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Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder

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Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 12:32PM
On Saturday morning two friends and I embarked on what was intended as a roughly 25 mile two day hike that included a hike up Gold Mint Mine Trail to the Mint Hut and Mint Glacier, a traverse through the Back Door Gap to the Bomber Glacier and 1950’s era Bomber crash remains, and back down to Archangel Road to complete the loop.

A mile or two into the hike the beauty was already stunning with plenty of wildflowers when we spotted a beautiful several hundred foot waterfall way in the distance which I guessed was running from a river. This ended up being the river running from the Mint Glacier into a lake and then the waterfall. After reaching the Mint Hut after about 10 miles we were able to leave our packs and hike the few miles to the glacier and to the top of the waterfall.

The next morning we began our trek to the bomber but ultimately took a wrong route as we headed up a very steep ridge with loose boulders and required scrambling. I’m guessing about 1,000 feet.
As I climbed a relatively steep hill--sometimes using all fours I moved too quickly. Suddenly I found myself a little ledged out with a tough climbing move---but nothing I had not done before. So I made a good lunge climbing move extending my right arm all the way-----and it dislocated. Immediately, I slid back four to five feet stopping on a tiny ledge with two relatively good foot holds, my arm dislocated but pointed up holding a hand hold and my left hand with a good hold also.

We were headed up a sometimes grassy, sometimes boulders, sometimes loose scree and the three of us were trying not to push boulders down on each other. I had taken a route around a group of rocks while my two friends went to the left. I saw them moments before my predicament that left me out of sight.

I started yelling for help---but they couldn't hear me. So here I was on a ledge with a 20-30 foot drop to a sidehill boulder area and a 4 foot climb to a grassy hill (it is all steeper than it seems) that would be safe. This happened about 9:00 am Sunday morning. A fall from this spot would have been very very bad. The position of my arm and shoulder was manageable at that point from a pain standpoint but any slight movement or weight on it created tremendous pain. So I was stuck.

Stupidly I was using a brand new Osprey Atmos backpack but that meant my whistle attached to my old Gregory pack was left at home. So I yelled. At some point I was able to get my water bottle which was on my right side backpack pouch. It actually took quite a bit of effort to maintain balance and manage the pain of opening the Nalgene to drink. I continued to yell for almost two hours. Later I found out they did have a whistle and used it a lot but I could never hear it. And they couldn’t hear me. The waterfall was way across the valley (probably a few miles) but its roar was audible.

My legs began to quiver a bit. I could go back and shift weight back and forth but the feet were also starting to tingle. My right foot was on a hold about the size of half my foot and my right foot was wedged into a crack. I was left with a decision on whether I try to climb out on my own with one arm. Or jump down. To my left was a grassy area that gave me some hope that I could stop or bounce there before falling another 10 feet to rocks. Up was a good foothold for my left foot, and another good foot hold for my right foot. I thought perhaps with luck I could do a quick one two three dynamo move to get up using my left arm for counterbalance.

I gave myself an 11 am deadline before I would try the move. I didn't want to wait so long that my legs would be shaking uncontrollably.

And right at 11 way down the chute my buddies finally appeared in sight. They had reached the top of the ridge, realized it was the wrong route, looked for me a while, but assumed I realized the same thing and headed back down. They were climbing back up to where I was when I spotted them. I was already becoming hoarse even after drinking my liter of water. It took them about 10 minutes to climb to me and we realized it was even worse than I thought. The grassy area above me was nothing close to flat and they had nothing to anchor onto. So one guy climbed down next to me somehow and helped guide my feet up while the guy above me basically dragged me on my face up the hill. All of this movement was creating unbearable pain in my shoulder but they got me up. It took me quite a while to even drag my body to a safer area 10 feet away.

