky. The incident happened half a mile back on the return trip (800 feet down where the slope was only 10%)
Secondary: that shoulder had been dislocated before. Once it’s gone once, it comes out much easier. I didn’t much like the pain the first time, so I’d always been cautious with that arm. 25 years ago, Fall of 1992, was the first dislocation and it hadn’t come out again, since (well, till yesterday).
Using my backpack’s shoulder-strap as a sling, I hiked down, sliding on my ass wherever it was muddy, until I made it to cell coverage. Strava, a gps tracker/mapper app was on, so I can say accurately that this was half a km with a descent of over 400 feet.
What I did right.
I took note on the way up where I had a stable cell signal and returned there to manage my rescue. Anyone driving to Jasper will discover that there is no service between the hotsprings and the town (60km). Cinquefoil Mountain, the site of my injury, is close to the middle of that gap. The beauty of hiking up an exposed ridge, you eventually surmount all things blocking your signal. Messages and emails started pouring into my phone three-miles in (2200 feet up) . It’s a habit of mine to remember these places.
I did have the Blackline Loner with me, but the injury wasn’t life threatening and I felt it necessary to advise any help. Good thing. The nearest chopper that could do a suspended extraction was in Richmond, BC. Two hours away, min. Without being able to communicate with me, Blackline would have had no other option but use that.
911 sent three Park Ranger/medics to me on foot. They tried to pop my shoulder back in while dosing me with laughing gas . Didn’t work. If it had, I could have hoofed it out. As it turned out, the rescuers helped me hike down half a km to place where a helicopter could land. I now know a cool way to use a backpack as a sling to lock-in an elevated arm.
I wrote my name in the dust on the back door of my truck. The rescuers complimented me on this. It let them know where I’d started from. They could follow my trail immediately without a round of confirmations. I could have written even more (route, time, etc.)
What would I do different?
Wait out the rain. The clouds were visible and I knew it wouldn’t last. I had rain-gear and a hammock. I carry food and water to last 24 hours. After the rain stopped, the sun and wind dried the exposed ridge quickly. Waiting would have added an hour to my trek, but I’d happily trade an hour of my life for a functional arm for 3 weeks.
A note on the selfie. You can see the summit behind me. Above the left side of my head there is a thick patch of trees. Around the time I snapped this pic, I spotted two hikers and their dog at that bush (hard to tell, but it’s half a mile away). That bush was as far as they went, and it was as far as I went, too.