So then I told the guys this had happened to me before (playing basketball in a gym), and there was no way I could move and hike unless we got the shoulder back in. I tried to guide them through it but it just wasn't working. As stupid as this sounds the best pain management was them literally pulling against me and me pulling against them like tug a rope with my arm. That made the pain manageable but we were trying every kind of rotation back in and it wasn't working. At this point we were probably about 1,000 feet up a very steep hill and 10-12 miles from a car with another 40 minute drive to a hospital. No cell service at all. There were not a lot of options. They had left their backpacks about 500 feet down and I was out of water so couldn't even take the pain meds I had in my pack. Finally frustrated, and tiring my buddies out with pulling my arm, I tried something different. With my arm pointing mostly straight down I bent straight over to pick up the biggest rock I could hold. That made the pain manageable so leaning to my left up the hill I started down. And it was working!

There was a long way to go and a couple very steep sections. The trail was often muddy and sometimes in calf deep water unless you could balance on the side of the trail. I couldn't sit on my butt and slide because I always had to lean left to make sure I never rolled toward my right arm. My buddies were taking turns carrying my 30 pound pack. Any slight loss of balance and the pain was tremendous even though my arm wasn't touching anything. We made it down off the boulder scree area. At this point, with 10 miles left, I told them I thought I could carry my pack. The weight wouldn't be on my shoulder and it was killing them. So we tried that. My arm was mostly in a slightly sideways and down "heil hitler" pose. So I just started going. It hurt no more to hike fast than it did to hike slower so I moved as fast as I could. At times it is a very narrow and muddy trail with high brush/trees on both sides so I would have to hike sideways because of my arm sticking out. A couple times it caught on very small branches, bushes and I would yelp in pain.

We made it to the car by 7:30 pm and to the hospital by 8. I begged them to immediately just get it in---even before an x-ray and the doctor tried. But I think my muscles were just too locked in. They did an x-ray, got me some muscle relaxers and pain med/sedation and got it in finally. It was a pretty heavy sedative because at this point I only remember bits and pieces. There was no fracture. I’ve seen an orthopedic and they allowed me to get rid of the sling as long as I promised to be extremely careful not to re-dislocate the arm. I am headed for an MRI in a couple hours. There is very little pain although the arm and muscles are quite sore. The entire arm feels like dead weight. I can write and type without discomfort but can’t bear any weight.

The last time this happened was 5 years ago and all I did was physical therapy. He told me that surgery was an option and every time it happens it makes it more likely it can happen again. He also said I have an incredible range of flexibility and motion with both arms which can allow positions making me more susceptible. Based on what my doctor said last time, I am pretty sure I will need surgery. Although I am sure it won’t be foolproof, I cannot risk being in that kind of situation again.

I am still processing the ordeal. To hike 10-12 miles and down what I did with a dislocated arm was insane. I haven't done it, but I would compare it to something like the mountaineering route up Whitney. (based on pictures.)

Pictures of the hike are on my facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/christopher.wright.79230/albums/10205884128121481/?ref=bookmarks
I am interested in feedback, second guessing, and simply won’t take offense to anything. I may argue a point but mostly in the interest of getting you to defend your position. Mostly, I will be talking to the doctor further, but is there a fail-safe technique to getting a dislocated arm back in? In all honesty, a broken arm would be much easier to deal with while out on the trail. Next time, God forbid!!!, I would seriously consider just breaking it or completely snapping it back into place if need be. It really was that bad. The Mel Gibson move doesn’t seem so stupid!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/06/2015 12:48PM by chicagocwright.
avatar Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 01:01PM
Wow!

I'm so glad that you made it back to civilization and to the hospital safely and didn't become a statistic.

Take good care of yourself. Your family needs you in one piece and in good health.

.
Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 01:13PM
Quote
plawrence
Wow!

I'm so glad that you made it back to civilization and to the hospital safely and didn't become a statistic.

Take good care of yourself. Your family needs you in one piece and in good health.

.

Agreed! But what is the answer? The particular hike/climb and the move that hurt my shoulder wasn't anything particularly difficult or out of the norm. I am wrestling with your same thought. But do I not hike anymore? I think I'm hoping for surgery to repair everything. Just to be clear, I am grounded for some time. Been picking berries with the family!
avatar Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 01:51PM
If you're going to be more susceptible to dislocated shoulders, I would limit climbs (for now) to Class 2 and never hike alone. Try to hike with someone who can always maintain visual contact with you. Consider purchasing two-way radios to communicate with those who are farther away and consider purchasing a satellite messenger like the DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator. That's what my friend uses and has recommended that I should purchase one myself. He has one because he often hikes solo (for weeks at a time).

The biggest problem I saw with your hike is that you were by yourself for too long of a time with no effective way to communicate with anybody.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/06/2015 02:15PM by plawrence.
Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 02:06PM
Quote
plawrence
If you're going to be more susceptible to dislocated shoulders, I would limit climbs (for now) to Class 2 and never hike alone. Try to hike with someone who can always maintain visual contact with you. Consider purchasing two-way radios to communicate with those who are farther away and consider a purchasing a satellite messenger like the DeLorme inReach SE 2-Way Satellite Communicator. That's what my friend uses and has recommended that I should purchase one myself. He has one because if often hikes solo (for weeks at a time).

The biggest problem I saw with your hike is that you were by yourself for too long of a time with no effective way to communicate with anybody.

.

Good thoughts. Thank you.

I can pretty much assure you I'll probably never lose visual contact with a partner again. I do hike solo sometimes but tackling anything similar in Alaska is problematic solo and I don't know anyone who tries it.
avatar Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 03:35PM
What to do differently? I am not completely sure that I would have done anything different. I do carry a SPOT, simply because accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. And frankly, I am more concerned about needing the SPOT for other people's accidents that I might happen upon. But who knows, an accident can happen to anybody, anytime. And when out in the wilderness, even a small accident can have sever consequences.

The one thing that I would say has to do with the separation from your buddies. I have had a few instances where I became separated from others and while all of my experiences ended up with us finding each other, I had very serious concerns and anxious moments each time. And most times it has happened the situations are "no brainers", like one party "going on up ahead along the trail a bit". Well, when that one person heads off trail to go to the bathroom, and you pass them, and you hike for an hour or more without "catching up", you start freaking out a bit. So I know how easy it is to get separated even when you are hiking together. It just happens.

I try now to stay in site when at all possible, and I think that all members of a party who are "hiking together" should remain in contact somehow, and realize that if you are out of contact for even a few moments, assume the worst (i.e. Jimmie needs our help) rather than "Jimmie must have gone back, lets not worry about him".

JKW got me one of the radios they use and for about $60 per radio it is well worth the cost to have a couple along for just these kind of situations.
Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 08:48PM
If I would have had a radio or a Spot, it is very unlikely I would have been able to get to it in my pack. I was luckily able to access my water bottle with my left arm because it stuck out of the side pocket enough and happened to be on the opposite side.

A radio, even if I happened to keep it in outside pocket, likely would have been snuggled down in pocket.

I keep running these scenarios and I can't find an out when restricted to one arm.

I've got to get my shoulder fixed. I can't get in that kind of situation again.
avatar Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 06, 2015 10:09PM
Quote
chicagocwright
If I would have had a radio or a Spot, it is very unlikely I would have been able to get to it in my pack. I was luckily able to access my water bottle with my left arm because it stuck out of the side pocket enough and happened to be on the opposite side.

If I had a Spot, I wouldn't keep it in my pack but clip it somewhere where it would be more accessible, like the shoulder strap of the backpack (or daypack) or on my belt.

.
avatar Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 07, 2015 12:25PM
Quote
plawrence
If I had a Spot, I wouldn't keep it in my pack but clip it somewhere where it would be more accessible, like the shoulder strap of the backpack (or daypack) or on my belt.

Spot doesn't always work well on a belt. It needs clear access to the sky and even then doesn't always get the message through.
Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 08, 2015 10:24PM
Most of the video is pre-injury


avatar Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 10, 2015 09:22AM
Wow...looks like a pretty cool place!
avatar Re: Mint Hut, Mint Glacier Hike and Dislocated Shoulder
August 10, 2015 07:19PM
Cool video! Thanks for sharing it.

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